Sir Tom Jones is still burning down the house
AT 75, Sir Tom Jones is still burning down the house.
His latest album, Long Lost Suitcase, goes back to his roots. Each song relates to a chapter of the Welsh artist's biography, Over the Top and Back, released in tandem late last year.
During his career spanning 50 years, Jones has sold more than 100 million records, won a Grammy and two Brit Awards and given us countless hits including memorable songs It's Not Unusual, Delilah, Green Green Grass of Home, What's New Pussycat, She's a Lady, Kiss, Mama Told Me, Thunderball, Burning Down The House, Sex Bomb, I'll Never Fall In Love Again and If I Only Knew.
Still touring the world, he shows no signs of slowing down.
He is gearing up to perform across the country next month, including a show on Easter Monday at Bluesfest Byron Bay and The Star in Sydney on March 21 and 22.
Jones says his Australian shows will be a mix of old and new songs.
"I'm doing a bit of the newer things that I've recorded but I'm still keeping hit songs such as The Green Green Grass of Home, Delilah, It's Not Unusual and Thunderball," he tells Weekend.
"I try to change the arrangements of some of the older things that I've done to fit the band and I think it makes it more interesting for me, the band and the audience to change them up a little."
Jones says he picked the songs on Long Lost Suitcase to tell his own story.
"Last year, when I told Ethan (Johns, the producer of this record) the songs that I wanted to do, he said 'this sounds autobiographical' and I said 'funny you mention that because I'm writing one at the moment'," he recalls.
"Ethan said: 'Wouldn't it be great if we could have them both out at the same time'."
Some of the songs on the album bring particularly interesting and poignant memories from the legendary singer.
"The Elvis Presley Blues, which is a great song, is a very stripped-down version of a song about Elvis," he says.
"When I played that track to Priscilla Presley, because she's friend of mine, she said: 'That's a haunting tribute to Elvis. Thank you,' so I was thrilled.
"That song is Elvis's life in three verses and it's a tribute record."
Another song with a personal story behind it on this record is He Was a Friend of Mine.
"There is also a chapter in the book called He Was a Friend of Mine, and it's based on a photo in the book of me and my friend Dave Perry. In that photo I was 15 and he was 14," Jones said.
"We grew up together. He was a rugby player and he then became my bodyguard in the 1970s.
"When I heard this song I thought 'my God, this song is about Dave Perry'. All the verses referred to him. Even 'He died on the road', which he did. He was walking his dog in the Welsh hills when he died. It just fit," Jones says.
The name of the album, Long Lost Suitcase, refers to the content of his book, which came in the form of records and photographs that were kept for years in old suitcases at his home in California.
"Being on the road so much, I live out of suitcases. I live in Los Angeles, so when I get home I get out what I need and I put most of them in storage," he says.
"In those suitcases are a lot of old photographs, records, cassettes, some 45s and some albums.
"The songs that I have recorded on this album have come out of suitcases, and the same thing with the photographs for the books."
Tom Jones will perform a 90-minute show at Bluesfest Byron Bay on Easter Monday, March 28, from 8.45pm.
Tom Jones on tour
March 13: Kings Park Botanic Garden, Perth
March 15: Adelaide Entertainment Centre, Adelaide
March 17: Derwent Entertainment Centre, Hobart
March 21 and 22: The Star Event Centre, Sydney
March 25 and 26: The Arts Centre, Hamer Hall, Melbourne
March 28: Bluesfest, Byron Bay