The Traveling Wilburys – Handle With Care


Handle With Care


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

[Pre-Chorus- Roy Orbison]
I’m so tired of being lonely
I still have some love to give
Won’t you show me that you really care?

[Chorus- Bob Dylan and Tom Petty]
Everybody’s got somebody to lean on
Put your body next to mine, and dream on

I’ve been fobbed off, and I’ve been fooled
I’ve been robbed and ridiculed
In day care centres and night schools
Handle me with care

Been stuck in airports, terrorized
Sent to meetings, hypnotized
Overexposed, commercialized
Handle me with care


[Chorus- Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison]

I’ve been uptight and made a mess
But I’ll clean it up myself, I guess
Oh, the sweet smell of success
Handle me with care


Handle with Care” is the first track from the Traveling Wilburys‘ 1988 album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1, and the group’s most successful single. The song was written primarily by George Harrison, although writing credits are shared by all five members of the Wilburys: Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan.

The single peaked at number 45 on the Billboard Hot 100, number 2 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, number 21 on the UK Singles Chart,[2] and number 3 on the ARIA Chart.[3] AllMusic journalist Matthew Greenwald describes “Handle with Care” as “one of the most memorable records of the 1980s”, adding: “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]

File:Handle with Care Single.jpg


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 can be about myriad situations one wishes it to be, such as a fragile wounded lover or somebody struggling with hard times that comes with fame, or being uprooted or down and out and lost, or perhaps a lonely outlier- pleading, “handle me with care.”

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 reconvened 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 6 December 1988.


Year-end charts

Chart (1989) Position
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[5] 82

Cover versions

After performing the song during the Concert for George, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers added it to their set list for their 2003 summer tour. The band performed the song with Petty singing most of the lead vocals and band member Scott Thurston singing Roy Orbison’s parts. They also performed the song on their 2005 summer tour, their thirtieth anniversary tour in 2006, and their 2012 tour throughout the US and Europe.

Jenny Lewis covered “Handle with Care” in 2006 on her solo debut record Rabbit Fur Coat with The Watson Twins, Ben Gibbard, Conor Oberst and M. Ward.

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.[6]

Track listing

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


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