Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

Roy Orbison (is) The Fastest Guitar Alive

For a modest sum, I picked up this Roy Orbison soundtrack for the 1967 motion picture – Fastest Guitar Alive – and was surprised by the quality of songs from start to finish.

Cover art by Frank Frazetta

All ten songs on the album are Roy Orbison originals – seven written specifically for the film plus three more to complete the soundtrack album.  The liner notes tell us that the film music’s “composer,” a recording star with 24,000,000 sales under his belt, makes his debut screen appearance in The Fastest Guitar Alive in a starring role as Johnny Banner — “a young guitar-strumming Rebel officer whose guitar converts conveniently into a rifle to fight off attacking Indians.”

In boasting of Orbison’s songwriting prowess (“every song the Wink, Texas phenomenon sings in concert or on records these days is his own composition”), the record label momentarily forgets that the microphone’s still on, so to speak, when it publicly reveals (in legalese, no less) the grueling contractual arrangement under which our hero, the Big O, must labor on a yearly basis:  “Inasmuch as he is committed to recording 40 songs a year for MGM (three albums comprising 10 songs each, plus ten singles) he may furnish as many as 70 songs in any one year from which to select the required 40.”

RPM Music Weekly

July 29, 1967

Perhaps realizing just how onerous that last statement might sound, the label then tries to soften its image as grim taskmasters by capping off the album’s liner notes with this brilliant bit of spin:  “Roy knew the plot for The Fastest Guitar Alive months before actual production began. This gave him ample time in which to produce the seven new songs for the production.”  Sure thing, whatever you say.

Here is Roy’s great title track to the film:

The Fastest Guitar Alive

Roy Orbison (1967)

Billboard would pick this album for its ‘Pop Spotlight‘ in the July 29, 1967 issue:

The movie will help sales of this LP, but the album also contains a sleeper that packs powerful emotion -“There Won’t Be Many Coming Home.”  It’s not in the movie.  “Pistolero,” a catchy south-of-the-border tune is in and it, and “Best Friend” show Orbison in good to form.


Bonus video link to a two-minute theatrical trailer


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