"On Top of the World"

taken from Chapter 14 : Superstar

By 1970 a string of hits, his TV series This Is Tom Jones, sold out Las Vegas shows and huge American tours had made Tom Jones the biggest solo star in the world

"For a while in the early 70s I was one of the world's highest paid entertainers" Tom remembers, "In 1970 I had a weekly TV series, records in the Top Five, a Number One with She's A Lady. I was touring six months a year, earning a guarantee of $100,000 a night. It would be six times that now. I was as far to the front as anyone could go. It wasn't just Las Vegas because the TV show had been so successful I was playing Madison Square Garden, the Forum in LA, the Cow Palace in San Francisco. No single artist had been through those venues before only the Beatles and the Stones had played places that big."

In 1970 Jones embarked on the biggest tour in American showbiz history. It earned him in excess of 2 million. The itinerary dwarfed the Beatles' Tours of '65 (which began at Shea Stadium ) and '66. Its 34 one night stands doubled the Rolling Stones' tour of the previous autumn (there were no free concerts and therefore no Altamonts) . The tour was put together by Buddy Howe, the president of CMA. Howe was Jones and Humperdinck's American agent until he died. The deal was done on a simple handshake with Gordon Mills.

Tom and Chris Ellis with Tom's Rolls Royces 1969

 

Darlene Love, the voice on many of Phil Spector's greatest hits, was one of the Blossoms Tom's backing singers

"I had never seen luxury like it before or since. It was astounding. Of course Tom was the hottest act in America," she recalls, "but it was planned like a military operation. We were given this huge thick dossier which detailed where all the members of the touring party had to be at any given time. If we missed the plane, there were always back up flights listed. Nothing was left to chance.'

"Tom comes to life when he's on stage, that's his life. I don't think he's ever loved anything more than he loved work. We were working 10 months of the year. At least. We travelled so much, we would do ten days in a row and then Tom would leave the country for a couple of days. That had something to do with income tax , then he would come back and we would work for another 10 day. Then we would be off for maybe two weeks, after which we'd be back on the road again, it was constant. When you are that hot you have to work."

In their scope, the size of venue (stadiums and large arenas played in the round), their execution and logistics Tom Jones' American tours of 1970 and 1971 were way ahead of their time. Indeed they set the benchmark for the organisation of the large arena tours that were to become the norm. Private planes between gigs, vintage champagne on tap, girls by the score is the kind of superstar excess usually associated with the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. Tom was there first.

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Robin Eggar, 2000. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in any form.