Orbison, Roy - 1960 Only The Lonely
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Influenced by contemporaneous hits such as "Come Back to Me (My Love)" and "Come Softly to Me", Orbison and Joe Melson wrote a song in early 1960 which, using elements from "Uptown", employed strings and the Anita Kerr doo-wop backing singers. It also featured a note hit by Orbison in falsetto that showcased a powerful voice which, according to biographer Clayson, "came not from his throat but deeper within".
The song was "Only the Lonely".
Orbison and Melson tried to sell it to Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers but were turned down. They instead recorded the song at RCA's Nashville studio, with sound engineer Bill Porter trying a completely new strategy: building the mix from the top down rather than from the bottom up, beginning with close-miked backing vocals in the foreground, and ending with the rhythm section soft in the background. This combination became Orbison's trademark sound.
The single shot to number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and hit number one in the UK and Australia. According to Orbison, the subsequent songs he wrote with Melson during this period were constructed with his voice in mind, specifically to showcase its range and power. He told Rolling Stone in 1988, "I liked the sound of [my voice]. I liked making it sing, making the voice ring, and I just kept doing it. And I think that somewhere between the time of "Ooby Dooby" and "Only the Lonely", it kind of turned into a good voice."
Only The Lonely transformed Orbison into an overnight star. He appeared on American Bandstand and toured the U.S. for three months non-stop with Patsy Cline. When Presley heard "Only the Lonely" for the first time, he bought a box of copies to pass to his friends. Melson and Orbison followed it with the more complex "Blue Angel", which peaked at #9 in the U.S. and #11 in the UK. "I'm Hurtin'", with "I Can't Stop Loving You" as the B-side, rose to #27 in the U.S. but failed to chart in the UK.