AUK’s Chain Gang: The Traveling Wilburys “Tweeter and the Monkey Man”

Last week’s chain gang was the Counting Crows’ ‘Monkey’ which followed on from Ramsay Midwood’s ‘Feed My Monkey’ the week before, so while we’re on the subject of monkeys it seemed a shame not to follow them up with the song ‘Tweeter and the Monkey Man’ which first appeared on the 1988 album ‘Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1.’

Although the song is credited to all members of the band, it was published by Bob Dylan’s Special Rider Music label which suggests that he was the main writer (and also as it happens the lead singer of the song). In the 2007 documentary ‘The True History of the Traveling Wilburys’, George Harrison said: “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” was really [written by] Tom Petty and Bob [Dylan]. Well, Jeff [Lynne] was there too, but they were just sitting there around in the kitchen, and he was for some reason talking about all this stuff that didn’t make much sense, you know, and we got a tape cassette and put it on and then transcribed everything they were saying.”

Just to add further intrigue to it, the song is sometimes thought of as a homage to the songs of Bruce Springsteen, the lyrics as they do including the titles of many Springsteen songs, and the song borrows many of Springsteen’s themes, including a variety of New Jersey references. It’s the only song anyway on the album not to feature Roy Orbinson, plus the only song title which includes the word “monkey”. Next week tune in here for George Michael.


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About Mark Whitfield 1792 Articles
Mark Whitfield has been Editor of Americana UK for the last 20 years while also working in public health as his day job, which has been kind of busy recently.

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