Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 was the first album by the supergroup The Traveling Wilburys.
The band members were George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty. They came together to record ‘Handle With Care’, originally intended as a Harrison b-side.
I’d just made a record called Cloud Nine. In Europe you know they make those 12″ singles and they usually like to have an extra song on the record. So they asked me for an extra song. I didn’t have one already recorded, so I thought the easiest thing to do is just go in the studio the next day and write a song quickly, record it, and mix it, give it to them. So that night I had dinner with Jeff Lynne, who was having dinner with Roy Orbison. We all had dinner together. And I said, well tomorrow I’m going to go and find a studio and go in some place, make up a tune, and make this record. So I said to Jeff, ‘Do you want to come and help?’ And he said ‘Yeah, OK, but the problem is, where are we gonna find a studio and an engineer so quickly?’ So Roy Orbison was there. He said, ‘Oh, well if you do something call me, I’d like to come along and watch.’ So then I thought, well, Bob Dylan had a little studio in his garage, so I called him and said, ‘Do you mind if we come along tomorrow?’ He said no, come along, that’s OK.
Tom Petty also, I had to go to his house to pick up my guitar. He said, ‘Oh good, I’ll come. I was wondering what I was going to do tomorrow.’ So the next morning I started to write a song and I thought, ‘Well if Roy Orbison’s going to come, it’s silly to have him sitting there. He’s a better singer than everybody. I’ll write a little part for Roy to sing.’ And Jeff thought that was a bit cheeky.
Anyway, we got to Bob’s house and Jeff and I finished the song off, the music to it. We didn’t write the words at that point. And then we wrote the lyrics, and I’ve said that story many times. To try and think of what the song lyrics would be, you need a title or some idea. And I saw a box in the garage of Dylan’s house, it said ‘Handle with care’. So we wrote the lyrics around that, and as I had the part for Roy I thought I might as well get Bob and Tom and Jeff, everybody singing the middle part.
So we made the record, we mixed it, I took it to the record company and they said, ‘Oh it’s too good to just give to Europe on an extended play, because it’s not going to sell Cloud Nine records, it’s not on the album. They didn’t want it to be imported to America, and for it to have no value. So I just kept the tape in my pocket, I kept playing it, and I thought, well the only thing I can think of doing is, if we did that one song in one day, what we need is nine days with Bob and Roy, everybody, and we make an album. So that’s what I did. I asked them to: ‘Let’s make an album’.
All were pleased with the results, and Harrison decided to form a band and record a full album. The basic tracks and vocals were recorded at Dave Stewart’s home studio in Los Angeles, and overdubs and mixing took place at Harrison’s Friar Park studio in Henley-on-Thames, England.
None of this would’ve happened without him. It was George’s band – it was always George’s band and it was a dream he had for a long time.
Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 was released on 18 October 1988. It was a critical and commercial success, topping the album charts in Australia and Canada, and the US Cash Box chart. It reached number 3 on the US Billboard 200 chart and 16 in the UK, and was a top 10 hit in Austria, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and West Germany.
One of the most amazing things ever about the Wilburys was this poles apart thing of Roy and Bob Dylan. That what I thought was wonderful: the best singer and the best lyricist, and they’re both in the same group.
The True History Of The Traveling Wilburys