Night Music: Van Halen, “Oh Pretty Woman”

I remember the first time I heard Roy Orbison’s great Oh Pretty WomanIt was one of those songs I did not need to hear twice before knowing it was killer, and the song has pretty much been a seminal tune over the 50-plus years since its release.

I never really thought about who would cover the song and why because the song was so much Orbison’s that “why bother?”

So, the last band I expected to infect me with a revisionist cover was Van Halen, who were still shy of their great 1984  disc.  But, starting with the fantastic clunky chunky metal effects pyrotechnics Eddie V coaxes in the Intruder prologue, to the great chorusy arpeggios that kick off the song, it nailed me at first listen and truth is, I now prefer the Van Halen’s version to Orbison’s.

This isn’t like Jimi Hendrix owning All Along the Watchtower, where Bob Dylan’s version is fine, but the song is clearly Hendrix’s now and forever. The Orbison version is still great, but Van Halen added a layer of rock and roll guts to the song that sort of works in concert with the emotions of love maybe lost and maybe found that should be part of the pain of life and relationship that rock and roll speaks to at its core.

I dunno. Maybe I am just getting sentimental as I move towards #iambecomingabesimpson, but fuck it. It is what it is.

2 thoughts on “Night Music: Van Halen, “Oh Pretty Woman”

  1. I’ve never been a big Roy Orbison fan, he veered into wimpdom right away never to return. The Van Halen version is better. Van Halen was a good cover band. For all his diarrhea of the fingers Eddie’s best guitar playing is stuff like this and Dance the Night Away. Cool phrasings of cool voicings. I always thought they were kinda doofy for metal gods, but in retrospect it’s a lot easier to watch videos like this. At least the guy doesn’t stuff his pants.

  2. I had an Orbison period, back around the time of that HBO special, Black and White Night, where Roy was backed by a bunch of stars doing pretty good versions of his songs. But as much as I liked revisiting those clips just now, I really like this one. TV rock ‘n’ roll at its best.

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