The fourth time I saw Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers was on August 5, 1986 at the Shoreline Ampitheater up in the Bay Area. They were backing Bob Dylan on the U.S. leg of their joint True Confessions tour.
So we got some TP and The Heartbreakers, we got some solo Bob Dylan, and we got Bob Dylan with his second-greatest backing band doing some pretty classic songs to boot. So, a good night.
And while I played Hard To Handle, the VHS that came out from the Australian leg of that tour, a lot while closing the Video Zone (highlights: a ferocious “In The Garden” a gorgeous “I’ll Remember You”, and a reliably great “Girl From The North Country”), what I really wanted was a new Dylan album with The Heartbreakers as his backing band, a possibility that was tantalizingly hinted at in a Rolling Stone article that came out a couple of weeks prior to the show I saw.
Instead, Dylan and the Heartbreakers released just two songs: the good-not-great Dylan-Petty co-write “Got My Mind Made Up,” and the utterly awesome apocalyptic blues ““Band of the Hand (It’s Hell-Time Man)”
And Tom Petty got to keep “Jammin’ Me,” the other Dylan-Petty co-write, which was the first single from 1987’s Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough), a record that was marketed as the antidote to the overt fussiness and seriousness of Southern Accents.
So “Jammin’ Me” featured a big dumb garage rock sound, all barre chords and barrelhouse piano while Petty sang about the media overload we were just beginning to understand was only going to get more intense.
And most infamously, he even named names.
Take back Vanessa Redgrave
Take back Joe Piscopo
Take back Eddie Murphy
Give ’em all some place to go
Thirty years later, when the news cycle seems to last as long it takes to read an angry, misspelled tweet, this all seems quaint, of course. But at the time it felt real enough that my social circle had a running joke that the world was going to end on December 31, 1987 because everything had sped up so much.
So it was into this kind of zeitgeist “Jammin’ Me” was cast. And it resonated, becoming his sixth top 20 single, as well as an MTV staple and a live favorite, at least in part because Petty sounded like he thought the lyrics were kinda silly too, but you know, Bob Dylan helped write them, so that was good enough for Tom and should be good enough for you too, buddy.
Also helping resonate: the Keith Richards licks Mike Campbell slyly snuck into the chorus, and how much fun it was — and is — to sing “Quiiat jahaaaaaaaaammmin’ meeeeeeeee!”
And while we never got that Bob Dylan and The Heartbreakers album, Petty wasn’t even close to finishing his work with Dylan.
“Jammin’ Me” official video
“Jammin’ Me” performed live in Minneapolis, 1999
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