Big O Week Number 6 - Careless Heart / Leah
Sometime in the late 1980's I was at a really tacky post wedding party and the entertainment was a single man of Chinese origin dressed in black with an electric guitar, an amplifier and a backing track mixer. He was superb, singing Elvis, Chuck Berry, the Beatles, even venturing Jimi Hendrix with some expansive guitar solos. He sang in fluent English, but spoke with a strong accent between songs. Towards the end he announced: "the next song was made famous by Roy Orpington" and then proceeded to deliver a terrific rendering of "Oh Pretty Woman" which had everyone on their feet. I can't remember who was getting married, only this guy and his Roy Orpington. Although it was a wedding, I remember it as a sad affair, as some weddings are, presages perhaps of some future failure or unhappiness.
Only a few months later, Roy Orbison died and then a month after that his fabulous album "Mystery Girl" came out. And it was the complete return to form that we'd all been awaiting for decades.
I never much liked Jeff Lynne, he was okay with ELO I guess, but always a bit too derivative for me, you could often see the joins. But he is a hero to me because he was the main man who helped Roy put together this album along with Tom Petty sidekick Mike Campbell; which meant that Roy went out in a blaze of glory and an LP full of classic tracks - all new originals. While Orbison himself didn't write half the songs on this album, those that did were consciously writing for him and seemed to know that this was a big moment that wouldn't come again, resulting in them brilliantly taking on the typical Big O themes in his classic style.
"I'd be loving you
I'd be holding you
I'd be loving you
if not for my carless heart...
....I wouldn't have this hurt inside
I wouldn't have these tars to cry
if not for my careless heart....."
In "Careless Heart" the theme is loss. His keening soaring vocal towards the end of this touches anyone who has experienced loss and the regret that goes with it.
As Big "O" week draws to a close, I am now panicking that I won't be able to fit all the great, not so well known songs in, what should I leave out? There are so many good ones.
So today there are two. "Leah", is one of the great tracks from his early Monument days, and pulls together loss with dreams - two of his great recurring themes. "Leah" is a song that is literally a metaphor for loss, deceptively short and simple, the dream of the pearl fisherman inside the story inside the song. His mournful singing of the word "Leah" is like an Eastern European funeral wail, and strikes deeper than anyone can swim, and the song aches with loneliness.
The first line of the song is like his dive down into the darkness of the sea, starting high with "go" and ending deep with "Leah"
"Here I go
from the hut
to the boat
to the sea
and then his leg is trapped, and he drowns knowing Leah will get the pearl he has found. But it's only a dream....
"And now it's over, I'm awake at last
old heartaches and memories from the past
it was just another dream about my lost love
"...here I go
back to sleep
in my dreams
with Leah, Leah, Leah."
Poetry. And off he goes, back into the abyss of loneliness.