In this reflective song, Tom Petty pictures himself away from it all, looking down from above in a place where nothing can bother him. He said the song was about "escapism."
This is one of the few songs that was intensely personal for Petty, so much so that once the Echo tour was over, he refused to play it. He was dealing with a lot of issues when he wrote it, including a divorce from his first wife and a descent into heroin addition. He told Harp in 2005: "Last year we went out with the Black Crowes and every night Kate Hudson would go 'please play 'Room at the Top.'' I never said it to her but it would be a cold day in hell before I play that. Sometimes it is easier to say things if you can slide into someone else's character. I'm sure novelists do it all the time, they can invent characters and say all sorts of things. It wasn't like that with 'Room At The Top.' Things were so bad in my life when I was making Echo that there's songs I don't even remember writing."
The title is a play on the phrase "there's always room at the top," meaning anyone can achieve success. Petty's song flips this on its head, turning the "room at the top" into a kind of inner sanctuary.
Jason E from CaliforniaEddie Vedder did a beautiful rendition of "Room at the Top" at the 90th Academy Awards for the In Memoriam segment of the show. The song is about being at a place where there are no problems, no troubles, and peace of mind. The world is a jacked up place and so many things that it's been troubling humanity, such as war, political corruption, and economic meltdown. It was a great selection for the performance and to remember of the people in the movie business who left us in the last 12 months.