Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Same Old Song: Tom Jones: "I'm Coming Home"

As Christmas approaches, certain kinds of songs tend to get released; in '67 (as you'd expect) Tom Jones released a big ballad in full expectancy of getting to number one, as he had the previous Christmas.

As a song, it is about as close to what he wanted to do - be on Stax or Motown - but he can never really cut loose here and dig into the emotions of the song, due to the predictability of the music (it sounds just like you'd imagine it does). This catches Jones in his Las Vegas phase - big emotions, open shirts, otherwise sensible women throwing their underwear onstage, etc. That it's a song about a man who has done his woman wrong who is coming home - whether she wants him back or not - seems to get lost in the soaring voice and sense of familiarity the song has - hearing it for the first time, I already have felt like I've heard it before. That must have been the appeal he had - a handsome bad boy/man who wore his heart on his sleeve, who would repent and show his vulnerability, all the better to maintain his sex appeal...begging forgiveness, claiming his life is nothing without her...(this song may seem like it's translated from another language, but I believe it's Les Reed & Barry Mason, yet again)*...

...all that is fine, but something got in the way of this plea in getting to number one, which in this time of big sobbing ballads must have seemed like a sure thing. Unfortunately for Jones, those pesky Beatles had a hit single - far-out enough for psych fans but chirpy enough for those who thought they had perhaps forgotten how to do something uptempo. The Beatles were literally saying "Hello!" to a whole new crop of fans as well as their old ones, and no amount of manly confessing was able to get past that.

I would like - for a moment however - to look at the U.S. charts and see what was happening there, as a reminder of what else was going on. In the Cashbox chart's Top 40 for around this time are these songs: "Summer Rain" by Johnny Rivers, "Wear Your Love Like Heaven" by Donovan, "The Rain, The Park and Other Things" by The Cowsills and "Chain of Fools" by Aretha Franklin. So there definitely was something up at this time, reflective or active, but for whatever reason - again I am guessing the radio playlists - but there are hardly any sob story songs there, besides the Old Guard of Bobby Vinton and such.

So what is going to happen next? Can anything break through this Housewives of Valium Court drear? Has there been something lurking for months in the corner, something revolutionary that will once again make people look at their stereos in confusion and delight?

Well, YES. Did someone say, out of death comes new life?

*I feel it necessary to note that Scott Walker also has a single out for Christmas - the avant-MOR "Jackie." I wonder if Tom ever wanted to sing something like this? (The lines about having a bordello and a number one single may have cut a bit too close...)

No comments: