Posted by: Rob | February 5, 2009

Song Lyric Thursday – Tweeter and the Monkey Man

When I first heard “Tweeter and the Monkey Man“, it was the cover by the band Headstones.  It was a catchy, story telling kind of tune and it had appeal.

So imagine my surprise as I was recently perusing the CD/DVD set by The Traveling Wilburys and found that very song on there!  A little research showed the song was credited to the band but was published on Bob Dylan’s Special Rider Music.

Well, Dylan does the lyrics on the Wilbury version and… my opinion, it’s awful.  I much prefer the cover by Headstones.

Tweeter and the Monkey Man
music and lyrics by The Traveling Wilburys

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, ‘course he went to Viet Nam
Found out the hard way nobody gives a damn
Thought that they’d find freedom just across the Jersey line
Hopped into a stolen car, took Highway 99

And the walls came down
All the way to hell
Never saw them when they standin’
Never saw them when they fell

The undercover cop, he never liked the Monkey Man
Even back in high school, wanted to see him in the can
Jan got married at fourteen to a racketeer named Bill
Made secret plans with the Monkey Man from a mansion on the hill

It was out on Thunder Road, Tweeter at the wheel
Pulled into paradise, you could hear the tires squeal
It was Jan who’d told him many times, “It was you to me who’d taught:
In Kingston everything’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 standin’
Never saw them when they fell

Some place by Rahway prison they ran out of gas
The undercover cop cornered ’em, said, “You didn’t think that this could last”
Jan jumped up out of bed, said, “There’s some place I gotta go”
She took the gun out of the drawer, and said, “It’s best that you don’t know”

An ambulance rolled up, State Trooper close behind
Tweeter took his gun away and messed up his mind
The undercover cop was found face down in a field
The Monkey Man was on the bridge, using Tweeter as a shield

And the walls came down
All the way to hell
Never saw them when they standin’
Never saw them when they fell

The town of Jersey City is quieting down again
I’m sitting in a gambling club called The Lion’s Den
The TV set is blown up, every bit of it is gone
Ever since the night when they showed that the Monkey Man was on

Maybe I’ll go to Florida, get myself some sun
There ain’t no more opportunity here and everything’s been done
Sometimes I think of Tweeter, sometimes I think of Jan
Sometimes I don’t think about nothin’ but the Monkey Man

And the walls came down
All the way to hell
Never saw them when they standin’
Never saw them when they fell

A link to the version I prefer on youtube (just listen, the video is a disturbing compilation of pictures by a….well….I don’t know – self-described amatuer[sic]?):


  1. Are you sure this is penned by Dylan and not Springsteen? This has got Springsteen—ahem—written all over it. The hipster nicknames. The Jersey local. A State Trooper! It’s got all the earmarks of a Boss song.

    According to Wikipedia, it’s regarded as an homage to Springsteen:

    “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.”

  2. I usually like the Traveling Wilburys, but I can see where an eclectic collection of known voices could mess up a song.

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