Monday, August 10, 2009
Berkshire Living has proven to be a wonderful magazine full of articles about this culture, complete listings of the goings on and even music insights by the well known local critic and writer Seth Rogovoy. In the August Issue, http://www.berkshireliving.com/, Rogovoy writes an article entitled FREUDIAN HIP about Roy Orbison. A new box set titled Roy Orbison The Soul of Rock 'n' Roll is the inspiration for his article. He states that Orbison bridged the gap between the first rock 'n' roll stars and the Beatles and the British invasion. Orbison dominated the charts between 1961 and 1963 and that was made a bit easier by the fact that "Elvis was in the army, little Richard found GOD, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis were in sex scandals and Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran were dead!"
But there was also something very different about Orbison in both his style and music. His influences included pop, blues, R&B, Latin, Tex-Mex. country, opera, doo-wop and rockabilly. Rogovoy clearly points out that Orbison was a "total original." His had a unique and amazing voice with great falsettos and amazing range from deep bass to an operatic high-G. His stage presence was the complete opposite of stars before him as he stood motionless wearing his trademark prescription sunglasses.
The thing about Orbison was that while most songs were about puppy love and sexual innuendo, his were about "fear of sex and anguish over the possibility of intimacy." Just look at his song titles which say it all, "Crying", "Blue Bayou", "Falling", "It's Over" and "Only the Lonely." Rogovoy then quotes In Dreams,
I close my eyes, then I drift away
Into the magic night. I softly say
A silent prayer like dreamers do.
Then I fall asleep to dream my dreams of you.
In dreams I walk with you.
In dreams I talk to you.
In dreams you're mine, all of the time
We're together in dreams, in dreams...
It's too bad that all of these things, can only happen in dreams
Only in dreams, in beautiful dreams.
Rogovoy calls Orbison, "the master of psychological narrative at a time when others were singing about their ding-a-lings or disguising their adolescent yearnings in euphemistic odes to hound dogs and great balls of fire." In songs like Leah, Orbison shared nightmares put to music.
But somethings wrong I cannot move
My leg is caught. It's pulling me down.
But I'll keep my hands shut tight for if they find me
They'll find pearls for Leah.
Oh, heartaches and memories from the past
It was just another dream about my lost love
Here I go, back to sleep and in my dreams
I'll be with Leah.
Clearly tragedy is what inspired his writing and he did have a difficult marriage to Claudette who died in his arms after being hit by a tractor-trailer while they were riding motorcycles together. After his early successes the next decade included much tragedy including his home burning down with his two sons inside. Ulcers, addictions and heart problems plagued him. He did finally marry and find happiness till he died after a comeback in 1988. (Rogovoy tells how he saw Orbison in concert in Boston in December 1988 two nights before he died.)
Man, what a song, what a voice! I went to you tube to get this song and as I listened, chills ran down my spine and soon I broke into tears! Crying!
The movie Blue Velvet, which used the song "In Dreams" fueled Orbison's comeback with the Traveling Willburys and his own album Mystery Girl whose title track was written by U2. It is interesting that when David Lynch asked Orbison for permission to use "In Dreams" in Blue Velvet he refused and Lynch used it anyway!!
Orbison's fatal heart attack was a tragedy in a tragic life that brought us great and unique art. I certainly am grateful to my mother for enjoying his music since she owned many of his hits on 45's and I listened to them and sang them and they became a part of my soul! He was certainly one of the great voices in rock history and without an ounce of sex appeal or dance moves, that voice helped dominate the music scene at a key time in history. Certainly Orbison opened the door for song writers to express their deeper, darker shades of life and maybe in some ways helped others to feel their own! I know I did! It is reassuring to know I can find songs to smile or cry, get lost or find meaning, to dance or work, sing with or just listen! Rock music as prayer!?!?
I have to post this next one....rock and roll nirvana by an all-star ensemble!