The reason why Tom Jones almost quit the music industry

In 1965, Tom Jones‘ career could have gone in two directions. Feeling somewhat disillusioned, the Welshman came around to accepting the idea that pop superstardom perhaps wasn’t for him. Before moving to London to chase his dreams of dominating the music industry, Jones was performing in working men’s clubs in Wales and came to believe that would potentially be his apex.

Unlike most budding musicians in his predicament, Jones had responsibilities in the form of his wife and their child. It wasn’t sustainable for him to spend years hopelessly attempting to become a pop star in London without earning enough income to support his family. Before moving to the capital, the clubs paid him enough to live a modest life, a reliable lifestyle which he put to risk in the hope of becoming a professional recording artist.

After being discovered by his manager Gordon Mills, Jones was convinced to leave Wales behind and eventually secured a record deal with Decca for the single, ‘Chills and Fever’. The track was released in late 1964, but the song failed to chart and jeopardised his career.

Shortly after ‘Chills and Fever’ flopped, Jones was asked by Decca to record a demo version of a new song called ‘It’s Not Unusual’. The label never intended for it to be released under his name and instead wanted their established star, Sandie Shaw, to have the track. However, after Jones put his fingerprint on the song, he was unwilling to let it slip and told Decca he’d quit the music business if they took it away from him.

He explained on the George Ezra and Friends podcast in 2019: “We did ‘It’s Not Unusual,’ and when I heard it back, I said I gotta have this song, and I mean Gordon [Mills] was going, well, he wasn’t fussed about it, but Les [Reed] was going ‘Well Sandie Shaw you know she’s had these number one records who the hell are you to get hold of this song’.”

Jones continued: “I said, ‘Well, I gotta have this song. If I don’t get this song, I’m going back to Wales’. That’s how strong I felt about this song. I meant it, oh yeah; I mean, what else could I threaten them with? What could I threaten Gordon with than saying I’m going back and do some shows in his worker men clubs which I was doing alright with? So they played it to Sandie Shaw, and she said, ‘Whoever’s singing this song that’s his song, I couldn’t sing it like that’.”

‘It’s Not Unusual’ proved to be his signature track and established Jones as an international star. The hit topped the charts in the United Kingdom and introduced him to America, with the Welshman performing the song twice on The Ed Sullivan Show. In another reality, if Decca stuck to their guns by refusing to let him release ‘It’s Not Unusual’, Jones would have headed back to Wales with his dream of superstardom in tatters. Thankfully, he put his foot down, and the rest is history.

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