Mouse & the Traps

A Public Execution

Composed by Ronnie "Mouse" Weiss

Song Review by

The Beatles and Bob Dylan were, most would acknowledge, the two biggest influences in rock music in late 1965. Many acknowledged this with blatant imitations of both the Beatles and Bob Dylan. Some of these were enjoyable, many were poor, and virtually none of them actually sounded like the real thing, as much as they wanted to. Just as the Knickerbockers' "Lies" was a convincing simulation of the early Beatles, however, Mouse & the Traps' "A Public Execution" was one of the few -- perhaps virtually the only -- Dylan imitations to actually sound so close to the inspiration that it could have genuinely been mistaken for a mid-'60s Bob Dylan recording. In the case of "A Public Execution," the obvious models were the then-recent Dylan singles "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Positively 4th Street," as well as some cuts on Dylan's first full rock album, Highway 61 Revisited. The genius of "A Public Execution" -- rare among blatant imitations -- was that it not only could have genuinely been mistaken for Bob Dylan, but managed to recall specific songs while not sounding specifically imitative of any single one. Beginning with an unclassifiable keyboard riff that sounded rather like an out-of-tune toy piano, the single was grounded by a basic ascending tandem guitar-organ riff much like the one that had powered "Like a Rolling Stone." Those weird piano tinkles continued to surface like sly mocking counterpoints at the end of the verses. Lead singer Ronnie Weiss' vocal was, like vintage Dylan, a grinning, surrealistic half-spoken rant, simultaneously putting down a woman and boasting that he'd be better off without her regardless. The circus-like tone become more prominent in the second parts of the verses, where the melody changed slightly to become more modestly tuneful, ending with a yowl very much like the one heard right before the choruses to "Like a Rolling Stone." Like many a '60s record, the key bounced upward for the final verse, which, like the rest, had lyrics declaimed so swiftly and with such head-spinning imagery that it was hard to keep up with, let alone sing along with. "A Public Execution" only reached number 121 on the charts, but became much more famous in later decades, primarily due to its inclusion on the Nuggets compilation of '60s garage rock. Its Dylan imitation could, perversely, not be easily imitated, even by Mouse & the Traps themselves, who continued to release reasonably decent singles throughout the 1960s, none of them as Dylanesque as "A Public Execution."

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Public Execution 1982 New Rose Blues 2:44
No Image 1985
Various Artists
Rhino 2:44
More Nuggets, Vol. 2 1987
Various Artists
Rhino 2:49
The Fraternity Years 1997 Big Beat Records 2:49
Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 [Box Set] 1998
Various Artists
Rhino 2:49