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James R. Stout

Dum Dum Dum Dum Duh Do Wah

            It’s good to be back on my blog. As many of you know, I have been going through moving from my country ranch to a new house near my daughter and her family. It’s been quite a change and a great one at that. Oh, I miss the scenery and serenity of living on the farm, but not the work. I have nerve damage in my legs that simply put an end to many aspects of working on a ranch. But that’s ok. I am now within less than a mile from my grandchildren and getting to see them almost daily is worth more than I could ever state. So much for all of the minutia of moving. Yes, I still have some boxes to unpack and not a picture is hung on the walls yet. I’m in no hurry though.

            Last night I took the opportunity to watch a DVD that I haven’t watched in many years. It’s a live concert of Roy Orbison and Friends that was recorded on September 30, 1987 and released to video in January of 1988. First, let me say that it is quite possibly the best recorded live performance that I have ever seen. And I’ve seen a few that were mighty good. But this one is special. It includes 18 of his best and most famous songs. The guest backing band and singers were the cream of the crop in 1987. Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen, J.D. Souther, K.D. Lang, Bonnie Raitt, the TCB band (same band that was Elvis Presley’s band from 1969-1977) that included legends James Burton and Jerry Scheff, Elvis Costello, T-Bone Burnett, Tom Waits, and Jennifer Warnes among others. The wonderful part of this group of artists backing Roy is the fact that they didn’t try to inject themselves and their particular styles into the music. It was as though you were sitting in the studio when the records were recorded originally. The arrangements were the same, instruments the same, vocals the same, and most importantly Roy himself sounded better than ever despite being 51 years old at the time. Not that 51 is over the hill, but it shows quite clearly that Roy never lost a step and actually got better with age. Enough technical information.

            Watching the concert all these years later I found myself having a surreal experience. Why? Because there were two distinct time periods that were brought to fore in my mind while I sat and watched the concert. Neither tainted the music. You simply can’t taint Roy’s music no matter what is happening in your life, but the two periods of time in my life that were brought to mind were as far apart as possible. First, there was the wonderful nostalgic memories from the days when the records were new. I became a die-hard Roy Orbison fan at the age of 7 after seeing him on TV singing “Only The Lonely”. It’s a fantastic recording and song. Nobody sang them like Roy. Over the next 3 years Roy had hit after hit and I was hopelessly in love with his music. Songs such as “Blue Bayou”, “Leah”, “In Dreams”, “Crying”, “Oh Pretty Woman”, “Dream Baby”, “Running Scared”, “Mean Woman Blues”, “It’s Over”, “Candy Man”, and “Claudette”.  Roy also wrote about 10 of those songs as well as many more not in the concert. Roy didn’t just stand there and sing either. He was an accomplished guitarist and took the lead on several songs. I recall the first time that I heard “Oh Pretty Woman” in 1964. It was during the height of Beatlemania and not too many Americans were having #1 hits that year with all the British bands dominating the charts. But Roy pulled this one out and generations love the song to this day. I’m convinced that The Beatles borrowed a bit of the guitar riff when they came up with “Day Tripper” a year later. In fact, in their early days back in 1963 they were the opening act for Roy when he toured England. It was said by many that Roy was the only artist that wasn’t upstaged by The Beatles during their rise. Even John Lennon said it. Life for me at the time revolved around the Top 40 AM radio stations that I listened to incessantly. Most of those songs were in the soundtrack of my childhood. Every Christmas I loved hearing “Pretty Paper” by Roy. Still do.

            Now for the second era in my life. It was the era surrounding the days around the time of the concert and the VHS when it came out. I would love to say that it was as wonderful as the first era, but it just wouldn’t be true. Oh, there were some fantastic moments, but sometimes they were tainted by the things that kept me up all night worrying. When I watched the concert again last night, I also remembered those days. The nights driving around until 6 a.m. delivering newspapers to supplement my income to support my family. Listening to the car radio oldies show and hearing those songs again. The same for delivering pizzas. I remember first seeing the concert when it was played on PBS about 18 months later. This was 6 months following Roy’s death from a heart attack at the age of 52. I loved the concert and VHS, but money problems, in the middle of going back to school and getting my college degrees with all the stress related to that, having two small children who I adored and felt guilty for not being better prepared to support them the way that I should at the time, and a marriage that was slowly unraveling due to the stress of all those things are also a part of memories recalled when I watched the concert again last night.

            Well, all of that said, I want to state emphatically that the memories and the wonderful emotions evoked by hearing that music totally over-shadow any of the unpleasant memories. The fact is, I survived it all. Oh, the marriage limped down the road on the shoulder for another 14 years before coming to an end, but truth be told I’ve been happier since the divorce than I had been for nearly 20 years prior to it. And that’s not a dig at my ex-wife. She would say the same. It was just one of those things. I survived going back to school and graduated with two degrees from a great university in 1990. I have wonderful grandchildren and a daughter who loves her dad, and it shows. 33 years have passed since that concert was recorded. That’s half my life now. I love Roy’s music and that concert greatly. No matter what life has thrown my way, his music never fails to bring a smile to my face and cause me to crank up the volume and sing along with Roy. Hey, I do a rather good impression of Roy even if I do say so myself! What can be learned from all of this? Hard times may come your way, but never let them steal your joy. Don’t let them taint something that you absolutely love. I’ll close by saying that even if you’re only lonely and sitting on a dilapidated pier on a blue bayou or you feel like crying when a pretty woman gives you the mean woman blues, remember that when it’s over you’ll be living in dreams again.

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