Well, your railroad gate, you know I just can’t jump it
Sometimes it gets so hard, you see
I’m just sitting here beating on my trumpet
With all these promises you left for me
But where are you tonight, sweet Marie?
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 & The Monkey Man’ was Tom Petty and Bob sitting in the kitchen, Jeff and I were there too, but they were talking about all this stuff which didn’t make sense to me – Americana kind of stuff. And we got a tape cassette and put it on and transcribed everything they were saying and wrote it down. And then Bob sort of changed it, anyway. That for me was just amazing to watch ’cause I had very little to do with writing that [song] at all – except Jeff and I remembered a little bit that [Bob] did that he’d forgotten – which became that chorus part. It was just fantastic watching him do it because . . . he had one take warming himself up and then he did it for real on take two. The rest of us had more time but Bob had to go on the road and we knew he couldn’t do any more vocals again, so we had to get his vocals immediately. And on take two he sang [it] 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 these lines in and that’s it – just as it was done and written. And the way he writes the words down! Very tiny, like a spider’s written it . . . It’s just unbelievable seeing how he does it.
– George Harrison, to Roger Scott, 1989
This is a song that took ten years to live and ten years to write.
~Bob Dylan (Special Events Arena, El Paso, Texas – November 21, 1978)
I was trying to do something that I don’t know if I was prepared to do. I wanted to defy time, so that the story took place in the present and past at the same time. When you look at a painting, you can see any part of it or see all of it together. I wanted that song to be like a painting.
~Bob Dylan (to Bill Flanagan, March 1985)
Joni Mitchell had an album out called Blue. And it affected me, I couldn’t get it out of my head. And it just stayed in my head and when I wrote that song I wondered, what’s that mean? And then I figured that it was just there, and I guess that’s what happened, y’know.
~Bob Dylan (to Craig McGregor, March 1978)