12 June 2012

It's quite unusual

After the jubilee concert, the critics and wider public were banging on about Stevie Wonder's class, Paul McCartney's ability to woo a crowd just by dint of his existence, Grace Jones' physique, Cheryl Cole's nerve and Gary Barlow's crashing dullness.

The comedians were panned (rightly, though I thought Lee Mack was okay) and Rolf Harris was the ultimate pro, treated a bit callously. The opera singers were impressive and immediately reverted to obscurity afterwards, while Elton John's voice disintegrated with every syllable. He really should stop performing, or write a few more versions of Song For Guy.

Nobody mentioned Tom Jones.

Why is this? The guy is not treated as the icon that he is. He could outsing Elvis in his day, by the King's own (apparent) admission. His vocal cords have never subsided through age, he has lived a clean (if not always moral) existence, he always acts the good sport, he seems fundamentally decent and, without fail, he is always a good turn.

But beyond anything else, he never misses a note. He did two songs on that stage - Mama Told Me Not To Come and Delilah, and didn't even come close to a bum moment. And yet he barely registered.

Maybe the fact that he was pitch perfect was the reason. He has had his share of reasonable publicity of late thanks to providing the one true bucketful of credibility on The Voice, and so rather than pile it on, the press decided that ignoring him was the best way. A great singer, singing greatly, doesn't garner good copy.

More than anything though, I think it is because Tom is "just" a singer. I don't think he gets credit because he isn't a musician or composer - he sings. He learns the melody and the words and then sings. Other people do the "work" and he takes the plaudits.

Okay, so in the 1970s and 1980s he preferred to swan around Las Vegas rather than graft in a studio and on a tour bus, but since his full-tilt return around the mid-90s, it seems every youthful pop star has wanted to embrace him and learn from him. His records have been strong, if not necessarily earth-shattering, and he hasn't tried to project himself as someone trying to stay young around these bucks and flighty female singers who worked with him. He stopped dyeing his hair and allowed himself to be the father figure.

Ultimately, like with a lot of pop singers, you can have all the charisma and composition talent and generosity and newsworthiness as you like, but there is still only one thing that will maintain your fame and fortune in the long term, and that's your voice. Tom Jones has his, at 72 years of age. We should treasure him a bit more.

Have some vintage, floorfilling Tom from the 1960s...


Bright Ambassador said...

Can't stand the man. Sorry. He makes me feel queasy while Delilah and It's Not Unusual are terrible songs. And don't even get me started on that dreadful thing he did with that tuneless lass out of Catatonia.
I think he should have taken his mother's advice last Monday night.

Kolley Kibber said...

Oh, BA, so harsh...Tom Jones is alright. He was one of the far nicer 'castaways' they've had on Desert Island Discs. He's uncomplicated - just born to sing (and shag) and so he does.

That said, I managed to completely avoid the Jubilee.

Bright Ambassador said...

I think a lot of these people are architects of their own myth. Lulu's another one. I mean, why the knighthood for Tom? He's spent vast amounts of his life not paying any tax and he completely went off radar in the UK for most of the 70s and 80s. Jonathan Ross clearly revived his career. I'm seriously not a fan of Cliff Richard but I kind of understand his knighthood whereas Tom's is lost on me. I understand his manager (also his son) did some serious lobbying for the knighthood. Is that all it takes? In that case I'm going to start lobbying for Jim Kerr.

Dave Nightingale said...

"The" Jones.

"The" voice.

"The" legend.

Here's the proof...