Tom Jones Performs “Long Time Gone” with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young–and Blows the Band & Audience Away (1969)

Welsh croon­er Tom Jones made an unlike­ly come­back in the late 80s, cov­er­ing Prince’s “Kiss” with Art of Noise. Then in the mid-90s, he showed up on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air to sing mid-60s hit “It’s Not Unusu­al” for super­fan Carl­ton Banks. This was a time of 60s come­backs all around, but Jones’ resur­gence was a lit­tle odd (though per­fect­ly in char­ac­ter for Carl­ton Banks). Tom Jones had been a big star in the mid to late 60s, with his own TV show and a string of inter­na­tion­al hits. But Tom Jones was nev­er exact­ly cool in the way that, say, Neil Young was cool in 1969, the year he and Jimi Hen­drix stole a truck to get to Wood­stock.

“Tom Jones and his show might’ve been seen as some­what ‘square’ by the rock­star stan­dards of CSNY,” writes Dan­ger­ous Minds,” but when the four­some agreed to appear in Sep­tem­ber of that year, just weeks after the mas­sive fes­ti­val in upstate New York, it turned into a mem­o­rable tele­vi­sion event, with Jones tak­ing lead vocals on “Long Time Gone” and blow­ing the audi­ence and the band away.

“The man’s mighty lungs inspire the rest of them to keep up, it must be said,” even Young, whose “face goes from one of disdain/’What am I doing here?’ to ‘This fuck­ing rocks’ about halfway through.”

Even stranger than this com­bi­na­tion is the fact that Young agreed to do it at all. He had become noto­ri­ous­ly averse to doing tele­vi­sion, even turn­ing down The Tonight Show with John­ny Car­son and cit­ing his hatred of TV as a rea­son for leav­ing Buf­fa­lo Spring­field two years ear­li­er. Though he may have been caught up in the moment, he lat­er regret­ted it, as his long­time man­ag­er Eliot Roberts told biog­ra­ph­er Jim­my McDo­nough: “Neil went, ‘The Tom Jones show! What pos­sessed you? It’s that shit.’ He always used to say ‘that shit.’ Cros­by had this weed of doom… Neil nev­er for­gave me for that. He ripped me about it for a very, very long time. Years.”

“It was high­ly rat­ed,” says Roberts, “sold a lot­ta records, but in ret­ro­spect it was embar­rass­ing.” Young prob­a­bly shouldn’t have wor­ried. Weed of doom or no, it didn’t seem to hurt his cred­i­bil­i­ty as much as his bewil­der­ing (though crit­i­cal­ly re-appraised) 1982 New Wave record, Trans. Jones has done just fine, rein­vent­ing him­self in the 80s and 90s in good-humored self-par­o­dies, then becom­ing a bona fide pop star once more. He has yet to appear again with Neil Young.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Janis Joplin & Tom Jones Bring the House Down in an Unlike­ly Duet of “Raise Your Hand” (1969)

Neil Young Per­forms Clas­sic Songs in 1971 Con­cert: “Old Man,” “Heart of Gold” & More

Who Is Neil Young?: A Video Essay Explores the Two Sides of the Ver­sa­tile Musician–Folk Icon and Father of Grunge

The Time Neil Young Met Charles Man­son, Liked His Music, and Tried to Score Him a Record Deal

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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