What if I told you George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Jeffery Lynne (Electric Light Orchestra), and Roy Orbison (Oh, Pretty Woman) all banded together to create the ultimate boy band? My guess is you’d tell me I must be joking as you would certainly know about that. And if that happened to be the case, I would have the pleasure in enlightening you to The Traveling Wilburys.
Founded in 1988 the band was the brainchild of Harrison and Lynne when working together on another album. The two then selected Dylan and Orbison to join them bringing the group number up to 4.
Both Dylan and Orbison had found themselves in career lulls during the 1980s.
Dylan had found fame and is most well remembered for his work completed in the 1960s, particularly surrounding the anti-war movement. His poetic and intellectual lyrics touched on politics, societal issues, philosophy and other topics. Through folk music, Dylan was successful in conveying the other-side of life that rock-n-roll skipped over and exploring sadness, triumph and other heartfelt emotions associated with life.
Orbison had developed his name in the rock-n-roll era of the 50s and 60s. He differentiated himself from other male musicians during the time, such as Elvis Presley, by performing dead-still and trading the typical hard-masculinity for a more vulnerable approach in his music.
Tom Petty was the 5th and final member to join the original band. He had previously toured with Dylan and because friends with Harrison over a shared taste in music.
Now complete, the band’s first song labeled: Handle With Care essentially created the band by accident, with a number of invitations to pop over and location (Dylan’s garage) requests bringing the band together. The song reportedly named after a box present by Dylan) was only suppose to provide the B track to one of Harrison’s other songs, but was quickly deemed too good for that fate and consequently laid the foundation for an entire album.
The Album was released in October 1988 and was deemed a success achieving triple platinum in the USA. Volume 1 also possessed some of their other most well known songs such as: End of the Line, and the Americana, story-based song Tweeter and the Monkey Man.
However, the post-release joy did not last long as in December that same year Orison passed away of a heart attack. Refusing to replace great singer, two years later the original 4 released their second and final album: volume 3. The album reached platinum but was received less positively and with less enthusiasm than the first, appearing to have lost its way and be effortless compared to the first.
Despite the reduced success of their second album the Traveling Wilburys synthesised some of the world’s greatest musical minds into one band whilst at the same time staying faithful to what brought them together in the first place, music… and a love of Monty Python.
So perhaps next time you hear a Beatles song, or Oh, Pretty Women you might not think of them as George Harrison or Roy Orbison, but rather their pseudonyms Nelson and Lefty Wilbury, and that time they created the world’s ultimate boy band.