S7E1 Jammin' Me

               
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Length: 16:55 - Release Date: March 8, 2023

Season seven is here and season six is but a faded memory! Today's episode covers the lead track from Let me Up (I've Had Enough!), Jammin' Me.

When Paul asks Tom, “When you write with Bob, is that something where you’re exchanging lines?”, his response is “Yeah, just like you’d think. I remember we would write a lot more verses than we needed. We didthat in the Wilburys too. It’s a great honour to work with someone so great. And more than an honour; it was fun, because he’s really good at it.”

Check out the song here: https://youtu.be/TCFAzPl1QmE

You can find the live version from the '97 Fillmore show here: https://youtu.be/ZARUZRe0spk

Transcript

(* Note - the transcript is as-written before recording. I usually change a few sentences or words here and there on the hoof as I'm speaking.)

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, my fine friends. Welcome to the first episode of a shiny, sparkly, brand new season (number seven) of the Tom Petty Project Podcast! I am your host, Kevin Brown. This is the weekly podcast that digs into the entire Tom Petty catalog song by song, album by album and includes conversations with musicians, fans, and people connected with Tom along the way. 

I hope you enjoyed last week’s dive into Pack Up the Plantation Live! It was nice to get into some of the live stuff in sequence and I think John and I will be going back to cover the Official Live Leg in its entirety. I hadn’t intended, originally, to cover those until the end, but it makes  some sense to do album reviews of the live records in the right order, so from now on, that’s what we’ll be doing!

Today’s episode covers the first track from Let Me Up I’ve Had Enough, the jagged, abrasive, Jammin’ Me.

Jammin Me was one of the very first collaborations with Bob Dylan, pre-Wilburys. The Heartbreakers had toured with Dylan on the True Confessions Tour and were hanging out at the Sunset Marquis Hotel in Hollywood. I’m not sure if this was during the break between the two legs of the tour or afterwards, but as Tom relays to Paul Zollo in “Conversations with Tom Petty”, “We wrote a couple of songs that day. There was another one called “Got My Mind Made Up” That was on one of his albums - Knocked Out Loaded. I produced the track.” The Heartbreakers had also done a version of the track which wasn’t included on the album but later included on the Playback boxset. Tom goes on to tell Paul about the way Jammin Me evolved by saying, “I took really just the lyrics and completely rewrote the music with Mike. And then I sent it over to Bob to see if it easy okay”, and he said “Yeah sure”. So that’s the extent I talked about it with him.” I just love the utterly magnificent Dylanness in that response. It reminds me a little of the time a producer said during a session “Hey Bob, you know what would sound pretty cool there? A Salvation Army band” to which Dylan simply said “Well go git one!” It would be really interesting to hear the original arrangement of that to see how different it became once Tom and Mike had rewritten it. 

When Paul asks Tom, “When you write with Bob, is that something where you’re exchanging lines?”, his response is “Yeah, just like you’d think. I remember we would write a lot more verses than we needed. We did that in the Wilburys too. It’s a great honour to work with someone so great. And more than an honour; it was fun, because he’s really good at it.”

The track hit number one on the US Rock chart and peaked at 18 on the Billboard hot 100, making it the eighth-highest charting single in the Heartbreakers catalogue. Despite this, the song was overlooked for 1993’s Greatest Hits album which included a track, Even the Losers, that was never actually released as a single. I’m sure my season end co-host John and I will definitely be digging into that decision and what could have been behind it when we cover the Greatest Hits record.

The song opens, as so many Heartbreakers’ rockers does, with a fill from Stan Lynch on drums, but it’s also accompanied by what I think is only the second pick-slide on guitar. It’s a slightly awkward timing which comes in on the three before the intro chorus riff begins on the following one. It’s a very simple riff indeed with a rolling bass underneath it which is mixed pretty high. We hear some organ mixed down fairly low and Benmont plays a little descending lick on the piano in the last two bars. That little lick sounds an awful lot to me like one of the fills he adds into Dog on the Run, the original song featured on Official Live Leg but never recorded in the studio. Different key obviously but it has the same cadence and the same basic descending structure, so there may have been a little musical recycling going on there.

At this point, I did want to introduce a theme that’s going to run through most of the songs on this album; production. I don’t love the production on the album overall and I think that the intro to this track is one of the examples I’d point to. It doesn’t have the same sharp separation of sound that all the albums produced by an external producer had. If you think about how amazing Torpedoes or Hard Promises sound, or the clarity and precision on Full Moon Fever, Into the Great Wide Open, or Wildflowers, then compare it to the opening of this song. Sonically, right from the get go, there’s a slightly cluttered muddiness to the sound here which blends everything together in a way that makes it slightly more difficult to pick out the individual parts. I’ll talk more about that at the end though. 

As the up-down main riff kicks into the first verse, with the bass following, the rest of the keyboards are stripped away and you get a lot of space in this section of the song. It has a really raw power to it reminiscent of the Stones or even a band like the Clash. We also get something that Christopher Walken’s Bruce Dickinson character would very much approve of; plenty cowbell! When we hit the second part of the verse, the first take back lines, Benmont’s organ is reintroduced lightly, with a single note persisting through the final four bars. There’s also another cool little descending piano run, but it’s played in the lower register and again gets buried a little by the muddy production.

We then head into the chorus and which is again a really Stonesy rock n roll section, especially with that chord change from A-E, to D-A. It also has some sumptuous piano licks in there with a big sweep to end the section. I like the rhythmic change in that middle section of the chorus, underneath the “well you can keep me painted in a corner”, which almost feels like a mini-bridge inside the chorus. I don’t recall hearing them do this before on a song and it’s one of those little “Ooo, that’s kinda neat!” moments which are sprinkled all over the Heartbreaker’s catalogue.

The second verse proceeds exactly as the first did. There’s no additions, with the only real change being the lack or organ and another glorious piano sweep from Benmont to lead into the second chorus, which is, again, basically a carbon copy of the first, with Tom enunciating some of the phrases slightly differently. 

The bridge is a big minor key switch over which Tom opines about Iranian torture, Steve Jobs, and front wheel drive vehicles. So this song becomes one of the very, very rare instances of being dated because of the lyrical content. They’re pretty specific references to the period during which the record was made, with the Ayatollah of Iran being a prominent and infamous figure in world news at the time. Steve Jobs was also obviously huge news at the time and these cultural touchpoints root this song very firmly in the mid to late eighties. It’s a pretty solid line though referring to “the apple in young Steve’s eye”. They also have that 80s era feel in the spoken-word vocal style. It doesn’t land quite as sweetly as the same style in Here Comes My Girl perhaps, but it does provide some sonic movement in a song that has more or less been pretty straight ahead. Coming out of that bridge, we get the first part of the chorus again before the song leads into the final verse. If you listen to the left channel underneath that “Quit jamming me” part, there’s a super cool little guitar fill from Mike. The last verse is once again that stripped back part with little variation and we head into the final chorus expecting the song to repeat to fade. We do get a killer little Stan Lynch hitch-step fill underneath that final “Painted in a corner”  though but overall, the verse sections are pretty much the same, as are the chorus sections.

Alright folks, It’s time for some Petty Trivia! 

Your question from the end of season six was this: Which legendary artist covered the title track from Southern Accents, in 1996. Was it a) Waylon Jennings, b) Willie Nelson, c) Johnny Cash, or d) Kris Kristofferson?

The answer, of course, was the Man in Black. It must have been quite a trip for the band to record that song but have Cash sing it. The Heartbreakers were the house band for the album,  with handful of other musicians dropping by to sit in. The Heartbreakers in 1996 though all played on Cash’s cover. I will say that although I love Johnny Cash, I struggle with this cover as I love the original so, so much. Johnny’s vocal is much different, as you’d expect, especially when drops into that low register of course. And then the arrangement fits his vocal so brilliantly. It must have been a ton of fun to reimagine the song for a different singer. Also really cool how Johnny changed “that drunk tank in Atlanta is just a motel room to me” to “was just a motel room to me”. I think I remember reading somewhere that that line really connected with Johnny and reminded him of his younger self. Pretty cool! 

Your question for this week is this; How many Tom Petty solo and Heartbreakers studio albums contain fifteen tracks? Is it a) zero, b) 4, c) 1, or d) 3?

Alright, back to the song.

During the fade out, there are some great little fills from both Mike and Benmont but they’re pretty quiet. There’s also another big Stan Lynch fill right near the end of that very long fad. It’s probably about a forty second fade out and something I’m going to chat to John about (and actually might try cutting in myself to see how it sounds, is if instead of cutting out, they’d ended on that duh duh duh dah. Dah duh duh duh. When the song was played live, it had the big stadium rock ending, which works well, but I’m left feeling as if the song just sort of peters out. Unlike much of their previous work, there’s very little build in this one and at times, it almost has an unfinished feel to it. Maybe it’s the unusual way the song was written and arranged, or maybe it’s a product of that lack of an external ear, but for some reason, I just feel a little unfulfilled when I listen to the album version of the song. The live version from the Fillmore, which was included on both the live anthology and the Fillmore release are both superior to the studio recording and give the song more of a jam feel (no pun intended). 

The lyrics in this one did cause a bit of a stir and I do wonder if that’s a part of the reason it was left off the Greatest Hits. Take back Vanessa Redgrave. Take back Joe Piscopo. Take back Eddie Murphy. Give ‘em all some place to go. Tom tells Paul Zollo “That was all Bob, that verse about Eddie Murphy. Which embarrassed me a little bit because I remember seeing Eddie Murphy on TV really pissed off about it.” He goes on to say “I had nothing against Eddie Murphy or Vanessa Redgrave. I just thought what Dylan was talking about was media overload and being slammed with so many things at once.” And with all the pop culture references pervading the lyrics of this one, you can see how it definitely fits that commentary about modern life and the over saturation of media that was happening during that period. The song was played sporadically in 1987, 89, and 97 before becoming a virtual ever-present on the 1999 Echo tour. 

OK Pettyheads, that’s all for this week. As I mentioned, the production on this album and definitely on this track leaves me a little unsatisfied. This was a definite reaction to the prolonged, arduous process of getting Southern Accents recorded. Of the album, Tom says to Paul Zollo, “The number one characteristic is that there are only five  Heartbreakers on this album. There are not outsiders on it whatsoever. There were no producers, it was just me and Mike and we were doing whatever we felt like doing.”

While this approach can sometimes work, my opinion is that it doesn’t always on this record. An outside producer will often push a band to tighten up a section, or suggest an edit or a retake where a band may think they’ve nailed it. A producer will also have their own characteristic sonic preferences and will be a little more versed in that side of studio craft. Not that I’m suggesting Tom and Mike don’t have that, but I do think it’s telling that this is the only time they ever used this approach. To my mind, it doesn’t work as well as the times they’ve brought in a different set of ears that have some distance from the band and the songs. That way, you tend to get a more honestly critical eye and ear on proceedings. 

Do I think this is a bad song? No, it’s catchy and it gets your foot tapping. It’s also a fun live song and I really do like the bridge in this one as well as some of the ripping piano that Benmont Tench is laying down. But is it a great Heartbreakers song? I would say definitely not. And as I said previously, I think it suffers from slightly weak production that doesn’t get the best out of the track. So with all that said, I’m going to give Jammin Me a 7 out of 10.


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Petty Trivia

QUESTION: How many Tom Petty solo and Heartbreakers studio albums contain fifteen tracks? Is it a) zero, b) 4, c) 1, or d) 3?

ANSWER: The answer is, b) 4. The eventual studio release of Wildflowers was pared down from it’s double-album concept to 15 songs over four vinyl sides. The following two albums, Songs and Music from “She’s the One” and Echo also had fifteen tracks meaning Rick Rubin hit fifteen on all three albums he produced with Tom and the Heartbreakers. The last album to contain fifteen tracks is also the longest album in the Heartbreakers catalogue, Mojo, which clocks in at sixty five minutes and nine seconds.

Lyrics

You got me in a corner
You got me against the wall
I got nowhere to go
I got nowhere to fall

Take back your insurance
Baby nothin's guaranteed
Take back your acid rain
Baby let your tv bleed

You're jammin' me, you're jammin' me
Quit jammin' me
Baby you can keep me
Painted in a corner
You can look away but it's not over

Take back your angry slander
Take back your pension plan
Take back your ups and
Downs of your life
In raisin land

Take back Vanessa Redgrave
Take back Joe Piscopo
Take back Eddie Murphy
Give 'em all someplace to go

You're jammin' me, you're jammin' me
Quit jammin' me
Baby you can keep me
Painted in a corner
You can look away but it's not over

Take back your Iranian torture
And the apple in young Steve's eye
Yeah, take back your losing streak
Check your front wheel drive

Take back Pasadena
Take back El Salvador
Take back that country club
They're tryin' to build outside my door

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