‘Tweeter And The Monkey Man’ is the ninth song on Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1.
The song was primarily written by Bob Dylan and Tom Petty, with lead vocals by Dylan. It was the longest song recorded by the band.
‘Tweeter And The Monkey Man’ was like, really, Tom Petty and Bob – well, Jeff and I were there too, we were just sitting around in the kitchen – and he for some reason was talking about all this stuff which didn’t make much sense to me. You know, it was like Americana kind of stuff. And we got a tape cassette, put it on, and then transcribed everything they were saying.
It was just fantastic watching him do it, because he had like one take, warming himself up, and on take two he sang that ‘Tweeter And The Monkey Man’ right through, and then what he did was he changed some of the lyrics, maybe in about four places he changed a couple of lines and improved them, and dropped those lines in. And that’s it.
The way he writes the words down, like, very tiny, looked like a spider’s written it. You can’t hardly read it. And that the amazing thing – it’s just unbelievable, seeing how he did it.
And that, for me, was amazing to watch it, because I had very little to do with writing that tune at all, except Jeff and I remembered a bit he did, that he’d forgotten, which became that chorus.
The True History Of The Traveling Wilburys
I think it’s about some visions that Bob Dylan had that night. Who knows? Tom helped a lot on that one, too. It’s all over the dinner table, don’t forget, so we’re just talking and saying sentences, and sometimes they fit perfectly, and sometimes they don’t, so you move them down a bit so it fits in the next verse.
There was no premeditated thinking about it. It was not what you’d normally do on an album: You’d keep going over it, time after time after time after time, to edit the song to make it as good as it can be. But Bob very much [felt] the first take is the one, and that’s it — you don’t touch it. The first take is Bob’s favorite, usually.
I think he liked talking about Bruce. You should ask him about that, really, because I know they sound [like] little bits of ‘Thunder Road’. We all loved Bruce Springsteen, obviously; you could say it was an homage to Bruce.
Billboard, SiriusXM, 19 October 2018