Jun 04

ROY ORBISON – “Only The Lonely”

Popular8 comments • 2,566 views

#108, 22nd October 1960

A to-and-fro between the depthlessly woeful Orbison and his soothing backing singers, “Only The Lonely” is almost scotched by the fashionable pizzicatos of the string arrangement, which taunt Roy while everything else in the song hugs him. Thankfully they don’t get too much eartime, and Orbison’s progress towards a kind of salvation (“Maybe another romance? It’s the chance you have to take… if you’re lonely.”) continues. Just as well since by that time you’re rooting for the big softy.



  1. 1
    Billy Smart on 7 Feb 2010 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: The good news is that more UK TV footage of the big O survives than you might think, even if it is from after his heyday;

    BE MY GUEST: with The Drifters, Paul Daniels, The Grumbleweeds, Roy Orbison, Peters and Lee (1977)

    THE LONDON PALLADIUM SHOW: with Jimmy Tarbuck (Compere), Roy Orbison, The Seekers (1966)

    THE ROLF HARRIS SHOW: with Ken Dodd, Roy Orbison, Chelsea Brown (1972)


    SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE MILL: with Roy Orbison, Marti Caine, James Burke (1977)

    SEZ LES: with Roy Orbison (1972)

    SING COUNTRY: with Roy Orbison, Terry McMillan, Kelly Foxton, Ronnie Prophet, Jimmy C. Newman, Lloyd Green, Cynthia Clawson, Billy Swan, Kris Kristofferson (1982)

    WOGAN: with Rory Bremner, Antonia Fraser, June Havoc, Burt Kwouk, Roy Orbison, Sushi Tasting (1985)

    The bad news is that these performances are lost to posterity;

    THE GOLDEN SHOT: with Bob Monkhouse, Roy Orbison, Anne Aston (Golden Girl), Hughie Green (1970)

    THE GOLDEN SHOT: with Bob Monkhouse, Roy Orbison, Pete Murray (Guest Host), Ray Alan and Lord Charles, Lesley Goldie, Anne Aston (Golden Girl) (1971)

    MIKE AND BERNIE’S SCENE: with Roy Orbison, Clodagh Rodgers, The Art Movement (1970)

    READY STEADY GO!: with Roy Orbison, Kathy Kirby, Keith Fordyce, The Fourmost, Cathy McGowan, Michael Aldred, Dave Berry, The Escorts, Van Dyke and the Bambies, The Gamblers (1964)

    READY STEADY GO!: with Roy Orbison, Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, The Searchers (1965)

    SEZ LES: with Roy Orbison (1969)

    STARS ON SUNDAY: with Vince Hill, Gerald Harper, Gillian Humphreys, Roy Orbison, Gracie Fields (1971)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, Lonnie Donegan, Petula Clark, Roy Orbison, The Eric Delaney Band, Eden Kane, The Fourmost, Jeannie and the Big Guys, Janice Nicholls, Al Bennett (1963)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, The Shadows, Roy Orbison, Ronnie Carroll, Eden Kane, Me and Them (1964)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, Roy Orbison, Dusty Springfield, The Zombies, Tom Jones, The Searchers (1965)

  2. 2
    crag on 13 Apr 2011 #


    Billy Connolly, comedian (2001)

    Liz Smith, actress (2008).

  3. 3
    Victoria on 15 Aug 2011 #

    Love the drama of the There goes my baby (dramatic pause)….da da da da….etc. I don’t think I realised before I started going through Popular how much I enjoy pizzicato strings in my pop songs!

  4. 4
    hectorthebat on 28 Feb 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    Blender (USA) – Standout Tracks from the 500 CDs You Must Own (2003)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh & Kevin Stein (USA) – The 40 Best of the Top 40 Singles by Year (1981) 2
    Dave Marsh (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (1989) 17
    Life (USA) – 40 Years of Rock & Roll, 5 Songs for Each Year 1952-91 (Updated 1995)
    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (USA)- The Songs That Shaped Rock (Additions 2011)
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2004) 232
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (Updated 2010) 234
    The Recording Academy Grammy Hall of Fame Albums and Songs (USA)
    Q (UK) – The 1010 Songs You Must Own (2004)
    Q (UK) – Top 20 Singles from 1954-1969 (2004) 9
    Zig Zag (UK) – Gillett & Frith’s Hot 100 Singles (1975)
    Helsingin Sanomat (Finland) – 50th Anniversary of Rock (2004)
    Berlin Media (Germany) – The 100 Best Singles of All Time (1998) 40
    Rolling Stone (Germany) – The Best Singles of 5 Decades (1997)
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Hervé Bourhis (France) – Le Petit Livre Rock: The Juke Box Singles 1950-2009
    Toby Creswell (Australia) – 1001 Songs (2005)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  5. 5
    wichitalineman on 22 May 2014 #

    It’s a most peculiarly constructed song, possibly designed simply to show of the Orbison range. Plenty of hooks mind you – “dum dum dum” and string/snare stabs, plus that climactic high note. But there’s no obvious chorus – I imagine it’s the “know why-y-y I cry” section, but the chord changes and odd pauses make for a disconcerting first listen. If it’s over familiar, try to the soundalike follow-up, Blue Angel, which I think is the better record – Roy as protector for once rather than loser.

  6. 6
    lonepilgrim on 22 May 2014 #

    briefly and memorably quoted on Albatross by PiL

  7. 7
    lonepilgrim on 29 Jul 2014 #

    the distinctly male backing vocals create a sense of shared experience – Roy may be lonely but he’s not alone.

  8. 8
    Gareth Parker on 9 Jun 2021 #

    I’m inclined to agree with Tom’s 6/10 here.

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