Did Tom Jones Really Faint While Hitting the Final Note on “Thunderball”?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the music urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC LEGEND: Tom Jones fainted while hitting the final note on “Thunderball.”

The 1965 James Bond film, Thunderball, was a gigantic blockbuster, not only making the most money out of any James Bond film up until that point, but making more money than the next FIVE James Bond movies (and the next five all made fine money, just letting you know just HOW big of a hit Thunderball was).

The title theme was by Tom Jones and there is an interesting legend about it…

Tom Jones’ “Thunderball” was a last minute addition to the film…

Originally, the theme for the movie was going to be a song called “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” which is how an Italian reviewer had described James Bond in a review for the first Bond film, Dr. No.

Shirley Bassey (the iconic singer for “Goldfinger”) initially returned to do the theme, but her version came up too short for the time needed for the title credits. So Dionne Warwick came in and did a version with a longer instrumental introduction to make it long enough.

However, the producers then decided that, nope, they wanted a title song that had the title of the movie in it, so Jon Barry and lyricist Don Black quickly wrote “Thunderball.”

As the legend goes, the singer they chose for the song, Tom Jones, fainted on the long final note of the song…

Is that true?

I think no, but close.

Jones talked about it to NPR’s Terry Gross in 2003, “And he said, and at the end, there’s a high note. And the arrangement goes on for quite a while. So he said, try and hold the note as long as possible. So I did. And I closed my eyes. And I held the note for so long, when I opened my eyes, the room was spinning…”

In 2011, he told The Mail, “The most memorable thing about the session was hitting that note at the end. John told me to hold on to this very high note for as long as possible. I hit it but I had to hold on to the wall of the sound booth to steady myself in case I fell down. Thank God, I didn’t.”

So the basic gist of the story is kind of true, but still, lots of people say that he FAINTED (heck, I think Barry has even told the “he fainted” story), and that is not true, so the legend is…

STATUS: False.

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

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