Grab An Enormous Hat And Watch Aretha Franklin Sing With Tom Jones Circa 1971

There’s something sort of quintessentially variety-show-esque about Tom Jones. He’s got swagger without being bullyish. He’s sexy, but in an exaggerated cartoonish way that doesn’t really threaten. Perhaps most important in variety show land, he knows how to let his guest stars take the lead and shine brighter than him, just like he does here with Aretha Franklin.

Seriously, Aretha TEARS IT UP here. There’s piano playing. There’s dancing. There’s that fucking magnificent headwear.


Don’t get me wrong. It’s no Obama Inauguration hat


…but it’s pretty impressive nonetheless.

Tom’s great too, but he mostly does a lot of “whoooaaah yeah” sorts of things over on the side most of the time. Also, too, he has one of those weird super skinny 1970s microphones that were all the rage for awhile.


Oh, and there’s go-go dancers, of course, because this is the blessed period of time in American history when go-go dancers were mandatory at all performances. We’ve really fallen from grace since then, entertainment-wise.

This is Tom Jones ran for three years from 1969-1971, and you can see why, with a guest list that included Bob Hope, Liza Minnelli, Ella Fitzgerald (!!) and pretty much everyone else. What I wouldn’t give to have a copy of the full run of the show. Sure, you can buy a compilation of some of the big moments from the shows, but that’s simply not enough. What you really need is the ability to settle in and binge-watch whole seasons at a time, Netflix-style, while downing manhattans or lime rickeys or something like that. Now that would be some happy nice time.

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  • Farb

    Just shoot me now.

  • mtn_philosoph

    This must be why Tom Jones’ career has lasted so long: he knows how to dial it back just enough.Re: skinny microphones. There was an effort for awhile to make the microphones that were used in TV broadcasts smaller and less noticeable. Singers need to have the mike right near (in front) of their mouths in order to capture all of the tone and harmonics in their voices, hence the use of mike stands on stage and, in the case of television, hand-held mikes. Television camera work, though, had to rely heavily on close-up shots and closer shots in general due to the limitations of the medium, (Broadcasts were generally viewed on small, low-resolution screens, causing long shots to lose detail.) Close shots have much less “real estate,” if you will, with the focus being on the performer’s face. In such a shot, a standard performance mike will appear very large and will block a significant portion of the singer’s face, which was certainly less than desirable. So there were good practical reasons for wanting to make the hand-held performance mike thinner and smaller.Performers had long ago adapted to the presence of the mike, sometimes even incorporating it into their performance as sort of a stage prop (see: Mick Jagger, Steven Tyler, etc.) and they weren’t too fond of the skinny TV mike. Eventually the evolution of broadcast quality camera technology enabled TV directors to employ more fluid and dynamic camera positioning using portable operator-carried cameras. This freed the operators to move about on the stage, finding good shot angles on the fly while interfering less with pop music performers’ accustomed stage movements. The never very popular long skinny mike stopped being used because it was no longer necessary.

  • Annie Towne

    My sister and I lived for this show. We’d sing and dance throughout the entire thing, usually on our mother’s bed, practicing for the day we’d be grown up and able to become full-time go-go dancers ourselves, which we truly believed was a viable career option. I’m still disappointed that this avenue of employment disappeared.