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Tom Jones: What’s New Pussycat?

Welsh singer Tom Jones is a true living legend, enjoying nearly six decades in the music industry - and spurring adoring female fans to throw their underwear at him in the early years! The coal miner's son from Pontypridd has been thrilling fans since the 1960s with his unique, booming, baritone voice.

Now 78 years old, he's a judge on ITV talent show, The Voice, where he often sings live - including this amazing performance of Sweet Dreams with his fellow coaches Will.i.am, Jennifer Hudson and Olly Murs.

Tom Jones

© Matthew Horwood / Alamy Stock Photo

The veteran singer says his voice has lowered with age since he started out in the 1960s. He believes it's a common occurrence, connected to the ageing process. In an interview with the BBC, he admitted that in his youth, he could hit a top C. Now, his highest note has lowered to a B flat.

However, he doesn't think it's a bad thing, telling the interviewer, "What you lose on the top end, you gain on the bottom end."

 

Road to stardom

Jones grew up in the small village of Treforest, working on a building site upon leaving school at 16. His only experience of singing was at small gatherings and in the school choir, until he joined a local band called The Senators in 1963.

They attracted a large following in their home town and the attention of pop band manager Gordon Mills, who was originally from Wales but based in London. He went to see Jones performing live in Pontypridd and immediately snapped him up. Jones moved to London and signed a solo record deal with Decca Records.

Mills became 23-year-old Jones' manager and helped launch his long and successful career. His second single, It's Not Unusual, made him a global star in 1965. It reached number one in the UK singles chart and made the top ten in the United States.

He enjoyed many more hits throughout the 1960s, on both sides of the Atlantic, including Delilah, Green Green Grass of Home, With These Hands, Once Upon a Time, I'm Coming Home and I'll Never Fall in Love. He won a Grammy Award for Best New Artist as a result.

 

Film soundtracks

He also recorded popular film soundtracks, including the dramatic Thunderball for the 1965 James Bond movie, and the more light-hearted What's New Pussycat, which was the title track for the 1965 comedy of the same name.

 

Lyrics

Originally an instrumental, the What’s New Pussycat words were added later. Bacharach said if a song had a good melody, then it could always "fit the lyrics" afterwards.

He said the theme of the song came from watching Sellers' "craziness" in the film - as the plot became wilder when the doctor realised he was obsessed with one of his patients and began stalking her! Bacharach said he was trying to write the words to fit that kind of atmosphere.

This is where the lyrics came from, which were intentionally outrageous at the time, as the singer tells a woman to powder her "pussycat nose", before he kisses her "sweet little pussycat lips"! Jones had an image as a raunchy pop star and Bacharach knew he would convey the appropriate tone to the song, making it humorous and a little cheeky, without being creepy!

In later interviews, Jones said he wasn't keen on the song at first and his initial reaction was to wonder why he had been asked to sing it, but Bacharach explained the script of the film and said he wanted a "big voice" to sing a "crazy song" to produce a classic. Jones eventually agreed and the song was indeed a hit.

Tom performed What's New Pussycat on his own television show, This Is Tom Jones, in 1969. The set looked suspiciously like a scene from the sitcom, Are You Being Served, as the singer was depicted rushing into a department store to buy flowers, before bursting into song, but the fans lapped it up and it remained one of his most popular hits.

 

Massive record sales

Produced by ATV, Jones' television show was broadcast from 1969 to 1971, in both the US and the UK. It ran for 65 episodes and attracted the biggest stars of the day, such as Paul Anka, Sonny and Cher, Sammy Davis Jr, George Burns, Matt Monro, Tony Bennett and dozens more.

For most of the 1970s, Jones lived in the US, where one of his personal friends was Elvis Presley. He launched MAM Records with his manager and over the years has enjoyed many live tours, the most recent of which was in 2018.

As a judge on TV talent show The Voice since 2012, he won last year with his 19-year-old singer, Ruti Olajugbagbe, who won a recording contract with Polydor Records.

Tom Jones has become one of the best-selling artists in the word, with a massive fan-base and sales of more than 100 million records to date.

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