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How It All Began...
After George Harrisons' album 'Cloud Nine' was completed, George found himself having to create a bonus track for the European twelve inch of 'When We Was Fab'. Since Jeff Lynne had played an integral part in the creation of George's album, including appearing in the 'When We Was Fab' music video along with Ringo Starr, Jeff postponed his other projects: work on Roy Orbison's album 'Mystery Girl', and his work on tracks for Tom Petty.
Roy Orbison was on the conversation's edge when the two Englishmen discussed this over lunch in Los Angeles. George was impressed that Roy knew so much about Monty Python. George was delighted when Orbison volunteered to sing with him on this extra track.
"And so I just thought I'll just go into the studio tomorrow and do one, and it happened that Jeff was working with Roy and Roy wanted to come." - George Harrison
It wasn't worth booking anywhere expensive so George telephoned Bob Dylan in Santa Monica whose 'little Ampex in the corner of his garage' was available the next day.
"And the only studio that we could find available was Bob's. So we thought, Bobs got one, we'll just call him up." - George Harrison
Arriving late the following morning, Roy shook hands with Tom Petty - who Jeff, and to a lesser extent, George, had assisted in the production of a Del Shannon album in 1987, after Petty's group had backed Dylan on the tour that had terminated at Wembley. Petty had either tagged along, or was asked by George to come along.
"My guitar was at Tom's house for some reason and I had to go round and get it." - George Harrison
"Then George showed up again and George had a single coming out and he needed a new B-Side." - Tom Petty
From merely providing refreshments, Dylan lent a hand when Harrison - with his B-Side only half-finished - said, "Give us some lyrics, you famous lyricist." To Bob's enquiry as to the subject matter:
"I looked behind the garage door and there was a cardboard box with 'Handle with Care' on it." - George Harrison
"So we went out there to Bob Dylan's house, sat on the grass and from the germ of an idea that George had on the guitar we wound up writing this song called 'Handle With Care'." - Tom Petty
George added what he called 'a lonely bit' for Orbison, while Dylan wheezed the trademark harmonica on the fade.
"And so everybody was there and I thought I'm not gonna just sing it myself, I've got Roy Orbison standing there. I'm gonna write a bit for Roy to sing. And then as it progressed then I started doing the vocals and I just thought I might as well push it a bit and get Tom and Bob to sing the bridge." - George Harrison
Next day, Roy left for a one-nighter in Anaheim near Long Beach, Bob carried on preparing for a summer tour, and George slipped over to Warners with the new tape. After it was said to be to good to hide under a twelve-inch forty-five, he discussed with Jeff, over a quantity of Mexican lager, the idea of cutting a whole LP.
When the two skidded up to his house with the plan, Petty jumped at the chance, while over the phone, Dylan agreed. That evening, Jeff, George, Tom and their wives drove down the coast to Anaheim to put it before Oribson. Roy said, "That'd be great."
"We watched Roy give an incredible concert and kept nudging each other and saying, 'Isn't he great? He's in our band.' We were real happy that night." - Tom Petty
The album was completed over the summer of 1988. It "worked because it was so unplanned'". Most of the composing took place at the house of Dylan's then producer, Dave Stewart. Nourished by a continuous barbecue, George's team would "assemble after breakfast at about one in the afternoon, and just sit around with acoustic guitars - then someone would have a title or a chord pattern and we'd let it roll."
Due to Lefty's tour, only ten days could be set aside for recording.
The word Wilbury entered the fives vocabulary. It had been an in-joke during Cloud Nine, referring to studio gremlins. First, 'The Trembling Wilburys' was suggested as a name when, remembered Lynne, he and George had "this fantasy idea. We'd start inventing a group that would have all our favourite people." Ultimately the vote went to Traveling.
Harrison was the most avid Wilbury plugger. Later, he'd chew over the likelihood of a full-length movie based on the sleevenotes attributed to Michael Palin from a brainwave of Derek Taylors.
Masquerading as half brothers sired by the same father - Charles Truscott Wilbury, Senior - the five appeared under their chosen pseudonyms.
Lucky Wilbury, Otis Wilbury, Charlie T. Jnr., Lefty Wilbury, Nelson Wilbury