It seems the only thing shared among the many responses to the latest Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, is that they’re passionately held. Fans either love or hate the re-boot additions to the space saga, often it seems along generational lines, and this has invited a re-evaluation of George Lucas’ critically panned prequel trilogy from the early 00s. There seems to be a single line of agreement between all Star Wars fans, and that is that Lucas’ “special editions” which tweaked the three original films were poorly executed and entirely unwelcome.
You may ask what on Earth this has to do with records, or Roy Orbison in particular. Turns out science fiction movies are not the only media to receive and unwelcome change. Composers of Western classical music have long revisited their works to make revisions large and small — in one famous example Beethoven was inspired by the recently invented metronome to add tempo markings to his music which propels it to a remarkable pace. This was the subject of an episode of Radiolab shared here on the Hymies blog in 2013.
A 2010 album by the new wave pop band Squeeze faithfully recreated fourteen of the bands classic songs, adding to each a tiny alteration — they called it Spot the Difference. Another greatest hits collection, America’s History, altered hit tracks more surreptitiously, adding lush orchestration by producer George Martin without identifying the tracks as different from those which charted as singles.
And then there is this Roy Orbison collection from a Sun Records series. The album naturally opens with “Ooby Dooby,” the song which put Orbison on the musical map. The Sun single was already a re-recording of a song he recorded for the Je-Wel label with the Teen Kings, which was played over the phone to Sun founder Sam Phillips by a record store owner.
While the sound has been tidied up for The Sun Story Volume 4, there is also the addition of an overdubbed piano part, which we think is as welcome as Greedo shooting first in the Star Wars special edition.
Here’s our own copy of that original Sun single:
And here’s the same song from The Sun Story Volume 4 with the superfluous piano part. Other Orbison tracks have been overdubbed with backing vocals as well. “Ooby Dooby” is probably the most well-known of the songs Orbison recorded between 1956-58, although he also recorded the original version of his composition “Claudette” (widely heard as performed by the Everly Brothers) in the legendary studio.
Along with many other famous artists, Orbison soon left Sun Records. He struggled financially for a while, but soon found his voice, and his place on the pop chart, with a more crooning style on a series of successful singles for Monument Records. The singer of our favorite rockabilly track didn’t really want to be a rocker at all.