Like platform shoes and bellbottoms, Tom Jones has come full circle.
The pelvis-thrusting, 53-year-old Welsh soulster, who was red hot in the '60s and early '70s before fading into a decade or so of obscurity, is the current high priest of hip.
Don't believe it? Check out his still steamy, high-energy act at the Merriweather Post Pavilion tomorrow night.
Mr. Jones has shed his skin-tight, lounge-lizard get-ups in favor of stylish turtlenecks and Italian suits. His hair is cut short and looks natural.
He's been featured in photo spreads in style bibles such as Details and Interview. He's done gigs with the likes of Sting, Billy Idol, Shakespear's Sister and EMF and even lent his persona to "The Simpsons."
He's all over cable's VH1 with his "Right Time" series of interviews and duets with noteworthy rockers.
To top it off, he just signed a recording deal with the alternative-music label Interscope. This fall he starts work on a new CD that he says will feature all-new tunes by Prince, Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Wonder, among others.
Mr. Jones hopes it will be out by year's end.
"I'm glad that I'm being taken seriously -- you know, musically, anyway," Mr. Jones says with a laugh during a phone interview from Las Vegas where he was performing last month. Until recently he was finding it difficult to get a record company to see him as a contemporary artist.
Ironically, one of his biggest problems was that he was working too hard; during his so-called slump, Jones was still doing the 200 to 250 performances a year he'd done since the '60s.
And even though he was always adding fresh material, he was too busy to do any recording.
"Kids would come up to the stage and say, 'Why don't you record what you do on stage?' And I said, 'Because I haven't had a bloody chance, that's why.' "
But all that changed late in 1988, when Mr. Jones recorded Prince's "Kiss."
"That brought me back into Top-40 radio again. The video was played on MTV and VH1 and it went everywhere, and that was the beginning, the sort of turning point for me," says Mr. Jones, who since has cut records with Art of Noise and Van Morrison.
Happily for Mr. Jones, that means his audiences are getting younger. "There's always been youngsters who come and see (( me, but before, they would come with their parents. . . . Now there's a lot of youngsters coming by themselves," he says.
Over that long career, the singer has had everything from undies to beer bottles thrown at him onstage, the latter, he says, from jealous boyfriends.
Women also tend to throw themselves at him.
"Well, of course, thank God I've always had that," Mr. Jones laughs. "There's always been, you know, fanatic ladies -- which is fine. If you're gonna go on stage and do a sexy-type show, you know, if you're male, then hopefully you attract females."
Mr. Jones also attracts a large gay following and the usual assortment of groupies.
He says he frequently gets strange tapes and letters from some of them, hoping "that I'm finally going to finish with my wife and marry them." Not a chance; Jones has been married to the same woman since he was 17.
Despite his found-again fame and enduring cult status, Mr. Jones is an amiable, regular sort, a family man.
His son is his manager, his daughter-in-law his publicist.
He's warm and unpretentious, even humble at times. He has a charming accent; a raucous, bawdy sense of humor; and an infectious laugh.
But for a guy who's also a dedicated grandpa,he can still rip up the stage like a man half his age. He sweats, he struts, he pouts, pivots and thrusts.
And his rich, resonant voice is still the powerhouse it always was.
Says Mr. Jones, "I feel as good as I ever did."
Where: Merriweather Post Pavilion
Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia
When: 8 p.m. Aug.31
Cost: $25, $18.50
Call: (410) 730-2424
TOM'S HIT PARADE
* The '60s: "It's Not Unusual," "What's New Pussycat?," "Delilah," "Love Me Tonight," "Green, Green Grass of Home," "Help Yourself," "I'll Never Fall in Love Again." Also, the hit TV show, "This is Tom Jones."
* The '70s: "Daughter of Darkness," "I (Who Have Nothing)," "She's a Lady."
* The '80s: "Kiss," a cover of the Prince tune with Art of Noise; the accompanying video won MTV's 1988 Breakthrough Video Award.
* The '90s: U.K.-released Chrysalis album, "Carrying a Torch" with Van Morrison; "All You Need Is Love"; and "Gimme Shelter" with New Model Army.