Handle with Care (song)

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"Handle with Care"
Single by Traveling Wilburys
from the album Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1
B-side "Margarita"
Released 17 October 1988
Format 7" single, 10" single, 12" single, CD single
Recorded 3 April 1988
Genre Heartland rock
Length 3:20
Label Wilbury, Warner Bros.
Writer(s) Traveling Wilburys[1]
Producer(s) Nelson Wilbury, Otis Wilbury
Traveling Wilburys singles chronology
"Handle with Care"
"End of the Line"

"Handle with Care" is the first track from the Traveling Wilburys 1988 album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1, and the group's most successful single. Writing credits are shared by all five band members, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, and Bob Dylan.

The single reached #45 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, #2 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, #21 on the UK singles chart[2] and #3 on the ARIA Chart.[3]

The song received a highly positive retrospective review from Allmusic journalist Matthew Greenwald, who described the song as "one of the most memorable records of the 1980s." Greenwald wrote: "Musically, the song is built around a descending, folk-rock chord pattern and some fine major-key chorus movements. George Harrison handles the verses, and there are also two excellent bridges featuring Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan. Orbison's section capitalizes on his awesome, operatic vocal pipes, and the effect is wonderful."[4] The opening chords are reminiscent of Jeff Lynne's "10538 Overture", the ELO single from 1972 and Paul Weller's, "The Changing Man".


The song was originally intended as the B-side of Harrison's "This Is Love". Harrison had not yet written a song for the B-side when an impromptu gathering of the musicians who became the Wilburys turned into an informal songwriting and jam session. Casting about for a song idea while relaxing in a garden near Bob Dylan's recording studio, Harrison was inspired when he noticed a box in Dylan's garage that was labelled "Handle with Care". The box also inspired the opening line: "been beat up and battered around." The complete song quickly followed, with different members of the gathering contributing various lines. The group moved to a recording studio and quickly laid down the basic tracks which were later polished by eventual Wilburys producer Jeff Lynne. The song depicts a conversation between a man and his new found love wherein he is recounting life's experiences which have affected him, contributed to his loneliness, and his plea to his love to "handle me with care" because of all the things he had been through.

Harrison's record company decided that the song was too good to be released as "filler." Encouraged by this response and the enjoyable experience of recording together, the group re-convened to record the first Wilburys album, which featured "Handle With Care" as the lead track.

The music video for the song features all the group members performing the song in an abandoned building while standing around an old-fashioned boom microphone, with drummer Jim Keltner in the background. There are brief cutaways to show still photos of the singers as children or young teens.

The song was the last release and video for group member Roy Orbison prior to his death on December 6, 1988.

Cover versions[edit]

In 1989, The Danish band; Hobo-Ekspressen released a cover of the song translated to Danish: "En at bli' som" on a single with a cover of "Be bab a lula" as a b-side. Hobo-Ekspressen was a short-term "all-star" band consisting of Johnny Madsen, Peter Belli, Nanna and guitarist Billy Cross.

In 2001, Jamie Hoover covered the song for the compilation album Lynne Me Your Ears: A Tribute to the Music of Jeff Lynne.

On 29 November 2002 the song was part of the set for the Concert For George at Royal Albert Hall, performed by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers with Jeff Lynne and Dhani Harrison. Petty mistakenly sung the first line as "Been beat up and batted down".

In 2005, Rilo Kiley vocalist Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins recorded a version of it on their release, Rabbit Fur Coat, featuring Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie), Conor Oberst (of Bright Eyes) and M. Ward. This version alters the lyric "I've been fobbed off, and I've been fooled" and replaces it with "I've been f**ked off, and I've been fooled." To be "fobbed" is to be cheated or deceived, and some listeners and cover versions misinterpret the original lyric for the profane one.

During the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers 2006 tour to support Petty's solo release Highway Companion, the band performed the song with Petty singing most of the lead vocals and band member Scott Thurston singing the Roy Orbison part.

On 14 September 2014, during the BBC Radio 2 Festival in a Day event, Jeff Lynne performed "Handle with Care" as a tribute to both George Harrison and Roy Orbison.[5]

Track listing[edit]

7" single
A "Handle With Care" (LP Version) – 3:20
B "Margarita" (LP Version) – 3:16
12" single (also 10" size)
A "Handle With Care" (Extended Version) – 5:14
B "Margarita" – 3:16
CD single
  1. "Handle With Care" (LP Version) – 3:20
  2. "Margarita" (LP Version) – 3:16
  3. "Handle With Care" (Extended Version) – 5:14


  1. ^ ASCAP entry for song ASCAP, accessed December 12, 2010
  2. ^ "Handle With Care by The Traveling Wilburys Songfacts". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 2011-08-20. 
  3. ^ Hung, Steffen. "Traveling Wilburys - Handle With Care". australian-charts.com. Retrieved 2011-08-20. 
  4. ^ Handle with Care at AllMusic
  5. ^ http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/jeff-lynne/2014/hyde-park-picture-house-london-england-bcfd9fe.html

External links[edit]