Tom Jones' song "It's Not Unusual" is not only his signature theme, but also a definite classic record of the 1960s.
Thomas John Woodward was born on June 7, 1940, in South Wales. As a young boy, he developed a love for singing and was a natural performer, singing at local weddings and family gatherings, as well as the school choir. Tragedy struck young Tom at the age of 12, when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. "It was the worst time of my life," remembers Tom. "I spent two years in bed recovering."
Bedridden, he had nothing much to do all day but draw and listen to music. After he recovered from TB, Tom resumed his singing. His early influences were Little Richard, Brooke Benton, Jackie Wilson, and Elvis Presley (with whom he was later to share a close friendship).
By his early twenties, Tom had developed a strong, robust voice and decide to try a career as a professional singer. He became the front man in a Welsh beat group called Tommy Scott and the Senators in 1963.
In 1964, manager Gordon Mills spotted Tom singing at a gig and took him on as a client. He convinced Tom to become a single act and changed his name to the catchier "Tom Jones." Mills soon got his boy a recording contract with Decca records. Tom's first Decca single, "Chills and Fever," was released in late 1964 and flopped, failing to chart at all.
"It's Not Unusual" was co-written by classical music arranger and conductor Les Reed and Gordon Mills. The song was originally offered to singer Sandie Shaw. Tom Jones recorded the original demo of the song, but after hearing it, Shaw turned it down flat.
Tom was to remember, "I did the demo on this song when it was offered to Sandie Shaw. I was just starting out and, God bless her, she said, 'Whoever's singing this, it's his song.' Finding great new songs is never easy, and back in those days, finding one that would fit me -the way I felt and sang anyway, was difficult. I'm indebted to Sandie for being so generous."
After Shaw's rejection, the song was offered to Frankie Vaughn, who also said no.
"It's Not Unusual" was recorded on November 11, 1964, at Decca Studios in West Hampstead. Tom record the song as part of a group, Tom Jones and the Squires. Tom's first take of the song wasn't anything special. Tom recalls, "Then my producer, Peter Sullivan, said, 'You've got a big voice. Nice is not enough. You are not nice.'" As a result of this direction, the song jumped out of the speakers and became a hit.
Tom's backing group that day, the Squires, consisted mainly of the top British session musicians of the time. It has been falsely reported that Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page played on the session. This is untrue. The only guitar player on "It's Not Unusual" was Joe Moretti, famous for playing on "Whole Lotta Shakin'" and "Brand New Cadillac."
The Squires' keyboard player wasn't available for the recording session, so the band needed to recruit one -fast. Anxious, the Squires' drummer Chris Slade went next door to the La Giaconda coffee shop and coaxed the keyboard player there to join them for the session. "It's Not Unusual" was recorded, and the keyboard player was thanked and paid for the session. When asked his name, he answered, "Reg" and left. About a year later, "Reg" (Reginald Dwight) changed his name to Elton John.
"It's Not Unusual" was released in January of 1965. Originally, the BBC refused to give the song airplay, claiming it was "too raunchy." This left pirate radio to give the song its first airplay. Pirate radio stations everywhere played the song and eventually helped make it a success.
"It's Not Unusual" eventually hit the number one spot on the UK record charts, giving Tom Jones his first hit. The song was to peak at #10 on the American charts, although it did make #3 on the easy listening chart in the States. Tom Jones was to use it as his theme song on his late '60s-early '70s TV variety show.
And although, as we all know, Tom Jones went on to sell millions of records and albums and have many succeeding hits, including "Delilah," "Green Green Grass of Home," "What's New, Pussycat?" and "She's a Lady," no one on the planet Earth can ever hear the name Tom Jones and not immediately start singing or thinking the words, ""It's Not Unusual …to be loved by anyone."