Tuesday, July 03, 2012

How Tom Jones took over my life.

Have you met this guy? His name is Sir Tom Jones.

He used to be this guy, back in the day:

Let's just pause to contemplate the beauties of youth, shall we?

When we were in the UK a few weeks ago, I noted that he--Tom Jones, of "What's New, Pussycat?" fame--had become a judge on The Voice UK. Which piqued my interest, but only a little bit.

What I remember about 60s and 70s era Tom Jones was how resolutely uncool he always seemed. Big guy, handsome, strong build, tight pants, super wiggly--uncomfortably so--dancer. Shirts unbuttoned to reveal his handsome hairy chest. Sang songs like "What's New, Pussycat?" Which swings, okay, and is catchy in a kind of embarrassing way. But not cool. Too much of an entertainer. Too Vegas.

Counterfacts to this point of view:
  • Tom Jones covered Prince's Kiss. Not bad.
  • Tom Jones was friends with Elvis. A fact that he liked to talk about a lot, apparently, but still.
  • He was working class Welsh. Came up as a bluesy, soulful singer from listening to American music, including Elvis's, on the predecessor to BBC One.
Yet: So Vegas. So very.

Then came the day, recently, when this one song got stuck in my head. A song to which I knew maybe six or seven words, but the melody--if it was indeed a melody, and not snippets of two or more melodies from two or more songs that I was patching together--the melody, I heard it true, and insistently. And I heard it in the voice of Tom Jones.

What's that, pussycat? Why Tom Jones?

Whoa-oa-oa-oa, I cannot tell you. I never owned a single recording, neither 45 nor LP nor CD, of Tom Jones. Tom Jones I quite frankly disdained.  But there he was, singing in my head night and day. Why that song I cannot tell you. Maybe I heard it on some television show or movie?

Here's what I did to try to figure out what the song was:
  • I downloaded the SoundHound app to my iPad, and sang that swath of melody into the app repeatedly, soulfully, passionately and desperately. I came up with all sorts of results, most of which were (a) not the song and (b) perhaps came from Japan? I knew that couldn't be right.
  • I listened to untold numbers of clips of Tom Jones songs on Amazon and YouTube. You cannot imagine. COUNTLESS.
  • I looked up the Tom Jones discography (Wikipedia), and cross-referenced it with tracks listings of obscure CDs. Do you know how many recordings a big lug of a Welsh baritone pop belter made in the mid 60s to mid 70s?  A lot, that's how many. 
  • I sang my melody clip to people. Several people. At a certain point, I didn't care anymore how foolish this no doubt made me seem.
Perhaps now is a good point to insert this fact into my narrative: I had decided that this quest was going to become a poem. So I also
  • started to research Tom Jones himself.
Turns out that he had a slump in terms of popularity, late 70s into the 80s, although he generally did 10 weeks in Vegas a year--he was always popular there. His recordings mostly stopped charting, with a few exceptions. But then he signed with Interscope, and later did a Johnny Cash-style reputation renovation with a stripped-down recording called Praise and Blame, which he released in 2010. This recording, the people, is the first Tom Jones recording that I ever owned. I downloaded it yesterday.

I also may have to download mp3s of a few choice cuts I found in my Tom Jones research. What can I say--there are a few great ones. He has an indisputably fine voice, and there's something at least a little likeable about someone who keeps singing way past their superstar moment.

Also, due to a stray comment from an old friend on Facebook, I found this inspiring gem. Do not hesitate to listen to it, because it is choice:

Isn't that kind of amazing? How sexy are the two of them, anyway?

But what about my song, you ask? Well, today, I tried again in earnest with SoundHound. This was after singing the melody, twice, to singing son at lunch. It did not ring a bell with him, and really, why would it have? It was an artifact of my youth, if it even existed at all. So again I sang to my iPad like an idiot. And after a couple of tries, here's what it came up with:

Yep, that's my song, it totally is. What I couldn't stop hearing was the bridge, the part that begins "whenever I," which I remembered as "so look around" (hear how they have the exact same rhythm?). And here's a key fact:  Tom Jones never once recorded this song, so far as I can tell, and I would know, considering my new and impressive Tom Jones scholarship. 

But in my mind, Tom Jones's version is way better than this, the original; better than David Cassidy's, who covered it, and better even than Dusty Springfield's version. Tom Jones sang the hell out of this song--in my mind.

(I am still working on that poem.)


  1. The beauties of youth indeed.

    Prince's Kiss indeed.

    Very sexy--hot indeed.

    Totally sang the hell out of that song. Indeed.

    Can't wait for the poem.

  2. http://youtu.be/EBjuoMy9FUU
    Might be one of my fave Tom Jones songs. This post and those pictures of Tom Jones reminded me of this website which basically has all the oldsters looking hot when they were younger.
    http://nerdboyfriend.com/ Plus where to buy similar clothes in case you want to dress up your nerd boyfriend up.
    Your welcome.

  3. AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!



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