Tom Jones: an eye for the ladies
The Welsh belter insists in a new book that his serial adultery hasn't harmed his long and 'solid' marriage. But then rock wives have always had to put up with their men behaving badly
Dismissing his long years of serial adultery as a bit of harmless "fun and games", Tom Jones insisted last week: "I never hurt anybody, it never backfired on me and my marriage is solid." What his wife Linda would make of that statement would be worth hearing, but dutiful rock'n'roll wives don't wash their husbands' dirty linen in public.
The childhood sweethearts married 58 years ago after 16-year-old Linda became pregnant, but the first eight years was uneventful drudgery with Tom working in a paper mill. Then 'It's Not Unusual' stormed the charts in 1965 and Linda found herself married to the world's No1 male sex symbol. He recalls in his new autobiography, Over The Top And Back, how all changed utterly overnight. He was crouched "minding my own business" on a motorway toilet when young girls mobbed the cubicle. "That hadn't happened to me before," he noted, but he wasn't complaining.
As he rivalled Elvis and Sinatra as a king of cabaret, women flung their knickers at him as he wiggled in his undies on a carpeted stage. Linda remained mostly a stay-at-home wife, which spared her having to witness the "fun and games" of her philandering husband.
The only time he admits Linda exploded over his serial womanising happened in 1976 when his fling with Miss World Marjorie Wallace hit the headlines. Wallace was stripped of her title while Linda tore strips off Tom. He recalled: "I stood there and took it. She chinned me ... She let fly ... I said 'Go ahead'. She punched and shouted."
Now in her mid-70s, Linda is in poor health. Over the decades she has become reclusive, creating her own space away from her husband's life in the fast lane, and yet still tightly bonded. The singer calls her his rock, and says that if he ever loses her he "won't be able to sing anymore". And then he remarks with brutal frankness that "she's lost her spark", revealing that he carries an old photo to remind him of Linda in her youthful prime.
In a conventional marriage, some of this might seem a bit odd, but rock'n'roll marriages are not conventional. The writer Germaine Greer summed up the role of the rock wife saying: "The job is 24/7, no meal breaks, no time off for good behaviour. There's no job description. You do what is required, as and when it's demanded, but you're not allowed to wait until you're asked. You have to anticipate the wishes of your spouse and fulfil them as if they were identical with your own."
This general rule has been borne out by that Holy Trinity of rock entities, Elvis, The Beatles and The Stones. Priscilla Presley attempted to fill precisely the role outlined by Greer early in her marriage to Elvis. She reflected: "I loved playing house. Here was an opportunity to take care of him myself. No maids or housekeepers." But no passion either. Elvis lost interest in his teen wife after she fell pregnant with Lisa Marie, preferring his laddish entourage. After six unhappy years she filed for divorce.
Linda McCartney and Yoko Ono in contrast were there for the long haul, no matter what they had to put up with. When she bagged her Beatle in 1969, Linda knew that he had form. His first steady girlfriend, Dorothy Rhone, revealed: "He was so possessive that he needed to control everything about me - my appearance, the way I dressed, even the way I thought. He gave me a set of rules. He told me I couldn't see my girlfriends. There was no going out except with him, and I lost touch with my friends. When we did go out I wasn't allowed to smoke, even though he smoked." Dorothy dated Paul for three years, at one point becoming pregnant by him. He demanded she become a Brigitte Bardot clone, insisting she dye her hair blonde. She recalled: "It looked terrible. I hated it but Paul said it was my fault. He said 'give me a call when your hair grows' and walked off."
McCartney's first post-fame girlfriend was not as pliant. He announced his engagement to actress Jane Asher but things soured when she rejected his demands that she give up her career to fit in with his. In their lop-sided arrangement he demanded that she remain faithful to him, while excusing his own womanising with the fact they weren't married. When she caught him in their bed with another woman she shocked Paul and the world by dumping him in a BBC interview.
Unlike Asher, Linda was prepared to live that 24/7 life of subservience. Giving her a glowing report card in 1984, Paul said: "She's at her best when she's doing you a meal at home. That's when you see Linda. She cooks, she looks after the kids and she's there. We've got one cleaning lady. That's all we've got. If the kids are sick, there won't be a nurse looking after them. It will be Linda who is there." The loyal Linda suffered terrible scorn over her tuneless contributions to Wings, but in 1984 Paul admitted that he press-ganged his reluctant wife into his band. As Greer observed: "There is no job description."
Like Linda, Yoko Ono wed John Lennon knowing he would be a handful. Lennon's first marriage to Cynthia Powell was blighted by his violent rages. When she became pregnant they married in a registry office with no fanfare, and he dashed off to play a gig. He missed son Julian's birth and christening. And yet she stuck it out until she was cruelly dumped. In 1968 he sent Cynthia on holidays to Greece. She returned to find Yoko a cuckoo in her nest. John offered a paltry divorce settlement of £75,000, telling her: "That's like winning the pools, so what are you moaning about?"
Famously, or infamously, Yoko's successful attempt to save their failing marriage involved arranging for John to shack up with her assistant May Pang. Lennon emerged from his 18-month "lost weekend" spent with Pang with his musical mojo restored and his marriage to Yoko repaired. Underlining the fact that rock'n'roll marriage really does require a different mindset, Yoko rationalised: "It started to dawn on me that John was not the trouble at all. It was society that had become too much. We started dating again."
When Jagger abandoned first wife Bianca for Jerry Hall in 1977, the omens for a successful marriage weren't good. He'd ended a control-freak relationship with Jean Shrimpton, for Marianne Faithfull. Shrimpton said: "He would often phone (a club) and I was told I had to go now. He would ring me at home at 3am." Faithfull's attempts at keeping pace with Jagger destroyed her. She became a messy heroin addict.
Then came Jerry Hall who bore him four children by a marriage in which Jagger wrote himself a free pass to stray. The final straw came when her "lying, cheating, slimeball husband" impregnated a young model. Adding insult to injury, filing for divorce Hall discovered their Bali marriage certificate wasn't worth the paper it was written on.