"Mr. Jones" entered the American Top 40 on February 19, 1994, and entered the Top 10 five weeks later. On April 23, "Mr. Jones" passed R. Kelly's "Bump n' Grind", taking the number-one position (which it surrendered, the following week, to Prince's "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World").
The band's surprise success happened to coincide with Kurt Cobain's death. These events took a significant toll on Adam Duritz, the lead vocalist and principal songwriter. Said Duritz in an interview: "We heard that, that [Kurt] had shot himself. And it really scared the hell out of me because I thought, these things in my life are getting so out of control...". These events and feelings were the basis for "Catapult", the first track of Recovering the Satellites.
The primary topic of the song itself is perhaps how two struggling musicians (Duritz and bassist Marty Jones of The Himalayans) "want to be big stars," believing that "when everybody loves me, I will never be lonely." Duritz would later recant these values, and in later concert appearances, "Mr. Jones" was played in a subdued acoustic style, if at all. Most directly referencing this, on the live CD Across a Wire Duritz changes the lyrics "We all wanna be big, big stars, but we got different reasons for that" to "We all wanna be big, big stars, but then we get second thoughts about that," and "when everybody loves you, sometimes that's just about as funky as you can be" to "when everybody loves you, sometimes that's just about as fucked up as you can be."