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Tom Jones: It's not Usual


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On May 10 in 1749, the tenth and final volume of the novel Tom Jones by Henry Fielding was published. Many consider the comic story, whose full name was The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling one of the earliest and most influential English novel.

Then in 1963, an adaptation of this book was released, starring Albert Finney as the titular hero. It was one of the most critically acclaimed and popular comedies of its time, a success both critically and at the box-office.  At the 36th Academy Awards, It was nominated for nine Oscars, winning four: Best Picture, Best Director for Richardson, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score. It also won two Golden Globe Awards including Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, and three BAFTA Awards including Best Film and Best British Film.

The film is notable for its unusual comic style: the opening sequence is performed in the style of a silent film, and characters sometimes break the “fourth wall”, often by looking directly into the camera and addressing the audience, and going so far as to have the character of Tom Jones suddenly appearing to notice the camera and covering the lens with his hat.

Going back some years, Thomas John Woodward was born in 1940, in Pontypridd, South Wales, son of a coal miner. Three of his grandparents were of English origin, only his maternal grandfather, Albert Jones, was Welsh.

As a teen, Thomas was more interested in booze and girls rather than his education. His future looked bleak when he married in March 1957 his high school girlfriend, Melinda Trenchard (Linda) when they were expecting a child together, both aged 16. The couple's son, Mark, was born in the month following their wedding. To support his family, young Woodward dropped school and took a job working in a glove factory and was later employed in construction. By the way, despite his own admitted "horde of infidelities" including one that resulted in an illegitimate son, whom he barely acknowledges, Jones stayed married to the same woman, Melinda, from 1957 until her death in 2016.

In 1963 he became the frontman for Tommy Scott and the Senators, a Welsh beat group. They soon gained a local following and reputation in South Wales, recorded some singles but had little success.

It was the time when England, and the whole world, lived under the Beatlemania. Monthly appeared singles of new bands on the charts trying to imitate The Beatles with his long hair, and quickly passed into oblivion because the four boys from Liverpool did not stop to take good songs.  Managers of solo singers were quite worried by this fact, as those long hair bands, singing Beatle-like songs was stealing the scene.

One of these concerned managers was Gordon Mills, a British musician and manager who had achieved fame in 1964 with I'm the Lonely One a song that was played the great Cliff Richard and came to enter the UK Top Ten.




1964 was marked by the amazing voice of a young woman called Sandie Shaw, whose song There's Always Something There to Remind Me went to number one in the UK charts and gained her site as one of the most famous British singers of the 60's.



Gordon Mills decided to convince this talented young singer and her producers proposing his song co-written by classical music arranger and conductor Les Reed, which, he assured, was to be a hit. The song he carried under his arm was "It's Not Unusual". It sounded nice, but after Sandie Shaw and her producers listened the song, decided to reject the musical offer of Mills because they did not find it commercial enough.

A few days after "It's Not Unusual" was rejected, Mills was contacted by one of his friends about a talented singer 24 years-old singer called Thomas John Woodward performing in a bar in South Wales. Mills quickly travelled to Cwmtillery to meet this young man who had great fame in his homeland because he sang "like gods".  Gordon Mills sat to listen him in the Top Hat, where Jones was singing with his band, and immediately was impressed with his vocal energy. He convinced the singer to travel to London, where he would became Woodward’s manager. Gordon Mills also renamed him Tom Jones, to exploit the popularity of the Academy Award-winning film. It was a good-sounding artistic name even if initially, when people heard the name “Tom Jones” they were likely to think of the movie or Henry Fielding’s book.

Eventually, Mills got Jones a recording contract with Decca. His first single, Chills and Fever, was released in late 1964. It was a rather good song but did not chart.


Then Mills proposed to his artist to record "It's Not Unusual", the same song with the same arrangements that had been rejected by Sandie Shaw.  Listening to it, Tom Jones told Mills and producer Peter Sullivan that he was sure that this song would lead him to stardom and really was not wrong.

Another version of the tale is somewhat different. Supposedly it was recorded by a then-unknown Tom Jones as a demo to be offered to Sandie Shaw. She was by the a world-wide recognized singer with several hits, but when she heard the demo she was so impressed with Jones's delivery that she declined the song and recommended that Jones release it himself.

Tom was to remember, "I did the demo on this song when it was offered to Sandie Shaw. I was just starting out and, God bless her, she said, 'Whoever's singing this, it's his song.' Finding great new songs is never easy, and back in those days, finding one that would fit me, the way I felt and sang anyway, was difficult. I'm indebted to Sandie for being so generous."

After Shaw's rejection, the song was offered to Frankie Vaughn, who also said no.

In any case, "It's Not Unusual" was recorded on November 11, 1964, at Decca Studios in West Hampstead. Tom recorded the song as part of a group, Tom Jones and the Squires. Tom's first take of the song wasn't anything special. Tom recalls, "Then my producer, Peter Sullivan, said, 'You've got a big voice. Nice is not enough. You are not nice.'" As a result of this direction, the song jumped out of the speakers and became a hit. The record was the second Decca single Jones released, reaching number one in the UK Singles Chart in 1965. It was also the first hit for Jones in the US, peaking at No. 10 in May of that year. The single was released in the and also reached number 3 on Billboard's easy listening chart. The BBC initially refused to play the song because of Jones’s sexy image, but it was played by UK pirate radio. Jones performed the song several times on The Ed Sullivan Show in the US, first on 2 May 1965, then again on 13 June 1965. He sang the song again on the show when he returned on 21 April 1968.


The song's musical arranger was Les Reed. As was standard practice in the 1960s, session musicians were used instead of Jones's regular backing band. There are conflicting reports about who actually played on the record. The guitar has been cited as having been provided by Jimmy Page, who by the mid-1960s, was one of the most sought-after session guitarists in Britain. To prevent confusion with the other noted English session guitarist, Big Jim Sullivan, he was known as Lil' Jim Pea. Later, from 1966 to 1968, he was a member of The Yardbirds and in late 1968, he founded Led Zeppelin. Reed has stated that the only guitarist was Joe Moretti, who is known for his playing on "Shakin' All Over" and "Brand New Cadillac". Page does list the session in his online discography, however. When questioned about which songs he played on, especially ones where there exists some controversy as to what his exact role was, Page often points out that it is hard to remember exactly what he did given the enormous number of sessions he was playing at the time. In a radio interview he explained that "I was doing three sessions a day, fifteen sessions a week. Sometimes I would be playing with a group, sometimes I could be doing film music, it could be a folk session ... I was able to fit all these different roles."

Drums were played by Scottish percussionist Andy White, who had previously drummed for The Beatles and is one of the quite long list of the so-called “Fifth Beatle”.

The Squires' keyboard player wasn't available for the recording session, so the band needed to recruit one, and fast. Anxious, the Squires' drummer Chris Slade went next door to the La Giaconda coffee shop and coaxed the keyboard player there to join them for the session. "It's Not Unusual" was recorded, and the keyboard player was thanked and paid for the one-day recording session. When asked his name, he answered, "Reg" and left. About a year later, "Reg" (Reginald Dwight) adopted the stage name Elton John.

Jones later used this song as the theme for his late 1960s–early 1970s television musical variety series This Is Tom Jones. It has since become his signature song. And although, as we all know, Tom Jones went on to sell millions of records and albums and have many succeeding hits, including "Delilah," "Green Green Grass of Home," "What's New, Pussycat?" and "She's a Lady," no one on the planet Earth can ever hear the name Tom Jones and not immediately start singing or thinking the words

It's Not Unusual…

to be loved by anyone



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