Posted: 8/28/2010 3:02:07 AM
"Tweeter and the Monkey Man" is a song by rock music supergroup The Traveling Wilburys that first appeared on the 1988 album Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1. The songwriting credit is to all members of the band; however, it is published by Bob Dylan's
Special Rider Music, revealing him as the main writer. Dylan also sings
lead on the song's verses (with the rest of the group joining in on the
chorus sections). At five verses in 5 minutes 27 seconds, "Tweeter and
the Monkey Man" is the longest Traveling Wilburys song put to record.
The lyrics of the song tell the gritty story of the title characters —
two drug dealers named Tweeter and The Monkey Man - their nemesis the
"Undercover Cop," and the Undercover Cop's sister, Jan.
Tweeter and The Monkey Man is sometimes regarded as a playful homage to Bruce Springsteen's
songs. The lyrics include the titles of many Springsteen songs, and the
song borrows many of Springsteen's themes and settings. For instance,
the setting of the song itself is New Jersey, Springsteen's home state,
and places like Rahway Prison and Jersey City are mentioned by name. Springsteen song title references include: "Stolen Car", "Mansion On The Hill", "Thunder Road", "State Trooper", "Factory", "The River", and the song made popular by Springsteen but written by Tom Waits, "Jersey Girl".
Additionally, "Lion's Den" and "Paradise" are each mentioned and
prominently enunciated in the song, each being the title of a
Springsteen song released after the Traveling Wilburys album.
In the Traveling Wilburys DVD (released as part of their 2007 box
set) the making of the song is described. Harrison recounted that Dylan
and Petty were discussing "Americana
garbage that we didn't understand." The conversation was taped, and later
translated by the group into the basis of the song. The chorus was
originally part of a verse, but was chosen later for the refrain.
Canadian rock band Headstones recorded a cover of the song for their debut album Picture of Health, and the song became a radio hit in Canada.