Growing up, I never knew what to make of Roy Orbison. Oh Pretty Woman was a great rocker, but it didn’t quite have the same edge as contemporary Beatles or Stones songs. And the rest of his canon seemed better suited to my parents’ radio station than mine.
I know his tenor voice was operatic, but all those strings! Sure, it was the doo-wop era, and rock had been tamed, bottled and homogenized, but where were the twangy guitars? Where was the attitude? Roy Orbison seemed more like Gene Pitney or Shelley Fabares than Elvis or Chuck Berry.
Pretty good with the sad songs, though.
Maybe it was just the production values of the time. Much later on, in the 80’s working with Jeff Lynne, Roy proved he could rock out with the Travelling Willburys and U2. And if you’ve ever seen Black and White Night, I’m sure you’ll agree his old classics sparked some great rock and roll moments when supported by the likes of Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt and Elvis Costello.
Ringo has said that Roy was the only act The Beatles didn’t want to follow. With a different producer in a different era, Roy Orbison could have had ‘em all running scared. Except it’s obvious everybody loved him just the way he was.