Look. I knew about this quite a while before Lady Barton St Mary suddenly mentioned it out of the blue. It was just something I didn’t think she’d be interested in.
“Tom Jones is playing at Kingsholm!” she exclaimed one evening.
“Yeah, I know,” I replied nonchalantly. I’m a season ticket holder at Gloucester Rugby Club, who play at Kingsholm Stadium and had laughed derisively when I’d read the news in the match programme. I waited for Lady BSM to continue with some withering comment, whereupon I could support her opinion with a cleverly constructed put down of old performers who spend their days in Vegas casino hotels carousing octogenarians.
“Ooo, let’s go and see him!”
The gears in my head crunched.
“Let’s go and see him! It would be great!”
I drew a deep breath.
“Well…,” I began.
I was there in ’76 when the Pistols and The Damned played The 100 Club. I’d followed The Stranglers around the country when they were banned from London in ‘78. I’d seen Ian Dury and Peter Gabriel on numerous occasions. Ozzy Osborne, Rush, Blondie, Elvis Costello, Madness, Iron Maiden, The Tygers of Pang Tang. Maybe I shouldn’t mention them. But I didn’t have to mention any of them.
“It’s O.K.” she said, “I’ll go with the girls.”
The girls being Pen, She-La! and Nancy Cuticles, three ladies in their 50s.
I shut up, feeling vindicated. I’d seen Dylan at Black Bush Aerodrome. I didn’t feel the need to see the judge from a TV talent show with a dwindling audience.
A couple of weeks later, Lady BSM informed me she’d bought the tickets. I thought it would be a nice gesture to offer the girls a lift.
“We couldn’t get six of us in one car, though,” she informed me.
“No, it’s only five of you…”
“No. Six. The Sexton’s coming as well.”
The Sexton? My best mate? A burly, grave digging, rugby loving, beer drinking, cigar smoking bloke like him? Going to a Tom Jones Concert?
Lady BSM looked at my face.
“Oh, erm…,” I mumbled.
“Oh I thought you wouldn’t want to come. Do you want me to get you a ticket, too?”
I’d been to Knebworth to see Genesis. And Led Zeppelin.
“Yes please,” I said.
Suddenly, I was going to see Tom Jones. Oh what would people say?
The Sexton knew exactly what to say the next time I saw him.
“Ha! You’re only going ‘cos I’m going! I thought Tom Jones wouldn’t be what you’d want to be seen listening to!”
I had no defence, which is my usual position with The Sexton.
I decided to keep quiet about seeing Tom. If anyone asked me, I would answer honestly, giving my reply with that tongue-in-cheek, ironic tap on the side of the nose reply which indicated: yes, I am, but just for the kitsch.
But I found more and more people asking me. More and more people informing me they had a ticket. People I thought wouldn’t be seen dead at such a gathering. People of both sexes and all ages. I was taken aback. Didn’t these people want any credibility?
So, the night arrived and we made our way to the stadium. The gig was a sell out. Special matting protecting the hallowed turf of Kingsholm, Tom’s stage was in front of The Shed, famed terracing of rabid Gloucester fans.
All and sundry were there from the pioneering city, lots and lots of women.
Don’t get me wrong. Women at Kingsholm are not an oddity. There are quite a few, many of them far more knowledgeable about rugby than I’ll ever be, but this crowd had that special atmosphere that can only be created by females.
For example. The Sexton and I made our way down from the stand and along a corridor that leads to the refreshment area. However, we had to squeeze past a predictably massive queue of women waiting for the ladies’ lavatory.
One lady stopped me.
“Erm, where do think you’re going? You can’t go in the ladies’, you know. This is the queue for the toilet.”
“It’s also the way to the bar,” I responded.
“There’s no bar round the back,” said another lady.
“Well, there has been for the past seven years!”
Waiting to be served at the bar, The Sexton and I discussed the two major qualities that are unique to the female of the species when they are comfortable in their environment.
One: They like to supervise what you’re doing. This is why they are so good at multi tasking.
Two: We concluded they must pee a lot. There were two ladies’ toilets in the stand plus another six ladies’ portaloos. All with massive queues.
The Sexton and I returned to our seats in the stand with a round of drinks just before Tom arrived on stage to a massive cheer. The Sexton had mentioned that if Tom walked on in a Gloucester shirt, he would be idolised in the city for all time, but this was not to be.
“Hello Gloucester!” he cried, with a huge roar of response from the crowd.
“My mother came from Gloucester,” he explained, wide eyed, before breaking into song. Nancy Cuticles wanted to leave the seats and get nearer to the stage. We complied.
It’s one of the most confusing audiences I’ve ever experienced. It was rather intriguing to see a 6’2” goth man sing along to “What’s New Pussycat?”
Another (male) participant continuously waved a black pair of panties in the air in Tom’s general direction with a great big smile on his face.
Lots and lots of happy women, dancing, smiling, laughing, drinking – having a really good time.
The crowd roared their response and approval when Tom asked ‘Why, why, why Delilah?’ Lalalalalala.
Three girls who should have been selling chocolate from little trays they were carrying had forgotten their duties and lined up facing the stage.
Tom said, “Well, let’s do it, then” and stormed into “It’s Not Unusual.”
The three teenage sweet sellers swivelled their hips and sang along. They knew the words! When was this song a hit? It was at least three times older than them!
I thought about it. This man was in his 70s. His voice was fantastic, perfect, soulful, powerful. He had been at the top of his game since 1965. He was friends with Elvis; not just knew Elvis, a real friend. He could sing country, blues, rock, songs by Tom Waits, Creedance Cleerwater Revival, Jerry Lee Lewis (who wrote The Green Green Grass of Home – who knew that?)
Tom left the stage to enormous applause which continued when he returned for an encore. A rousing version of ‘Kiss’, the Prince song, before finally taking the acclaim and bidding us goodnight.
Turns out I had a great time. Yes, he didn’t sing ‘Sex Bomb’, but the eight strong hen party dressed as pink bunny girls (age range 22-65) did it justice under the posts in front of the JS Stand. I think my days of being hip are behind me. Did the realisation that Tom is a credible musical artist happen to others?
“I bet a lot of people came tonight just for a laugh and ended up realising they were witnessing a musical icon; me included,” I said to The Sexton as we left.
“It’s not unusual,” he laughed.