The song “What’s New Pussycat,” which is performed by Tom Jones, was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David (as were many songs in the 1960s). However, the big draw on this record was not the song, but the singer.
Tom Jones, born Thomas Jones Woodward in 1940 to a Welsh coal mining family, started singing at age 10. By 1960, to supplement his income as a construction worker, he had become the front man for a rock group called The Senators. One night in 1964, while playing club in South Wales, Jones was spotted by London-based manager Gordon Mills, who quickly removed him from the group and signed him as a client. He then took the young singer to London and named him Tom Jones, to cash in on the popularity of the Academy-Award winning 1963 film of that name.
Mills secured a recording contract with Decca Records, and Jones’s second single, “It’s Not Unusual,” became an international hit. During 1965, Mills secured a number of film themes for Jones to record, including themes for the James Bond film Thunderball and for the film What’s New Pussycat? The record, produced by Peter Sullivan, includes a bombastic brass section which is about the only sound that can offset Tom Jones’s huge voice. The song is done in a heavy 3/4 time reminiscent of English Music Halls. And for good measure, Sullivan’s instrumental introduction includes the sound of shattering glass.
In 1965 “What’s New Pussycat” went to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, #11 in the UK, and #1 in Canada. The song has endured, and over the years has been performed by Bobby Darin, Tony Bennett, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Anita Kerr, The Wailers, Barbra Streisand, and The Four Seasons.
Besides being made a British Knight in 2006, Sir Tom Jones has received many awards, including the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1966, an MTV Video Music Award in 1989, Best British Male Singer in 2000 and Outstanding Contribution to Music in 2003. To date he has sold over 100 million records.