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, 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 told 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.”
Petty said he and Dylan “wrote a version at the Sunset Marquis hotel,” in Conversations with Tom Petty. They pieced together a concept about being overwhelmed by an incessant deluge of information from print and TV news stories.
According to Petty, Dylan focused the song’s message. “What he was talking about was media overload and being slammed with so many things at once,” Petty said, “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 '80s 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”). Other pop-culture references ended up earned Tom Petty a celebrity adversary.
In the verse before his 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.
Watch Tom Petty's Video for 'Jammin' Me'
Murphy likely couldn't have avoided the track, even if he'd tried.
"Jammin' Me" was issued on April 18, 1987 as the first single from 1987's Let Me Up (I've Had Enough). It went to No. 1 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart, as well as No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100.
An accompanying music video also received regular airplay on MTV. The visuals harkened to the session that inspired the lyrics, with TV static, newspapers headlines and broadcast media footage used throughout.
At this point in his career, Murphy had found massive success in films such as 48 Hrs, Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop after leaving Saturday Night Live. Murphy believed that "Jammin' Me" insinuated that he was somehow part of the media over-saturation problem.
He reportedly told at least one outlet, “Fuck Tom Petty.”
Petty said "that was all Bob, the verse about Eddie Murphy,” while admitting 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.”
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 Best of Everything compilation.
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