The Traveling Wilburys were a lovely coda to the rock and roll era — a holiday from the angst and self-importance that crept into the music in the 1980s and hasn’t entirely left. Five legendary performers (Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne) who melded into an egoless whole, creating a sound rich with humor, camaraderie and the joy of making music.
The Traveling Wilburys were out of fashion when they arrived, and have remained so. That’s why I love them.
The impact of the Traveling Wilbury holiday on the careers of their members was uniformly positive. Orbison was rediscovered by a new audience — hopefully feeling the love just before he died a few months after the first album came out. Harrison proved he was more than “All Things Must Pass.” Petty loosened up: All his best music came out in the period of the Wilburys. Lynne’s work here cast a retroactive glow on the underrated artistry of his work with ELO. And Bob Dylan exposed his comic side, which has been a source of his late-career blossoming.
In connection with the long overdue re-release of their music, their videos are all up on YouTube. Here they are. Have a safe holiday.
“Handle With Care,” which started it all. Amazing to hear a vocal passed from George Harrison, to Roy Orbison, to Bob Dylan, and on such a nice little song:
“End of the Line.” This is most people’s favorite Wilburys tune:
“Inside Out.” Bob Dylan sings lead. You really get to hear the Jeff Lynne “sound” on this one:
“She’s My Baby.” The kickoff track to their second album, entitled “Vol. 3.” A punchy rocker.
Finally, the hilarious “Wilbury Twist.” Here they were, in the late 80s, making fun of how old they were getting. What would they sing about if the survivors got back together now?
(“Wilbury Twist,” was having trouble loading when I posted this. I’ll check again after the holiday.)