And Finally Beef Of The Week

CMU Beef Of The Week #27: Tom Jones v Island Records

By | Published on Saturday 17 July 2010

Oh, what, these guys again? Yes, them again. After last week’s hoo haa over Island Records Senior VP David Sharpe’s email to his staff complaining that Tom Jones’ new album ‘Praise & Blame’ was “all spiritual”, this week Tom Jones gets his right to reply. And reply he has, at great length, branding the label man “stupid” and “some fella who signs cheques or something”.

Last week’s Beef Of The Week was devoted to Sharpe’s email, in which he wrote: “Imagine my surprise when I walked into the office this morning to hear hymns coming from your office – it could have been Sunday morning. 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?”

He continued: “We did not invest a fortune in an established artist for him to deliver twelve tracks from the common book of prayer. Having lured him from EMI [with a £1.5 million contract], the deal was that you would deliver a record of upbeat tracks along the lines of ‘Sex Bomb’ and ‘Mama Told Me’. As venerable and interesting as Tom’s story is, this is not what was agreed and certainly not what we paid for. Who put him with a ‘folk’ producer and who authorised that he should go off on this tangent…?”

In conclusion, he said: “Please don’t give me the art over commerce argument, it’s run its course… what are you thinking when he went all spiritual?”

Asked for his opinion of Sharpe’s attack by Welsh newspaper The Western Mail, Tom Jones said: “People are going to read this and think the record company doesn’t like [my album], or that I’ve made a mistake. It’s not coming from the creative people in the record company, because they’re backing [the album] up all the way, I mean they’re thrilled with it, so I don’t understand it. 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. But he’s not in the creative side of it and they’re 100% behind it, but people don’t know that”.

Warming to his subject, Jones continued to rant: “In the press it says that I’ve gone off and made something that the record company didn’t pay me for and that they don’t like it. People tell me that all publicity is good publicity, that’s what I’ve been told. People say to me, ‘Well it’s being talked about’, but to me it’s 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'”.

Starting to get somewhat repetitive, he continued further: “The record company said, ‘You don’t understand, he loves the record’, then I said, ‘Then what the fuck 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! They say, ‘Well, he’s not from the creative side’. Well people don’t know that. People see that he’s an exec of a record company – that’s what they’re reading”.

And further still: “People can decide for themselves if they hear the album. As long as it doesn’t turn people off, though. If they read it and think, ‘Oh look out, Tom has made a mistake here, they’ve paid him for something and he’s gone off and done something else and they don’t like it’. It’s not good. That’s the part I don’t like. They say, ‘Is it a sick joke?’. That’s stupid to say that. No record company is going to let you go away and record something without hearing things that you are doing. I mean, the first two songs they wanted to hear, the producer Ethan Johns said, ‘OK let them hear what we’ve done so far’, and they loved it”.

So, in a nutshell, Jones isn’t happy. He’s worried that the public will think that Sharpe’s view represents that of Island Records as a whole, and he’s keen to stress that the exec has no creative input into anything at all. They don’t even let him choose the colour of the Post-It notes.

To be fair, whether it was an outburst that was leaked or a carefully thought out publicity scam, Sharpe’s email is likely to make more people at least interested in hearing a bit of ‘Praise & Blame’. But, as I noted last week, being interested in hearing what an artist nearly 40 albums into his career sounds like these days is not the same as wanting to spend money in order to actually own the album in question.

We’ll see how Jones’ latest offering fares when it’s released on 26 Jul.

This Beef Of The Week comes from this edition of the CMU Weekly. Subscribe to the CMU Weekly here.