Tag Archives: Tom Jones

Traveling in time

Tom Jones concert, Indianapolis, Sept. 26, 2022

When we were up north last weekend, we walked past a small-town corner drug store. Flashback.

We didn’t go in, but I stood there on the corner, wishing I could step inside and find baseball cards, comic books, 45 rpm records and/or some candy (and, Janet says, cosmetics suitable for teenage girls who didn’t have much money).

That would have taken us back to 1969, a time when, at 9/8 Central, we watched “This Is Tom Jones” on ABC.

Tom Jones was one of my role models as I was growing up. You gotta learn your way somehow, and he seemed a pretty good guide to a 12-year-old.

I vividly recall watching “This Is Tom Jones” with my grandmother — and probably my aunt and my girl cousins as well — all of whom thought he was great. A wonderful family time long gone.

In 1969, I never imagined I’d someday see Tom Jones live, but in 2003 we did, at the local casino ballroom. Backed by a Vegas-style show band, he was great.

Never thought we’d have the opportunity to see Tom Jones again, but as it turned out, seeing Tom Jones was to be a gift for me this year. (Never mind that I screwed up the plans almost immediately, jumping online to buy the tickets pretty much right after Janet asked me where I wanted to see him.)

Fast forward to Monday night in Indianapolis. Tom Jones is 82 now, a world treasure still in spectacularly full voice. A tremendous show, almost 19 years after our first show, and much better than our first show.

Sir Tom is moving gingerly these days because he’s getting a hip replaced at the end of October. He did the entire show while sitting on a stool, as you see above. “Now I’m hipper than hip,” he said, dropping a dad joke as he opened the show.

That is Tom Jones’ appeal today. He’s seen and done it all, and is still here to sing and tell those stories with considerable style and affection. (BTW, all parties have gracefully aged out of the panty-tossing era. The only fabric flashed Monday night was a Welsh flag unfurled in the front row.)

Sir Tom introduced the third song with a leisurely retelling of the story of how his first No. 1 hit came to be in 1965. The Murat Theatre crowd jumped to its feet when it heard the first few notes of “It’s Not Unusual.”

Likewise the next song, starting with a winding and good-natured retelling of the story of how he initially wasn’t impressed with the song brought to him by Burt Bacharach later that year. “What’s New Pussycat?” became a sing-along, with Sir Tom directing the choir as seen above.

I smiled throughout “Green, Green Grass of Home” because my friends long ago ruined this song for me. We’d play it on the jukebox at the bar and sing along. However, in our version, we smoked the “Green, Green Grass of Home” and added a lewd lyric I won’t repeat here. Alcohol was involved.

For those wondering when the faithful bolt for the bar and the restrooms during a Tom Jones show, his introduction of a Bob Dylan cover — “One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below)” — does the trick.

Four songs later, and 13 songs into his show, Sir Tom tore into “Delilah.” Chills.

Interestingly, though, that was the last of the four long-ago hits he sang. No “Thunderball,” no “Daughter of Darkness,” no “I (Who Have Nothing),” not even “She’s A Lady,” which someone nearby so wanted to hear.

All good, because the Murat Theatre crowd pretty much lost its shit when Sir Tom strutted into a scorching cover of Prince’s “Kiss.”

Think about that for a minute. We no longer have Prince to perform “Kiss” for us. But we have Tom Jones, who so memorably covered it with Art of Noise in 1988 — a career-redefining moment almost 35 years ago now — still here to perform it for us, and to blow minds in the process.

Upon finishing, Sir Tom confessed to the wrought-out crowd that had he been better able to walk off stage, that would be when they’d take a break and return for an encore. So they just segued into the encore, starting with a lovely valedictory number, “One Hell of a Life” by Welsh songwriter Katell Keineg.

Then Sir Tom took us home to church. The Church of Rock N’ Roll.

Never thought I’d hear a better live version of “Strange Things Happening Every Day” than fellow baritone Sleepy LaBeef — and I saw him several times — but Tom Jones is still here to sing it for us and blow minds, and Sleepy LaBeef is not.

Our evening with Sir Tom ended with old friends, more or less a medley covering Chuck Berry (Sir Tom and Elvis went to see him in Vegas) and Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, both of whom memorably guested on “This Is Tom Jones” in … you know it … 1969.

Tom Jones’ setlist at the Murat Theatre in Indianapolis on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022: “I’m Growing Old,” “It’s Not Dark Yet,” “It’s Not Unusual,” “What’s New Pussycat?,” “The Windmills of Your Mind,” “Sex Bomb,” “Popstar,” “Green, Green Grass of Home,” “One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below),” “Talking Reality Television Blues,” “I Won’t Crumble With You If You Fall,” “Tower of Song,” “Delilah,” “Lazarus Man,” “You Can Leave Your Hat On,” “If I Only Knew,” “Kiss,” “One Hell of a Life,” “Strange Things Happening Every Day,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Great Balls of Fire.”


Filed under September 2022, Sounds

Thanksgiving night

This is Thanksgiving night. You may have eaten more than you should. You may have drank more than you should.

On Thanksgiving night 1969, similarly overstuffed, all you can manage is to plop down into an overstuffed chair, turn on the TV and hope to be entertained.

You turn on ABC. Starting at 8 p.m./7 Central, you watch “That Girl” and “Bewitched.” Mindless enough. Then, at 9/8 Central, you watch “This Is Tom Jones.” Tom does a 6-minute medley with Little Richard. Mind blown.

On Thanksgiving night 1974, if you can manage it, you are among the 20,000 staggeringly fortunate people for whom their nightcap is seeing and hearing Elton John at Madison Square Garden in New York. Kiki Dee opens. It is percussionist Ray Cooper’s first New York show with Elton’s band.

Then Elton introduces a special guest.

“Seeing it’s Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving is a joyous occasion, we thought we’d make tonight a little bit of a joyous occasion, ah, by inviting someone up with us onto stage. 
And, ah, I’m sure he will be no stranger to anybody in the audience when I say it’s our great privilege and your great privilege to see and hear Mr. John Lennon!”

They spend 13 minutes together on stage, performing “Whatever Gets You Through The Night,” “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” and “I Saw Her Standing There.” It is Lennon’s last live performance before an audience.

Elton John Band Featuring John Lennon and the Muscle Shoals Horns LP

“Whatever Gets You Through The Night,” “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” and “I Saw Her Standing There,” Elton John and John Lennon, from “Elton John Band Featuring John Lennon And The Muscle Shoals Horns,” 1976. (My copy is a German import from 1981.)

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Filed under November 2020, Sounds

Meanwhile, back at the blog …

Earlier this year, we shared an appreciation of four music greats who are still with us: Chuck Berry, Little RichardJerry Lee Lewis and Tina Turner. They’re my four. Yours may be different.

Yet that train keeps bearing down on us, taking Scotty Moore, Mack Rice, Bernie Worrell, Ralph Stanley, Wayne Jackson and Chips Moman this month alone. Since we last gathered here, Guy Clark, Candye Kane, Billy Paul, Lonnie Mack and Prince also have left the building.

In a year in which we have lost so many music legends, it seems wise to not stop at four. It also seems wise to not wait too long.

So here are four more music greats who are still with us, all of them still going strong. This is by no means the B team, or the second tier, or anything like that. Just four more worth appreciating here and now.

Mavis Staples, 76. The beloved gospel/soul/R&B singer released a wonderful new record, “Livin’ On A High Note,” in February. That same month, “Mavis,” a documentary profile, premiered on HBO. She’s playing gigs across North America through November, then will receive Kennedy Center Honors in December.

anti hot wacks

“Revolution,” Mavis Staples, from “Hot Wacks,” 2013, a compilation of artists on the Anti- label. A distinctive cover of the Beatles song from one who’s long sung about revolution.

Tom Jones, 76. Sir Tom is performing gigs across Europe this summer in support of “Long Lost Suitcase,” a roots record released last October as the final part of a trilogy that also includes “Praise & Blame” and “Spirit In The Room,” which came out in 2010 and 2012, respectively. “Long Lost Suitcase” also is the companion piece to his memoirs, “Over The Top And Back.” It’s been a tough year, though. His wife of 59 years, Linda, died in April.

tom jones this is tj lp

“Dance of Love,” Tom Jones, from “This is Tom Jones,” 1969. It’s a tune written and done first by Charlie Rich in 1965 on the Smash label.

Dennis Coffey, 75. This Funk Brother is still playing some mean rock and jazz guitar “in the D.” He tweets out his shows at @DennisCoffeyDET, announcing on relatively short notice that he’ll be at the Northern Lights Lounge — his most frequent Detroit gig — or at Motor City Wine, or at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe. His blog is recommended reading. Coffey shares lots of good stories there. Likewise his discography for record collectors. His last record, the solid, self-titled “Dennis Coffey,” came out on Strut Records in 2011. It’s worth checking out.


“Never Can Say Goodbye,” Dennis Coffey, from “Goin’ For Myself,” 1972. A cover of the Jackson 5 tune on which Coffey demonstrates a little bit of soul, a little bit of funk and a bit more jazz.

Gladys Knight, 72. Another of the great ladies of soul, she’s playing gigs in Europe and the United States through October. A solo act for almost 30 years now, she hasn’t had the late-career success of her peers. Widely known today for lush ballads and inspirational songs, Gladys Knight belongs here because of her energetic performances with the Pips in the late ’60s and earliest ’70s on Motown’s Soul label. She really did get down to the real nitty gritty, kids.

gladys knight pips nitty gritty lp

“(I Know) I’m Losing You,” Gladys Knight and the Pips, from “Nitty Gritty,” 1969. When I heard this cut on Sirius XM not too long ago, I was reminded that this is one of my favorite LPs. And, yeah, that’s Dennis Coffey playing guitar on the “Nitty Gritty” single and his wah-wah, fuzz-toned lick about 11 seconds into the intro of “Friendship Train.”


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Filed under June 2016, Sounds

A little variety from Ray’s Corner

There was a crisis at Ray’s Corner the other day.

My dad, who is 87, dropped his TV remote. It shattered. Without it, he can’t watch TV. Watching TV has been my dad’s main source of entertainment for as long as I can remember. You can see where this might be a problem. So we got him a new remote and managed to fix the old one.

However, there still are no variety shows for him to watch.

In the ’60s and ’70s, we frequently heard the sophisticated pop songs of Hal David and Burt Bacharach on those shows. At the time, they worked most often with singer Dionne Warwick, of whom David once said: “She always interprets my lyrics in a way that sounds as though she had written them herself.”

Four years ago, I took Dad to see Dionne Warwick.  I was certain Dad would remember her from those long-ago variety shows. He didn’t. But once his hearing aid was adjusted, and he heard the songs, he recognized them. That night, Warwick performed two Bacharach-David tunes — “I Say A Little Prayer” and “Do You Know The Way To San Jose” — with new, Latin-flavored arrangements and new phrasing. They sounded just fine.

That’s what makes them classics, and why the songs of Hal David — who died earlier today at 91 — are timeless. No matter who interprets them, they usually sound just fine. (Well, those Isaac Hayes covers might be an acquired taste.)

David and Bacharach worked together from 1957 to 1973, an arc that matches the first 16 years of my life, a time often spent watching TV with my dad. Enjoy, as we did, a little variety, some of the most familiar versions of Hal David’s songs, and some covers.

“What The World Needs Now Is Love,” Jackie DeShannon, 1965, from “The Very Best Of Jackie DeShannon,” 1975. The original version. David and Bacharach didn’t think this was such a good song after they wrote it. “We put it away in our desk drawer and kept it hidden there for 10 months,” David once said. “A flop, we thought.”

“This Guy’s In Love With You,” Al Wilson, from “Searching For The Dolphins,” 1968. Herb Alpert did the original version earlier that year.

“(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me,” R.B. Greaves, from “R.B. Greaves,” 1969. Warwick did the original version as a demo in 1963. Lou Johnson had the first hit with it in 1964. It’s such a great song that it became a hit all over again in 1983 for the British synth-pop duo Naked Eyes.

“One Less Bell to Answer,” the 5th Dimension, from “Portrait,” 1970. Out of print, but available digitally. The original version, with Marilyn McCoo’s tremendous vocals.

Finally, a little glimpse of one of those old variety shows.

That’s Tom Jones, of course, doing “What’s New Pussycat.” In 1965, he did the original, for which David and Bacharach were nominated for an Oscar for best original song.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under September 2012, Sounds

Tom Jones, R&B shouter

The things you discover when the iPod is on shuffle play during a workout.

Today, this song came up, pretty much at top volume, as I lumbered around the track at the Y. There are a couple thousand songs on my iPod. I know most of them, but I don’t know them all. I didn’t recognize this one.

A check of the iPod after the workout revealed that this mystery R&B shouter was none other than a young Tom Jones.

It’s 1965, he’s 25 and he’s covering “I Need Your Lovin’,” a curiously paced tune that had been a hit for Don Gardner and Dee Dee Ford in 1962. In the original, and in TJ’s blistering cover, things cook nicely, then come to a complete halt, then rev back up again.

“I Need Your Loving,” Tom Jones, from “It’s Not Unusual,” 1965. It’s out of print. The song is available digitally as part of “Chronicles,” an out-of-print 2005 CD box set with three of TJ’s mid-’60s LPs: This one, plus “What’s New Pussycat?” from 1965 and “A-Tom-ic Jones” from 1966.

It must have been a pretty good tune. Otis Redding covered it, too.

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Filed under January 2012, Sounds