Mystery Girl

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Mystery Girl
Mystery Girl - Roy Orbison.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedJanuary 31, 1989
RecordedJuly 1987–November 1988
StudioRumbo Recorders, Canoga Park, CA; A&M Studios, Hollywood, CA; FPSHOT, Oxfordshire[1]
ProducerRoy Orbison, Mike Campbell, Jeff Lynne, T Bone Burnett, Barbara Orbison, Bono
Roy Orbison chronology
In Dreams: The Greatest Hits
Mystery Girl
A Black & White Night Live

Mystery Girl is the twenty-second album by American singer Roy Orbison. It was completed in November 1988, a month before his death at the age of 52, and released posthumously by Virgin Records on January 31, 1989.[2] It includes the hit singles "You Got It", which was co-written by Orbison and his Traveling Wilburys bandmates Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty, and "She's a Mystery to Me", written by Bono and The Edge. The album was a critical and commercial success; it peaked at number 5 on the Billboard 200 in the United States, the highest position Orbison had achieved on that chart, and number 2 on the UK Albums Chart.[3]

Mystery Girl was Orbison's first album of all-new material since 1979 and its success posthumously continued the resurgence that his career had undergone since 1986. Among the many other contributors to the album were Mike Campbell and other members of the Heartbreakers, T Bone Burnett, George Harrison, Jim Keltner and Rick Vito. For the 25th anniversary of its release, the album was reissued with bonus tracks including "The Way Is Love", a song recorded by Orbison on a cassette tape in the 1980s that was subsequently completed by his sons and producer John Carter Cash.


Before making Mystery Girl, Roy Orbison's last album of new material had been 1979's Laminar Flow. This release followed a run of commercial and critical failures in the United States since his years of international stardom in the early 1960s.[4] From 1986,[5] support from admirers such as filmmaker David Lynch and Bruce Springsteen reversed this trend, rescuing him from relative obscurity in his homeland as Orbison again became a popular concert draw.[6] According to Orbison historian Marcel Riesco in his book The Authorized Roy Orbison, recordings for Mystery Girl began in July 1987 at Ocean Way Studios in Hollywood with the track "(All I Can Do is) Dream You".[7] Jeff Lynne, another long-time admirer, began writing songs with Orbison in Los Angeles over Christmas 1987. The track "You Got It" was written at this time and was a collaboration between Lynne, Orbison and Tom Petty. With Lynne as his producer, Orbison recorded "You Got It" in April 1988 at the garage studio of Petty's bandmate in the Heartbreakers, Mike Campbell.[8]

Recording for the album continued alongside Orbison's involvement in the Traveling Wilburys, a supergroup project initiated by George Harrison and Lynne[9][10] that also included Petty and Bob Dylan.[11] Aside from further Lynne-produced sessions for Mystery Girl, to which Petty and Harrison contributed,[12] Orbison recorded some of the songs with Campbell, T Bone Burnett and his wife Barbara Orbison[5] each in the role of producer.[13] The Heartbreakers played on much of the album,[14] while Elvis Costello contributed the song "The Comedians".[5]

The album was named after the chorus from the track "She's a Mystery to Me", which was written by U2's Bono and The Edge. In the documentary In Dreams: The Roy Orbison Story, Bono says he woke up for a concert soundcheck, following a late night listening to the soundtrack to Lynch's Blue Velvet, and had the tune of the title song in his head, figuring it was another Orbison song ("In Dreams" was the only Orbison song on that album). During the soundcheck, he performed "She's a Mystery to Me" for the other members of U2, who agreed that it sounded like an Orbison song. Orbison later met the band backstage at one of their concerts and subsequently asked Bono if he would like to write a song either with or for him.

Recording for the album was completed in November 1988. Having maintained a busy schedule of concert performances, Orbison told Johnny Cash at this time that he was experiencing chest pains and would need to do something about his health.[15] On December 6, two days after performing a show in Highland Heights, Ohio, Orbison died of a heart attack, at the age of 52.[16]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[5]
Robert ChristgauB[17]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[18]
Houston Chronicle4/5 stars[19]
Los Angeles Times3.5/4 stars[20]
Music Story4/5 stars[18]
Q5/5 stars[21]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[22]

Mystery Girl was Orbison's first significant critical and commercial success as a solo artist since the mid-1960s. [23] It was released on January 31, 1989[2] and followed the Wilburys' Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 into the higher reaches of the US albums chart.[5] On April 8, 1989, Orbison became the first deceased musician since Elvis Presley to have two albums in the top five positions in the US, with the Traveling Wilburys album at number 4 and Mystery Girl at number 5.[24] This was the highest placing he had achieved for an album in the US, and the single, "You Got It", which peaked at number 9, was Orbison's first top 20 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 since "Oh, Pretty Woman" in 1964.[13] In the United Kingdom, on the national chart dated to February 11, 1989, Mystery Girl was listed at number 2 (its peak position there), as the compilation The Legendary Roy Orbison was at number 3.[25]

In his contemporary review for the Chicago Tribune, David Silverman lamented that, given the expectations caused by Orbison's death, "the publicity and fanfare have threatened to cheapen the album, reducing it to novelty status while directing attention away from its rightful distinction as one of Orbison's finest works – a comeback to match his legendary status." Silverman especially admired "Dream You" and said that the only weak track was "The Comedians", where "the openly rancorous story" was unsuitable for such "an unrequited romantic" as Orbison.[26] By contrast, New York Times critic Stephen Holden highlighted "The Comedians" as the album's "outstanding song", saying that it was a "witty parody" of Orbison's 1961 hit "Running Scared" that the singer had succeeded in transcending from mere homage due to his expressive vocal. Holden added that, throughout Mystery Girl, "the singing, songwriting and production do a superb job of bringing Orbison up to date without diluting his haunted hyper-romantic fervor."[27] The Deseret News' reviewer described it as a "great, great album" that sealed Orbison's comeback after the Traveling Wilburys' recent success and reinforced what a true loss his death was to popular music. The reviewer admired Orbison's ability to work effectively with his collaborators and highlighted "You Got It" as an "exceptional single" and "She's a Mystery to Me" as "perhaps the best song on the album".[28]

In May 2014, Mystery Girl was reissued in a 25th anniversary edition. It included bonus material such as demos and a new song, "The Way Is Love", which was completed by John Carter Cash and Orbison's sons from a cassette demo recorded in around 1986.[29]

Track listing[edit]

Side one
1."You Got It"Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne, Tom PettyJeff Lynne3:30
2."In the Real World"Richard Kerr, Will JenningsRoy Orbison, Mike Campbell, Barbara Orbison3:44
3."(All I Can Do Is) Dream You"Billy Burnette, David MalloyT-Bone Burnett3:39
4."A Love So Beautiful"Roy Orbison, Jeff LynneJeff Lynne3:33
5."California Blue"Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne, Tom PettyJeff Lynne3:57
Side two
6."She's a Mystery to Me"David Evans, Paul HewsonBono4:16
7."The Comedians"Elvis CostelloT-Bone Burnett3:26
8."The Only One"Wesley Orbison, Craig WisemanRoy Orbison, Mike Campbell3:55
9."Windsurfer"Roy Orbison, Bill DeesRoy Orbison, Mike Campbell4:01
10."Careless Heart"Roy Orbison, Diane Warren, Albert HammondRoy Orbison, Mike Campbell4:08
Bonus track (2007 reissue)
11."You May Feel Me Crying"Richard Kerr, Will JenningsBrian Eno[30]4:14
Bonus tracks (2014 Legacy Recordings reissue)
11."The Way Is Love"Roy Orbison, Bill Dees4:12
12."She's a Mystery to Me" (Studio demo)Bono, The Edge4:51
13."(All I Can Do Is) Dream You" (Studio demo)Billy Burnette, David Malloy4:34
14."The Only One" (Studio demo)Wesley Orbison, Craig Wiseman5:12
15."The Comedians" (Studio demo)Elvis Costello3:25
16."In the Real World" (Studio demo)Richard Kerr, Will Jennings3:38
17."California Blue" (Studio demo)Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty4:42
18."Windsurfer" (Work-tape demo)Roy Orbison, Bill Dees3:50
19."You Are My Love" (Work-tape demo)Roy Orbison, Bill Dees2:35


Core contributors

Additional musicians


Grammy Awards[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1990 "You Got It" Best Pop Vocal Performance – Male[31] Nominated

Chart positions[edit]


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[50] 3× Platinum 260,000[51]
Canada (Music Canada)[52] 3× Platinum 300,000^
Germany (BVMI)[53] Gold 250,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[54] Platinum 100,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[55] Platinum 15,000^
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[56] Platinum 100,000^
Sweden (GLF)[57] Platinum 100,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[58] Gold 25,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[59] Platinum 300,000^
United States (RIAA)[60] Platinum 1,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone


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