Traveling Wilburys used household items in Dave Stewart’s house to make songs

The Traveling Wilburys arrived by accident one day in 1988. Five of the rock ‘n’ roll’s top singer-songwriters, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison, were all together in the recording studio. It was impossible not to create something, having all this talent in one place. Thus, they recorded “Handle With Care”.

This song sparked something. The five artists decided they had to make an album. They chose to meet at their fellow musician, Dave Stewart’s home in Los Angeles to record The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1.

Traveling Wilburys George Harrison and Tom Petty with Dave Stewart and Chrissie Hynde | Lester Cohen/Getty Images

George Harrison formed The Traveling Wilburys by accident

In 1988, shortly after the release of his 1987 album Cloud, George was in a bit of a pickle. The international sector of his record label wanted an additional song for a 12-inch single.

So he had to record a new song quickly. That night he told the story to Lynne and Orbison. George asked Lynne for help, but Lynne didn’t know where to find a studio and an engineer so quickly. Orbison told the guys to call him when they found a recording studio. He wanted to watch them.

Then George remembered that Dylan had a studio in his garage and called him to see if they could use it. Dylan accepted. George then went to Petty’s to retrieve his guitar. Petty wanted to join the group after hearing what was going on.

They all arrived at Dylan’s garage, and George and Lynne started writing the song. George started thinking it was silly to have all the guys there but not on the record. It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment to have all five of them in one studio. So they all joined.

Looking around Dylan’s garage, George saw a box that said, “Handle With Care.” Thus, they formed the lyrics around this phrase. When they finished recording, George knew that “Handle With Care” was too good for a European 12 inch. He kept it until he decided to get everyone to record an entire album.

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The Traveling Wilburys used things around Dave Stewart’s house to help record songs

When the Traveling Wilburys got together to record The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1they went to the house of Dave Stewart of Eurythmics in Los Angeles.

“It was a nice environment because you could sit outside,” Petty said in a video from the making of the album. “It was hot and the doors were always open.”

George added: “We had a tiny little studio, but it wasn’t a studio, it was more of a control room with a vocal booth. So we had no space to play guitar, so we moved into his kitchen. It wasn’t soundproof or anything and we just put five chairs around the kitchen and put the microphones in and that was it. So all of these guitar parts, all of these acoustic guitar parts were just in that kitchen.

Being in Stewart’s house inspired The Traveling Wilburys to use household objects in the recording process.

On “Rattled”, the band’s drummer, Jim Keltner, began drumming on the shelves in Stewart’s kitchen. “It sounded good,” Lynne said. “It looked like old springs, but it sounded really good. It suited the track really well.

“There was nothing forbidden, you know? You could record wherever you wanted, so this was your chance to get sounds you’ve never gotten before.

George added: “The fridge, I’ll tell you, it’s the awesome new sound, folks. That happens. It must have been a little hard, but that was the fun. It’s the most basic rock ‘n’ roll sound.

On “Dirty World,” Geoge said he picked up a bunch of magazines and gave them to all the guys. They started reading small blurbs of various articles and made a song out of it.

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Bob Dylan amazed George Harrison in the recording studio

Dylan’s spontaneity was another tool The Traveling Wilburys had in the recording studio. George was amazed by the way Dylan worked on the track “Tweeter and the Monkey Man”.

George recorded a conversation between Dylan and Petty. Then they transcribed everything they said, turning it into a song.

“It was just fantastic to watch him do it because he had like a take to warm up and on the second take he sang ‘Tweeter and the Monkey Man’ all the way through, and what ‘he did was change some lyrics,” George said. “Maybe in about four places he would change a few lines and improve them and drop them. And that was it.

“The way he writes the words, like very tiny. Looks like a spider wrote it. You can barely read it. And that’s the amazing thing. It’s just amazing how he did that.

The supergroup was definitely still on their toes to record their debut. Who knew what would happen? In return, they kept their audience on their toes by not putting their names on the album. They used pseudonyms because it wasn’t about them and their own careers. The Traveling Wilburys were about five guys who got together to make music.

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