Traveling Wilburys: “Handle With Care” (1988)

This middle-aged supergroup showed the youngsters how to handle fame: with humility and a sense of humor.

Kronomyth 1.1: The freight of the world.

This is the continuing story of Jeff Lynne’s happy-ending machine, which was largely responsible for reviving the careers of George Harrison (Cloud Nine), Roy Orbison (Mystery Girl) and Tom Petty (Full Moon Fever). Music videos played a big role in that revival too, and in the revival of “older” rock stars in general, probably because they were more bankable than younger artists. Petty and Harrison in particular understood the power of visual storytelling, and the video for “Handle With Care” promoted The Traveling Wilburys‘ image as rock legends who had left their egos at the recording studio door. The song itself was largely an extension of Cloud Nine: shuffling pop music with catchy hooks and just the right amount of studio sparkle. It’s not a perfect song—I would tell you that the combination of Tom Petty and Bob Dylan is downright deadly—but it’s hard to judge it harshly given the amount of goodwill in attendance. The B side, “Margarita,” features claustrophobic production—with Lynne, you tend to get the bad with the good—and gives the vocal leads to Dylan, Lynne and one line to Petty at the end. It’s not a bad song, but synthesizers aren’t their friend. Note that the 12-inch singles featured the extended version of “Handle With Care,” a misguided attempt to make a good thing bigger.

Original 7-inch single, etc. versions

A1. Handle With Care (Traveling Wilburys) (3:20)
B1. Margarita (Traveling Wilburys) (3:16)

Original 12-inch single version
A1. Handle With Care (extended version)
B1. Margarita

Original CD single version
1. Handle With Care
2. Handle With Care (extended version)
3. Margarita

Back-to-back hits 7-inch single
A1. Handle With Care (The Traveling Wilburys) (3:20)
B1. End of the Line (The Traveling Wilburys)

The Players

Produced by Otis and Nelson Wilbury; extended version of “Handle With Care” engineered by Richard Dodd.

The Plastic

Released on 7-inch, 10-inch, 12-inch, cassette, CD and 3-inch CD single on October 17, 1988 in the US and Australia (Wilbury, 7/4/2-27732), the UK (Warner Bros., W7732/TE/T/CD), Argentina (WEA, DFW 128) Canada (Wilbury, 92 77327) and Germany (Wilbury, 9211040) with picture sleeve; reached #21 on the UK charts and #45 on the US charts (charted on October 29, 1988 for 14 weeks). Also available on special edition 7-inch single in October 1988 in the UK (Warner Bros., W7732W) with picture sleeve variation and free sticker. Also released as one-track promotional CD single in 1988 in the US (Wilbury, PRO-CD-32 58).

  1. Re-released on back-to-back hits 7-inch single in November 1989 in the US (Wilbury/Warner Bros., 7-21867).

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