Mar 152012

Big-hearted, booming Welsh show-stopping singer Tom Jones (not his real name, I just learned, so BigSteve was not joking in our recent Last Man Standing) may go from “0 to 60” in intensity quicker than any other singer in (relatively) modern music. There’s a special approach to his burst of intensity that I feel exemplifies a certain type of male singing. It’s as if he takes a guttural scoop toward any material put in front of him. You can hear it on the opening lines in one of his early hits, “It’s Not Unusual.” Jones comes right at the listener like a firm handshake:

There’s no denying Jones’ aggressive approach to such a swinging song, but what makes him special is his ability to dig in on a tender waltz-time ballad like “Delilah.”

Paired with a fellow pedal-to-the-metal singer like Joe Cocker on a version of “Delta Lady” you’d think Jones’ approach wouldn’t stand out as much, but hold onto your seat at the 30-second mark, when Jones first enters the song. That’s the kind of approach to singing anything that separates Jones from the “can’t drive 55” pack. For contrast, it takes Cocker 1:11 to muster up the intensity of a cruisin’ Jones.

Here’s another melodramatic ballad, a 1974 performance of “I Who Have Nothing,” in which Jones makes Jumpsuit Elvis, by comparison, seem as understated as Stuart Murdoch.

Correct me if I’m wrong in thinking that Tom Jones’ approach to singing might serve as the basis for an RTH Glossary entry, and if I’m onto something, please help me determine a term that future generations of rock historians could apply to singers who employ this approach to singing any song. Thank you.


  37 Responses to “WANTED: Rock Town Hall Glossary Term to Describe Tom Jones’ Approach to Singing Anything”

  1. You could describe his style of singing as “Testicular”.

  2. That’s fantastic, although it doesn’t address the cheesy/campy aspect of Mr Jones’ singing. Maybe “Ball-derdash” would be more appropriate.

  3. I’m sure you’ve seen this clip of Tom with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young but it’s another good example of him opening with a hay-maker. Stills tries to keep up but just sounds silly in his efforts.

  4. alexmagic

    If you want to sum up the style/aggressiveness/shock & awe approach of Tom Jones’ singing, pinpoint (as in Nillock’s suggestion above) what part of the anatomy it seems to come from, hint at the kind of appeal that practitioners of this approach have to their fans and make reference to an existing performance, I think you could do a lot worse than naming this…


  5. We have a winner. Drive safely, folks.

  6. Plus, it puts you in mind of fellow Welshman Sean Connery’s 007. Always a good thing.

  7. cherguevara

    For some reason, a nonsense word sprung into my mind, doesn’t really make sense – “Bloasting.”

  8. tonyola

    Wow, I’ve never seen that. Talk about when worlds collide – Las Vegas runs snack dab into Laurel Canyon with a bulldozer. Are the guys grooving on Tom or mocking him? Crosby’s facial expressions seem ambivalent at best.


  10. tonyola

    “Blunderbussing” – named for the crude, inaccurate, but powerfully dangerous weapon. That’s Tom’s voice.

  11. misterioso

    Holy Moses. Never seen that. I share tonyola’s confusion on CSNY’s reaction–are they loving it or smiling through the pain? Hard to tell. I am no CSN(Y) fan so there is nothing sacred being violated here for me. I kinda enjoyed it.

  12. I think that performance is GREAT.

  13. I like it, Nillock, and welcome aboard!

  14. Like others here, I have never seen that. We may have to dedicate an entire week to analyzing this one performance.

    You know what struck me about the expression on Crosby’s face? I got the sense that’s the face BigSteve is making whenever he reads what I put up here. It may take me more than a week to work through that thought.

  15. Yeah, that’s going to be hard to top!

  16. I like this one, too – not a bad suggestion yet, in fact. Bloasting is special to me and I’m sure my bandmates, who will associate it with the mysterious cooking term “broasting,” that we once saw on a sign in Central Pennsylvania. They served “broasted chicken.” Has anyone ever heard of that term before?

  17. cherguevara

    Wow, never heard of Broasting.
    They even have a “Bro-Tisserie.”

    A combination of pressure cooking and frying. But is it rock’n’roll?

  18. I always thought he was Welsh and Wikipedia confirms it. Why do you say Scot?

  19. Not Tom Jones, Sean Connery. He’s from Edinburgh.

    Sorry, we Scots are protective of our people.

  20. alexmagic

    I think Great 48 is objecting to you claiming that Connery is Welsh. Connery is a Scot, though you can be excused thanks to his amazing chameleon-like skills at mastering accents that have allowed him to successfully, perfectly disguise himself as Irish, American, Russian, Ancient Greek and Egyptian during his acting career.

    Dalton is the Welsh Bond.

  21. Broasting is more common in the south — it’s how KFC is made.

    One broasted chicken chain, Chester’s, has/had the slogan “We serve the crispy, moisturized chicken.” For about a year in college, that phrase was in my outgoing voicemail. I got the oddest messages then.

  22. Crosby’s expression seems to say “Wait, if I’m the cool guy, and Tom is the cheesy one on stage, why do I feel like I’m getting schooled here? Note to self: don’t smoke Neil’s weed anymore, it fucks with my head.”


    Okay Janis, open up your notebook, you might want to jot some of this down.

  24. bostonhistorian


  25. alexmagic

    As always, I recommend a first viewing with the sound off. Under these conditions, I’d read Crosby’s facial expression as “Oh man. Oh man, oh wow man! Man, oh wow, man. Oh wooow.”

    -Stills looks like he’s genuinely taking this as a challenge to his Alpha Male status as the Moe Howard of CSN(Y) and trying hard to dig in and take Jones on.

    -The drummer (3:17-3:19) is into it. Look at that guy!

    -Neil looks like he’s repeatedly trying and failing to turn into The Hulk. My audio-free take is that it’s a sign of him genuinely trying to meet Tom Jones halfway.

    -The bass player (3:26-3:27) seems surprisingly nervous when he gets his close-up, considering how his body language in all the long shots seem to indicate that he’s on a good wavelength with Jones. Maybe he’s afraid of Stills?

    -Nash, surprisingly since I’ve long considered him the nice guy of CSN, is the one who most looks like he’s seeing this as a goof.

    -Jones’ facial expressions and body language read to me as him thinking “YEAH! HAHAHA! COME ON, FELLAS! HAHAHAHA! EVERYTHING IN LIFE IS AMAZING!”, which is probably his default expression and state of mind, because it’s probably ridiculously awesome to be Tom Jones 99% of the time. Tom Jones is like the Brian Blessed of music, except probably without any of the back pain I assume Blessed has.

    Other notes: Is this clip the brownest thing ever captured on video? I know Mod has an appreciation for brown as a color, and I gotta say, I don’t think anything has ever been more brown than this clip, and it’s a great argument for the merits of the color.

    Also, I like the staging here. Crosby, Nash and Young eventually slip into CSN&Y’s famous “Globetrotter Magic Circle” formation, and Stills over on the organ (seated, so as to prevent him from getting too fired up and attacking Jones) nicely provides balance for Tom Jones to be in the frontman position. Meanwhile, the other guys are back in the grandstands, but still visible, like the way the other musicians would be in a Jackson 5 performance. I imagine this would be the exact stage formation the J5 would have used if Marlon and Jackie had taken up instruments.

  26. Happiness Stan

    Superb suggestion, and the associated time-honoured sport of throwing ladies underwear (used, and known as pants in the UK) onto the stage at Mr Jones – Thunder-Pant-Balling

  27. tonyola

    I believe the bass player in the clip was Greg Reeves, who came on board for Deja Vu. He was possibly as young as 15 at the time of the video clip, so there might be a good reason why he looked nervous.

  28. I tried the sound-off approach and it really is revealing.

    – My take on Crosby now is that he is delighting in Jones’ presence precisely because it is forcing Stills into the uncomfortable position of co-alpha dog. I’ve always felt that Stills’ contributions to that band far eclipse those of Crosby and Nash, and I think that they have to be aware of it as well, so they owe him a lot. But it must be nice for them to see Stills brushed back from the plate, even if only for 3:50.

    – A recent issue of MOJO had an interview with Greg Reeves and I recall that he was worried about the others turning him into a zombie or being aliens or something. Either/or, he no doubt had a lot on his mind during the taping of this song and I give him credit for being able to flawlessly execute his parts while keeping one eye on the rest of the band in case some bad shit starts going down.

    – The “Globetrotter Magic Circle”: I would not have made that connection but as luck would have it, I just saw the Harlem Globetrotters this past Sunday and I can confirm that is exactly what is going on. The Globetrotters, by the way, squeaked out another narrow victory.

  29. I used to make Broasted Chicken in high school.

    The theory is that the pressure keeps the chicken from abosorbing the grease from the fryer, while make the skin outside crispy and delicious. We used to throw potatoes and pizza balls in the broaster while listening to KQ92 play Led Zep hourly. It rocks!

  30. More later, as I finish wolfing down a hoagie and prepare to return to a busy day of work after a long offsite meeting, but it’s time we institute a running Sound Off feature, and I don’t mean the Sound Off feature that a local sports radio show runs. Nice work! And yes, brown is probably the most underrated color of our age:

  31. Damn, a Townsman with actual broasting experience!

  32. BigSteve

    I like it.

  33. cliff sovinsanity

    If the polls are still open I would to nominate his style as:

    Hot Potato with sour cream and chives.

  34. ladymisskirroyale

    As HappinessStan has mentioned, it’s important to include the impact on this Thunderballing or Thunder Pants Balling on the lady listeners in the audience. May I also suggest a related vocabulary term? The effects of Tom Jones’ singing on the ladies: Juicing.

  35. 1:29-1:39 makes me a bit seasick.

    And Stephen looks a bit overwrought, sorta like the lead singer from the Commitments.


  36. I find Tom Jones
    1) Unwatchable
    2 )Unlistenable

    I know he has his fans, but he just reminds me of those guys we called the “Aqua-Velva Geeks” when I was young…they hung around the nightclubs wearing open polyester shirts, medallions and reeking of the aforementioned aftershave and middle-aged desperation…

  37. Ha! My Mom dated one of these guys for a year in the ’70s. Brings back uncomfortable memories, but ones I will laugh about.

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