Friday, December 12, 2008

The great Roy Orbison + Bettie Page

To watch BBC4's tribute to Roy Orbison tonight you might think that he only really made it in the UK when he topped the bill over an up and coming band called The Beatles in 1963. I remember seeing the show in Croydon and scarcely noticed the Beatles, despite their screaming fans. It was the Big O I wanted to see and hear - that fabulous soaring, majestic voice that made - and still makes - my hair stand on end.

He didn't just hit it big with It's Over and Pretty Woman, the songs you hear most often these days. I wasn't aware of his Sun sessions at the time, but the moment I heard Only the Lonely in July 1960 I was hooked. Having heard it on Radio Luxembourg I remember pestering my local record shop for weeks for a copy, but they didn't have in stock. But clearly there was a clamour for this great record, as eventually they got it in and it went to number one. After that there was Blue Angel, I'm Hurtin', the wonderful Running Scared, the even more wonderful Cryin', Dream Baby, The Crowd, the two sided Working For the Man and Leah, In Dreams, Falling, the two sided Blue Bayou and Mean Woman Blues and Borne on the Wind.

Although his fortunes faded in the late sixties, particularly after the tragic death of wife Claudette and later his two sons, everything Roy recorded had a magical quality, even his less well known LPs such as Regeneration, Laminar Flow and I'm Still in Love with You. When his real regeneration began, in the the film Blue Velvet, it was belated recognition of his genius, and by the mid 80s the Orbison revival was in full swing. The album Mystery Girl showed that he had lost nothing of his vocal talent. And the Travelling Wilburys put him deservedly back in the limelight.

And then, just as he was at the top again he died - 20 years ago, on December 6th, 1988. I miss Roy even now. He had the greatest white voice in pop music without exception.

*** As news has just come in that Bettie Page has died aged 85, I really can't ignore the death of one of my all time heroines. One of the most influential icons of the 20th century, Bettie was truly a legend. Here are a couple of clips of her from the 50s


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