top of page

Big O Week Number 3 - Goodnight

A year ago youtube was awash with the original version of this song as released by Orbison on Monument Records. When Orbison moved from Sun Records to be under the production wing of Fred Foster at Monument, he found that Foster's production, backing vocals pushed into the foreground, and unfolding orchestration perfectly complemented his soaring tenor voice, making him a star. Sadly, every time I try to get the original of this song up, all I get is a sign thus:

"This video contains content from SME, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds."

However, it is a measure of its greatness (and of most of the Big O's oeuvre) that this live version is almost as good, loosing little of the power of the original studio cut. You'll have to imagine the strings that come in after

This is early Orbison (phase 2) - the classic Orbison construction, starting gently, and then building up, not like the average song which stays the same. Not quite such a big punch - you need a bit of an emotional rest after Orbs 1 and 2

Starts with talky moment (like the one in the immortal "In Dreams")

"My lovely woman child, I found you out running wild with someone new,

you've been untrue and everybody knows we're through"

then moves onto the TUFFSTUFF. Being Roy, the sad lonely little man, his life pervaded with love, dreams and neo-operatic tragedy

"but I can't say goodbye to you, no matter what you do

my heart won't let you go, although I know you go with someone new, I think of you.....

....I miss the way you say goodnight"

lovely internal rhymes popping up naturally all over the place, then the duet which somehow exaggerates his loneliness and sadness,

....bittersweet, your kisses, when my heart still misses the way that things used to be but I know you're strong for other arms you long for and you can never come back to me not just for yesterday, tonight or tomorrow ah but forever I'll hear you say goodnight...."

then the soaring vocal and heartbreaking crescendo:


goodnight turned out to be a lie

and I can't help it if I cry

goodnight my love,

sleep tight my love, goodnight."

Did I say emotional rest? Sorry, I lied. Just another day at the office for Roy. At 2.29 a masterpiece, but so short, you have to listen again, ignoring, of course, the young airheads on the youtube clip.

(PS I referred to Orbison phase 2 - you might be wondering what I'm talking about. Well here you are:

Stage One - 1957 - 60 Sun records rock 'n' roll and hillbilly stuff

Stage Two - 1960 - 65 the famous glory period with Monument Records with his greatest hits like Oh Pretty Woman, Only the Lonely, Running Scared, It's Over and In Dreams

Stage Three - 1966 onwards period of decline signed with MGM records, still had some great tracks, but declined rapidly as he tried to copy new fads. Always best doing his own thing

Stage Four - rediscovered as big influence by Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Waits, Bruce Springsteen, KD Laing etc etc, recorded with Virgin Records, old hits relaunched, new albums, par of Travelling Wilburys (sings "I'm not lonely anymore" then drops dead, typical, tragic Roy).

bottom of page