This Day in ’88: Roy Orbison Tribute

Tuesday, December 11, 2018
This Day in Music

30 years ago today, a small cavalcade of top-notch musicians united to pay tribute to Roy Orbison, who had passed away five days earlier.


We describe it as a small cavalcade only because the Wiltern Theater, where the tribute in question took place, was only filled with about 200 of Orbison’s friends, which – given that the venue in question holds about 1,850 people – leads us to presume that the guest list was decidedly small that evening. Still, for a small audience, there were a lot of big stars in the house that night, among them Dave Edmunds, Don Henley, Jeff Lynne, Graham Nash, Tom Petty, Bonnie Raitt, Johnny Rivers, and the Stray Cats.


Of those individuals, we’re led to understand that only Edmunds, Raitt, Rivers, and the Cats actually performed, but at the time there were rumblings that all of the surviving members of The Traveling Wilburys would be reuniting to take the stage. At least one reason that failed to occur was that George Harrison – although in Los Angeles at the time – was battling the flu and in no position to stop by. We don’t know anything about Bob Dylan’s whereabouts that night, but you know that guy: he’s a riddle wrapped in an enigma. (For all we know, he could’ve been there wearing Groucho glasses and mustache, and everybody was just, like, “Is that…?” “Yep.” “But why is he…?” “Because he just is, and if that ain’t good enough for you, have another drink…and then just keep drinkin’ ‘til it is good enough, because there ain’t no other answer!”)


We’d love to offer up some clips from that evening, but there are none to be had, which is none too surprising when one considers the limited audience to begin with. That said, we can at least offer up something from the Rhino catalog that you may never have heard before: Roy Orbison’s lone album for Asylum Records: 1979’s LAMINAR FLOW. Mind you, the reason you may not have heard it is because it wasn’t what you might traditionally describe as commercially successful, but once you’ve checked it out, you’ll be able to tell that it still very much features Orbison’s distinctive voice, which is always worth hearing, no matter how dated the instrumentation and production around it may be.

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