Ladies and gentlemen, this is Tom Jones!
“Listen – Keep On Running MP3″
I hope everyone is coming off an excellent weekend.
On this end. I can’t say as that I’ve been all that productive, though I did manage to sneak in an actual nap on Saturday. The next thing you know I’ll be out on my porch in a rocking chair yelling at kids to stay off my lawn.
I wasn’t completely immobile, managing to hit the bookstore on Saturday (now reading an excellent biography of the Fleshtones), and today – with the cooperation of the weather – the whole gang headed out to Sandy Hook for a picnic. At first it seemed surprisingly busy, but then I realized that everyone else was doing the same thing we were, i.e. squeezing one more beautiful weekend out of the summer, ironically enough on the first day of autumn.
Either way, the rest and family time were good for the soul, and as you’ll see after you pass the ones and zeros from server to pod, also good for the “soul”.
One of my recent fave pastimes has been ripping video for late night viewing on the old iPod video (in an 80GB stylee). This has allowed me to start catching up on a fairly large backlog of DVD purchases, including everything from old cartoons, cult TV shows and movies that I wouldn’t otherwise devote an evening to.
A few months ago, while hiking up and down the aisles of our nearby warehouse store, in search of huge, post-apocalyptic portions of household staples (crates of diapers, bottled water, yogurt etc) I saw something that verily screamed out to the impulse buyer within, that being a 3-disc set of the old This is Tom Jones variety show of the late 60’s.
Back in the day, when I used to have to get up early and haul ass to a bus stop that was almost a ½ mile away, I used to have to pass the house of a truly bizarre individual, and in turn bear up against his harassment for the remaining distance from his house to the bus stop.
I can’t remember the kid’s name, but his image – and odd behavior – are burned into my brain.
I do remember that he was a friend of the kid next door, who although a decent chap himself, had a lot of friends that hovered on the periphery of delinquency and general anti-social behavior.
The kid, who we’ll refer to henceforth as “Red” was a year older than me (probably in 6th grade to my 5th, so this would be around 1971), doughy, covered in freckles, and despite all visual evidence to the contrary, fancied himself quite the pimp.
He wore a bizarre, furry ¾ length jacket, and tortured all younger kids physically by the usual means, and mentally with his relentless imitations of Tom Jones.
I remember watching ‘This is Tom Jones’, and even at that young age being captivated by the performers amazing ability to take complete control of a female audience. I’m not sure I really knew what was going on, but the women were clearly thrilled to be in his presence, barely able to control themselves as he shimmied and hip-thrusted his way around the stage.
Red, naturally imagined that he too had this magical power, and demonstrated this belief by shaking his doughy ass down the block while singing ‘It’s Not Unusual’ while the rest of us tried to stay far away from him while rolling our eyes in disgust.
So powerful was the talent of Tom Jones, that even having to witness this repeated indignity did nothing to diminish my respect for the man.
Despite the fact that in the 30 or so years since his days as a consistent hitmaker Jones has pretty much ridden out his rep as a deeply tanned sex machine, he started out his career as a very solid blue-eyed soul singer.
Sure, he recorded a lot of general pop and rock material, but a survey of his early LPs and 45s reveals that the Welsh love god spent a lot of time wrapping his talented pipes around R&B and soul material, always to great effect.
Today’s selection originally appeared on the LP ‘The Tom Jones Fever Zone’, which also included covers of tunes by Wilson Pickett, the Supremes, Sam and Dave, Stevie Wonder and the Temptations.
The tune I digi-ma-tized for you today is a cover of a cover, that being ‘Keep On Running’, written by Jamaican singer Jackie Edwards, recorded (and taken to the top of the UK charts in 1965) by the Spencer Davis Group.
Edwards, already a success in Jamaica was brought to the UK in the early 60’s by Chris Blackwell, where he continued to record and write, also penning ‘Somebody Help Me’ for the SDG.
Jones, who started out singing with a Beat group, and moved on to have hits with everything from rock, to pop, to soundtrack themes to covers of country and soul, recorded ‘Keep On Running’ in 1968, just before starting work on his TV show (which was taped alternately in the UK and Los Angeles).
‘This is Tom Jones’ was in many ways a hipper version of the late-60’s variety show model, with production numbers, pop star guests like Stevie Wonder, Little Richard (amazing…and sweaty), the Moody Blues, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin and Joe Cocker, “alternative” comedy troupes like the Ace Trucking Company and the Committee, and one truly bizarre appearance by Anne Bancroft.
The appearances of Joplin and Cocker are especially noteworthy. Jones’ duet with Joplin on Eddie Floyd’s ‘Raise Your Hand’ (see it over at Planet Mondo) is absolutely smoking, and to watch Jones perform next to Cocker (a great singer but a strange looking performer by any standard) is truly a jarring study in contrasts.
The concert segments that ended every episode (the performances that I recall seeing when I was a kid) were – in addition to basically being an excuse to display Jones’s undeniable power as a chick magnet – a great showcase for soul tunes, with Jones covering ‘Turn On Your Lovelight’, ‘Shake’, ‘Land of 1000 Dances’, ‘Don’t Fight It’, ‘In the Midnight Hour’ and many others.
There are those that will gripe that Jones lacked subtlety as a vocalist, but his powerful baritone, and dynamic performing style lent themselves especially well to soul material, and you could tell he loved singing it. If you get a chance, pick yourself up his recordings of tunes like ‘Chills and Fever’ and ‘If I Had You’, which are both stunning.
His version of ‘Keep On Running’, in addition to some nice drums and a great horn section, features – of course – Jones fantastic vocal, which takes Steve Winwood’s reedy 16-year-old soul boy wailing and inflates it with a newfound level of assurance. The lyrics sound a LOT more convincing coming from the likes of Tom Jones.
That said, I think you’ll dig it.