You can't turn him into a company man. Of course when The Last DJ came out I was pumped. I mean come on Tom was writing about me ...right? This album without going through it track by track is what every one of us wants to say back to the man. What does that mean? Tom was one of us. Tom spoke for us in his lyrics.
Honestly when the disc came out I was looking for more of Damn the Torpedoes. Tom's musical vision had evolved of course how could it not? True artists evolve they don't necessarily follow the trend. Yet we know we music lovers of many starving artists trying to grab that toe hold and who will do anything to grab onto popularity and make the killing. Tom tried for sure he didn't back into it but he also came from a very genuine point of view. It's interesting because a lot of us I sure know I do and did have the same view. If it sounds good to me people will like it or as Robben Ford once said do your own thing the people will find you. Sage like advice sometimes seems a no brainer but too many potential artists get over managed or sell out. You can't blame them they are trying to eat, put the bread on the table but I think the Bard had it right. To thy own self be true. And as far as Tom Petty goes we were all lucky enough that he held to those tenants.
The Last DJ bursts forth in a beautiful array of acoustic guitar strums and delivers the truth. In fact this whole album is track for track a takedown of the recording industry. Tom makes us laugh along the way (a craving for lite beer) but also peppers the screed against the industry with heart felt ballads. Dreamville is a beautiful tune that evokes memories of days of yore and Like a Diamond evokes a hopeful beautiful spirit. The album closes with the magnificent Can't Stop the Sun.
When I first saw Can’t Stop the Sun in concert the lighting for that number was biblical as they shot an array of lights straight out from behind the band right into the audience during the Shining lyric. It was a horizontal lighting array of white light that I can still see to this day. Tom and the Heartbreakers always had the visual down. The Last Chance for Mary Jane shoot is a hoot. Watch it on You Tube if you haven't seen it in a while. I love all of Tom's slacker like Florida boy expressions, laid backness and shuffle. He embodied a pretty righteous attitude which I respect and emulated myself growing up. I need people like Tom to remind me of my former self so as to not get too caught up in the day to day distractions gobbled up by business negotiating contracts and the politics of it all. I think that’s why the Big Lebowski was such a hit even though Jeff played it so hilariously over the top.
Anyway when this album hit my ears I was searching for American Girl what I got took a while for me to grab hold of but now I prefer to the earlier Tom. It's like we evolved together. My wife and I are constantly shrugging our shoulders and saying in unbelievable and undeniable recognition, "did he ever write a bad song".
The answer is well sure maybe but he was damn careful enough not to let us hear them. Those we did hear the lyrics always were diamonds and the chorus’s gold.
The Last DJ delivers the goods in every way imaginable. There are power chords, intricate production work, acoustic guitars, Rickenbacher’s jangling, delicate keyboard work, powerful drumming and a theme running through the album that ties it all together from the opening lament to the closing ray of hope. Every track is satisfying. The mixes between songs keeping to the theme of transmission. The heavy in your face truth of Joe the title track and When Money Becomes King are the songs deep in your rebel heart you wish you wrote and I am sure glad someone did.
Get them out play them again. This album is a must for any child dreaming of a recording career. And the influences span Beck, the Beatles, The Byrds. I get a real subtle Jeff Lynne flavor from time to time as well. But there are softer influences and they balance the album beautifully.
Tom's lyrics in Like A Diamond, are compelling and romantic and Mike's lead work holds back so achingly its enormous. Even the little ode to the Beach Boys in the harmony chorus towards the end is just the beautiful and fun subtle touch that makes a recording great. It's just so perfect. The bass line reminds me of Abbey Road and Benmont's tender keyboard at the end will put a lump in your throat. This album should not be overshadowed by anything they have ever recorded. And Blue Sunday is a wonderful story telling song crafted around simple chord changes so there is much more here than just calling out the industry.
You and Me and the road ahead is a bouncy little jaunt that feels like freedom itself. It's hopeful, reaffirming and bucolic. It's a perfect little pallet cleanser. The Man Who Loves Women is Tom's satirical side coming out and it’s hilarious wrapped up in what is definitely a Beatleesque like Abbey Road Maxwell Hammer fun ditty complete with whistling. It's a great mood changer and worlds away from Joe.
May My Love Travel with you always...I sure hope so Tom you know mine will with you. Because I'm the lonely DJ digging the ditch trying to keep the flames from the Temple.
I'll keep digging brother not on my watch…..never!