The Tom Petty Song That ‘Really Pissed Off’ Eddie Murphy
The song’s origins went back several years. Mike Campbell, Petty’s guitarist in the Heartbreakers and regular songwriting collaborator was the one who came up with the initial musical concept.
"’Jammin Me’ was interesting because I wrote the track and gave it to Tom, and he held it for a while and didn't do anything with it,” Campbell recalled in a conversation with Songfacts. “Then I guess he was working with Bob [Dylan] one day, and they came up with some words - I guess they were picking words out of a newspaper or off the television, and Tom said "Oh, I've got this track of Mike's" and they inserted those words over the track.”
“We wrote a version at the Sunset Marquis hotel,” Petty recalled in the book Conversations with Tom Petty, referring to the songwriting session between him and Dylan at the Los Angeles landmark. From print and TV news stories the duo pieced together a concept about being overwhelmed by an incessant deluge of information.
According to Petty, it was Dylan who focused the song’s message. “What [Dylan] was talking about was media overload and being slammed with so many things at once,” the rocker explained. “And times were changing; there weren't four TV channels anymore. It was changing and that was the essence, I think, of what he was writing about.”
Lyrics allude to a bevy of late 80’s hot-button topics, from the rise of Apple computers (“the apple in young Steve's eye”), to atrocities in the Middle East (“Take back your Iranian torture”). Still, it was his pop-culture references that earned Petty a celebrity adversary.
In the verse before the second chorus, Petty sang: “Take back Vanessa Redgrave / Take back Joe Piscopo / Take back Eddie Murphy / Give 'em all some place to go.”
Murphy was outraged at his inclusion in the song. At this point in his career, the comedian had left Saturday Night Live and found massive success in films such as 48 Hrs, Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop. The actor believed that "Jammin' Me" insinuated that he was somehow part of the media over-saturation problem. Murphy reportedly told at least one outlet, “Fuck Tom Petty.”
"That was all Bob, the verse about Eddie Murphy,” Petty later explained. The rocker admitted the controversy “embarrassed (him) a little bit because I remember seeing Eddie Murphy on TV really pissed off about it. I had nothing against Eddie Murphy or Vanessa Redgrave.”
Released as the first single from his 1987 LP Let Me Up (I've Had Enough), “Jammin Me” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart as well as No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song’s music video also received regular airplay on MTV. Its visuals harkened to the session that inspired the lyrics, with TV static, newspapers headlines and broadcast media footage used throughout the clip.
Surprisingly, "Jammin' Me" was not included in Petty's 1993 Greatest Hits compilation. However, the song was part of both the Playback and Anthology: Through the Years box sets, as well as the posthumous The Best of Everything compilation.