Roy and Barbara Orbison in the 1970's

Roy and Barbara Orbison in the 1970's

Roy Orbison was one of the greatest musicians of his time, so a box set of all his greatest hits has been a long time coming since his tragic death in 1988. However, the wait is finally over now that his widow Barbara has put together a collection of his hits in one stunning box set. I caught up with Barbara to find out the inspiration behind the collection and to hear a few of her fondest memories with Roy.

Hi Barbra, how are you?

I’m good thanks.

What have you been getting up to then, you must have been really busy with the box set?
Yeah, I have just finished it.
So how has putting the collection together been for you, was it very emotional?
It has been very confronting. I never imagined it to be and to take that many emotions out of me, I didn’t even know I had that many emotions in me! To look at a box set with 107 songs in there is incredible and for the first time I opened my drawers and found lots of very personal pictures to go into the sleeve. I wrote the foreword and my son wrote the line notes as well as helping me choose the songs and the line-up.

However, it got into my perfectionism too because I would wake up in the middle of the night and think of someone I had forgotten to include because we had so many quotes to go in. even when I had gotten the box set closed and it was already printing I had found another picture of Roy with his three sons; he has a picture kissing each of them and I couldn’t find one of the photographs until the last moment so it was very stressful to say the least!

Why did you decide to release The Soul Of Rock And Roll now?

Well it wasn’t like a sense of ‘oh wow, it’s on the schedule’ we started last year and then like everything with music, the record company wanted one line-up and we wanted another so it took a lot of trade-offs and then all of a sudden around Christmas of last year we had the line-up done and then we really started!

It took lots of photo research which took about three months to find the right pictures in the right process and it was a very long process. We are lucky that we even have it finished now!

With a box set it’s all about the art within the box set. Usually with an album you only have to worry about the front cover. We gave the box set to an art director and I was in New York and we were supposed to go to pres sin three or four days but we couldn’t use any of it! It’s always an n ongoing struggle. It’s like doing a book really because there are so many different moving parts. With an album you have 11 or 12 songs with mixes from one producer and then you get the art done and off you go.

When you see the box set you will notice that the outside is linen with a picture of Roy and then you open it up and you have a picture booklet that has my foreword and the liner notes but then you open it up and you see all the picture of him and his releases and people like Johnny Cash and Bruce Springsteen and I see Roy and myself.

There are so many great pictures that this has made me decide that one of these days I am going to do a picture book.

Will there be notes from some of the great people Roy worked with?

Eric Clapton, Chuck Berry, Tom Waites, Bruce Springsteen; everyone has quotes in there!

You are well known for your charity work, will some of the money go to charity?

We always do something for the charity and whether parts of it are donated from here to the charity or I take proceeds you have to do something for charity all the time. Mine is for homelessness but I’m getting ready to do something next year where I might even pick another charity this time.

Would you mind telling me a bit about how you first met Roy?

It was 1968 in Leeds. He wanted to meet me which was the greatest thing. He saw me across the room and he wanted to meet me and I finally came over to say hello and we never really said goodbye.

It was a really good relationship; it was never stop and goes: we liked one and other and we laughed together from day one. We went out the next night and we just fell in love.

That is so romantic; would you mind tell me a little bit more about your life together and some of your happiest memories?

I write in the foreword something that you will be able to understand being a girl; When I met Roy I was 17 and to me he was my 24/7 husband. I felt that he was the only one for me and we got married when I was 18. Somehow, knowing that he had a full and busy life he had the ability to make me feel like I was the only one who was special. He was my best friend and other, better half for 20 years.

So did you ever find it hard that he was often away on tour and there were many girls after his heart?

No because he took me wherever he went and he always made me feel like I was the only one that mattered.

He also suffered a great deal of tragedy in his life, how well did he cope with everything?

I put another quote in here that Roy said; “I spent my lifetime trying to figure love out. Love ranges from fascination to something almost spiritual and in the case of my Barbara it keep son growing all the time. I’m sure that suffering makes you stronger and gives you a chance to accept the love that people offer you.”

That is so poignant. He worked with some incredible stars in his lifetime, was he she always so humble or did he ever get star struck?

He never really got star stuck because most of them were his friends already.

When the spotlight shifted to you after his death and you wanted to be alone with your grief; how did you cope with that?

When Roy passed away it was really terrible for me because I wanted to be alone and everywhere I went people mentioned him and a quote from him and even though I appreciated it I felt as though it was my private Roy and my life but I think that’s just how a 36 year old woman would feel if she was left as a widow.

I had two boys that needed me dearly and you find the strength to go on, but with me I had such a good marriage with Roy that even our last talk was fun and loving and I am so glad that it wasn’t like one of those little things that sometimes happen like; “This kids are doing this” or “the dog is driving me crazy!” we just had a really good chat and a laugh and told each other we loved each other.

The death was all of a sudden and hopefully one of these days I will find the courage to write about it because in all the sadness and grief there was so much discovery in how strong my belief system was, and the words that Roy said that I just mentioned (“I’m sure that suffering makes you stronger and gives you a chance to accept the love that people offer you”) is what I found and even today, my friends are so important. They are now my family and can often be my better half.

You said you had a really great chat before his death, but if you had the chance to speak to him one last time, what would you say?

I have thought about that many times. I am so lucky that I told him that I loved him on that phone call. I am so lucky that I had the courage sometimes to tell him; “I love you, but I don’t like this.” I feel very lucky that the way Roy and I spoke to each other meant we stayed in daily connection to each other.

If I had amends to make to him, I would so it before the sun went down. Roy would always say that we should never let the sun set on anger.

That is exactly what I believe too.

And so even when he would call and I would be busy and my voice would turn really German and sound really bitchy; I would always call him back and say sorry and he would always understand.

We shared our secrets and it’s not always triumph in a marriage, you always have disagreements when you really have to look at each other and sometimes people ask; “Who are you?” but despite all that, if Roy walked into the room now of course I would drop the telephone and run over to him and give him a big hug, but it would just be like he never left.

I would probably say; “Hey Roy, I’m doing an interview for you, now you’re here and can do it yourself!” but that is just my sense of humour. But I would love to tell him everything, he was my one and only. I was so young and he was so patient with me.

You know that when you have a boyfriend, you want him to be your best friend, a father for your children; you want him to fix your car, light candles, be romantic and be rough and tough. As you get older you realise that not everyone can be that but when you’re young you want that guy to be that way and I tried so hard to convince Roy to play all those parts but he just wouldn’t!

Do you think that this box set is a fitting tribute to someone who was clearly a fantastic musician?

Oh yes. Roy’s dream when he was younger was to have enough songs to be able to play a one hour concert without having to play covers of other songs. Roy could have probably done 100 hours of concerts with his songs so this box set would have been his dream come true.

FemaleFirst - Ruth Harrison