Tom Jones Looks to the Future: A CBS Special

Tom Jones' latest album is a return to the simple ways and musical values that he grew up with. Mark Phillips profiles the pop superstar who these days is looking both back and forward on his life.

You don't have to spend much time with Tom Jones around the green, green grass of his hometown of Pontypridd, in Wales, before two predictable things happen.

The first is, you ask him the dumb but irresistible question: "Does the old town look the same?"

"It looks the same from up here, I must say," he replied.

The other predictable event is that, before long . . . in this case while reminiscing in the chapel where he went to Sunday school . . . he'll break into song.

"Yea, yea, I wasn't expecting to sing today but ... anyway, 'The Old Rugged Cross':

On a hill, far away, Stood an old rugged cross, The emblem of suffering and shame, But I love that old cross, Where the dearest and best Of a world of lost sinners were slain, I will cling to the old rugged cross, Where my trophies at last I lay down. I will cling to the old rugged cross And exchange it someday, for a crown.

Tom Jones - Sir Tom Jones - is now 70, and he's feeling a little nostalgic.

He's come a long way from Pontypridd, the town in the Welsh coal mining valleys where he was born. But in a lot of ways, including musically, he's coming home.

Watch Web Exclusive Interview With Tom Jones

His new album has shocked his fans and surprised the critics.

What good am I if I’m like all the rest, If I just turn away, when I see how you’re dressed, If I shut myself off so I can’t hear you cry, What good am I?

The new Tom Jones CD is almost a repudiation of the glitzy pop career he's enjoyed for five decades. It's a return to the simple ways and musical values that he grew up with.

"My father was a coal miner, and both his brothers were coal miners," Jones said.

And Tom, too, seemed destined for a working life down the mines. It was not only good steady work; it was just about the only work.

Tom visited the house where he was born, in 1940, as Tommy Woodward. And he would have followed the predicted path if not for an accident of health.

"Oh yeah, I would have been a coal miner, I would think, if I hadn't had tuberculosis when I was 12," Jones said. "But my dream was always to be a professional singer. You know, I always had that, since I was a child."

For two years he was confined to a room in a house around the corner, where the family had moved. Recovering from TB turned into the best bad thing that ever happened to him.

The doctors told him, "'Whatever you do, you cannot go down the coal mine,' because of my lungs," Jones said.

Tom's lungs - and what they allowed him to do with a song - became a ticket to a whole other life.

After trying to get a break playing the pubs and working men's clubs of Wales, he cut a demo tape of a song that was supposed to be for another singer. But when the record company executives heard it, they knew it had to be his.

It became an international hit.

Not just a star, but a style was born . . . the Tom Jones style.

Other musical tastes could come and go, but Tom Jones belting it out would always be there.

His TV show - "This is Tom Jones" - was a living room favorite in the late Sixties and early Seventies on both sides of the Atlantic.

He was more than just a singer, of course; he was a sex symbol . . . famously the target on stage of women throwing their underpants at him.

Now, older, and finally greyer, he regrets ... nothing.

"I've always felt myself as being a serious singer," Jones said, "even if . . . "

"You were doing 'Sex Bomb'?" Philips added.

"Well, yeah, or 'What's New Pussycat?' which was a novelty song. But I've always sang it in the best way that i know how. I put myself in to it.

"But then you can be shooting yourself in the foot because then if you get a hit with a song that if you don't want to be known as a 'sex' symbol, then don't record 'Sex Bomb.' So at the time I wasn't really aware of it, but it has had an effect."

"But it's not like you ran away and hid from it," said Phillips.

"No, no, no, no, no, no. I've done what I've done and I've recorded what I've recorded and I have no regrets in that area because I've done It. So I've only myself to blame!"

"Praise and Blame" is the title of his new CD. And when Tom performs numbers from it, his audience - old and new - responds, if not quite in the way they used to.

He's dialed back a bit. But then, he's had to.

"Well I mean, I cannot be at 70 years old - it would be silly to try - and be 35 or 40, maybe even 50. You can't. There is no way and if you do then you're going to look silly. And people are going to take you less seriously than when you're a young person.

"It's to do with age, there's no getting away from it," he said. "Maybe I'm trying to."

"You're not going soft on us?" Phillips asked.

"Ohhh no, no, no, no. It's not soft. There's nothing really soft on this album. You know, it's a solid, it's a strong. These songs are strong songs."

Going up the stairs at the house in Pontypridd, Jones remarked how steep they are. "Good God, these are steep. I can't remember them being like that."

So much has changed for Tom Jones from that front room in that small rented house where he was born. And here's a way to measure it: There was no indoor toilet back then.

"Ahh no, just out there," he pointed.

A lot different from a life of world tours and Las Vegas lounges and a big house in L.A.

"Can I ask you another indelicate question? Do you have any idea how many bathrooms you have in your house now?" Phillips asked.

"Urrr, the house in L.A., has about . . . Hmm, let me see . . . are there . . . 6, 7?"

Well, I guess that's a measure of something. For Tom Jones, it's a way to measure the passage of time.

"Some people say I can't stop. If I stopped working I'd die," Philips said. "Are you afraid to stop?"

"Um, yeah. I mean, I dread the day. Time is my enemy. Time will catch up with me vocally. And I dread that. I dread to think about life without singing.

"It's a wonderful feeling to get on stage and pour all this stuff out and for people to go, 'Yeah!'"

Tom Jones: Still Crooning After All These Years - NPR Music World Cafe

March 2, 2009 from WXPN - Global superstarTom Jones is "opening up shop" once more with the release of 24 Hours, his first U.S. album release in more than 15 years. The exuberant performer first rose to fame in the early 1960s, but it was his hit single "It's Not Unusual" in 1965 that made him a living legend. Jones' clean-cut style, infectious blues and energetic pop tunes have helped him sustain a long career that continues unabated. With 24 Hours, perhaps his most intimate album to date, Jones opted to get more involved in the songwriting process. The result is a highly personal collection, including a soul-baring track written for his wife of more than 50 years, Linda. The album also features a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "The Hitter" and a collaboration with Bono.

The genre-crossing crooner talks with host David Dye about how the vintage sound of new music by Amy Winehouse andDuffy inspired him to recapture the essence of his '60s-era work. He'll also share some priceless memories of encounters with Elvis Presley and Otis Redding.

Hear the full session here:

The Takeaway Shows

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

Watch the performance here: