I like Roy Orbison.
I used to be anti-Orbison. I remember growing up seeing those infomercials hawking Roy Orbison collections and being repulsed by his motherly appearance with his big glasses and poofy hair. I also thought his voice was weird. I'd heard some of his songs a million times ("Only the Lonely," "Oh, Pretty Woman," etc.), so it's not like I wasn't giving him a chance just because he was goofy lookin'.
My anti-Orbisonism never mattered much. Nobody I knew was a fan. I never had conversations or arguments about the merits of his music or anything. Over time I've stopped being anti-anything really ('cept Jessica Simpson and the like), but any time Orbison was mentioned I knew I didn't like him.
Then, sometime last year, somebody I like name-checked Orbison. It was Low's Alan Sparhawk on NPR's Fresh Air. He said something to the effect that he was obsessed with the Roy Orbison song structure, where songs just build and build to the end of the song.
Also, over the past couple of years I've become more interested in pop songwriting. I used to kind of limit myself to relatively weird music (Radiohead, Bjork). I kind of (but not completely) shunned conventional pop music just because it was conventional. Then I fell in love with Wilco's A Ghost is Born. That album had some of the weird-ish stuff that I love, but it also had some great straight forward pop songs. Wilco songs like "Hummingbird" and "The Late Greats" reminded me of the pleasure of the pop hook and of a well-constructed pop song, no matter how conventional. Since then I've been enjoying a lot relatively conventional pop stuff like a lot of Wilco songs, Elliott Smith, The New Pornographers, the Magnetic Fields, Belle and Sebastian, et. al., and appreciating well-written pop songs.
Anyways, last week I up and decided to get some Orbison songs after someone at Kulturblog called him a national treasure or something like that. On Friday while I was driving around doing my gas checking thing I listened to "Only the Lonely," "Leah," "Dream Baby," "Running Scared," and a few others. And I liked it. Some songs, like "Leah" and "Running Scared," I liked quite a lot. I'm not crazy about the oldie aesthetic of some of the recordings, but the songs themselves are great.
This story has some lessons: 1) I am impressionable. If my opinion of someone can change just because someone I like likes them, I can't have any confidence in my ability to identify good music. 2) Sometimes were looking for a certain thing in music and just because a given artist doesn't provide that thing doesn't mean that they're no good and it doesn't mean that they won't do something for you later.