The start of a beautiful journey

The Traveling Wilburys are one of the few bands to really deserves the label “rock supergroup”, although given the self-assured and humorous nature of the five members, it was probably a label they would have rejected. The quintet – george harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom SmallJeff Lynne and Roy Orbison – were all world stars at the time of recording their first album together, The Wilbury Travelers Vol 1whose sessions were merry affairs which took place in April and May 1988.

To listen The Traveling Wilburys Vol.1 on Apple Music and Spotify.

“We were having coffee and someone was like, ‘What about that? “And would start a riff,” recalls guitarist and co-producer Lynne. “Then we would all join in, and it would turn into something. We would finish around midnight and sit for a bit while Roy told us fabulous stories about Sun Records or hung out with Elvis Presley. Then we would come back the next day to work on another one. That’s why the songs are so good and fresh – because they haven’t been guessed and dissected and replaced.

Multi-instrumentalist Lynne, who had previously been a key member of Electric Light Orchestra, had worked with Harrison as a co-producer on her album. Cloud, during which the pair had taken to referring to recording errors with faulty equipment as “Wilburys” (adding the punchline, “We’ll bury them in the mix”). When the newly formed group decided on a name, Harrison suggested The Trembling Wilburys, but Lynne’s variation of “Traveling” worked better with the remaining trio.

The musicians were all assigned names in the new group: Nelson Wilbury (Harrison), Otis Wilbury (Lynne), Lefty Wilbury (Orbison), Charlie T Wilbury, Jr (Petty) and Lucky Wilbury (Dylan), and elaborate stories were created for the characters. Harrison’s close friend Derek Taylor, a former press officer for The Beatles and, later, jazz singer George Melly, even wrote a long fictionalized history of the quintet.

“The only thing I could think of was making an album”

For The Wilbury Travelers Vol 1, they persuaded Monty Python’s Michael Palin to write liner notes. Using the pseudonym Hugh Jampton, (EF Norti-Bitz Reader in Applied Jacket, Faculty Of Sleeve Notes, University Of Krakatoa, East of Java), Palin joked, “The original Wilburys were a stationary people who, realizing that their civilization couldn’t stand still forever, started taking short walks – not the ‘journey’ as we know it now, but definitely around the corner and back. »

Lynne was the common link in the story of how they really came together. While working with Harrison, he also co-produced Orbison’s album mysterious girl, on which Petty sang backing vocals and played acoustic guitar. One night while they were socializing, Harrison suggested they join him on a track called “Handle With Care.” The song was to be the B-side of the single “This Is Love” which he released in Europe, before the release of the Cloud album. They called Dylan, who agreed to let them record it in his garage studio. The day it was cut, Dylan, who had cooked a barbecue lunch for them, decided to join in on the musical fun.

As soon as the spontaneous single dropped, with its catchy melody and world-weary undercurrent (“Been stuck in airports, terrorized/Sent to meetings, hypnotized/Overexposed, commercialized”), the musicians knew that they had created something special. “I loved the song so much,” Harrison said, “and the way it played out with all these people on it that I carried it around in my pocket for ages thinking, ‘Well, what then? I do with this stuff? And the only thing I could think of was doing nine more. Make a scrapbook.

Warner Bros executives loved the single and agreed to a full record. The five friends, sharing songwriting and singing duties, were an instant and extraordinary collaboration with superstars.

“He clearly meant it as praise”

However The Wilbury Travelers Vol 1 only lasts 36 minutes, it is full of great moments. “Dirty World,” a playful love song, features superb call-and-response vocals and typically classy saxophone work by Jim Horn, whose playing was so widely admired he had performed on albums with artists as diverse as Elvis Presley, Carpenters, Frank Sinatra and Dizzy Gillespie. Other talented musicians on the album include percussionist Ray Cooper and Ian Wallace (so dynamic with David Lyndley’s band El Rayo-X), who plays tam-tams on “Handle With Care”.

“Last Night” is a melodic love song, while “Heading For The Light” is a spiritual quest that’s vintage Harrison. One of the standout songs is “Tweeter And The Monkey Man”, which started when Dylan – years ahead of social media, obviously – said he wanted to write a song about a man named Tweeter, which takes place in New Jersey. Petty, who joined in on the songwriting, said Harrison stepped back from lyrical duties on a track he thought was “just too American” for him to contribute in any way. significant. “Bob was like, ‘Yeah, we could use references to Bruce Springsteen securities.’ He clearly meant it was praise,” Petty said. References to Springsteen songs such as “Mansion On The Hill”, “Thunder Road” and “Highway 99” are scattered throughout an evocative track.

Tragically, Orbison died of a heart attack just six weeks after the album was released on October 17, 1988. But on the sweet ballad “Not Alone Any More”, the 52-year-old showed in his lead vocals that he had lost none. vocal mastery that made him a rock’n’roll legend.

The closing track was the rousing “End Of The Line”, over which the band sang “Well, it’s alright / Even though you’re old and gray / Well, it’s alright / You still got something to say. ” With so many wonderful individual albums behind them and a collective age of 222, these five wonderful Traveling Wilburys have proven they have something wonderful to say together.

The Wilbury Travelers Vol 1 can be purchased here.

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