Supergroup Showcase: The Traveling Wilburys

For the purposes of Supergroup Showcase the term supergroup means a band or group of musicians made up of two or more artists from previously successful bands, not necessarily super huge bands like Led Zeppelin.

THE PLAYERS: Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, George Harrison, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne
HISTORY: Back in 1988 when music still came out on vinyl, George Harrison had just released his brand new record. The record label wanted a B-side to go along with the first single and George somehow wrangled Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and his songwriting partner Jeff Lynne into creating the song “Handle With Care.” The label heard pure gold and asked if the guys could put a whole record together. The original line-up out out The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1. Roy Orbinson passed away soon after, but the surviving members would get back together for another offering in 1990 called Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3. (via

I remember being in shock and awe when my dad first told me about the Traveling Wilburys. I was just getting into classic rock music and trying to explore around and see what was what. I’d known the Beatles and Bob Dylan of course and would go on to because a big Tom Petty fan, but I was still marinating in a lot of the basics. So, when he told me that such heavyweights as George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty (with a guy named Jeff Lynne, who I wouldn’t come to know until years later). I could hardly believe it. I don’t even know if I knew what a supergroup was at the time, but I can’t think of a more perfect example of one that the Wilburys.As I mentioned last weekend, it wouldn’t be until many years later that I actually heard the Wilburys. Or at least listened to their CDs, which the missus got me for Christmas or my birthday just a few years ago after the 2 CD/DVD set came out. Man, I love these discs. Like I said, I’ve become a huge Tom Petty fan over the years, like every sane person I love the Beatles and George’s last record Brainwashed, I’ve got a few Bob Dylan records (I bought Blonde On Blonde used at my beloved Boogie Records after hearing Jack Black’s character admonish a customer for not owning it in High Fidelity, which I love) and had very little experience with Roy Orbison, but the combination of these incredibly strong musicians and singers in one place is even more amazing than I expected.

You might think with such big, huge talents there might be an undercurrent of divaness on the records, but there’s nothing of the sort that appears on either of the records or the DVD. In fact, the records feel like a perfect symbiosis of these creative geniuses. All the more impressive is that the first album was completed in 10 days! It’s like these guys just ooze goodness.

The songs break down into two basic camps. First off, you’ve got the ones where one of the men takes over on vocals with the others coming in for backing vocals and harmonies. My personal favorite of those is the Dylan-fronted “Tweeter And The Monkeyman” and not just because I like monkeys. It’s a great story song with all the perfect parts: simple, understated playing, a solid lead vocal and perfect backings. The other camp is the one in which each singer takes a turn at a verse and has fun with it, like the above “Handle With Care,” “Last Night” and “End Of The Line.” Those are my favorite tracks because I like hearing everyone having a turn.

Obviously, the first record is better because Roy Orbison is on it. Even without knowing much about him, his voice is SO iconic and just shines through every time he pipes up. I get chills listening to “End Of The Line.” The video for that song, which is a tribute to Roy, is also pretty moving. For some reason embedding is disabled, so you’ll have to go here to check it out.

So, if you’re a fan of any of the above musicians, hell, even if you’re not, I can’t recommend a record to you more than this set. Even though the second record isn’t as good as the first, it’s still a fantastic piece to listen to. It’s just hard not to imagine how much better it would be with Orbison’s vocals. The DVD’s a great addition with the basic videos and the True History of the Traveling Wilburys is amazing. Completely recommended!

2 thoughts on “Supergroup Showcase: The Traveling Wilburys

  1. I easily made the transition from reading comics all of the time to listening to music all of the time because of the Wilburys; they were like the Justice League of the pop-music world!

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