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Tom Jones, He’s Not Unusual

Born in 1940, Tom Jones began life as Tommy Woodward, the son of a miner in the tough Welsh mining town of Pontypridd. There were few early signs that he was destined for stardom. Tom was a sickly child, plagued by TB and unable to pass a single exam. Only his voice set him apart.

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Tom Jones He's Not Unusual

Rock ‘n’ roll would be his salvation. In 1961 he joined a local band and as the lead singer enjoyed adulation, excitement – and girls. “It was mass hysteria when he came on at The Green Flower. People would start screaming and shouting. The tables would be hit over and drinks would go flying”, says original valley’s fan Joyce Cass.

Tom moved to London hoping to hit the big time. But this was the Beatles era and Tom’s belting vocals seemed old fashioned. He was impoverished and severely depressed. Then came his first number one hit, It’s Not Unusual in 1965 and he was launched into stardom. Now girls everywhere wanted a piece of the valleys boy – and he was ready to oblige.

Tom had a huge following of teenage fans. But to really exploit his super star potential, manager Gordon Mills and his new image makers ordered a complete makeover. Cigars replaced woodbines and pints made way for champagne. They were creating a sex god. However there was one serious problem they found very difficult to fix. Tom was married. He had been married since the age of 16 to his childhood sweetheart Linda and he had a young son. They were both kept secret. “It was awful,” says Jo Mills, Gordon’s ex-wife. “She was so bubbly, but there was this repression. He had to be known as single.” While Tom’s wife had to remain in the shadows, his valleys backing band were even more harshly treated and eventually dumped.

Tom was reinvented as a smooth, sophisticated ladies’ man. A natural born predator, he fitted the image perfectly. Now he could act out every male fantasy wherever he went. “They used to throw themselves at him,” says Bryn Phillips. “He’d say ‘I couldn’t say no, or they’d think I’m a poof’. That was his excuse.”

Tom Jones He's Not Unusual 2

With his distinctive voice and slick show biz routine, Tom soon conquered America, becoming the only British international rock star to rival Elvis. His love affairs became even more high profile – with Mary Wilson of the Supremes, 1972 Miss World Marjorie Wallace and ex-Playboy model Mamie-van-Doren. Tom’s wife Linda refused to let go of him and he returned to her after each one. Mary Wilson was broken-hearted, Marjorie Wallace attempted suicide and Mamie-Van-Doren rubbished his sexual prowess. “I’ve had lots of men and sexually Tom is at the bottom. He’s not very good in bed. That’s probably why he stayed with his wife,” she says.

By the ’80s Tom’s medallion man image had become comical. He was no longer picking hit records and seemed way past his sell by date. Then, with his son as manager, he was reinvented as the king of ironic cool. The ageing Lothario’s self mockery turned him into a number one artist again with hits like Sex Bomb. Through all the ups and downs of Tom’s career one thing has remained constant – his marriage to Linda. He remains the miner’s son from South Wales, a survivor from an era when men were men and a woman’s place was in the home. The straightforward certainties of his life – sex, singing and family – have helped him survive four decades in the fickle world of show biz.

The still going strong super star is now a much loved national institution. As singer Heather Small who appeared with him on the Reload album puts it: “People think ‘I’d like to be like him’. They’re not envious, they’re glad for him. That’s quite an achievement.”

History

Disco Days

How It Started: Emerging from Harlem’s Latin poor via the gay subculture of Greenwich Village, disco was the musical style that became a dance craze and a fashion sensation. It went mainstream with “The Hustle” in 1975 and became a way of life with Saturday Night Fever in 1977.

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Disco Days John Travolta

Why It Mattered: Like the best fads, disco was huge, hot and inescapable. It became noun, verb and adjective: You discoed at the disco in disco clothes. And, oh, those clothes–glittery tube tops, skintight designer jeans, satin jackets, white leisure suits. The phenomenon had big names, including Donna Summer, K.C. and the Sunshine Band, the Bee Gees and John Travolta.

But the real stars were the clubs themselves, places like New York’s Studio 54, where the competition was fierce to join the likes of Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger and Calvin Klein on the other side of the velvet rope. Mirror balls, cocaine and alcohol were commonplace, and discos could even be found in hotels and airports.

The Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart had huge dance-floor hits. There was “YMCA” and “Disco Duck,” and before the fad could fade, new-wave acts like Blondie absorbed its beat. Today, dance clubs have stripped the beat down, rebuilt the engine and continue to hustle it.

The Last Word: Disco died a fiery death in Chicago on July 12, 1979. A “disco sucks” rally between games of a White Sox doubleheader culminated with a centerfield bonfire. The fuel? Saturday Night Fever soundtracks, “Ring My Bell” singles and 20 pounds of TNT. The result: a large smoking crater in centerfield, flying vinyl and a full-scale riot.

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Music

When Rock Went Glam: Slade

From Wolverhampton, England, Slade created some of the most raucous pop tunes ever to storm the charts and after outliving the glam era have become affectionately regarded as something of a national institution.

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When Rock Went Glam Slade

In 1970 the band, in particular Dave Hill, cultivated an even more outrageous glam-rock image and released long-time live favourite “Get Down and Get With It” which took them into the UK top 20 for the first time. On BBC TV’s Top of The Pops they were now donning tartan, top hats, stack heels and in Holder’s case outrageous sideburns. At Chandler’s insistence Holder and Lea began to write all the band’s material relying on crunching riffs, stomping beats, simple yet memorable lyrics and deliberately mis-spelt song titles.

The result was the number-one follow-up single “Coz I Luv You” (1971) which was the first of an incredible six chart-toppers over the next three years. These included “Take Me Back ‘Ome“, “Mamma Weer All Crazee Now“, the oft-covered “Come On Feel The Noise” and the rather dubious “Skweeze Me Pleeze Me“. The band’s finest album from this era, Slayed (1973) is now regarded as a classic.

During their glam phase Slade also produced arguably the best Christmas pop tune ever, “Merry Christmas Everybody” (1973), which has re-charted most Christmases since. Slade have always enjoyed a reputation as legendary live performers able to whip their audience up into a boot-stomping frenzy, and there is no better illustration of this than the 1972 album Slade Alive on which Holder punctuates a quieter moment with a loud belch!

Slade were Noddy Holder (vocals/guitar), Jim Lea (bass/violin), Dave Hill (guitar) and Don Powell (drums).

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Hank Williams the Country Music Legend Who Lived Fast and Died Young

Hank Williams drew his last breath on January, 1 1953. At the age of twenty-nine, he died in the back of his own Cadillac, en route to a gig in Canton, Ohio. He may have known his own fate, as in his song, I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive. Cause of death was listed as severe heart attack – but years of hard living, alcohol and drug abuse, had obviously taken their toll on his young body.

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The country music legend was born Hiram Hank Williams in Mount Olive West, Alabama – September 17, 1923. His parents were poor and for the majority of Hank’s childhood, his father suffered ill health from exposure to gas in World War 1. It is also rumored that Hank was afflicted with spina-bifida as a child; a condition whereas the spinal column hasn’t fused together, creating a gap in the spine. He had taken to shining shoes on street corners in an attempt to help support his family, and by the time he was seven years old, he was learning to play guitar from a black street musician named Tee-Tot.

A real interest in music came about when his mother bought him a guitar as a birthday present. By age thirteen, he had won a song-writing contest and at fourteen, formed his own band, The Drifting Cowboys. They began playing local dances, and Hank’s mother, Lillie drove them to gigs and the band soon became one of the most popular attractions in the region. Eventually the band auditioned for radio station WSFA, in Montgomery, Alabama. Before long, they were regulars at the station.

In 1944 Hank began his stormy relationship with Audrey Shepard. He began writing songs and reformed a new band, again called the Drifting Cowboys. It was during this time that he began living rough, and drinking became a hindrance. He often showed up drunk for performances, if he showed up at all.

Hank had drawn the attention of several Nashville producers. But by this time, he’d already built a reputation as a drinker, and they were leery of his unreliability. It wasn’t until 1946 that Hank made the trip to Tennessee to meet Fred Rose; co-founder of the music publishing company Acuff-Rose. It was also in ’46 that he auditioned for the Grand Ole Opry, but was turned down because his drunken reputation proceeded him.

Hank Williams Takes A Seat

First and foremost, Acuff-Rose was interested in Hank only as a writer. (In his lifetime, Hank had written over 300 songs) But by 1947, Rose signed Hank to MGM records to record “Move It On Over.” Later in the year, he was signed on as a regular member of the infamous Louisiana Hayride-a radio program broadcast across the south. Hank’s records were highly popular and selling like crazy – and in 1949 the Grand Ole Opry reconsidered, inviting Hank Williams to perform on their stage on June 11th. His performance was hugely successful, and he soon became a regular cast member.

For the next five years, Hank would enjoy a life of success. He continued to record and fast became one of the most popular artists in the country. He released such songs as Your Cheatin’ Heart, Jambalaya, and Cold, Cold Heart … all country music standards to this day. Hank is selling as many records now, as he did at the height of his career, fifty years ago.

With his huge success came more bouts of heavy drinking and continual arguments with his wife. In 1952, Audrey divorced Hank and gained a large settlement, as well as custody of their son, Hank Jr. He quickly retaliated by marrying the future Mrs. Johnny Horton – nineteen year old, Billie Jean Jones. He began using prescription drugs, the alcohol abuse became more severe, and Hank was soon missing more and more bookings. He was subsequently fired from the Grand Ole Opry. Soon, he was reduced to working local gigs – he had fallen back on his meagre beginnings.

The whirlwind career of Hank Williams had ended just a few short years after it began. He left behind millions of fans, young and old, and will always be an influence on American music. He has obviously set standards for all country artists who would follow him and was highly influential for such greats as Alan Jackson and country up-comer Danni Leigh.

In 1961, Hank was the first artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Hank Williams: September 17 1923 – January 1 1953.

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