OPINION: Guilty music pleasures - like Roy Orbison - can get us through November’s lockdown

The perfect soundtrack to lockdown for Nick - Roy Orbison pictured in 1966

The perfect soundtrack to lockdown for Nick - Roy Orbison pictured in 1966 - Credit: PA WIRE

Columnist Nick Richards suggests digging back through music’s past during lockdown

“If you can remember the 60s you weren’t there,” goes the famous quote. My mum was 10 as that decade dawned and my dad 13 so I didn’t really stand a chance.

I even missed half of the 1970s, but it didn’t take me long to realise that the music from those decades was far superior to the songs that soundtracked my own teenage years.

My mum was 14 when The Beatles broke the big time in 1963, I had to endure a load of tinny chart pap in 1989 when I was the same age – although interestingly in that year five of the Top 20 selling songs were a throwback to the 60s and even earlier.

Jive Bunny’s cut and paste rehash of old hits meant Swing The Mood and That’s What I Like both topped the charts, covers of Ferry Cross the Mersey and Sealed With A Kiss were huge hits, along with Gene Pitney’s Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart which he guested on alongside Marc Almond and took to the number one spot. There was clearly a whiff of nostalgia in the air as we exited the 80s.

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It was always easy for a youngster growing up in the 80s or 90s to fall for counter culture heroes from the then recent past such as Bob Marley or Jim Morrison or celebrate the tortured genius of the likes of Syd Barrett or Nick Drake. It certainly gave you a bit of depth and intrigue and showed you understood music’s bigger picture.

Now there’s no need to impress your peers, especially as we enter this second four week lockdown – why not use it to explore music from the past that you may have missed first time? Or even the music from beyond your own youth, whenever that may have been. And it doesn’t matter how guilty those guilty pleasures are now – just go with the music that gets you through the next month!

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The good thing about not growing up in the 60s is that all the music is there to explore. I didn’t have to live through the decade and latch on to being a mod, rocker or hippy.

For Generation Xers and beyond we can cherry pick the past and publicly or privately celebrate any icons we wish with the wonderful gift of hindsight, which often has more appeal than sinking your faith into the latest floor-gazing indie band.

I could easily be writing about Marc Bolan, for me the one artist from before my time who has been something of an obsession for the past 30 years, but I want to celebrate another unlikely blast from the past.

Roy Orbison ticks all the boxes for me. Quirky character, unconventional looks, big family man, interesting life marred by tragedies, silly nickname – The Big O – and of course someone who departed the world far too soon at just 52.

Sixty years ago this week, Roy’s Only The Lonely had just dropped off the top of the UK singles chart after two weeks and, ironically or not, it’s the perfect anthem for these weird times.

Orbison only came into my life when he died – it was late 1988 and I only really knew him as one of the Traveling Wilburys. In early 1989 You Got It was posthumously released and he enjoyed more mainstream attention when movie Pretty Woman came out the following year and his song of almost the same name was given a new lease of life.

Let’s also not forget that back in 1963 Roy Orbison was also a big deal. The Beatles went on three short tours in that year, the last in November featured a night in Norwich but in the middle of the summer, they played at Ipswich’s Gaumont as a support act to good old Roy.

You probably know his big hits – Only the Lonely, Oh, Pretty Woman, Crying and You Got It, but my favourite song of his is a B-side, released less than a year after he tragically lost two sons in a house fire in the US, while he was on tour in the UK.

Southbound Jericho Parkway is his astonishing seven minute opus telling the story of a lonely middle-aged businessman who’d separated from his wife, and been alienated from his children. One Monday morning he gets in his car and, driving at high speed, kills himself by ploughing into a wall. The second part of the song deals with the reaction from each family member to his death.

It’s not the most cheery subject, but it illustrates the absurd talent from a man I think has been overlooked as a bit of a novelty pop star.

I’m sure you’ve got your own blast from the past who rocks your world, so now is as good a time as any to go back and listen – whether it’s Black Sabbath, Black Flag or Black Lace, music can help ease you through these weird times.

For me, Roy Orbison’s maudlin mini melodramas are the perfect way to survive lockdown. So why not light a candle, close the curtains, crank up this overlooked music maestro and let it all out this November!

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