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Interview: Alex and Roy Orbison, Jr. Interview talk Mystery Girl

I should have known that my time with Alex and Roy Orbison, Jr. would begin even before I had a chance to enter the interview suite. As soon as they entered the hallway, we fell into easy conversation as to how their father Roy first traveled Canada in 1955, with The Teen Kings, (Alex later says “We talk of Canada as Roy Orbison country; it is a part of our story).

In fact, the rhythm into which I fell with Alex and Roy continued into the suite, where we discussed the 25th Anniversary release of Mystery Girl, coming out on May 20th, which includes the film Mystery Girl: Unraveled, directed by Alex, written and executive produced by Alex and Roy Orbison, Jr. Mystery Girl: Unraveled is a song-by-song capturing of Roy Orbison’s final album, along with footage of Roy Orbison, and those that helped him create the albums, along with interviews regarding the making of this album.

The film had a “sneak peek” promotional preview in Toronto, for which Roy and Alex were in town, and followed the screening at the Varsity with a lengthy Q & A. Even before the screening, these boys love to talk, and there is something arresting about them, especially Roy Jr. that is especially strange and yet familiar. “They’ll laugh at the right times and cry at the right times, and at the end will have a better glimpse of what our Dad was like as a human being.” “To know the man. Throughout his life he was a mystery…this movie should flesh out a great mystery of Roy Orbison”.

I examine the movies that featured Roy Orbison’s songs. Examples that came immediately to my mind were Blue Velvet, in which Dean Stockwell’s psycho character lip-synchs the song In Dreams. Roy Orbison apparently refused David Lynch when first asked to use the song, but Lynch went ahead and used in anyways, and Orbison was able to see how well it fit in the film, (and its use eventually brought U2’s Bono to write a song for Orbison, which was ultimately included on the Mystery Girl album). Another Lynch film, Mulholland Drive, used a Spanish version of Orbison’s song Crying, called “Lllorando”. Other obvious examples were Pretty Woman, which takes its title from the song Oh, Pretty Woman, and Only the Lonely, also named for an Orbison song. Roy Jr. mentions Dumb and Dumber, for which of course the memorable scene of Harry and Lloyd getting ready for the ball probably would not have worked without the inclusion of Oh, Pretty Woman. Alex tosses out Weird Science, a film that uses the Van Halen cover of Oh, Pretty Woman for an essential scene. Alex Jr. mentions a Rob Schneider movie, which I wasn’t able to place, (he may have been thinking about Date Movie). I could have also mentioned such films as American Gangster, Star Trek: First Contact, Warm Bodies, 50/50, Gummo, Madea’s Witness Protection… Of Roy’s music, Roy Jr. says “It does create cinematic…it paints pictures, like an arist”. Alex says “The soundtracks were a focus all the way in the 1970’s at MGM with Mike Curb starting with (Michelangelo Antonioni’s) Zabrieski Point and Kelly’s Heroes” Roy Jr. continues to mention movies like “Hiding Out and Less than Zero”, both from 1987.

Alex continues: “Then again, you see another at the genesis of the Mystery Girl album in around 1985. (Songwriter) Will Jennings came by the house, and wanted to write a song for a movie where Albert Einstein falls in love with Marilyn Monroe. It was called Insignificance. (Amazingly, this movie actually exists.) So he wrote ‘Wild Hearts’…and Wild Hearts is a MONSTER of a song, (it is). And it in a way kicked off Mystery Girl. I remember Roy saying ‘Just throw together nine more together, and we’ll have an album, Dad!’ Just before it was k.d. lang and the Crying revamp for Hiding Out, but then Life Fades Away was done for Less than Zero, and that ended up being a monster of a song, too.” Roy Jr. pipes in “With Rick Rubin. And Glenn Danzig”. “At that point the goal was Mystery Girl. The idea of putting together the whole album was really a great thing for us as Roy Orbison fans. Even though we’re the sons, we’re also the biggest fans”.

After Roy Jr. mentions Neil Young as perhaps ‘Canada’s best Roy Orbison disciple’, I ask who else maybe carries the spirit of Roy Orbison, and the answers surprise me greatly. Alex says “If you are talking hair, then Bruno Mars has got it nailed, and overall look…at the Grammys a few years ago, (after searching, the performance in question may have been from the Grammy Nominations concert of 2010, in which Mars performed Just the Way You Are with the glasses, and the performance of Nothing on You at the 2011 Grammys with specific 1966 Roy Orbison pompadour, skinny tie and white shirt.) Roy Jr. discusses Roy as a ‘primal archetype’, along with Elvis (Presley), Johnny (Cash), Jerry (Lee Lewis), Chuck Berry, Little Richard. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about Prince. With Roy, there’s so many artists, Black Keys, Jack White, (Alex nominates My Morning Jacket). In the nineties, it was Chris Isaak…The Beatles…Bruce Springsteen…(voice rising) Norah Jones. Do you hear that Orbison connection? Maybe not, but pay a little attention.

“Who’s singing like that? Nobody. Who’s doing the Roy Orbison? All of them”.