Rebooting the Traveling Wilburys
As I mourned the recent loss of Tom Petty, I often thought of the Traveling Wilburys, the short-lived supergroup that featured Tom Petty (RIP), George Harrison (RIP), Roy Orbison (RIP), Bob Dylan (recent Nobel Literature prize, late-in-life perfumer endorser, inscrutable poet), and Jeff Lyne (whose oeuvre is being reassessed for the 6,000th time).
While I agree with the consensus on a number of Petty songs being classic hits, only a few are songs I still love hearing (in my opinion: “Running Down a Dream”, “American Girl”, “Refugee”), I still immensely love the two Wilbury songs “Handle With Care” and “End of the Line”). How can you not love a group that limits Bob Fucking Dylan to a duet during the chorus?
Late last week, some friends and I were discussing Tom Petty. I brought up the Wilburys. One of my friends had read an article by Steven Hyden at Uproxx where he selected which artists would make up a Traveling Wilburys’ reboot.
I didn’t necessarily agree with his selections, and none of my friends necessarily agreed with mine. So it seemed to beg for an Internet poll to see what the consensus should be. So, here we are. Who would you pick as your Traveling Wilburys 2017?
Each Wilbury entered into the group (backstory here) in 1988 in different phases in their careers.
Cue the Breakfast Club voiceover: you see us what we are: a troubadour from another time, the voice of a generation aging, an understated member of the best band in history, an underappreciated musical genius, and a little brother of the group about to hit some of his most iconic music.
Roy Orbison was the elder statesman in the midst of a career revival – though he seemed much older due to his troubadour-style seeming of another era, he was only 5 years older than Dylan and only 14 years older than the youngest member, Petty)
Bob Dylan was the inscrutable beat poet who was in a fallow period (Dylan and the Dead, anyone?) long past his days of cultural relevancy, though you could probably find his Greatest Hits playing anywhere.
George Harrison was the lowest-key member of the greatest band in the world, trying to make it in an MTV world with some dancing and some stuffed animals playing a tobacco pipe like a saxophone.
Jeff Lynne was the virtuoso who never got any credit. His band Electric Light Orchestra provided the template for a lot of famous artists and movie soundtracks, but the unabashed pop-ness of that music means he gets little credit and more than deserved scorn.
Tom Petty had held steady in his career and was about to reach a new generation through Full Moon Fever and Into the Great Wide Open. He was probably the most relevant artist at that time, but also maybe had the least amount of star power.
While Hyden’s piece had good suggestions, we didn’t agree with all of them. Some of our suggestions were outside of the genre of rock & roll (it seems likely that a supergroup similar to the Wilburys today would include more diversity and perhaps a rapper). It was clearly something that had no right answer; that was ripe for Internet discussion.
It’s something I still think about, so decided today to see what the Internet would come up with.
So, behold, the Traveling Wilburies user poll. We ask you to individually submit your replacement for each member. I’ll be back in one week’s time with the answers.