The Roy Orbison Motel

It was sometime in the early nineties. We checked into a motel in Hamilton. A big old wooden colonial building near the river in the southern part of town. Might once have been a residential hotel, certainly not a pub. Strange fifties decor, tiny rooms, narrow uncomfortable beds. A little old fashioned bakelite radio which played mostly static. Then, it happened: the white noise cleared and we heard the unearthly voice of Roy Orbison singing the Goffin/King song made famous by the Shirelles: Will You Love Me Tomorrow. It was sublime. One of those moments you never forget. When the Big O faded, the static returned ... ever since then I've been looking for that recording, without success. I haven't even been able to find a record of the record, if you know what I mean. At allmusic, 369 versions of the song are logged, mostly releases by the Shirelles, but none of them is by Roy. Was it an illusion then? We didn't hear the DJ back announce it, but I don't think I could have mistaken the voice ...

I returned to the Roy Orbison Motel in July; it's being pulled down soon. The decor hasn't changed, nor the strange pokiness of the rooms, but the bakelite radios have gone. We listened mostly to Polynesian rap and hip hop the night we were there. In the communal kitchen there were three German women and a guy from West Virginia who was studying astronomical physics at the University of Waikato. He got anxious when he realised I was waiting for a pan in which to fry our steaks, emptied his half cooked noodles out of the one he was using into another pot and then cleaned the pan for me. Only he didn't notice that I was already using the sink to wash our vegetables in. The broccoli got bathed in dish detergent. Oh well.

This lost song still haunts me ... it's as if, without it, my life doesn't have the shape it might otherwise have taken.

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