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5 December 2013

The day I lied to Tom Jones - it was so unusual!

I’VE never been a good judge of anything, so it was with some trepidation that I agreed recently to help find the winner of a Food Tasting contest here in Spain.
I surprised myslf by being among those who picked out what proved to be the winning dish – a tasty chicken curry.
Mind you, there were only two entries - and I almost chose the other one because the curry was awash with onions, the odious vegetable I wish nature had never invented.
If I’d known I was guaranteed third prize, I’d have entered the contest myself. I make a mean scrambled eggs on toast with a subtle baked-bean garnish  – and my Welsh rarebit is something to die for. Or should that be to die from?  No, make that to Dai from...
In my youth, I used  to think  I had another great talent in addition to being able to spell verbal diarrhoea as well as speak it fluently.
As a teenage reporter in South Wales,  I wrote a weekly  pop music column in which I waxed lyrical on the Top 10, the teenagers’ gospel. Among  the Pontypridd Observer’s readers were five enthusiastic musicians who  called themselves The Senators. The group’s founder, bass guitarist  Vernon Hopkins, worked at the Observer as a compositor and it was big news locally when he recruited charismatic local lad Tommy Scott as lead singer.
 Tommy (real name Woodward) was a Welsh version of the Fonz -  jeans, winkle-pickers, a likeable layabout. He also had a brilliant voice and when exiled singer-songwriter Gordon Mills came home to the Rhondda looking for talent, he was bowled over by Scott’s act.
Great Scott: Tom in his pre-Jones days
Off went the boy from nowhere and his backing group to London with a recording contract and a name change enforced by the fact that  there was already a Tommy Scott  the circuit.
 Gordon, inspired by the hugely popular period movie of the same name, opted for Tom Jones.
The embryo superstar flitted between London and Treforest, where wife Melinda and son Mark continued to live in the basement of mother-in-law Vi’s terraced house.
His first single, Chills and Fever, was released with little impact and during one of his trips home he invited me to nip down and  hear a preview of his  new single written by manager Mills and Les Reed.
I duly arrived at 3 Cliff Terrace and stamped on the grill in the pavement outside.  If you wanted Vi, the routine was to knocked on the front door. For Tom or Melinda, you rattled the pavement  grill.
Minutes later I was sitting in their living room listening intently to the demo disc of a song his manager Mills had written with Les Reed and thinking to myself: ‘That’s not going to make it. It’s too repetitive and doesn’t have enough melody.’
‘What do you think?’ asked Tom. ‘Brilliant!’ I lied. ‘I’m sure it’s going to be a big hit.’
A few weeks later, It’s Not Unusual  topped the charts and Tom Jones was on his way to becoming an international legend.
I headed for London soon after and didn’t do too badly career-wise. But I never did get a call from the New Musical Express or Melody Maker.
Why not? You be the judge.