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Music / The Traveling Wilburys

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Pictured: Musical Awesomeness

Well it's all right, riding around in the breeze,
Well it's all right, if you live the life you please.
Well it's all right, doing the best you can,
Well it's all right, as long as you lend a hand.
"End Of The Line"
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The Travelling Wilburys is Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, George Harrison, and Jeff Lynne. Holy shit.

For years, Harrison played around with the idea of forming a band out of established musicians who could come together as equals and make music by hanging out and jamming. This began to take shape during production of Harrison's eleventh studio album, Cloud Nine.

Temporarily based in Los Angeles and away from his FPSHOTnote  home studio, Harrison had asked Lynne to help produce a b-side and arranged to record it at Dylan's garage studio. Before the session he and Lynne shared a meal with Orbison and invited him to join them at the recording and on the way there, they stopped by Petty's house to retrieve a guitar and asked him to come along.

And so, by sheer coincidence, some of the best musicians of the 20th century came together to record a b-side before realization dawned that Harrison had found the band he'd been looking for.

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One of the greatest supergroups of all time, this rare confluence of nearly 200 combined years of musical history came together in the very late 1980s to produce two albums (or so—see below).


Discography:

The Traveling Wilburys provide examples of the following tropes:

  • Affectionate Parody: Many of their songs come across as this - taking standard rock lyric tropes and pushing them just a little bit too far into absurdity.
  • Alien Abduction: Mentioned as a possible explanation for the title character vanishing in "Maxine".
  • All There in the Manual: The Liner Notes and peripheral materials describe the group as members of some ancient clan of nomadic musicians, and give each member a Wilbury family name; a different one on each album. The group is apparently made up of half-brothers, all sons of Charles Truscott Wilbury, and different mothers.
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  • Anonymous Band: The members took on tongue-in-cheek alter egos, claiming to be half-brothers and the illegitimate sons of an itinerant singer named Charlie T. Wilbury. The Wilbury clan was given a fairly detailed backstory in the albums' liner notes courtesy of Michael Palin. The members also used different names for each album, for a total of nine Wilburys.
  • Anti-Love Song: "You Took My Breath Away" at first sounds like a love song, but is clearly not on the pro-love side of things.
  • B-Side: What "Handle With Care" was originally going to be, until the label executives heard it and decided an album was in order.
  • Cool Old Guy: Roy and Bob (Who were 52 and 47 respectively when Volume 1 released certainly qualify.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Played for Laughs in "Where Were You Last Night?"
    Where were you last year?
    You sure as hell weren't here!
  • Dance Sensation: "The Wilbury Twist" invites the dancer to, among other things, fall on his ass, put his teeth in a glass, and put a blindfold on so his friends can get away from him.
    Could be YEARS before you're missed!
  • Dream Team: A Beatle, Bob, the Heartbreaker, Mr. Blue Sky and the Oobie-Doobie man, all in one band. A dream team this band most certainly was.
  • Empty Chair Memorial: The music video for "End of the Line" cuts to an empty rocking chair with Roy Orbison's guitar lying in it during his stanza, as he had died before shooting the video.
  • Five-Man Band:
    • The Leader: George Harrison, who naturally fell into the role and was responsible for arranging the songs and assigning vocal roles.
    • The Lancer: Jeff Lynne, who produced the songs and worked to finalize the mixes according to George's vision.
    • The Smart Guy: Bob Dylan, who was brought in because the other members recognized him as a master lyricist.
    • The Big Guy: Tom Petty, whose rougher voice was used to bridge verses into choruses and anchor their harmonies.
    • The Chick: Roy Orbison, whose soulful vocals gave their songs a sweeter quality.
    • The Sixth Ranger: Jim Keltner, the percussionist who is played on all their songs and appeared in music videos, but wasn't a formal Wilbury. Instead, he was dubbed "Buster Sidebury".
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: In "Margarita", largely because some of the lyrics appear to be an Indian language (Author Appeal for George Harrison perhaps?)
  • Intercourse with You: "Dirty World", according to Word of Godinvoked, is an Affectionate Parody of Prince. Which means you get Bob Dylan singing lines like
    You don't need no wax job, you're smooth enough for me
    If you need your oil changed I'll do it for you free
    Oh baby, the pleasure be all mine
    If you let me drive your pickup truck and park it where the sun don't shine
  • In the Style of...: "Tweeter and the Monkey Man" was Bob Dylan's attempt at writing a Bruce Springsteen song.
  • Joisey: "Tweeter and the Monkey Man", which also gives us examples of...
  • Noodle Implements: "Cool Dry Place" mostly mentions musical machines, with the addition of a few oddities.
    • "Dirty World", too. Most of the items sound like they're taken from a car advert, but there are exceptions.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: Reportedly the inspiration for Handle With Care came from Harrison looking over at the markings on a crate used to ship some of the studio equipment.
  • List Song: "Cool Dry Place", which is essentially about a rock star waking up at the end of The '80s and wondering how he got all this stuff for making music.
    ...reverbs we can't use, lots of DX7's and old athletic shoes...
  • Punny Name: The group's name originates from a piece of banter George Harrison and Jeff Lynne came up with while recording, in reference to mistakes: "We'll burynote  them in the mix."
  • The Schlub Pub Seduction Deduction: "Last Night"
  • Self-Titled Album: Twice.
  • Special Guest: The Wilburys recorded a version of The Beatles' "I Call Your Name" as a tribute to John Lennon, with Ringo Starr added to the lineup as lead singer.
    • And arguably John Fogerty, who made a live appearance in 1987 alongside George Harrison and Bob Dylan, in a group which bootleggers often refer to as "The Silver Wilburys". Strictly a Fan Nickname, though, as the real Wilburys weren't formed until 1988 (and the other Wilburys sans George and Dylan weren't present for this event anyway).
  • Super Group: Big time. It's hard to imagine a more super group even being possible.
  • Un-Installment: The two albums released by the Wilburys were titled The Traveling Wilburys Volume 1 and The Traveling Wilburys Volume 3, respectively. Tom Petty's solo album Full Moon Fever may count as an unofficial ''Volume 2'': Jeff Lynne was the producer for it as for the other two volumes, and some tracks feature contributions from some of the others.
    • Jeff Lynne's solo album Armchair Theatre, released just three months before Volume 3, is a possible contender as well, especially noting the presence of George Harrison as one of the record's primary personnel.
    • There's also a theory that "Volume 2" is What Could Have Been if not for Orbison's death, a missing episode that was deliberately omitted as a sign of respect for Roy.
    • Another story has it that the band members agreed while they were recording Volume 1 that they'd never do a Volume 2 — so they didn't.
    • The Rhino Entertainment complete works box set regularizes the disc numbering by including a DVD (containing a documentary and all the band's music videos) as disc two.
  • Vocal Tag Team: Obviously; all five pretty much share lead and backup vocal duties. Enforced Trope on Volume 3, where several of the songs were originally recorded with Dylan as lead vocalist and later overdubbed to add lead vocals by other members.

Alternative Title(s): Traveling Wilburys

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