Issue #222 / February 2023
I was dismayed to hear that my namesake, Tom Jones has had his murder ballad, Delilah cancelled by the Welsh Rugby Union, and roundly condemned by Police Chiefs and Politicians, for imagery of violence towards women and the fear it will inspire such acts. Research of course consistently shows this to be nonsense, but there are always certain types of, media attention seeking, public figures who love to perpetuate such myths. Therefore, as an artist who released a whole album of murder ballads, actually called “Murder Ballads”, just how worried are you about your future cancellation, and what is your view on such censorship?
TOM, BRISTOL, UK
How do you feel about the banning of the song Delilah sung by Welsh choirs at the Rugby? As someone who has written many murder ballads, do you think these sort of songs turn people into murderers?
DYLAN, SWANSEA, UK
Dear Tom and Dylan,
I just went online and found a Welsh male choir singing their rendition of ‘Delilah’ and I’m sorry to report that listening to this version of the song did make me feel like murdering someone, primarily the Welsh male choir. Or maybe it wasn’t the choir, but the song itself that disturbed me. I just don’t like it. I mean, I like Tom Jones. I sang a duet with him (‘Green, Green Grass of Home’ – a far superior murder balled) at a charity event a few years ago, and I like his version of ‘Weeping Annaleah’ which The Bad Seeds recorded on our Kicking Against the Pricks album, and his blistering version of ‘Venus’ which was playing at a party during my first teenage kiss, and his almighty scream in the middle of the na-na-na-na bit at the end of The Beatles’ song, ‘Hey Jude’ – all this is good stuff, but ‘Delilah’, despite the fact that it was awarded the Ivor Novello in 1968, just sort of sucks. As someone who knows a thing or two about murder ballads, for my taste, it’s all too waltzy and strident and hammy and mariachi and triumphant. And the words are ugly – “I felt the knife in my hand and she laughed no more.” Really? Most damning of all, even The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands of all time, couldn’t do anything with it, although there is a wonderfully perverse attempt on the Old Grey Whistle Test. The inimitable Australian comic, Norman Gunston, lest we forget, also did a very funny parody of it back in the late seventies, which at the very least made you laugh.
So, I don’t know, Tom, I can’t get too animated by the fact that ‘Delilah’ has been banned. I understand there is a principle here, but on some level I like the fact that some songs are controversial enough to be outlawed. It fills me with a kind of professional pride to be a part of the sometimes contentious business of songwriting. It’s cool. I like it. I just wish it was a more worthy song to be awarded that greatest of honours, indeed that supreme privilege, of being banned.