TWEETER AND THE MONKEY MAN

Traveling Wilburys' album version

Tweeter and the Monkey Man were hard up for cash
They stayed up all night selling cocaine and hash
To an undercover cop who had a sister named Jan
For reasons unexplained she loved the Monkey Man

Tweeter was a boy scout before she went to Vietnam
And found out the hard way nobody gives a damn
They knew that they found freedom just across the Jersey Line
So they hopped into a stolen car, took Highway 99

And the walls came down, all the way to hell
Never saw them when they're standing, never saw them when they fell

The undercover cop never liked the Monkey Man
Even back in childhood he wanted to see him in the can
Jan got married at fourteen to a racketeer named Bill
She made secret calls to the Monkey Man from a mansion on the hill

It was out on Thunder Road, Tweeter at the wheel
They crashed into paradise, they could hear them tires squeal
The undercover cop pulled up and said "Everyone of you's a liar
If you don't surrender now, it's gonna go down to the wire"

And the walls came down, all the way to hell
Never saw them when they're standing, never saw them when they fell

An ambulance rolled up, a state trooper close behind
Tweeter took his gun away and messed up his mind
The undercover cop was left tied up to a tree
Near the souvenir stand by the old abandoned factory

Next day the undercover cop was hot in pursuit
He was taking the whole thing personal, he didn't care about the loot
Jan had told him many times it was you to me who taught
In Jersey anything's legal as long as you don't get caught

And the walls came down, all the way to hell
Never saw them when they're standing, never saw them when they fell

Someplace by Rahway Prison they ran out of gas
The undercover cop had cornered them said "Boy, you didn't think that this could last"
Jan jumped out of the bed, said "There's someplace I gotta go"
She took a gun out of the drawer and said "It's best if you don't know"

The undercover cop was found face down in a field
The monkey man was on the river bridge using Tweeter as a shield
Jan said to the Monkey Man, "I'm not fooled by Tweeter's curl
I knew him long before he ever became a Jersey girl"

And the walls came down, all the way to hell
Never saw them when they're standing, never saw them when they fell

Now the town of Jersey City is quieting down again
I'm sitting in a gambling club called the Lion's Den
The TV set been blown up, every bit of it is gone
Ever since the nightly news show that the Monkey Man was on

I guess I'll go to Florida and get myself some sun
There ain't no more opportunity here, everything's been done
Sometime I think of Tweeter, sometime I think of Jan
Sometime I don't think about nothing but the Monkey Man

And the walls came down, all the way to hell
Never saw them when they're standing, never saw them when they fell

And the walls came down, all the way to hell
Never saw them when they're standing, never saw them when they fell


Page last updated: 27 Oct 2007

Info

Music and lyrics by the Traveling Wilburys, TWEETER AND THE MONKEY MAN was released on their 1988 album Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1. This was the first of the two albums the short-lived band recorded together. The Traveling Wilburys is a supergroup consisting of Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty. The song is supposedly co-written by all 5 members – all of the album's songs are credited to The Traveling Wilburys and none is mentioned by name in any literature in the album booklet or the music book. However, it is believed that Bob Dylan was the primary writer of this song, which is one of the very few Traveling Wilburys tracks that has Dylan singing lead vocals on while the rest of the band singing backup.

[Click thumbnail to enlarge/reduce artwork]

TWEETER AND THE MONKEY MAN is regarded by many fans to be a parody of Bruce Springsteen's music – a fun loving one, not a "put down". The song is filled with Springsteen – imagery and direct lyrical references (Vietnam, the Jersey line...) and lists many of his song titles in the text:

  • They stayed up all night selling cocaine and hash
  • So they hopped into a stolen car took Highway 99
  • She made secret calls to the Monkey Man from a mansion on the hill
  • It was out on Thunder Road, Tweeter at the wheel
  • An ambulance rolled up, a state trooper close behind
  • Near the souvenir stand by the old abandoned factory
  • The monkey man was on the river bridge using Tweeter as a shield
  • I knew him long before he ever became a Jersey girl
  • I'm sitting in a gambling club called the Lion's Den

Both Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison denied that the song was a Springsteen parody. Once, when asked about TWEETER AND THE MONKEY MAN in an interview, Roy Orbison said that "Mansion On The Hill, that's Hank Williams". Of course, "Mansion On The Hill" is also the title of a Hank Williams song, but in this song's context, it's obviously an allusion to Springsteen and Orbison was probably joking. Dylan might not have written the song "about" Springsteen (it could merely be Dylan poking fun at himself), but it's obvious that he was at least influenced by Bruce on this one.

One story goes like this: Bob Dylan was recording the first album with the Wilburys in the spring of 1988 in L.A. when he went with Tom Petty to see Springsteen's Tunnel Of Love Express Tour stop at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. At the time PART MAN, PART MONKEY was a regular part of Bruce's set – "Part man, part monkey [...] that's me", as the song goes. Dylan takes this back to his hotel room and pens TWEETER AND THE MONKEY MAN (Tweeter would be Clarence Clemons for obvious reasons and The Monkey Man would be Bruce Springsteen). The song was not intended to make fun of Bruce; it was just part of the playful nature of the Traveling Wilburys songs they were recording.

As far as it's known, Bob Dylan has never played TWEETER AND THE MONKEY MAN live.

Credits

Thanks Doug for the help with some of the above information.