Skip to main content

Desert Island Discs

Tom Jones

Eddie Sanderson/Getty Images

A few weeks ago Tom Jones became the oldest man to top the UK album chart with his new record, Surrounded by Time. And he’s still performing. Jones, who turned 81 this week, told Kirsty Young on Desert Island Discs in 2010: “I dread the time, if it ever does come, when I can’t sing. Singing is like breathing to me.”

His parents weren’t convinced by his chosen career. Jones’s father, a miner from Pontypridd, kept working in the pit even after his son became famous. “I said, ‘Dad, please. I’m making all this money now. I don’t want to think about you in a coal mine.’ And he said: ‘Yeah, well, how long is this thing going to last with you?’”

His career only got bigger – and with it his pin-up status. “Your reputation for being a womaniser is, I think it’s fair to say, second to none,” says Young. “Well, you know, you can’t, you can’t…” Jones fumbles. “You can’t believe everything you read in the paper.” But throughout his 59-year marriage, did he ever try to rein himself in? “Yeah, I try to,” he says. “I’ve always tried to, though.” A man of simple pleasures, then. On his imaginary desert island, Jones’s luxury item is a bucket and spade. After all, “you never go to the beach without a bucket and spade”.

🎵 Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, Jerry Lee Lewis

🎵 Riders in the Sky, Vaughn Monroe

🎵 The Old Rugged Cross, Mahalia Jackson

🎵 Rock Around the Clock, Bill Haley and His Comets

🎵 Der Fuehrer’s Face, Spike Jones and His City Slickers

🎵 I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You), Aretha Franklin

🎵 Black, Brown and White, Big Bill Broonzy

🎵 Bad Penny Blues, Humphrey Lyttelton

📕 The Rise and Fall of the British Empire, Lawrence James

🎁 A bucket and spade

Listen to the full episode here.