The Traveling Wilburys would have never referred to themselves as a supergroup. Though comprised of some of the biggest names in modern music, the band was much more nonchalant than that. Formed out of friendship, spontaneity (and some would say pure kismet) the Traveling Wilburys were Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison.
The music they created together on their 1988 debut would win GRAMMYs and garner platinum plaques, but, more than anything, it was a testament to the group’s enduring chemistry and collective genius. Craft Recordings’ 30th-anniversary 12-inch picture-disc reissue of The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 on November 2 celebrates this blue moon moment in rock ’n’ roll history.
The origin story of the Traveling Wilburys is a pretty simple one. It was really just about five friends gathering to make music together in a home studio—except for the fact that they all happened to be rock ’n’ roll royalty. It began in 1988, when George Harrison and co-producer Jeff Lynne were tasked with recording a B-side for the former Beatle’s album, Cloud Nine. In need of a place to record on the fly, the two borrowed their friend, Bob Dylan’s, studio. They ended up spontaneously pulling Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, and ultimately Dylan himself into the process. The resulting track was “Handle With Care,” a collaborative effort which Harrison’s A&R team knew was just too good to use as a B-side.
George later said, “I liked the song and the way that it turned out with all these people on it so much that I just carried it around in my pocket for ages thinking, ‘Well what can I do with this thing?’ And the only thing to do I could think of was do another nine. Make an album.” And that’s what the fivesome did, working quickly and informally, and operating as a full-fledged band, sharing lead vocals and songwriting duties. In keeping with that all-for-one spirit, they even created an alternate identity as a family band, the Traveling Wilburys, with each member adopting an alias: Dylan was Lucky Wilbury, Harrison was Nelson Wilbury, Orbison was Lefty Wilbury, Lynne was Otis Wilbury, and Petty became Charlie T. Wilbury Jr.
When you listen to these five musical giants trading lines and licks, there’s an unmistakable spirit of creativity and fraternity; it’s this pure enthusiasm that helped the record connect in such a widespread way.
The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1. is bookended by two huge hits. Opening the album is the aforementioned “Handle With Care,” with its blend of world-weariness and buoyancy set atop a chugging roots-rock groove, and Orbison’s otherworldly tenor adding the cherry on top. “End of the Line” closes things out, and it’s the perfect soundtrack for riding off into the sunset, with a sing-along chorus, stomp-along beat, and an overwhelming vibe of carefree contentment.
In between lie the swinging rockabilly of “Rattled,” the tongue-in-cheek, double-entendre-laden “Dirty World,” the vintage-sounding Orbison weeper “Not Alone Any More,” the south-of-the-border stroll “Last Night,” the sunny “Margarita” (where synth, sax, and slide guitar slug it out for dominance), and more. The once-in-a-lifetime nature of this historic partnership was underscored tragically by Orbison’s unexpected death just six weeks after the album’s release.
The 30th anniversary reminds us of a more recently departed Wilbury, as it arrives just over a year after Petty’s passing. But all this only makes the time the five Wilburys spent together seem that much more special. And with an A-side featuring the band’s bold logo, a B-side displaying an Alberto Tolot photo of the Wilburys, and a die-cut sleeve revealing the picture disc in all its glory, this limited-edition 12-inch vinyl version of The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 is an aesthetically stunning salute to the world’s original, ultimate supergroup.
The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 Picture Disc Track List
1. Handle With Care
2. Dirty World
4. Last Night
5. Not Alone Any More
2. Heading for the Light
4. Tweeter and the Monkey Man
5. End of the Line
The limited edition picture disc is available for pre-order HERE.