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HomeLifestyleTom Jones on Elvis Presley, King Charles, his changing voice, recent songs,...

Tom Jones on Elvis Presley, King Charles, his changing voice, recent songs, and more ahead of Ages & Stages Tour concert in Hong Kong

But after just a few minutes of talking to Jones, it is apparent there may not be a less-than-earnest bone in his body. He’s the miner’s son done good, the blue-collar Welsh boy whose golden voice took him to Hollywood and Buckingham Palace alike, over an enviable six-decade career.

Even now, in Jones’ 83rd year, his voice is taking him around the world on his Ages & Stages Tour – stopping next at Hong Kong’s AsiaWorld-Expo on March 16.

Jones performs live on stage in London circa 1965. Photo: Getty Images

What is his secret to maintaining those mythmaking cords? It is far from rocket science: water, sleep and not too much booze.

“I mean you can … I’ve always enjoyed a drink, you know, but you’ve got to be careful,” he says. “Everything in moderation.”

For all the bravado, Jones later admits that a pre-show session on a breath inhalation machine is a necessity to clear his pipes.

Jones poses for a portrait circa 1978 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Getty Images

So, how is that unmistakable croon holding up today, you might wonder? It has got deeper, for sure, but Jones claims only to have lost two notes at the top of his range.

“I could hit top Cs in my twenties, now on a good day it’s B flat – but my lower register I’ve found is much richer,” he says. “I was a tenor but I’ve become a baritone – and some songs benefit from that because I can get a much warmer, lower sound than I used to be able to.”

This evolving sonic palette has been documented on a quartet of well-received recent records helmed by contemporary indie producer Ethan Johns, a mature, reflective, rootsy run capped by 2021’s Surrounded by Time.

Better-known is the swagger of Jones’ youthful croon, familiar to a generation with heyday swinging ’60s hits like “What’s New Pussycat?”, “Green, Green Grass of Home” and, of course, “It’s Not Unusual”.

Soul singer Aretha Franklin performs the song “Your Love Is Like A See-Saw” with Jones in 1970. Photo: Getty Images

In 1965, barely a year into his recording career, Jones was tapped to sing the title song for spy film Thunderball, and still holds the rare distinction of recording a James Bond theme that is not an embarrassment.

His choice for the next 007? “That’s a good question,” he muses, before anointing Idris Elba.

Among his most memorable singalongs is “Delilah”, an Ivor Novello-winning composition that became an unofficial Welsh rugby anthem – until it was banned from stadiums in 2023. To blame is the lyric that depicts a jealous lover’s murder of his apparently adulterous partner in its joyful, communal chorus.

Jones does not get the furore. “The girl is unfaithful and he kills her – it’s a song of passion. But when people sing the chorus I don’t think they are thinking about that.”

Elvis Presley (right) with his wife Priscilla Presley and Jones in Las Vegas in 1971. Photo: Getty Images

Like most of his early hits, that tune was written for its singer, but in later years Jones found fresh relevance by reinterpreting already-familiar material – his unlikely, raunchy cover of Prince’s “Kiss” still closes the set list today.

The 1999 multi-platinum smash LP of covers Reload introduced Jones to a whole new audience of Gen Xers and millennials via collaborations with some of the era’s biggest stars: Robbie Williams, Stereophonics and The Cardigans.

The big idea was a throwback of sorts to This is Tom Jones, the British television show that saw its host duet on air with legendary voices including Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Sammy Davis Jnr, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Smokey Robinson, Janis Joplin and Wilson Pickett – all between 1969 to 1971.

Jones in 1980 in Beverly Hills, California. Photo: Getty Images
One icon of the era that did not make it was Elvis Presley – he never left America – but the pair have been remembered as great friends. What, then, did Jones make of Baz Luhrmann’s divisive 2022 biopic?

“I enjoyed the movie, I thought it was done very well. I thought Tom Hanks did a great job portraying Colonel [Tom] Parker – because he was like that, he tried to control Elvis to the nth degree. He put a price tag on him.”

And you saw that first-hand? “Oh yeah, Elvis never liked doing those movies, for instance – they wanted musical after musical and he went along with it, but he wasn’t happy with it,” remembers Jones, talking on Zoom from his Thames-facing London flat, home since 2017 after years spent living in Los Angeles.

Queen Elizabeth, Jones and the then-Duchess of Cornwall during the Diamond Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace in 2012 in London, England. Photo: Getty Images
Judging from the way he talks, perhaps the only person Jones holds in higher esteem is the late Queen Elizabeth – asked about the greatest moments of his life, he is quick to say both being knighted and singing at his first Royal Variety Performance, an annual fundraising event in Britain. So how about King Charles?

“I think he’s great. I met him quite a few times when he was the Prince of Wales. He was trained well, brought up well, the queen did a wonderful job and he respects that – he’s following in her footsteps, he’s putting his own spin on it and I think he’s perfect for the job.”

From his stage demeanour, it is almost boggling to realise Jones is eight years senior to the monarch he now serves.

While the entertainer remains adamant he will not be hanging up his mic any time soon, it is easy to detect a sense of mortality in some of the material his gravelly, deeper, latter-day voice has made its own in recent years – portraits of weary decline like Bob Dylan’s “Not Dark Yet” and Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song”.

Jones remains adamant he will not be hanging up his mic any time soon. Photo: Live Nation

“Well, you learn things over the years. As you live you experience certain things, and hopefully it will show in your music. I think I’m injecting more of myself than I did when I was younger,” he says.

“I read more into songs now than I did when I was younger. When I was in my twenties I would listen more to singers than to songs, but then as time went on you realise that the songs that people are singing are the most important thing – you can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear.”

Tom Jones Ages & Stages Tour in Hong Kong, Hall 11, AsiaWorld-Expo, March 16, 8pm. Ticket info: 2111 5333

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