THE BOMB

BLUES­FEST’S HEAD­LIN­ING CROONER TOM JONES PROVES HE’S STILL GOT IT

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - KATHY MCCABE

Y ou can well imag­ine the scene, Tom Jones and Mel Gib­son kick­ing back af­ter din­ner with a cognac and a cigar.

“We used to catch up over a cigar but (Mel) had to give them up. He used to smoke cig­a­rettes and thought cigars would be bet­ter but he was smok­ing them like cig­a­rettes and his doc­tor told him to quit.

“He doesn’t drink, of course, so now he can’t en­joy any­thing,” Jones says of his friend.

Jones is still en­joy­ing most things at 75. He will have the oc­ca­sional cigar at his Los An­ge­les home, smok­ing out­side out of re­spect for his long-suf­fer­ing wife Linda. The pair mar­ried in 1957 and she has re­mained by her man for al­most 60 years de­spite his pub­li­cised flings.

Dis­miss­ing the sil­ver locks and thick­ened middle ev­i­dence of his ad­vanced years, lit­tle else ap­pears to have changed.

On his lat­est record Long

Lost Suit­case, his voice is as strong and dis­tinc­tive as ever.

And his se­cret? Jones claims it was giv­ing up cig­a­rettes in the late 1960s.

“I had my ton­sils out in ’67 and the doc­tor told me I had to stop smok­ing cig­a­rettes but if I must smoke, don’t in­hale and make it a good one,” he says.

But just when you think his suc­cess has been due to lim­it­ing bad habits, the Welsh for­mer hell­raiser re­veals he is be­ing sen­si­ble and wants to pro­tect his as­sets.

“I make sure I get enough sleep, you must drink plenty of wa­ter and I use a steamer to keep my throat moist,” he says.

His throat has been parched re­cently as Jones has chat­ted up a storm to spruik his al­bum and Over The Top And Back au­to­bi­og­ra­phy.

The old-school charmer laughs heartily when asked if he both­ered to do a count on the f-bombs lit­tered through­out his rec­ol­lec­tions.

Jones as­sumed his ex­ple­tive-rid­den text would be cleaned up be­fore print­ing. But then it wouldn’t have been a Tom Jones au­to­bi­og­ra­phy.

“Welsh peo­ple, we swear a lot and so do you Aus­tralians,” he says, chuck­ling. “We are also ex­pert at putting a swear word in the middle of an­other word for em­pha­sis.

“(The co-au­thor) just wrote it down as I said it so I am glad my mother is not still alive.”

While there is no kiss-or­tell in the book, much to the dis­ap­point­ment of ev­ery­one ex­cept his wife, Jones pulled no punches when dis­cov­er­ing the in­equal­i­ties he ob­served as his ca­reer took off in Amer­ica.

Af­ter the break­out suc­cess of his first sin­gles, It’s Not Un­usual, What’s New Pussy­cat?, Delilah and Green Green Grass Of Home, Jones was given a chart-top­ping wel­come in Amer­ica.

He was a pop star who had be­friended ev­ery­one from Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis to Ste­vie Won­der and Aretha Franklin and had his own TV show, This

Is Tom Jones, in 1969. He was shocked when cen­sors stopped him singing

Pass­ing Strangers with black jazz singer Nancy Wil­son.

“I hadn’t ex­pe­ri­enced any­thing like that un­til I went to Amer­ica in ’65 and I was on a Dick Clark tour,” he says.

“There was a mix­ture of black and white singers and there were some cities we went into in the south es­pe­cially, where the white peo­ple would get off the bus and get their sand­wich at one cafe and the black peo­ple in an­other place.

“Even though it was 1965 and they said there was no seg­re­ga­tion but there still was.”

Tom Jones plays the Mojo stage, Blues­fest, By­ron Bay, March 28

Pic­ture: AARON FRAN­CIS

Tom Jones, who will per­form at Blues­fest this month, shows no signs of slow­ing down at 75.

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