Sir Tom Jones was the songster with the snake-like hips when he burst onto the scene in the 1960s. He had a spell of mega-hits, with his breakout song It’s Not Unusual helping him to rise to the top echelons of the music industry. Soon after this came another major song, What’s New Pussycat, and there was quite a story behind its creation.
Did Sir Tom Jones write What’s New Pussycat?
Sir Tom Jones was not much of a songwriter. So instead, he relied on the help of those more expert in his early days.
His first tune, It’s Not Unusual, was part-written by his manager, Gordon Mills, while he went on to sing the James Bond theme tune, Thunderball, written by John Barry and Don Black.
What’s New Pussycat?, however, came just before Sir Tom’s James Bond moment, and was one of his early singles.
The song is the theme tune for the movie of the same name, which starred Woody Allen (who also wrote the movie in his first every adapted screenplay) Peter Sellers, Peter O’Toole and Ursula Andress.
The theme song, written by superstar songwriters Hal David and Burt Bacharach, was Oscar-nominated, but Sir Tom only provided the vocal chords rather than any songwriting assistance.
In a 2015 interview with Rolling Stone, Sir Tom revealed the story behind the song, and his reluctance to take part due to his love of the rhythm and blues music of Decca Records colleagues Rolling Stones.
Despite his hesitation, Sir Tom decided to give it all he had, saying: “I thought, ‘I’m going to punch the s*** out of it on What’s New Pussycat?‘
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“And Burt said, ‘That’s what I want. It’s a crazy song for a crazy film… I have to have a voice of authority.’
“It’s sort of a backhanded compliment: ‘I’ve got to have you, but this is the song.’”
For Sir Tom, not being able to write his own music slightly caged him musically, as it meant he was forced to use the pop-influenced works of other people.
He added: “They were iconic records. I’m not saying I don’t like them.
“When Burt convinced me to do that song [What’s New Pussycat?], it took a while. He did say, ‘This is not a rhythm and blues song.’
“Soul music had kicked in by then, and I wanted to do Wilson Pickett songs, Solomon Burke, Sam and Dave, and Otis Redding. But I wasn’t getting the songs.”
Of course, Sir Tom is grateful for his hits, and in the end they made him the popstar he is now, with his older age now giving him the opportunity to sing all the songs he loves most.
One of his newer hits includes a song about his friend Elvis Presley, called Elvis Presley Blues, bringing together the genre and the man he loves.
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