189. ‘It’s Not Unusual’, by Tom Jones

Some songs take a while to build to a climax; others wallop straight in from the get-go. ‘It’s Not Unusual’, the debut hit from voice-of-the-valleys and now Knight of the Realm, Sir Tom Jones, falls into the latter camp. There is no climax here. Or rather, the song is the climax.

Music - Tom Jones - 1965

It’s Not Unusual, by Tom Jones (his 1st of three #1s)

1 week, from 11th – 18th March 1965

Stabbing jazz-bar brass, and hand-claps. Pah-papa-Pah-papa… Your feet instantly start tapping. Then in blasts Tom… It’s not unusual, To be loved by anyone, It’s not unusual, To have fun with anyone… By God could Tom Jones sing. (And still can – let’s not kill him off before his time.) But when I see you hanging about with anyone, It’s not unusual, To see me cry… I wanna die…

Never has a song about a jealous and possessive ex-lover sounded so cheerful. Tom sees his girl around town – flirting, galivanting, generally having a good time – and it kills him. Why did they split up? Who knows? This isn’t a song for reflecting. Why can’t this crazy love be miiiiiiinnnnneeeeee…. he wails as we head into the break. I don’t know, Tom, maybe if you stopped snooping around on her like a creep…?

But it bears repeating: this cat can sing. Jones’s voice is not one you’d ever describe as subtle; but it’s super-soulful and packs a brilliant, throaty rasp. That miiiiiinnnnnneeee above is powerful, as is the way he lets loose at the end. It stands out for miles around compared to his contemporaries, and it is hard to imagine that he was only twenty-four when he recorded this record. Apparently the song was offered initially to Sandie Shaw, but once she heard Jones’s recording she felt it would be impossible to make a better one…

This disc races to an end in precisely two minutes, and it feels even shorter such is the galloping pace that it maintains. Over the past few months I had noticed that our #1s were getting longer. The Animals scored the longest by some distance – ‘The House of the Rising Sun’ reaching four and a half minutes – but ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ and ‘Yeh Yeh’ also pushed well beyond the magic three-minute mark. Tom Jones doesn’t hang about, though. He takes us back several years – to the days when a couple of minutes per song was the norm.

TOM_JONES_ITS+NOT+UNUSUAL-558172

Despite this being the very first hit for a fresh-faced young Welsh lad, it’s hard to imagine that Tom Jones was ever cool. Even when ‘It’s Not Unusual’ was sitting at number one in the charts, I’ll bet it was being bought more by mums than by their daughters. (Apparently, though, the BBC refused to play ‘It’s Not Unusual’ at the time, as Tom Jones’s image was too sexy…) Later hits like ‘Delilah’, ‘What’s New Pussycat?’ and ‘She’s a Lady’ did nothing to help his image. He’s remained steadfastly uncool throughout the decades, too. He was uncool when covering Prince in the eighties, and he was uncool when he scored a big comeback in the early 2000s with (shudder) ‘Sex Bomb’. There was a good reason he was Carlton’s favourite singer in ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.’

But who cares? Who cares if he’s recorded some absolute cheese over the years? Who cares if he looks like someone you wouldn’t leave your wife alone with for a minute? Who cares if, by this point, he’s gone beyond parody? It’s worked for him, and given him career-longevity that few can even dream of. Maybe that’s the key: start of uncool and you’ll never have to worry about losing it… Plus, whenever Tom Jones sings, he sounds like he’s having the time of his life. Love what you do, folks, love what you do. Tom’s got it sussed…

9 thoughts on “189. ‘It’s Not Unusual’, by Tom Jones

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