The singer talks about his glittering career in this exclusive interview and reveals details of a unique auction of some of his handwritten lyrics.
On March 22 the world's first auction of handwritten song lyrics and memorabilia, Hits Under The Hammer, takes place at the Sound Republic in London's Leicester Square. Among the treasured items being auctioned in aid of two children's charities, Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy and Norwood Ravenswood, are three sets of lyrics made famous by legendary Welsh singer Tom Jones: It's Not Unusual, which reached number one in 1965, Thunderball, the James Bond movie theme song, and Delilah, a number two hit in 1968. As he signed the manuscripts, handwritten by each of the songs' writers, Tom, 58, talked to OK! About his career, and his delight about being awarded an OBE, which he was due to collect the day after our interview.
Each of these three songs must hold very special memories for you.
It's Not Unusual was my first hit record, and it changed my life, so it's the most important song to me. When people see me, if they're going to sing something at me, nine times out of ten, they sing It's Not Unusual. My manager, Gordon Mills, co-wrote the song with Les Reed. Originally, I recorded the song as a demo for Sandie Shaw, but afterwards, I was adamant that I wanted to release it myself. I said to Gordon, "If you don't let me record this, then you're not my manager any more". And when they submitted the song to Sandie Shaw, she didn't want to record it - she said that whoever was singing on the demo should release it. I was thankful to her for that. When I recorded Delilah, I knew it was different, but I didn't know if it was commercial enough to be a hit. Thunderball, on the other hand, was a sure-fire winner because it was for James Bond.
Do you ever get fed up of performing the same songs so many times?
No, because it's the audience that keeps them alive. Each of the songs is so recognisable, I get instant applause when I start singing them. When I see the audience, it lifts me up. It's like a test ... I know that they are expecting certain things of me, so I know I had better deliver.
Do you find it difficult to unwind after a live performance?
I'm on a high, but I have to admit that I find it quite easy to relax. I always like to eat after a show, so I'll go to a restaurant and have some wine and cognac and a Cuban cigar. But it's still an exciting feeling when I'm eating - the restaurant is more meaningful to me after I've done the show than if I hadn't done the show. I feel different.
What motivates you to carry on performing? Presumably it isn't the money?
It's just a thing I have to do ... I love to sing. Sometimes I'll go into a piano bar in Las Vegas, and sing, after I've just performed in a concert hall. I do it because I feel like it. Even when it's only my friends there, six or seven of us.
I'll sing until I can't do it any more, or until I feel that I'm not as strong, vocally, as I used to be. I look at Luciano Pavarotti, who is still as strong as he ever was, and he gives me hope to carry on. But I dread the day when I can't sing.
Actually, I think my voice has improved with age. I think it has more weight to it now. When I was younger, it was a little higher and lighter.
Now you have been honoured with an OBE from Her Majesty The Queen - how does that rank among your list of achievements?
Good records are great, hit television shows are great, but to get an award from the Queen is truly a special honour. An OBE is something that you can keep and display, it's for services rendered over a lengthy period of time, it's not just awarded for one record or one appearance, like when you win a Grammy ... this is for my contribution to music.
Growing up in Pontypridd, did you ever imagine that you'd be famous one day?
I've been singing for as long as I can remember. It came naturally to me, getting up at parties and in school, and everyone was always telling me I should be a professional singer when I grew up, so I never really thought about doing anything else. When you have a God-given talent, you become a slave to it, you have to do it, you have to fulfil your purpose. That's the way I felt about it. It always gave me such a great feeling. But I could never have imagined how far I would go.
Do you have any regrets?
I would have liked to have pursued a movie career when I was younger. I did have the chance, but I was preoccupied with music. I wouldn't have got as much out of acting as I do out of singing; it's not as natural.
Do you still have the red phone box, taken from the bottom of your street in Pontypridd, cemented by the pool at your home in LA?
Actually I have just sold that house to Nicolas Cage, and he's had the pool area altered, so he has lifted the telephone box out of the ground. He was going to move it to another one of his houses, but I've been told him that if he doesn't want it, then I'll take it off his hands!
What are your biggest indulgences?
I like my three cars - I have a Rolls-Royce, a Mercedes and a Range Rover - and I like fine wine and good restaurants. I don't spend as much money on clothes as I used to. There was a time when I'd see a suit I liked and I'd buy six of them in different colours, whereas now I'll just buy one or two. I like Thierry Mugler, but I'm not a label-watcher. On stage, I mainly wear black. It's because I perspire so much - if I wear a light suit, it changes colour when I sweat.
Has your wife, Linda, ever asked you to stop touring and spend more of your time at home?
No, because she knows I just couldn't do it, so she puts up with me travelling as much as I do. I remember when I first started out in showbusiness, my wife said to me, "Why do you work so much?" I said, "When I get older I'll show down". Recently she said to me, "So when is this showing down thing going to kick in?" and I said, "I don't suppose it ever will".
--- Interview by Claudia Pattison ---