“You took my breath away”; a tribute from the band to Roy Orbison

By Tony Attwood

According to Heylin, this is one of the songs on Volume 3 of the Wilbury’s two albums, that Dylan had very little to do with, despite the claim that he makes that the rest of the gang were “almost bereft of ideas.”  And he seems to accept the notion that Dylan had been more willing to be engaged in this album than the first one.

But the simple fact is that Dylan’s songwriting credit is included throughout – although he has not performed any of the songs from the album in the Never Ending Tour.    But then it is more written for Tom Petty’s voice, and this is what we get.

And because of the songwriting credit that is there I think we should consider this song, and the rest of the album, as part of Dylan’s output.  And indeed this piece does have within it something of particular note, and something that sounds very much like a Dylanesque input, if one considers it (as others have suggested) as a piece written about the member of the band now no longer present: Roy Orbison.

There is no need to take the lines

You took this song of mine,
And changed the middle bit
It used to sound all right
But now the words don’t fit.

as literal.  Rather, if seen as being a reference to Orbison’s appearance in the midst of the lives of all the band members, for Volume 1, it is a fitting commentary on the way in which Orbison’s unique approach to song writing and his utterly magnificent singing voice, could affect them all.

Being together again must have enhanced the impact of fact that Volume 1 had been Orbison’s last creative work, and must have affected all members of the ensemble in making Volume 3.  Indeed it would have been strange not to have had a reference to the great man somewhere in the album.

And this is a singularly appropriate commentary…

It’s getting hard to rhyme
Impossible to play
I’ve tried it many times
You took my breath away.

One day when the sun is shining
There will be that silver lining

As I suggest above, no one specifically thinks of this as a Dylan song, and yet I can hear his influence in there, and I do think Heylin’s negativity towards the whole album should not make us discount it nor disown it as a venture Dylan was engaged in.

Whoever did write the ending lyrics, if he was thinking of the moment at which he heard about Orbison’s passing, he got it completely right.

I don’t know how to feel
This hasn’t been my day
Seems like I’ve lost a wheel
You took my breath away.


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