Roy Orbison

Oh, Pretty Woman

Song Review by

A strong, sinuous bass line intro was a primary consideration to win concentrated rock airplay as the British Invasion raged during the mid-'60s. Seldom was a stronger or catchier one devised than the pulsating kickoff to Roy Orbison's immortal "Oh, Pretty Woman." Pounding drums and what sounds like a 12-string acoustic guitar immediately set the tone for the Big O's biggest hit of all, Orbison navigating a chord progression unlike any the Texas native had ever introduced before. Orbison and songwriting partner Bill Dees had been inspired by the pretty sight of Orbison's wife Claudette (the namesake of the Everly Brothers' Orbison-penned 1958 hit, "Claudette"), somehow emerging with an upbeat masterpiece shot through with intense longing and more than a little frustration as Orbison virtually begs a lady passerby to be his for the night (the bold gambit succeeds in the end, but he stretches the conclusion out for maximum dramatic tension). The leering little growl that Orbison unfurled on his previous hit "Mean Woman Blues" -- rather out of character for the shy singer -- resurfaces, along with an appreciatively drawled "Mercy!" exclamation; both subsequently served as trademarks for the gifted singer. "Oh, Pretty Woman" soared to the peak of the pop charts during the late summer of 1964 for Fred Foster's Monument Records, at least temporarily wresting the top slot from the Beatles and the Animals (Manfred Mann would grab it back a few weeks later with a cover of the Exciters' "Do Wah Diddy Diddy"). The gold record was one of two chart-toppers for Orbison, 1961's "Running Scared" preceding it into the winner's circle.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
No Image 1966 Sony Music Distribution
The All-Time Greatest Hits of Roy Orbison, Vol. 2 1972 Columbia 2:57
No Image 1975 Monument Records 2:25
The All-Time Greatest Hits of Roy Orbison, Vols. 1-2 1976 Monument Records 2:58
Golden Days 1981 Sony BMG
In Dreams: The Greatest Hits 1987 Orbison Records 3:04
No Image 1988 Sony BMG 2:59
Black & White Night 1989 Demon Records / Orbison Records 6:20
Only the Lonely 1989 Lt Series 3:46
Rockin' 60's [Sony Special Products] 1989
Various Artists
Columbia 2:53
Pretty Woman [Original Soundtrack] 1990
Original Soundtrack
EMI Music Distribution 2:55
No Image 1990
Various Artists
Columbia / Sony Music Distribution
No Image 1990 Orbison Records 3:22
The Rock 'N' Roll Era: Roy Orbison 1960-1965 1991 2:57
Love Songs [Sound Solutions] 1992 Virgin / EMI Music Distribution 3:02
In Dreams/Orbisongs 1993 Sony Music Distribution 2:59
Monument Story 1994
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:58
No Image 1995
Various Artists
JCI Associated Labels
Shades of Roy Orbison 1995 Sony Music Distribution 2:56
Hits You Remember [1989] 1995 BCI-Eclipse Distribution / Eclipse Music Group 2:55
Super Hits 1995 Legacy 2:57
Greatest Hits of the Sixties, Vol. 1-2 1995
Various Artists
Realm Records 2:58
In Concert 1996 Goldies 3:47
Oh! Pretty Woman: Greatest Hits 1996 Remember Records 3:46
Gold Collection 1996 TriStar Music 2:58
Very Best of Roy Orbison [Virgin 1996] 1996 Virgin
Live, Vol. 2 1997 Public Music 3:51
Pop 60's 1997
Various Artists
Coyote Records 2:59
The All Time Greatest Hits of Roy Orbison [DCC] 1997 Monument Records 2:58
WOGL 10th Anniversary, Vol. 2: Best of the 60's 1997
Various Artists
Collectables 2:57
Whole Lotta Rock: 1964-1965 1997
Various Artists
BCI-Eclipse Distribution / Eclipse Music Group 2:51
Rock 'N Roll Relix: 1960-1969 1997
Various Artists
Eclipse Music Group 2:59
Combo Concert: 1965 Holland 1998 Orbison Records 2:56
Highway Rock: Southern Nights 1998
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution 3:00
60's Mix [Crimson] 1998
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 3:03
Live 1998 Mastertone 3:43
All Time Greatest Movie Songs [UK] 1998
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:58
Oh Pretty Woman: The Greatest Hits 1998 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:56
Twin Best: Oldies Best Collection 1998
Various Artists
Jvc Victor
Party of the Millennium 1999
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:56
16 Biggest Hits 1999 Monument/Legacy 2:57
Hear It Now! The Sound of the '60s 1999
Various Artists
Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 2:57
Anthology 1999 Eagle Records / Orbison Records 6:18
Millennium 60's Rock Party 1999
Various Artists
Rhino 2:59
Millennium Party [Rhino Box] 1999
Various Artists
Rhino 2:59
Roy Orbison: Authorized Bootleg Collection 1999 Orbison Records 3:07
Party Time, Vol. 4 1999
Various Artists
SPG 2:59
The Ultimate Grammy Box: From the Recording Academy's Collection 1999
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:57
In Dreams [Video] 1999 White Star
Classic '60s [Time Life] 1999
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:58
The Great Roy Orbison, Vol. 1: Original Hits 2000 Platinum Disc 2:57
The Millennium's Greatest Hits, Vols. 1-2 2000
Various Artists
Collectables 2:57
Roy, Gene & Dion 2000 WEA International 2:59
20 Golden Hits 2000 Teevee Records 3:00
Best of the Best 2000 Federal Records 3:00
The Great Roy Orbison: Original Hits 2000 Platinum Disc 2:57
Love Songs of the 60's [Sony] 2001
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:58
It's Over 2001 Golden Stars 3:47
This Is 2001 Back Biter 2:59
Live at Austin City Limits 2001 Orbison Records 4:53
Gold 2001 Essential Collection (Netherlands) 3:03
The Big O: The Original Singles Collection 2001 Monument Records 2:58
Orbison 2001 Bear Family Records 3:00
Dick Clark's #1's: 50's to 70's "When AM Radio Was King" 2001
Various Artists
Rhino 2:58
The Legends Collection: The Roy Orbison Collection 2001 Legends Collection 2:51
The Ultimate Rock & Roll Collection: The 60's 2001
Various Artists
Collectables 2:57
Simply the Best of the 60's [2001 Boxset] 2001
Various Artists
BMG 3:01
Oh Pretty Woman [Collectables] 2002 Collectables 2:55
Summer Hits Mix Classics 2002
Various Artists
ZYX Music
Monumental Hits [Collectables] 2002 Collectables 2:57
Ultimate Country Super Hits [Sony Box Set] 2002
Various Artists
Immediate / Sony Music Distribution 2:58
50 All Time Greatest Hits 2002 Collectables 2:57
Big Hits from the Big "O" 2002 Balboa Recording Corporation 3:04
The Rockin' 60's [Platinum Disc] 2002
Various Artists
Platinum Disc 2:58
Sixties Jukebox Classics 2002
Various Artists
Universal International 2:58
Only the Lonely [Digimode] 2002 Digimode Entertainment 3:46
60's: The Decade of Love & Music 2003
Various Artists
Platinum Disc 2:57
The Very Best of Love 2003 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:57
The Best of Roy Orbison [EMI] 2003 CEMA Special Markets / EMI-Capitol Special Markets 3:03
Top Hits of the Sixties: Chart Toppers 2003
Various Artists
Collectables 2:57
Love Songs of the 60's [Platinum Disc] 2003
Various Artists
Platinum Disc 2:58
Chick Flix 2003
Various Artists
Universal / UTV 2:56
Rock and Roll at Fifty: A Galaxy of Hits from Rock's First Decade 2003
Various Artists
Shout! Factory 2:56
Oh Pretty Woman/I Like Love 2003 Dynamic 3:00
On Your Radio [Box] 2003
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:59
The Ultimate Chick Flick Love Songs 2003
Various Artists
Warner Music 2:56
Oh Pretty Woman [Goldies Box Set] 2004 Goldies 3:47
The Very Best of New Woman 2004
Various Artists
Virgin 2:59
Time 100: Music of Our Lives 1960-1980 2004
Various Artists
WEA International 2:58
Most Famous Hits: The Album 2004 Surpr!se 2:51
Sweets for Sweden: The Very Best of Roy Orbison 2004 Virgin
Casey Kasem: The 60's #1 Pop Hits 2004
Various Artists
Top Sail Productions 2:57
In Dreams: Live 2004 Castle Pulse 3:09
60's the Decade of Love and Music 2004
Various Artists
Platinum Disc 2:57
Platinum Collection 2004 Virgin 3:03
No Image 2004 Sony Music Distribution 3:03
Hits! Hits! Hits! 2004 Orbison Records 3:02
The Millennium's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 2004
Various Artists
Collectables 2:57
Rock & Roll's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 2004
Various Artists
Collectables 2:57
Best Hits in Japan: Best of 60's 2005
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution
Lifetime of Romance [Time Life] 2005
Various Artists
Sony BMG 2:56
Good Days: Rock N' Roll 50 2005
Various Artists
Universal Distribution
Solo lo Mejor de Roy Orbison 2005 Music Brokers 2:56
Live from Australia [DVD] 2005 Image Entertainment
Devil Doll 2005 Rajon Entertainment Pty Ltd. 3:00
I Can't Stop Loving You 2005 Rex Recording 2:57
80's Fever: The Best 80's Album...Ever 2005
Various Artists
Music Brokers 2:56
Rock Breakout Years: 1961 2005 Collectables / Madacy 2:55
Driving Tomorrow 2005
Various Artists
Only The Lonely/Ooby Dooby/Go! Go! Go! 2005 Digimode Entertainment / Musicpro 3:46
Housework Songs 2005
Various Artists
EMI/Virgin 2:58
World's Best Mum 2006
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution
Only the Lonely 2006 Falcon
No Image 2006
Various Artists
The Essential Roy Orbison 2006 BMG
Collection [Brilliant] 2006 Brilliant / Joan 3:46
Super 60's [Weton] 2006
Various Artists
Weton 3:47
Forever Roy Orbison [3 Disc] 2006 Madacy 2:55
In Dreams: The Greatest Hits [Musical Memories] 2006 Musical Memories
Forever Roy Orbison [Tin Can Edition] 2006 Madacy 2:55
The Very Best of Roy Orbison [Sony/BMG Australia] 2006 Legacy / Sony BMG / Sony Music 2:58
The Collection [Crimson] 2007 Crimson Productions
I Luv Mum: For the Best Mum in the World Ever [2007] 2007
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 2:58
In Dreams [Sony DVD] 2007 Sony BMG 6:38
Simply the Best of the 60s [2007] 2007
Various Artists
Sony BMG 3:00
Black & White Night/Crying 2007 BMG 6:35
Top Hits of the 60s: Chart Toppers 2007
Various Artists
Collectables 2:57
The Legend Lives On 2007 Immortal
Top of the Pops 1964 2007
Various Artists
EMI 2:57
Girls Night In 2008
Various Artists
Sony BMG
100 Hits: Pop 2008
Various Artists
100 Hits / Crimson Productions / Demon 3:00
No Image 2008
Various Artists
Peace And Love [Madacy] 2008
Various Artists
Madacy 2:58
Playlist: The Very Best of Roy Orbison 2008 Legacy 2:57
Presenting...Roy Orbison 2008 Camden International / sbc 3:00
Die Hit Giganten: Film Hits 2008
Various Artists
Sony BMG 2:57
60's Super Hits [Music Brokers] 2008
Various Artists
Music Brokers 2:57
Music Ages 2008 Music Ages / Proper 2:55
No Image 2008 Legacy Recordings / Monument Records / Orbison Records / Sony Music Distribution / Sony Music Entertainment 6:11
The Best of the Soul of Rock and Roll 2008 Sony BMG / Monument Records 2:58
Ultimate 60s Collection, Vol. 1 2008
Various Artists
Collectables 2:57
Superhits Collection 2008
Various Artists
Music Brokers 2:57
101 Greatest Housework Songs 2009
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution / Virgin 2:58
Die Ultimative Chartshow: Lieblingssongs Frauen 2009
Various Artists
The Best Sixties Album in the World...Ever! [2009] 2009
Various Artists
EMI 2:58
No Image 2009
Various Artists
Commercial Canada 2:56
Essential: Girls Night In 2010
Various Artists
Sony Music 2:56
The Last Concert: December 4th, 1988 2010 Eagle 5:22
The Monument Singles: A-Sides (1960-1964) 2011 Monument Records / Sony Music Distribution
Opus Collection 2011 Starbucks
1964: A Time To Remember The Classic Years
Various Artists
Tabak 2:59
25 Jahre Real-Kauf
Various Artists
All Time Greatest Hits Skyline 3:02
Best Loved/Golden/Super Sony Music Distribution
De Pre Historie: 1964, Vol. 2
Various Artists
Eva 3:00
Definitive Collection [2 Disc] Phantom
Incredible Collections
Various Artists
Legends [Daily Mail]
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:59
No Image Orbison Records 6:00
On Your 60's Radio
Various Artists
Columbia 2:59
Orbison Over England: The Eighties March 25 1980 the Fiesta Club Stockton Pilot / Pilot 3:40
Orbison Over England: The Seventies October 18 1975 the Queens Theatre Pilot 3:06
Orbison Over England: The Sixties May 9th 1969 Batley Variety Club Pilot / Pilot 3:30
Pretty Woman: The Best of Roy Orbison [Columbia] Columbia
No Image
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:55
Super Oldie Hits, Vol. 2: Die Grössten Hits der 50er, 60er und 70er
Various Artists
Sony Music Entertainment 2:56
blue highlight denotes editor's pick