The Petty Archives

On the scene: Petty's superpowered critique
By Debora Shaulis
Youngstown Vindicator - October 10, 2002

What's that draped across Tom Petty's shoulders -- Superman's cape?

It'll take super-human power to permeate the gray matter of members of the music industry, but that's what Petty and the Heartbreakers want to do with the new CD, "The Last DJ." Petty wrote every song, and no one escapes his X-ray vision -- not the money-grubbing record company executives (the focus of the cynical song "Joe"), the power-hungry radio station owners (the reason for the title track), the stars who allow their talent to be superseded by marketing strategies, nor the folks who sit in the most expensive concert seats.

The Last DJ | Tom petty and the Heartbreakers | (Warner)
By Darryl Sterdan
CANOE - October 11, 2002

Conventional wisdom says that everybody loves an angry young man and nobody likes an angry old one.

Well, on behalf of angry old men everywhere, conventional wisdom can go take a flying leap. Better still, it can go take a listen to Tom Petty's superbly vitriolic new album and realize the error of its ways.

The Last DJ, the 14th album of Petty's 26-year recording career, captures the shaggy heartland rocker at his most curmudgeonly, frustrated and disillusioned -- and at his most vital and outspoken. More or less one long and bitter harangue against the arrogance, ignorance and greed of the music industry, many of The Last DJ's dozen egdy, guitar-driven tracks lash out at corporate-sponsored rock tours (Money Becomes King), homogenized radio conglomerates (The Last DJ) and the heartless, manipulative record moguls (Joe) that "want to see how much you'll pay for what you used to get for free."

Granted, on the one hand, there's a certain irony in hearing Petty -- a guy who's been a major-label act longer than Britney's been alive -- biting the hand that feeds him with lyrics like, "Bring me a girl, they're always the best / You put 'em onstage and you have 'em undress." But the truth is, Petty's been raging against the star-maker machinery for almost as long as he's been part of it -- oldsters will remember he threatened to change the title of 1981's Hard Promises to $8.98 to sabotage a proposed price increase by his label. Since then, he's continued to walk that walk, bitching about videos, eschewing corporate sponsors and refusing to sell his music for ads.

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Tom Petty on the politics of music
By David Bauder
The Beaufort Gazette - October 13, 2002

The rock veteran makes a concept album striking at the music business
NEW YORK -- Cue the first few cuts on the new Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers album and you may wonder why they're still making music in the first place.

The songs -- from the perspective of a musician whose career started "when money wasn't king" -- scald the music business from several different directions.

There are disc jockeys with hands tied by corporate owners, cynical executives getting rich off disposable pop starts, and a singer performing for wine-sipping poseurs while his real fans look on, disheartened, from the cheap seats.

Is this a career suicide note from an act only seven months removed from induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

Keep listening.

MUSIC: It's Radio That Breaks His Heart
By Jon Pareles
The New York Times - October 13, 2002

Rock musicians make a show of defying authority, but rare are the ones who vent any misgivings about the radio stations that can turn their songs into hits. Elvis Costello did it with "Radio, Radio," and on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' new album, "The Last D J" (Warner Brothers), Mr. Petty bemoans big media with the album's title song, a tribute to "the last DJ who plays what he wants to play."

Yet with its straightforward tune and Byrds-rooted arrangement, "The Last DJ" has been embraced by radio stations, including many that are part of increasingly uniform national chains. "One place called it anti-radio, which fascinated me," Mr. Petty said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. "I've never heard a more pro-radio song. I think radio at its best was an art form, and they're in danger of completely obliterating it. The radio used to represent your local area really well, and if it's all just a network feed and we're all hearing the same song and the same guy talking, we're not going to be entertained."

Tom Petty to Q-104: Nothing Personal
By David Hinckley
New York Daily News - Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Tom Petty won't back down. But occasionally, he may issue a clarification.

That's what he has done for WAXQ (104.3 FM), the classic-rock station, after it expressed concern about the title track from his new CD, "The Last DJ."

A sharp swipe at what happens to radio creativity when corporations impose cookie-cutter playlists and silence the deejays, "The Last DJ" goes, in part:

"Well the top brass don't like him talking so much
And he won't play what they say to play
And he don't want to change what don't need to change
And there goes the last DJ
And there goes your freedom of choice
There goes the last human voice
There goes the last DJ"

"It's a great record," says WAXQ program director Bob Buchmann. "But even though we give our jocks plenty of room to play requests and speak, we were a little nervous listeners might think this song was aimed at us."

Petty and Heartbreakers rock out to new songs off
By Daniel Miller
The Daily Bruin - October 16, 200

Who more fitting than Jim Ladd, one of the last free-form radio DJ’s, to introduce Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for their Tuesday night show, as the band played its new album, "The Last DJ," in its entirety at the Grand Olympic Auditorium?

It’s not even too far a jump to conjecture that the album’s title track is about Ladd, who "plays what he wants to play." Tuesday’s show was broadcast live to radio stations and movie theaters around the nation, and the band put on an entertaining show for an hour and 45 minutes for those in the building and across the country.

Playing the album’s tracks in the order they appear on the LP, the band was accompanied by an orchestra conducted by Jon Brion, who arranged the strings on the album. Songs like "Money Becomes King" benefited from this collaboration, as Petty sneered about the terrible music industry over flowing violins and clanging guitars.

CD Reviews: Tom Petty attacks corporate music
The Free Lance-Star - October 17, 2002

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | "The Last DJ" | Warner Bros.
There's a famous scene in the 1976 film classic "Network" in which the late Peter Finch has had enough and sounds "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" "Network" satirized a struggling TV network that would air anything to get ratings.

With the music industry subbing for television, Tom Petty is Peter Finch on his group's bitterly fed-up and tense new CD, "The Last DJ."

On the title track, Petty mourns the sorry state of soulless corporate radio in which the individual voice is lost.

"There goes the last DJ / Who plays what he wants to play / And says what he wants to say / There goes your freedom of choice / There goes the last human voice."

"Money Becomes King" traces a once-idealistic rocker corrupted by the system. "Johnny rock that Golden Circle/And all those VIPs/And that music that had freed us/Became a tired routine."

Tom Petty the heartbroken
By Richard Cromelin
The Los Angeles Times - October 17, 2002

The indignant pop veteran pines for - and delivers - deeply felt rock at the Grand Olympic.
With their indictments of mediocrity in general and the music biz in particular, the most in-your-face songs on Tom Petty's new album have suddenly turned the veteran rock musician into a sort of pop-culture vigilante, a longhaired Dirty Harry just begging a trembling record company weasel to make his day.

During his concert at the Grand Olympic Auditorium on Tuesday, Petty addressed this portrayal, which has been slapped on him since the release last week of "The Last DJ."

"I'm not only mad," Petty told the crowd in the auditorium, as well as the audience on a simultaneous radio broadcast and theater telecast. "There's a lot of hope left in this world, and this song is supposed to symbolize that."

Petty runs down, and over, American dream
By Edna Gundersen
USA Today - October 17, 2002

MALIBU, Calif. — Embattled and embittered, Tom Petty takes on the music industry and corporate America on The Last DJ, the rocker's battle cry for moral reform.

He targets money-grubbing moguls, tour sponsorships, radio's homogenized playlists and apathetic fans, all metaphors for grander crimes rampant in a profit-driven society. On Money Becomes King, a fan sees rock 'n' roll idealism trampled under a greed stampede. The title track bemoans the personality-free monotony on airwaves. Joe studies revenue gluttons who poison art.

"I left nobody out," Petty says. "I pick on the artist, the audience, everyone. And not just in the music industry. It could be any business. The problem is greed, pure and simple. Never mind a healthy profit; the idea is: 'We want all the money we can get. We want every damn dime out there, and our computers can show us where every dime is.' The mom-and-pop store had to care about its customers and its products to survive. These giant corporations don't care about anything but profit."