Thursday, June 03, 2010

Remembering Mystery Girl
Mystery Girl is satisfying, wonderful. It's also so sad. Roy Orbison's final album, released after his death, is the best farewell album you'll ever hear. But it wasn't meant to be a farewell. It was meant to be a 'Hello, remember me? I'm still better than everyone else" album.

I first became aware of Orbison after his death. The Traveling Wilburies (Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and Orbison)had released a very good rock album, and I played it continuously. Orbison's voice, even at nine, was something amazing to me. It was like no rock voice I'd ever heard.

When Orbison's Mystery Girl was released, I had just enough allowance money to purchase it. I loved the upbeat "You Got It," but didn't care for the melancholy ballads. Call it youthful ignorance.

The album sat on the shelf for nearly a decade. My father played it occasionally.

I re-discovered Mystery Girl a decade later, when I was working on an album of my own after graduating high school. I'd written some songs and wanted to record them before I left for college (a wise move, since once I got to college I didn't have the time or energy to spend five hours a day writing and practicing).

I was going to try and duplicate a "Wilburies" sound and started playing Mystery Girl again.

I was stunned.

What I had originally found boring was an amazing mix of soul and sadness. Orbison's voice was amazing for a 52-year old man -- he sounded 22. But my appreciation for ballads made me appreciate the haunting nature of Orbison's performance, something a nine year old can't understand.

"She's a Mystery to Me" quickly became one of my favorite recordings. Written by Bono and Edge, it was a song that could have been done 30 years earlier, but you weren't sacrificing much by recording in the late 80s.

Lynne, who produced the album, played to Orbison's strengths, allowing his voice to be featured and not lost behind elaborate setups. "The Only One" was a perfect example of this.

I'd like to say that listening to Orbison helped my brother, our friends Danny and Justus I produce an excellent piece of work. Curtis, Justus and Danny did their parts, but my vocal style at the time was more influenced by Petty than Orbison.

Talk about youthful ignorance. Not that I could sing like Roy anyway.

The sadness of the album is that Orbison's death was not only tragic, it became frustrating in retrospect. What could Orbison have done had he been able to ride this new wave?

More breathtaking performances.

But who cares about that. He was 52, to young to die. As for fans, he gave us years of recordings that still hold up, no matter how much time passes.



At 9:50 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lynne is very underrated, both as a producer and a performer. Great Album.


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