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Thursday, February 19, 2009

GMVW # 59: "I Got It"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 59:  I Got It
Song: You Got It by Roy Orbison
(Songwriters: Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty)
February 19, 2009

Last week I asked for suggestions to broaden my music-listening horizons. In bygone days, I was always trying to pick up on cues from friends, music reviewers, and DJ’s regarding their favorite musicians. Often the tips were eye-opening, and yet a recommendation did not always result in enlightenment, even for the most respected acts. In many cases, there eventually came a time when I had to accept the fact that I was not going to ‘get it’:  The brilliant guitarist, singer, or song-writer was just not going to connect with me.  It happens to everyone, and most of the time when coming to this conclusion, it sticks.

Occasionally, though, a musician breaks through the barrier:  After years of indifference, you may come to see what all the fuss is about.  For example, I’ve had delayed reaction to Jimi Hendrix’s guitar playing (actually, I’m still working on this), Michael McDonald’s vocals and Joni Mitchell’s songwriting skills.  This was also the case with Roy Orbison’s musical talent, but in this particular oversight I was not alone.  Roy Orbison was flying under the radar for years, even decades, before his career was resurrected with the Traveling Wilburys in the late 80’s. During this period, it seemed musicians were coming out of the woodwork to recognize his influence, including Dylan, Springsteen, and Elvis Costello.  Their sense of timing was amazing, considering he died not soon after, in December, 1988.

In terms of being enlightened by Roy Orbison’s talents, I can trace to the one moment which put my seemingly irreconcilable differences to rest.

The story actually starts with a regretful weekend evening in the winter of 1988, when Mac and I were sitting around in my Waltham home trying to think of something to do.  At times like this, we usually turned to the music venues for guidance, and on this night, Orbison was to play a show at the old Channel in South Boston.  We contemplated going for a good few hours, having never been to one of his shows, but ultimately decided the ticket prices too high for what we could afford at the time (not much).  The show got rave reviews.  Several weeks later, Orbison was dead, after suffering a heart attack.  We had missed out on a golden opportunity to say the least.

A few months later, a concert in memory of Roy Orbison was announced to be held at the Universal Amphitheater in Hollywood.  I was an avid listener of WBCN (104.1) at the time, and the station was hosting drawings at selected record stores around Boston for an all-expenses paid trip for two to the show.  With the memory of missing the Channel show still lingering, Nancy and I made the drive up to Tweeter Etc. on
Moody Street
in Waltham and entered our names (an added motivation was Pete Townshend being billed as one of the headliners, and Townshend solo was a rare treat in those days).

I was not expecting much.  When it comes to luck in winning awards, drawings, lotteries, whatever, I’ve never had it.  This includes trophies.  Back in the day when most of us were playing sports as kids, trophies were only given to MVP types and 1st place teams.  I was never associated with either, and so my mantle remained empty through childhood.  There were 2 minor exceptions.  The first was a cub-scout pinewood derby race trophy which was awarded to me and then rescinded after the judges discovered my wooden car laced with a titanium-like substance.  The second was given to me at my bachelor party by my brothers and friends who were apparently sympathetic to my empty trophy case.  I opened the gift and observed the glimmering prize with glee.  I then read the inscription: “Eat Shit”.

Ok, so I’m not one for hitting the jackpot.  This made it all the more astonishing when it was announced on WBCN that I had won the trip.  By the time Nancy and I went to the radio station to pick up our package deal, the list of performers for the show had grown to include: Bob Dylan, Levon Helm, Emmylou Harris, John Lee Hooker, John Fogerty, Bonnie Raitt, Chris Isaak, Iggy Pop, John Hiatt, Dwight Yoakam, The Stray Cats, Michael McDonald, and a reunion of the Byrds (Townshend was out though, for reasons unexplained; he would end up doing a video podcast). 

The package deal started with a tour of Universal Studios.  After the tour, we loaded on a bus with other nation-wide winners to take us to the show.  The bus passed through a check point, and dropped us off in front of a giant backstage tent.  Upon entering we were given a bag of memorabilia, which included commemorative jackets.  The tent was filled with many of the performers playing that evening.  While we hobnobbed with several of The Stray Cats, everyone was asked to turn their attention to a man with a paint brush standing in front of a blank canvas.  While the music of Roy Orbison’s ‘You Got It’ (this week’s Gem) blared in the background, the artist began to speed-paint Orbison’s features onto the canvas.  Something about it captured my imagination and opened my eyes to the brilliant music of that gentle man.  The barrier was broken, just in time for the show.

The show itself was great.  We were ushered to 2nd row seats and one act after another rolled out and gave top-notch performances of Roy Orbison songs.  The Byrds (including Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman, and David Crosby) also played a set of their own songs.  The only bad vibes were when Dylan stared me down from the stage after I took his picture.  Yow! 

The show was being filmed all around us, and is still available on dvd (“A Tribute To Roy Orbison”) at many video stores.  At one time the camera stops on Nancy and I cheering in the 2nd row…. our 3 seconds of fame.

Below the Gem Video are several performances of Roy Orbison covers done that evening.

Gem Video: Roy Orbison “You Got It”

John Hiatt “You Got It”

John Fogerty singing “Ooby Dooby”

Levon Helm “Mean Woman Blues”

Chris Isaak “Leah”

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About the Video: Made For MTV original video

Video Rating: 1
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Best Feedback: Tom

Awesome write-up Pete - his Pretty Woman is one of those twenty-odd jingles that still come to my head quite often, finding myself singing it under my breath even at work doing mundane tasks, etc. (helps keep one a bit sane still, I 'spose)

Tom

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