In 1998 1988 (oops), George Harrison, looking for a “B-side” to go with the single release from his new album Cloud Nine laid down a track in Bob Dylan’s recording studio. Along with Dylan, Harrison corralled Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, and Roy Orbison. None of them were in their musical prime. Indeed, all of them had seen much better days. Three of them hadn’t released an album in a very long time. Nevertheless, they showed in Dylan’s studio that they still had the chops to make amazing music. The single, “Handle with Care” so wowed a record exec from Harrison’s label, that he encouraged Harrison to record an entire album with them. They decided to use assumed names, to keep the publicity over the album to a bare minimum, and the Traveling Wilburys were born. It didn’t take long for the album to make news and to run up the charts. It topped out at #3, went triple platinum, and won a Grammy.
Shortly thereafter, the rest of the Wilburys released albums of their own. Roy Orbison put out Mystery Girl, Tom Petty put out Full Moon Fever, Bob Dylan came out with Oh Mercy, and Jeff Lynne released Armchair Theater, all very good albums that in two cases reignited career that I had thought were long-dormant. Unfortunately, Roy Orbison died before his album was released, cutting short what I thought could have been an amazing revival for an incredible singer (though the album went to #5 on the Billboard charts, which makes him the only other artist besides Elvis Presley to have two posthumous #5 albums). Being Wilburys had brought all of them something quite special. Each of the solo albums released by the Wilburys in 1989 and 1990 included other Wilburys as backing musicians and producers, except for Bob Dylan’s, who neither included nor assisted any of the other guys. You can call him a jerk if you like for that. I won’t stop you. I’m no big fan of Bob Dylan and, to be honest, he could have used some Wilbury backup.
After the jump are videos from two of the best songs from the first album, “Handle with Care” and “The End of the Line” (which I have to say, chokes me up a little bit when Roy Orbison’s ethereal tenor voice leads the chorus. Notice how the camera focuses on an empty chair with a guitar, a tribute to the man who had died before the the video was made). Enjoy.
Be sure to drop me some feedback on this post. I’m thinking of making Monday Night Music a regular feature.
Category: Monday Night Music