Running Scared is a song written by Roy Orbison and Joe Melson. The song peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100 and #9 in the UK. Roy’s voice turns this into something more than just a pop song.
Something I’ve read about this session. Roy wasn’t happy with his first couple of takes. He felt he wasn’t singing that final verse loud enough. The orchestra seemed to be drowning him out. He’d been singing that final note in falsetto, and he finally decided to just sing it full-on, singing it as hard as he could. Orbison sang so hard the musicians in the orchestra stopped playing. They were stunned.
Running Scared, like many of his other songs, was recorded in RCA Studio B in Nashville with the session pros known as “The A-team.”
A song called “Running Scared” delivered in the trembling tones of Roy Orbison sure sounds pretty bleak, especially when he starts singing about the girl’s past love and how she still feels for him. At the end, however, we find out that everything works out for the best, and the girl walks away with the singer. Orbison’s plaintive voice led many to believe that all his songs were based on misery, but he liked to point out that this one has a happy ending.
Orbison began his career with Sun Records in Memphis, where he was a Rockabilly singer – in 1956 he reached #59 US with “Ooby Dooby,” recorded with his group the Teen Kings. As a songwriter, he also cracked the charts with “So Long I’m Gone” (#72 for Warren Smith in 1957) and “Claudette” (#30 in 1958 for The Everly Brothers).
After moving to Monument Records, Orbison went to Nashville and teamed with fellow songwriter Joe Melson. The pair began writing more operatic songs that would become huge hits for Orbison and define his style – songs that “give you an up mood while you’re crying,” as Melson put it. Their first major success was “Only The Lonely (Know The Way I Feel),” which was followed by “Blue Angel,” “Up Town,” “I’m Hurtin'” and “Running Scared,” which the pair claimed they wrote in just five minutes.
The engineer on these sessions was Bill Porter, who gave this song an exaggerated dynamic range, meaning some parts are very quiet and others are very loud. While most songs of the era had a range of about 3 decibels, Porter said that this one has 24.
This was the last song Roy Orbison ever sung live. His final performance was on December 4, 1988, just two days before his sudden passing, at a Cleveland-area venue. As was his usual habit, Orbison closed the show with “Running Scared.”
Just runnin’ scared each place we go
So afraid that he might show
Yeah, runnin’ scared, what would I do
If he came back and wanted you
Just runnin’ scared, feelin’ low
Runnin’ scared, you love him so
Just runnin’ scared, afraid to lose
If he came back which one would you choose
Then all at once he was standing there
So sure of himself, his head in the air
My heart was breaking, which one would it be
You turned around and walked away with me.