No one ever expects this call. You’re going about your daily life and then it happens. The phone rings, you answer, and Vincent asks: “What do you think about helping on a Take-Away show with Tom Jones?” What do I think? I think it’s Tom whoa whoa whoaaaa mother fuckin’ Jones! Actually . . . I don’t know what to think. But we’re doing it.
Now its time for the second call you don’t expect. The phone rings and our liaison in the lobby passes the information onto us: Tom’s ready; we can go up to the room. There’s some real honest to god Hollywood magic going on up here. Tom is a star from an era before the record industry went bust. In fact, one of the biggest stars of this era and the whole manner of this scene reflects it – the fruit baskets, the amazing view of the city, the manager. His manager is a band manager out of a Woody Allen movie – over zealous, over protective, and hilarious. Tom is still in his bedroom so his manager is talking to us and making sure we’re comfortable, but not too comfortable. I busy myself with the mics and don’t even look up as I ask the body next to me if they think Tom will be ready soon. The body answers yes, and Vincent says, “Umm, Teresa . . .” I look to Vincent, who looks to me, and then we both look to the mystery person I was talking to. Yeah, it’s Tom . . . Jones. Hi.
He’s wearing all black clothing, all gold accessories, and he’s ready whenever we are. The song begins and his booming voice makes my audio levels go crazy! We’re dealing with a singer who really sings! You can tell this man is used to projecting for big audiences – wow, I’m charmed.
The performances continue in flawless form. After each take, the manager erupts: “That was great! Wonderful! Did ya see that? Ya can’t get better than that!” I feel transported to 1965 – the golden years. Although they feel classic and nostalgic, the songs are almost entirely new ones. The real gem probably has to be, “If He Should Ever Leave You,” if not simply for its unmistakable Tom Jones-ness. That velvety punch. For days after this shoot I will walk down the street singing to myself: “It should be a crime to ever let you go! He should be inclined to keep you very close! No one else compares – you’re a cut above the rest!”
The session ends with the classic hit, “Green Green Grass of Home” – one of the most successful singles Tom ever released in his 100+ million records sold career and an ode to his native country of Wales. It’s pretty surreal to be sitting in the bedroom with him as he sings this. He does it in one take – like all the others. It doesn’t quite express my full sentiment when I use the word “professional,” but this is what he embodies. It’s a difference in era and length in career that is so apparent in his performance. It’s amazing.
There are handshakes and hugs as we leave and the manager makes one last joke wearing the metal wastebasket over his head (sorry, but it’s true!). There’s a desk covered in new album sleeves waiting for Tom to autograph. Vincent slips one in his bag. He claims for the track list. I say souvenir! Across the country my moms phone rings. She answers and her daughter says, “You’re never going to guess whose room I just left.”
Text by Teresa Eggers