Where were you in 1988 when the Travelling Wilburys Vol. 1 débuted? It sold over 5 million copies, certified triple-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America and won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group in 1989. Rolling Stone magazine named Traveling Wilburys, Volume 1 one of the 100 Best Albums of All Time.
And where was I? Why, I was a Sales Manager busy building my career and I must confess, the album passed me by completely. I wasn’t even vaguely aware of the Travelling Wilburys. And that was pretty amazing, considering that my wife and I considered ourselves pretty knowledgeable about the music scene.
It was in early 2011 when over lunch, I enthused about Jeff Lynne and his ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) to Bob, an American retiree friend. Bob asked whether I knew that Jeff Lynne was also with another band called The Travelling Wilburys with George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty? No, I did not. Bob declared The Travelling Wilburys as a must-listen-to, and Bob went on to describe how this awesome motley of legendary stars met and formed The Travelling Wilburys. He told a fascinating story of how George Harrison was driving along LA one day when Roy Orbison stopped next to him at the lights. They got talking about how George was on his way to make a recording and would Roy care to come along? Then Roy got hold of the rest of the guys and one thing led to another and they ended up forming a new group, The Travelling Wilburys. Little did I know then that as I delved deeper into this fascinating story and tracked down the album, that Bob’s story was one of many interesting legendary tales about the history of TTW. The real history was even more interesting and just as accidental as that imaginary meeting of George and Roy at the traffic lights. More of this later.
Thanks to Bob, I was so intrigued that I had to seek the tunes on the Internet and managed to listen to some MP3 recordings and knew then that I simply had to get the original album. In 2012, my wife and I went to Liverpool for our son’s graduation and I tried to find the album in the music stores there but to no avail. Finally I found it online at “That’s Entertainment” and ordered it to be delivered to our apartment. Unfortunately, it didn’t arrive in time when we left our apartment to return home about 5 days later. It has to be assumed lost. Actually I found an original copy for sale in a Liverpool flea market store shortly after I ordered a copy online. I declined to buy the flea market copy, to my everlasting regret. I had to wait a full year before I finally found it in London’s HMV, the sole copy in the store, lucky me. And what a bonus! It was a 3-discs “The Travelling Wilburys Collection”. Vol. 1 and Vol. 3 are the songs with bonus tracks while Vol. 2 is a DVD with “The True History of The Travelling Wilburys” and the making of five songs. And boy! What a treat it is for Rock-n-Roll rockers.
Here are some off-beat info about The Travelling Wilburys.
- It started with George preparing a song for the B-side of his new A-side single, “This is Love”. He knocked off a tune called “Handle With Care” with the help of his friends, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Bob Dyland and Roy Orbison, for the B-side. But the head of Warner Bros Records, Mo Ostin, liked it so much that he and Lenny Waronke (head of A&R) asked George to turn this into a new album. The rest is History, as they say.
- George and Jeff Lynne were co-writers at that time and whenever there was any recording error caused by faulty equipment, they would say “We’ll bury them in the mix”. In time, they would say the same thing for any small performance error. And so it came to be that when they needed a name for this new group, George suggested “The Trembling Wilburys”, but Jeff offered “The Travelling Wilburys”, which the rest agreed.
- Together, they were such an off-beat motley crew, that in the album they attributed the credits to: Nelson Wilbury (as George Harrison), Lefty Wibury (as Roy Orbison), Charlie T. Jr. (as Tom Petty), Lucky Wilbury (as Bob Dyland) and Otis Wilbury (as Jeff Lynne). Their drummer was Buster Sidebury (as Jim Keltner).
- TTW Vol. 1 debuted in 1988. The second album was released in 1990 without Lefty Wibury (Roy passed away on 6-Dec-1988), and George Harrison called it Vol. 3.
- The combined volumes, together with a 3rd disc (Vol. 2 DVD), called The Travelling Wilburys Collection was released in 2007.
So where were you in 1988 when The Travelling Wilburys wrote a chapter in Music History? If like me, it passed you by without you even being aware of it, get the classic collection now ( Traveling Wilburys (2 CD / 1 DVD) )
It was Samuel Butler who said, “The oldest books are only just out to those who have not read them.” This will apply equally to music, such as in this case of The Travelling Wilburys.