And He Sings - Like Thunderbaaallll!

Dec 30, 2015

This week our WPPB TBT celebrates the 50th anniversary of "Thunderball", the 4th film in the series starring Sean Connery as British secret agent 007. Even now, half a century since its release {12/22/65 in the States and a week later in the U.K.} the adolescent in me occasionally...OK...frequently fantasizes about being Bond. James Bond. His license to kill - especially in the bedroom - is a fantasy which still stirs my teenage soul. And like most boys my age, it's a dream I just can't seem to shake.

Putting that "any woman he wants, he'll get" attitude aside, my real reason for recognizing this moment in motion picture history is the movie's music. And "The Voice" who sings while other men just talk.

By December 1965, barely a year after signing his first record contract, Tommy Woodward, a coal miner's son from South Wales, had become one of the biggest young stars in show business. Now known worldwide by his stage name - Tom Jones - he'd scored two smash singles in '65, "It's Not Unusual" and "What's New Pussycat?" leading to several notable TV performances that year including 3 appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. In 1966, Jones would receive the Grammy Award for Best New Artist.

While a 25 year old Welshman with his star on the rise seems a perfect fit for a film produced when British pop culture ruled the entertainment universe, T.J. was not immediately considered for Thunderball's title track. Recordings of a different theme song, "Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" by Shirley Bassey then Dionne Warwick were rejected by United Artists for not containing the film's title in its lyrics. Consequently, soundtrack composer John Barry with lyricist Don Black wrote "Thunderball" in an Aston Martin like rush. Legend has it that Tom Jones sang the new theme song, then fainted in the recording booth after wailing out the number's final, high note. Speaking of the song's climax Jones said, "I closed my eyes and I held the note for so long when I opened my eyes the room was spinning.

Although Tom Jones career would carry on famously for half a century and counting, the "Thunderball" single did not become one of his signature smash hit records; not like "I'll Never Fall In Love Again", "She's A Lady", "Delilah" etc. However, the song has long been a live concert showstopper for "The Voice."

So, let's have a listen shall we to a 2009 performance recorded live in Germany. As delivered by the then 69 year old voice himself - Jones. Tom Jones.