Sunday, December 12, 2021

"Handle with Care" by The Traveling Wilburys

Song#:  3699
Date:  10/29/1988
Debut:  83
Peak:  45
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Folk-Rock

Pop Bits:  This supergroup was made up of five legendary musicians; George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, and Roy Orbison. Although the formation of the band came about from a spontaneous moment, the roots of it came about when Lynne was producing Harrison's '87 #8 platinum album Cloud Nine and Harrison suggested that he and Lynne start a band and both making suggestions of who they would include. After Cloud Nine was finished, Harrison's label asked for another new song that they could use as the b-side to the planned single "This Is Love." While dining with Lynne and Orbison (Lynne was producing a few tracks Orbison's '89 LP Mystery Girl), Harrison asked if Lynne would help with recording a tune. Lynne said he could the next day if they could find a studio and Orbison added that he wanted to go along to watch. Dylan's home studio was available, so the trio went over and hooked up with Dylan. Lynne had also been working with Tom Petty at the time, so Petty came by as well. It didn't take long for all five stars to start collaborating on a song that Harrison had already sketched out. The resulting song "Handle with Care" was finished and handed over to Harrison's label. After hearing the tune, the label heads thought it was way too good to be relegated to the back of a single and wanted to do something else with it. They pitched the idea of doing a full album to Harrison who bit and went off to see if the other four would be interested. In the spring of '88, the quintet assembled and collaborated on a project that would be titled The Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 1. When completed, the song that brought them together, "Handle with Care," was selected as the first single. It would do well at Rock reaching #2. The tune would cross over to Pop, but it stalled short of the Top 40. Still, the collaboration of the five music stars was irresistible to many and the album would become an immediate hit reaching #3. It would also go on to with the Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.

ReduxReview:  This is one of those songs that I thought for sure was at minimum at Top 20 hit. I just remember the tune being a lot bigger than a minor #45 entry. Maybe I thought that because I heard it a lot on rock radio at the time. When the song first came out, I liked it but didn't really give it a lot of attention. Its retro folk-rock sound wasn't in my wheelhouse then so I kind of listened in an appreciative way and moved on. These days I love the tune along with the album. The five superstars really did collaborate and make something special. You can hear the guys having a ball and not taking anything too seriously. Although Lynne's production gives it a high sheen polish, it all still feels organic with the guys writing and playing as if they were from a different era. Of course "Handle with Care" is a standout with my favorite part being when Orbison comes in. It peaked at #45, but it really should have been a Top 10'er.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  When trying to come up with a name for the band, Harrison and Lynne decided to adopt a term they had been using in the studio. Referring to problems from some studio equipment, they began to say "we'll bury 'em in the mix." Using the phrase often, they just decided to call the issues "wilburys." From there, Harrison came up with The Trembling Wilburys, but the Lynne adjusted it to The Traveling Wilburys. Following that family-styled name, the band then went on to create a sort of fake story/persona in which the Wilburys were half-brothers. Each person then got a name such as George Harrison becoming Nelson Wilbury. Basically, the superstars hit behind the names, even though it was obvious who they were, with the credits in the album under their new pseudonyms. All being fans of Monty Python, they even got Michael Palin to write a fictional story about the Wilbury brothers.


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