Album: The Last DJ (2002)
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  • This is a commentary on the corporate takeover of radio stations. In the late '90s, stations began computerizing their playlists and having DJs record their shows ahead of time, which saved money for the station owners. The practice of pre-recording a show is known as voice-tracking, and allows a DJ to tape a show from another location whenever he wants. Many station groups will have one DJ voice-track a bunch of shows on many different stations every day. Since the DJ is not local and is recording the show ahead of time, he cannot refer to timely events and must make an effort to connect with an audience he does not know.
  • Predictably, this song got very little airplay, which in a way proved Petty's point, something he would point out when he performed the song live.
  • Petty told Mojo magazine January 2010 that this song is often misunderstood. He explained: "Radio was just a metaphor. 'The Last DJ' was really about losing our moral compass, our moral center. We don't care who gets hurt any more in the quest for the dollar. That was what I was trying to say. My mistake was hanging so much of it on the music business; where had I been, under a rock?"
  • The influential KLOS disc jockey Jim Ladd is often cited as the inspiration for this song, and Petty wrote in the album liner notes, "Thanks to Jim Ladd for his inspiration and courage."

    A California songwriter named Jim Wagner sued both Petty and Ladd over this song, claiming it was based on a song he wrote in 2000 called "The Last Great Radio DJ." According to the $4.5 million suit, Wagner claims he sent a demo of the song to Ladd, who then gave it Petty. Petty responded to the lawsuit, stating, "My song, 'The Last DJ,' was written completely without any outside influence. It is a wholly original composition. Claiming that Jim Ladd ever gave me another piece of music or discussed the plaintiff or his song with me in any way whatsoever is a total falsehood."

    While Ladd is often referred to as "The Last DJ" from this song, he and Petty downplay his influence on the song. When Ladd was laid off from KLOS in 2011 as part of an industrywide purge of local disc jockeys, Rolling Stone referred to him as the inspiration behind the song.

Comments: 18

  • Record Rep from La, Ca Js from Milwaukee has absolutely zero proof of any of those claims. All bogus. Jim & Tom go back with a friendship many a year to when Jim was on KMET. That’s a fact.
  • Dave from Santa Fe, NmWell .... two things here. Wasn't Jim Ladd on KMET when one day it just turned into an easy listening station with no explanation of what happened? And we never heard from Jim, Mary, and Shadoe et. al. again? Jc from NY ... are you referring to Wolfman Jack?
  • Js from Milwaukee, WiA friend of Howie Epsteins in Milwaukee made up the title The Last DJ, then the Hay Hay Hay, Plus a bunch of other ideas for the last DJ album and the Echo album. This got to Howie then to Tom Petty. That's why Petty has the back of his head on front face on back of album. This was suggested by idea man. Petty stuck with the story of Jim Ladd because that was suggested to him, in case the idea man didn't contact Petty about possible funds that should be paid to idea man. Petty didn't want to contact idea man because he was unsure of amounts of money that might be requested. Then Howie died. Idea man would like some money, not as much as Petty is afraid of. Many people in Milw. Know of this. Its funny to hear the other stories.
  • Jim from Long Beach, CaThis is about Jim Ladd, becouse he is the last DJ. Thee will bever be one like him and he is still on the Airwaves here in LA. KLOS 95.5 FM. The Man is a Legend..
  • Dave from St. Louis, MoTo correct what someone said earlier...Clear Channel did NOT ban this song. I worked for a CC station at the time it was released and we spun the crap out of it. It wound up peaking @ #22 on the mainstream rock charts. A great song about a great guy (Jim Ladd)!
  • Joanne from Houston, TxThey did name themselves!! Take it from someone who never became a corporate "whore" as Tom Petty says in this song. I work for a great company now; once I left that company he names.
  • Mark from Bangor, Mewkit 100.3,,,,stephen kings own rock n roll station,,,locally owned,,locally staffed,,24/7 station,,,lucky i live where i do,,,and STILL have The Last DJ's robot radio?,,,dont have it on MY presets,,,checkem out folks,,, enjoy
  • Mark from Bangor, Mewkit 100.3,,,,stephen kings own rock n roll station,,,locally owned,,locally staffed,,24/7 station,,,lucky i live where i do,,,and STILL have The Last DJ's robot radio?,,,dont have it on MY presets,,,checkem out folks,,, enjoy
  • Jim from Burbank, CaAdding to Ray's comments from Utah, that's right. The DJ he refers to is Jim Ladd. He's a legendary L.A. DJ going back to 1969, and currently works with me at KLOS 95.5 FM (, now the only major classic rock station in L.A. Jim's show is on in the weekday evenings and although we're corporate, management recognizes Jim's great history and he still plays what he wants! So he didn't have to go to Mexico! You can listen to Jim's show via the station's website. His bio is there too. Hope you all enjoy learning more about...the last DJ.
    - Jim (no not Ladd), Burbank, CA
  • Ray from Bonneville Salt Flats, UtThe DJ's name is Jim Laad. I can't find much info on him on the net, though.
  • Lisa from Austin, TxMy boyfriend is probably the last real DJ in Austin, TX. However, he was let go about a month ago because a corporation took over. If there was ever a song written about the man I am talking about, it is the LAST DJ. There will never be any more like him. He played what he wanted and the people loved it. Corporations have stopped the music.
  • Jc from New York, NyThis song is based on a real-life DJ in California who, after being told what to play, relocated to Mexico, just ascross the border. From there he was not beholden to the rules and regualtions in the states but still stayed true to form for his fans who could still listen.

    I thought one of you guys on here was smart enough to have that DJs name...guess not.
  • Heather from Truckee, CaI think that it could also be referring to the advent of satelite radio with the line, "all the boys upstairs want to see How much you'll pay for what you used to get for free"
  • Dee from Northfield, IlThis song is pretty damn punk. That's it. It's punk without the punk-style music.
  • Paul from Marysville, WaActually, radio conglomerate Clear Channel banned this song. It didn't promote violence or drug use-- but it still hit too close to home for them. Tom was reportedly amazed; he didn't even know Clear Channel owned any radio stations-- he thought they just owned concert venues. He said "I didn't name them-- they named themselves!"
  • James from Tewkesbury, EnglandThis song is incredible, Tom Petty is incredible.
  • Keith from Slc, UtThose of us who have been in broadcast know the song -- and the sentiment -- well. Robot radio is like listening to reruns. Hey, hey, hey!
  • Scott from Bismarck, Ndthink it hit number one on the rock and roll charts
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