The room fell silent.
And I mean silent, as if we had been thrown into a state of suspended animation.
We were all pretending not to notice.
We were trying not to whisper.
But it was all to no avail.
AAAAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHH! It’s Tom Jones!
Call me sentimental, call me a groupie, call me Welsh . . . I don’t care. Because when Tom enters the building, the building knows it.
Awesome does not even begin to cover it; you feel that if you were just to touch the hem of his perfect suit, all would become well in your life.
I was in a London hostelry on Thursday lunchtime when Tom arrived for a long day of interviews. An orchestra of jaws hitting the floor echoed in the room; waitresses sprang into action, as if they had been electrocuted; food hovered in mid- air, forks taking a reverential pause, every prong star-struck in the great man’s presence.
I nearly self-combusted, pretty much as I had done a few years back, when I interviewed him for the ITV show This Morning. I could barely get my words out. He was adorable: polite, articulate, professional, sweet, incredibly humble and not at all starry.
And, I kid you not: on Thursday, when he took his seat in the restaurant, the previously clouded heavens above the glass roof separated, casting a single, pure light on our man and his table. I swear to you: it happened.
The man is a superstar. Listen again. SUPERSTAR. His voice is phenomenal; his genius unquestionable; and, huge credit to his manager son Mark – Tom is the best run act in show business. Without question.
Jones’ ability to re-invent himself, appealing to different generations, while still holding on to his core audience, is a tribute both to his and his son’s talent.
The entertainment business is incredibly tough and longevity rare; possessing talent is not enough – we only have to look at the list of failed reality show winners to know that; you have to know the audience, too.
And you specially have to know when to take a punt on giving that audience something different and changing their perception. It is no mean feat to be performing for nearly 50 years and, incredibly, still maintaining a formidable presence in the charts – and on both sides of the Atlantic.
Along with will.i.am, Jessie J and Danny O’Donoghue, Jones is currently appearing on The Voice UK, the BBC1 Saturday night talent show for wannabe singers. His track record brings immense credibility to the panel, and his charisma and charm bring a sprinkle of stardust that you just cannot manufacture.
You either have it or you don’t. And Jones does. By the bucketload.
On Saturday night, in a rather embarrassing off-key opening singalong among the judges (well, two were off key), Jones was, simply outstanding: at 72, he still has it, and his voice still takes your breath away.
I was seven when It’s not Unusual was released as a single and, when I had my first record player three years later, it was one of the singles my parents gave me from their enormous collection. Even at that age, I knew that there was something special about the voice.
Tom’s being Welsh like me was an added bonus, of course, and I remember playing the record over and over again, hurling the microphone from my parents’ tape-recorder and acting, for all the world, as if I was on the Vegas stage.
Las Vegas is the place that made Jones a truly international star and he performed there for a week a year until 2011. It is the place where women threw their hotel keys and underwear onto the stage – the latter becoming a trademark of his concerts.
I have seen Jones perform just once, in Cardiff Castle’s grounds some years ago. It was, without doubt, an extraordinary performance and, when I got to interview him, I felt honoured. I still do.
This week, we had a brief chat when he left the restaurant. He was, as ever, delightful; after a long day of interviews that must have been exhausting, I thought it incredibly gracious of him to take the time to say hello again.
In a world where so many “stars” with minimal talent act like divas, we are blessed not only with someone who is truly a great star with a great talent, but a really nice man, too.
I salute you, Sir Tom.
Always have, always will.