Handle With Care (1988) – The Traveling Wilburys

It’s fascinating watching the making of the Wilburys and the process by which they realised a track. Jeff Lynn recalled, ‘Just sitting around in a circle, like 5 of us just strumming acoustic guitars and coming up with a song in a couple of hours. It was almost ready to record. It was unbelievable stuffThe whole thing took six weeks from the first chord to the finished mix of the last song.
Petty said, ‘The whole experience was just some of the best days of my life and I think it was probably for us all. The thing that might be hard to understand is what good friends we were..it was a bunch of friends that just happened to be really good at making music….None of this would have happened without him (George Harrison). It was George’s band and it was a dream he had for a long time.’

Handle With Care is the 4th song to feature here from The Traveling Wilburys, but it was the debut hit single as the opening track of their album Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1. I think it’s one of the most significant songs of the last 50 years. It peaked at number 45 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, number 2 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart and was a top-five hit in Australia and New Zealand.

According to wikipedia: The song was the first recording made by the group, although it was originally intended as a bonus track on a European single by George Harrison. When he and Jeff Lynne presented the song to Harrison’s record company, the executives insisted it was too good for that purpose, a decision that resulted in the formation of the Wilburys.  With no professional studios available at such short notice, Harrison phoned Bob Dylan, who agreed to let them use his garage studio in Malibu (see image left – wikipedia). Tom Petty, who had also been working with Lynne in Los Angeles, was invited the following day, when Harrison went to retrieve his guitar from Petty’s house. George said, I have the first lines, ‘Been beat up and battered around‘, and Dylan asked: ‘So what will we call it‘? George saw a box laying there with the sticker and responded ‘Handle With Care‘ and Dylan responded ‘Oh yeh. Good.’  

Been beat up and battered around
Been sent up, and I’ve been shot down
You’re the best thing that I’ve ever found
Handle me with care

Reputation’s changeable
Situation’s tolerable
But, baby, you’re adorable
Handle me with care

I’m so tired of being lonely
I still have some love to give
Won’t you show me that you really care?

Coupled with a fantastic lyric, this song has a stupendous acoustic and vocal harmony. I was in awe from first listen. I don’t know how many times I have heard this song over the years, but it’s a lot and I still find it a very pleasureable listening experience. It was an exceptional launching pad for the group. Petty and his band the Heartbreakers often performed Handle with Care in concert. Lynne sang it with them at the Concert for George, a year after Harrison’s death in November 2001. The music video below for Handle with Care was filmed at an abandoned brewery near Union Station in Los Angeles.

1. Hand With Care (song) – The Traveling Wilburies

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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8 comments on “Handle With Care (1988) – The Traveling Wilburys
  1. Badfinger (Max) says:

    It was such a relief in the 80s to hear MY music rather than heavy metal and synth driven music on the radio. I love the Wilburys to this day. This is one supergroup that lived up to it’s title.
    I don’t understand why more older artists don’t do this. Like John Fogerty, Neil Young, Paul Simon, Paul McCartney and others…I doubt if they would have the same magic but George had a winner here.

    • I’ve seen the making of documentary numerous times. It is apparent from George’s comments how difficult it was to get in contact with Bob. When he finally did get into Bob’s ear, he wanted to make the most out of it considering Dylan’s heavy schedule. What impressed me so much was how their was no ego in the group and the ease by which they churned out track after track. They all just seem so chilled. George and Roy were encountering a career Renaissance with their recent big hits so the timing of their formation was impeccable.

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        Bob was at…for him a lower point in his career…this seemed to help him. Tweeter and the Monkey Man remains my favorite of the Wilburys….and I liked his song on the second album “If You Belonged to Me.”

        George probably missed a band setting…he sure recruited the best. I’ve watched that documentary many times also.

      • Tweeter is a compelling track and so original. It reminds me a bit of his blood on the Tracks ‘Lily Rosemary and the Jack of hearts’. I enjoy If You Belonged to Me’ as well. George did pretty good alright! You could tell Tom Petty was in awe at being around those guys.

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        When Tom Petty called his mom excited he was in a band with Roy…you know you have a good band. And yea….no egos got in the way…and that is rare.

      • Yeh, that was a lovely recount from Tom. Some of the best days of his life, he said. It was kinda magic how that all came to be.

  2. It’s a wonderful song from a magical collaboration of legendary artists.

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