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. See CSNY play “You Don’t Have to Cry” from earlier in the broadcast, just above.