Life lessons from Welsh sexbomb Tom Jones as he tours Down Under

Josh Leeson
Updated April 2 2024 - 11:50am, first published 11:02am
Tom Jones has no plans to retire from touring. Picture supplied
Tom Jones has no plans to retire from touring. Picture supplied

Welsh icon Tom Jones has a long and storied relationship with Australia dating back almost 60 years.

But due to an overzealous Sydney policeman in January 1966, the It's Not Unusual and Delilah singer might have gotten off to a regrettable start with Australia.

"When I first came it was with Herman's Hermits," Jones tells Weekender.

"I remember when we did the rehearsal in Sydney at the beginning of the tour, the police saw me rehearse and said, 'if you're gonna move like that, we're gonna cancel the tour. You can move like that on stage'."

The then 25-year-old Jones explained the dance was called The Jerk, which he'd picked up in the US on his first tour there in 1965. The dance involved a jerking arm motion and a minor thrust of the hips.

"He [the policeman] said, 'what did you call me?," Jones laughs. "I said, 'I didn't call you that, it's the dance.' I think he thought I was calling him a jerk.

"I said, 'it's the name of the dance', but he wouldn't believe me.

"So he said, and this is god's honest truth, 'we're gonna film the show and if we think it's obscene we're stopping the tour'."

Jones decided to cool down the dance and tour continued successfully.

At 83, Jones' jerking days might be a thing of the past, but his instantly-recognisable baritone remains as virile as ever.

Jones is returning to Australia in March to perform his swag of hits like She's A Lady, Sexbomb, What's New Pussycat? and Green, Green Grass Of Home on his Ages and Stages Tour.

"I take better care of it [my voice] now than I did when I was young," he says. "When you're young you think you're indestructible.

"I learned over the years to know what to do or what not to do. Don't drink too much alcohol, don't dry out. You've got to try and keep moist. Drink plenty of water, get sleep and that's it really.

"Thank god, I've been lucky. It's a god-given gift and thank god it's still working."

Jones has not only continued working, he's also found ways to keep himself relevant to new generations of music fans.

Since 2012 he's been a judge of the UK's version of The Voice, alongside US rapper and English singer Anne-Marie.

It's given him the opportunity to collaborate with younger artists and provided a platform to perform. In the past fortnight he's delivered rousing covers of Billy Haley's Rock Around The Clock and Ben E. King's Stand By Me with Anne-Marie.

"I've always loved to listen to new singers," he says. "I'm always curious to know what younger people are singing like, and what sort of influences they have.

"I always like looking for talent and helping singers as much as I can.

"It's a perfect thing for me to do. I love doing The Voice UK because I love listening to singers and giving them advice. Hopefully it works all round and they're getting benefit from it."

Thank god, I've been lucky. It's a god-given gift and thank god it's still working.

- Tom Jones

In 2021 Jones also released his 41st album Surrounded By Time, which was produced by Ethan Johns (Paul McCartney, Kings Of Leon, Ryan Adams, Crowded House).

The record's experimentation with electronic and art-rock attracted high praise from critics and saw Surrounded By Time top the UK album charts.

In 2021 Tom Jones released his 41st album Surrounded By Time to rave reviews. Picture supplied
In 2021 Tom Jones released his 41st album Surrounded By Time to rave reviews. Picture supplied

Tracks from the album like Bob Dylan's Not Dark Yet and One More Cup Of Coffee and the cover of jazz composer Bobby Cole's I'm Growing Old particularly impressed.

Lyrics like, I'm growing drowsy in my chair/ And I no longer ponder life, may sound unusual coming from a man famed for having women's lingerie tossed at him, but Jones has accepted the ageing process.

"On I'm Growing Old for instance, I first heard that song when I was in my 30s in 1971 or 1972," he says. "I was in Las Vegas and it was offered to me then.

"I liked it, but I was too young then to record it. But I thought I'll keep this song as I thought hopefully one day I'll get old enough to sing it.

"That's why I included it on my last album. I thought now is the time to do it.

"I always loved that song, but you've got to be a certain age to make it real. Now is the time."

Jones isn't alone. There's several arena-sized octogenarian stars still performing age-defying tours such as Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger.

Besides his nine-date Australian tour - which included a return to Byron Bay's Bluesfest on Saturday - Jones has also announced tours in 2024 for Asia, South America and Europe.

"I don't want to retire," he says. "I don't want to not perform. As long as I can, and as long as I'm singing as well and people still wanna hear me perform, I would love to do it.

"It's still as exciting to me as it ever was. I don't really want to stop and my only enemy is time."

Many of Jones' contemporaries have long since departed this world. So has Jones stopped to consider his legacy?

"It's Not Unusual still stands up," he says. "So does Delilah and What's New Pussycat?, so does With These Hands and Green, Green Grass of Home.

"They stand up on their own, so I'm very proud of that. But I don't wanna just rest on my laurels."

Ticket information for the tour is here.

Josh Leeson

Josh Leeson


Josh Leeson is an entertainment and features journalist, specialising in music, at the Newcastle Herald. He first joined the masthead in 2008 after stints at the Namoi Valley Independent and Port Stephens Examiner and has previously covered sport including the Asian Cup, A-League, Surfest, cricket and rugby league.