Roy Orbison

Running Scared

Song Review by

"Running Scared" was one of Roy Orbison's tensest, most melodramatic hits. Since Orbison was the king of pop/rock melodramatic tension, you know that means "Running Scared" was in fact one of the most melodramatic rock hits ever, by anyone. The tension is established immediately by a bolero beat and insistent guitar strums, and Orbison's vocals, pure and powerful yet also betraying a nervous anxiety. The keys to the building tension of "Running Scared" are the mounting layers of instrumentation to the arrangement, as orchestral instruments and backup voices slowly pile on over the first few verses to create an atmosphere of growing suspense. That suspense is heightened by the lyric, which again even by Orbison's standards takes his persona to the extreme: he and his woman are running scared, afraid that her ex-boyfriend could show up and cause trouble at any moment. The trouble isn't going to be gun duel or even fist fight, most likely; what Orbison seems most afraid of is the possibility that his lover will return to her former flame if they meet again. Such themes have long been explored by pop songs, but one of the things that sets "Running Scared" apart from most such items is that, in this song, the feared-for scenario does happen. After a few verses, the song suddenly breaks into an entirely different, more uplifting melody with a steadier beat, just as, all of a sudden, the ex-boyfriend is standing right there in front of the couple. The orchestration and choral vocals build to a crescendo as the woman makes her choice, Orbison reaching the upper limits of his high operatic range on the climactic line. Such is the almost paranoid fear that's built throughout "Running Scared" that it's almost easy to miss the song's actual happy ending. The woman decides to walk away, but not from Roy: with Roy, having turned away from her former flame. Among the singers who've covered "Running Scared" are Del Shannon, Glen Campbell, and Nick Cave.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Crying 1962 Sony Music Entertainment 2:12
No Image 1966 2:10
No Image 1967 Monument Records 2:10
Max Weinberg Presents: Let There Be Drums, Vol. 2 - The 60's 196?
Various Artists
Rhino 2:13
The All-Time Greatest Hits of Roy Orbison, Vol. 2 1972 Columbia 2:12
The All-Time Greatest Hits of Roy Orbison, Vols. 1-2 1976 Monument Records 2:15
Golden Days 1981 Sony BMG
In Dreams: The Greatest Hits 1987 Eagle Records 2:13
For the Lonely: 18 Greatest Hits 1988 Rhino 2:13
The Legendary Roy Orbison [Long Box] 1988 Monument Records 2:11
Pretty Woman: The Best of Roy Orbison [Columbia] 1989 Columbia
The Rock 'N' Roll Era: Roy Orbison 1960-1965 1991 2:13
Love Songs [Sound Solutions] 1992 Virgin / EMI Music Distribution 0:00
Sings Lonely and Blue/Crying 1993 Monument Records 2:13
Super Hits 1995 Columbia / Epic 2:13
No Image 1996
Various Artists
Com-Es Musik Schallplatten / Zebralution
Gold Collection 1996 TriStar Music 2:11
The All Time Greatest Hits of Roy Orbison [DCC] 1997 Monument Records 2:13
Limited Edition Box Set 1998 Orbison Records 2:47
Oh Pretty Woman: The Greatest Hits 1998 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:10
16 Biggest Hits 1999 Monument / Legacy 2:12
Anthology 1999 Orbison Records 2:19
Original Hits, Vol. 2 2000 Platinum Disc 2:13
20 Golden Hits 2000 Teevee Records 2:13
Best of the Best 2000 Federal Records 2:12
No Image 2000
Various Artists
BMG Special Products 2:12
The Great Roy Orbison: Original Hits 2000 Platinum Disc 2:13
This Is 2001 Back Biter 2:12
Gold 2001 Disky 2:13
The Big O: The Original Singles Collection 2001 Monument Records 2:12
Orbison 2001 Bear Family Records 2:15
The Legends Collection: The Roy Orbison Collection 2001 Legends Collection 2:31
Roy Orbison Collection, Vol. 1 2001 Dressed To Kill 2:31
Monumental Hits [Collectables] 2002 Collectables 2:12
50 All Time Greatest Hits 2002 Collectables 2:13
Big Hits from the Big "O" 2002 Balboa Recording Corporation 2:14
The Very Best of Love 2003 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:12
The Best of Roy Orbison [EMI] 2003 CEMA Special Markets / EMI-Capitol Special Markets 2:14
Ballads 2003 Sony Music Distribution 2:13
Oh Pretty Woman/I Like Love 2003 Dynamic 2:18
Most Famous Hits: The Album [CD 2] 2003 Surpr!se 2:31
Most Famous Hits: The Album 2004 Surpr!se 2:31
Platinum Collection 2004 Virgin 2:29
No Image 2004 Sony Music Entertainment 2:15
Greatest Hits [Video] 2004 Eagle Vision 4:18
Hits! Hits! Hits! 2004 Orbison Records 2:13
Forever Roy Orbison [2 Disc] 2006 Madacy 2:13
Forever Roy Orbison [3 Disc] 2006 Madacy 2:13
Forever Roy Orbison [Tin Can Edition] 2006 Madacy 2:13
The Very Best of Roy Orbison [Sony/BMG Australia] 2006 Virgin 2:27
Crying/In Dreams 2008 Legacy / Monument 2:13
No Image 2008 Legacy / Monument / Orbison / Sony Music Entertainment 2:13
101 Power Ballads [EMI] 2008
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 2:14
The Monument Singles: A-Sides (1960-1964) 2011 Legacy / Monument Records / Orbison Records / Sony Music / Sony Music Distribution 2:11
1961 British Hit Parade, Pt. 2: April-September 2012
Various Artists
Acrobat Music 2:14
America's Greatest Hits, Vol. 12: 1961 2012
Various Artists
Acrobat Music 2:10
Britain's Greatest Hits 1961 2013
Various Artists
Acrobat Music / Fabulous 2:12
80th Birthday Celebration 2016 ZYX / ZYX Music 2:13
The Ultimate Collection [Legacy] 2016 Legacy / Sony Music 2:13
The Complete Sun, RCA & Monument Releases 1956-1962 [Acrobat] 2018 Acrobat Music 2:12
Definitive Collection [2 Disc] Phantom