The Big O’s Big Box: ‘The MGM Years’

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After going on tour with The Beatles during the height of Beatlemania, Roy Orbison was one of the few original 50s rock’n’rollers to hold his own among the bright young things of the Swinging Sixties. Better than that, he ended 1964 as the only American artist to top the UK singles chart that year – twice – with ‘It’s Over’ and ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’; no small feat given competition from the likes of the Fabs, The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Kinks.

The Big O could have easily have sat back and turned out carbon copy revisits of ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’ for the remainder of the decade and doubtless found himself commercially satisfied, if not necessarily artistically fulfilled. Instead, however, he signed to a new label, MGM, and embarked on an eclectic six-year run that saw him revisit his country roots – and hold his own among the country-rock elite of the late 60s/early 70s – with tribute albums to heroes the likes of Hank Williams; record a soundtrack for his only major starring role in movie, The Fastest Guitar Alive; and turn his attention to a wide variety of material originally recorded by artists as diverse as Bee Gees and Otis Redding. Releasing 11 albums in eight years, the period saw Orbison at his most prolific.

Collected together on The MGM Years, which is released on 4 December, are all the albums that Orbison recorded during this period, including his The Fastest Guitar Alive soundtrack, contemporaneous B-sides and a never-before-released 1969 long-player, One Of The Lonely Ones. Recently discovered by Roy’s sons, it’s never been heard in any configuration before, and features Orbison’s stunning take on the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, along with a stand-out Big O original, ‘Child Woman, Woman Child’.

Totalling 152 songs, The MGM Years is available as either a 13-CD or 14-LP box set, and paints a picture of an artist finding his own unique way through the period where the mantra was to “turn on, tune in, drop out”, but which, in reality, saw Orbison as restlessly creative as ever.

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  1. Brian McCallum

    October 28, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    When are the rest of the unreleased MGM masters going to be available.
    I have a list of 26 tracks that he recorded at MGM and have never been
    released. I am nearing 70 and I would like to hear them sometime in the near future as obviously I am running out of time. This is not fair on the thousands,(Or perhaps millions) of fans around the world who have followed his career.
    I have been a fan since 1961 and I am sure there are plenty of others who feel the same. I already have all of the Original MGM releases in both Vinyl and CD, I will probably buy the box set but I believe a release of the rest of the material (Whether finished or unfinished) should happen, it is pointless leaving them in storage where they will only diminish in value as generations move further away from “Real Music”

    • Derek Neill

      November 25, 2015 at 10:06 am

      Brian do not despair, more will be released later this year. There is another album of unreleased material in the pipeline , Remember this will be Roy’s 80th anniversary and other BIG things are underway, I am in the same age group in, fact older but am in the fortunate position to know at long last they are coming and having heard them there is some great ones yet to come! Sorry I can’t say more but trust me big things will happen this year! Regarding your follow up re Bear family etc, Roy’s estate owns the rights to the MGM material and only they can decide who and when they get released and by whom!

      • Brian McCallum

        December 12, 2015 at 5:52 am

        Derek, thank you for your response. I wish I could find the rest of the track names that are outstanding from MGM, but I appear to have misplaced them. Are you aware of why “Blue Angel” was left out of the released version (Dvd) of “A Black and White Night”. The version on You tube is obviously from the same concert but was for some strange reason left out of the final product.

  2. Bernard Roughton

    October 29, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    Brian, could you be kind enough to list the 26 unreleased MGM tracks you mention please? It will be very useful & interesting! Many thanks

  3. Brian McCallum

    November 11, 2015 at 2:32 am

    Bernard, I could only find 18 of the tracks but I know there were more.
    Blue Teardrops (Are falling) With Bill Dees
    The Day that I loved you
    For old times sake
    Gonna Chase tomorrow
    Gypsy With Joe Melson
    Honky Tonkin around With Joe Melson
    Honey Love
    I need time
    Kelly’s Warriors
    Our Last Date
    I’ll have piece of mind With Joe Melson
    Peggy your breaking my mind
    Searching for something to believe in
    She even woke me up to say goodbye
    Stay away Sundown With Joe Melson
    Take It easy love With Joe Melson
    When you got love
    Without your love
    Say No More

    “Say No More” was released on a budget label with a whole heap of other stuff (You can find it on You Tube) It sounds like a finished master and is a really good track. A budget label called crimson was negotiating for their release some time ago but that appears to have died a natural death. I have contacted Bear Family and supplied them with this list but their eventual response was a negative. I don’t know whether this was because of contractual difficulties or otherwise, but I did think that if it was possible they would be the ones to pick it up. Hopefully Roys Boys may be able to sort this out (and soon) as I am getting older and would love to hear these tracks before I kick the bucket. For a lot more information go on the net and look for “Soundscapes – Journal on Media Culture” go through their contributing writers and look for Rene de Bruin. He has done an excellent job on researching Roys Catalogue right back to the Sun and Monument days, although one article is in (I think) German but its overall a good read. If I can help anyone else in any way I can be reached on my email “

    Regards Brian

  4. john hyde

    January 16, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    could you please find the title of the record CRYING OVER YOU I have heard the record it soundslike roy orbison but not sure ,thanks .

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