Over the Top and Back: The Autobiography

Over the Top and Back: The Autobiography

by Tom Jones


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The long-awaited autobiography of legendary singer Tom Jones, following six decades of unparalleled experiences in the spotlight to coincide with his 75th birthday.

Across six decades, Sir Tom Jones has maintained a vital career in a risky, unstable business notorious for the short lives of its artists. With a drive that comes from nothing but the love for what he does, he breaks through and then wrestles with the vagaries of the music industry, the nature of success and its inevitable consequences. Having recorded an expansive body of work and performed with fellow artists from across the spectrum and across every popular music genre, from rock, pop and dance to country, blues and soul, the one constant throughout has been his unique musical gifts and unmistakable voice.

But how did a boy from a Welsh coal-mining family attain success across the globe? And how has he survived the twists and turns of fame and fortune to not only stay exciting, but actually become more credible and interesting with age? In this, his first ever autobiography, Tom revisits his past and tells the tale of his journey from wartime Pontypridd to LA and beyond. He reveals the stories behind the ups and downs of his fascinating and remarkable life, from the early heydays to the subsequent fallow years to his later period of artistic renaissance.

It's the story nobody else knows or understands, told by the man who lived it, and written the only way he knows how: simply and from the heart. Raw, honest, funny and powerful, this is a memoir like no other from one of the world's greatest ever singing talents.

This is Tom Jones and Over the Top and Back is his story.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399576362
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/01/2016
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 276,647
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Tom Jones was born Thomas Jones Woodward in South Wales to a traditional coal-mining family. He began singing at an early age and landed is first record contract in 1964, winning a Grammy in 1965 for "It's Not Unusual." Knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2006 for his services to music, his recordings have spanned the spectrum of musical styles over 60 years. He lives with his wife of 58 years, Melinda, in Wales and California. They have one son.

Read an Excerpt


Let’s not begin at the beginning. Let’s start somewhere near the bottom.

Early 1983, say. Early 1983 finds me sitting in a drab-colored dressing room in Framingham, Massachusetts, twenty-two miles west of Boston. Once this strip of Route 9 was pig farms and the occasional gas station. Now it’s known as the Golden Mile—Marshalls’ Mall, a Holiday Inn, a Howard Johnson’s, a procession of neon signs along the roadside. “Framingham’s little touch of Vegas,” they call it.

And here I am on this Golden Mile, which isn’t particularly golden, if we’re being honest, nor actually a mile. Here I am backstage at the Chateau de Ville Dinner Theater, Framingham’s premier “function room,” home to weddings and sales conference parties and the annual Natick High prom—and tonight, home to Tom Jones, international singing superstar and globe-girdling sex symbol, who must remember not to go too far downstage in this venue or the spotlight at the back of the room won’t be able to reach him through the ornamental chandelier.

Here I am in the eighties in the dressing room of a drive-up dinner theater in the American suburbs. Bright lights round the mirror. Stage clothes in zippered covers hanging from a rail. Sandwiches and fruit under plastic wrap on a Formica table. Vase of flowers trying to make up for the lack of windows.

Two shows per night, to a predominantly white, middle-aged crowd, seated at tables, eating chicken or premium-plate surf-and-turf. Seven thirty until 8:30; shower and change; then 10:00 to 11:00, plus encores. Thank you. Thank you so much. Good night. And afterward a car back to Boston, moving fast to get there before the good restaurants shut. And then a meal and some drinks—quite a lot of drinks—and eventually a hotel bed.

I’m here again tomorrow.

After which the caravan will move on to more of the same. One hundred and thirty-four nights like these in 1983 alone: the Circle Star Theater, San Carlos, California; the Holiday Star Theater, Merrillville, Indiana; Pine Knob Music Theater, Clarkston, Michigan. Tom Jones: Live in Concert. Singing the songs that made him famous: “It’s Not Unusual,” “What’s New Pussycat?,” “Green, Green Grass of Home,” “Delilah,” “She’s a Lady.” Stringing them together in a show-closing medley, because that’s what you do in the dinner theaters. Also doing Kool and the Gang’s “Ladies Night”; maybe “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”—bringing it up to date, or thereabouts.

It’s 1983, and I haven’t had a hit for twelve years. Twelve years! Not just singers but entire musical movements have come and gone in that time: prog rock, glam rock, disco, punk rock, post-punk, new romanticism . . . The earth has shifted under popular music at least six times without noticeably impacting upon me or even causing me to break step or slightly change direction.

Who’s selling records, as a singer, in 1983? Who do you have to be? Luther Vandross? Lionel Richie? I’m neither of these people. I’m Tom Jones.

Not that anybody in the audience in Framingham will seem to mind. They love me here. I’ll only have to walk on, and the place will go up. And then I’ll sing, and it will really go up. And, yes, no doubt there will be some underpants. Because that’s become a ritual. Not peeled off and flung there and then, as in the beginning. But most likely brought in specially and lobbed into my hands or laid on the stage at my feet in tribute, because . . . well, because that’s what you do at a Tom Jones show, isn’t it? Same thing every night. And I’m not complaining, either. Paid to sing. Paid to make singing my life. Paid handsomely for it, too. And brought underpants, albeit now in a kind of low-key, heritage way, with an eye on the upholding of a time-honored tradition. There are far worse jobs. Proper jobs. I know because I’ve done some of them. There is no hardship here. Trust me, the meal after the Framingham show will be a good one. We will dine high, back in Boston: brandy, cigars, champagne. And then maybe on to a nightclub for more of the same. Don’t cry for me Argentina, is right. Don’t cry for me, anybody at all.

At the same time, though, here I am in the dressing-room mirror. Spangled bolero jacket. Slashed white shirt. Substantial silver neck-chain. Dark slacks fitting snug to the waist. Belt buckle the size of a manhole cover. Cuban heels. “Framingham’s little touch of Vegas.”

Twelve years without a hit. This wasn’t exactly the plan. Assuming there was a plan. Which, coming to think of it, there wasn’t.

But does anyone really plan these things? You can’t, can you? You can only do your best to scramble aboard a plane that’s taking off and then see what happens. And in 1983 the path of my flight looks roughly like this: in the beginning, blasted almost vertically into fame’s skies, higher than I even dared to imagine; but since then, cruising. Worse than that: cruising and gradually losing height—but slowly, gently, over the course of more than a decade, so that you don’t notice how close the ground has got until one day (say, in a dressing room, between shows, in a dinner theater in suburban Massachusetts) you turn your head and look down.

Two questions, then, in the Chateau de Ville Dinner Theater, Framingham, Massachusetts, in 1983. And two questions for this book.

Firstly, how did I get here?

And secondly, now that I’m here, how do I get out?


Excerpted from "Over the Top and Back"
by .
Copyright © 2016 Tom Jones.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 I Had No Idea 5

2 The Front Room 9

3 Uneager to Please 25

4 Pastimes of Youth 33

5 Raise a Ruckus 45

6 Take My Love 51

7 I Wish You Would 61

8 Coat Full of Singles 71

9 Bring It on Home 79

10 Escape From Wiggins Teape 89

11 Revenge is Not Necessary 99

12 Door to Door 109

13 Friend Or Foe? 119

14 What You Don't Know 129

15 Factory Girl 147

16 In My Bones 153

17 I Wanna Hold Your Hand 159

18 Till My Back Ain't Got No Bone 171

19 The Jerk 187

20 Ladder of Excess 197

21 Talk of the Town 207

22 The Copacabana Hit 215

23 Made My Bed 225

24 Everything's Got a Price 231

25 Convenience is the Devil 247

26 Working For the Man 255

27 Hold That Tiger 263

28 Elvis Presley Blues 269

29 What Was I Thinking? 283

30 He Was a Friend of Mine 289

31 Honey Honey 297

32 Opportunity to Cry 311

33 Showbiz Graveyard 323

34 You Never Know (Ever) 335

35 The NWCS 351

36 Jimmy's Place 359

37 Everybody Loves a Train 367

38 Flippy Doors 377

39 Rock 'N' Roll Queen 383

40 Why Don't You Love Me Like You Used To Do? 389

41 What Good Am I? 395

42 Tomorrow Night 407

Acknowledgments 411

Photo Credits 413

Index 414

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