Tom Jones Spouts Off About ‘Sick Joke’

An email leaked from an Island Records executive calling Tom Jones’ new album a “sick joke,” has some speculating the controversy was nothing more than a publicity stunt. The singer says he’s “pissed off” and wants to know “what’s going on.”

Last October Jones signed a £1.5 million contract with Island Records. His new album, Praise & Blame, is set for release July 26 and features blues and spiritual songs with titles including “Lord Help The Poor & Needy,” “If I Give My Soul” and “What Good Am I.” The U.K.’s Western Mail notes that the gospel album “is described as a ‘deeply personal’ collection of songs that depicts how the Welsh singer feels about turning 70.”

Apparently David Sharpe, vice-president of Island Records, didn’t get the heads up about the direction Jones was taking with his new album. An internal email from Sharpe to his colleagues, dated May 19, was leaked to the press early last week.

“Imagine my surprise when I walked into the office this morning to hear hymns coming from your office – it could have been Sunday morning,” Sharpe wrote, according to the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph.

“My initial pleasure came to an abrupt halt when I realised that Tom Jones was singing the hymns! I have just listened to the album in its entirety and want to know if this is some sick joke????

“We did not invest a fortune in an established artist for him to deliver 12 tracks from the common book of prayer [sic]. Having lured him from EMI, the deal was that you would deliver a record of upbeat tracks along the lines of ‘Sex Bomb’ and ‘Mama Told Me’…

“Who put him with a ‘folk’ producer and who authorised that he should go off on this tangent … Please don’t give me the art over commerce argument, it’s run its course … What are you thinking when he went all spiritual?”

Photo: AP Photo
Guinness 250th Anniversay Celebration, Dublin, Ireland

If Sharpe didn’t have any praise for Jones’ new album, the singer had even less for the executive.

“When I questioned them and said, ‘What the hell is this all about? Who is this fella? I don’t even know who he is’, I found out that he’s some fella who signs cheques or something,” Jones told the Western Mail.

“But he’s not in the creative side of it and [Island Records is] 100% behind [the album], but people don’t know that.”

The singer said he asked the label to explain the leaked email and he was told, “’You don’t understand, he loves the record.’ Then I said, ‘Then what the f*** is this all about? What’s going on here?’ I read it and I was pissed off. And I’m supposed to know what’s going on!”

Jones said he doesn’t buy the old saying that “all publicity is good publicity” because to him “it’s [just] being talked about in a negative way.

“Hopefully, if there’s any good that comes out of it, it’s that people will wonder about [the new album]. But it isn’t the way I would handle it by going and making a stupid statement. That’s not going to help it.

“They’ve apologised, they can’t apologise enough – and they’ve said ‘we’ll make good on this.’”

Readers and Tom Jones fans – will you buy the singer’s new album even if it doesn’t contain danceable hits like “It’s Not Unusual” and “She’s A Lady”? Should artists have the right to pursue their passion and “art over commerce” or should they just give the label what it thinks fans want?

Click here for the Western Mail story.

Click here for the Daily Telegraph story.