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Tom Jans
Press Cuttings

"print the legend" ... James Stewart

 

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Watch this face: Tom Jans

Marshall Fallwell
Country Music
February 1975

A one page article with a photo
and a half page ad for the Tom Jans A&M album.

"All you can do is write the truth
and hope people like your stuff"

Ordinarily, Tom Jans' tattoo wouldn't be worth mentioning. Especially in Nashville, which is very much like a port town or a carnival - loud and brassy, almost as if the city itself were tattooed. All over Music Row, promoters, singers, writers- likehomesick sailors- are hustling something. It is not a place for finesse or soft speech. But the discrete rose on Tom Jans' left forearm came as a mild shock to me. Having seen him around for a year and a half, ever since Dobie Gray recorded his song, "Loving Arms," I grew to think of him as shy, withdrawn, maybe even a wallflower. He never seemed to go in much for hanging out at studios or bars, letting everybody know who he was, making the Nashville scene. I really didn't think he'd make it, because I still believed you had to do some serious getting around to have your songs cut. Nevertheless, since "Loving Arms" was written in 1973, it has been cut more than fifty times. Dave Hickey, a mutual friend of Tom's and mine, thinks it is a "per- feet" song. Tom's own version of the song, along with nine others, is on his recent album, "Tom Jans," on A & M Records (produced by Mentor Williams). Tom looks too wholesome for a tattoo. Blond, blue-eyed, brown- skinned and athletic, he looks like he just hopped off a surfboard- everything we Southerners think a native Californian ought to be. And then, his education is impressive ( not very many good song-writers have distinguished scholarly careers). Having become Phi Beta Kappa at the University of California at Davis, Tom turned down a graduate scholarship to Columbia University so that he could write songs full-time; as well as become a ne'er-do-well and a hippie. Or so it must surely have seemed.

Soon after college, Tom joined Mimi Farina (Joan Baez' sister) to tour the U.S. and Europe with Cat Stevens. In 1971, Mimi and Tom did an album together called "Take Heart." Somewhere along the way, he met Kris Kristofferson, who was to be of help to Tom in many ways, not the least of which involved be ing able to cope with their similar academic backgrounds. Kris had been a Rhodes Scholar, and, like Tom, had given it up for song-writ- ing. Both had been students of literature. And both, doubtless, had been made to feel like traitors for abandoning brilliant futures to take up a craft so far beyond the bounds of conventional good taste. For Jans, Kris was someone who had been able to pull it off. And yet, neither of them ever left good taste behind. What is truly remarkable, though, is that they were able to ignore all those jxim- pous attitudes towards literature and art, and be free enough to write simple songs about common men, their hopes and their fears, which is precisely what all good songs (and most good literature) are about. And so, the rose tattoo. Tom Jans is a rebel of a sort because he's had to go against things he's been taught to believe are true. This time, he's right, and they're wrong. Tom's career is just beginning to take off. Gary Stewart's hit, "Out Of Hand," is by Tom. Johnny Cash, Helen Reddy, Elvis Presley, David Allan Coe and Olivia Newton-John,. among others, have cut Tom's songs. Like "Loving Arms," his best songs are narratives which deal with great insight into the humazi condition. "Margarita,'! "Green River" and "Hart's Island"-from the album- are exemplary. "Hart's Island" tells the story of Gino, an old boxer whose greatest fear is that he will wind up in a pauper's grave on Hart's Island, New York City's Potter's Field. "This is the kind of song I really want to write," saysTom. "I think it's just as worthwhile to write a perfect country song as it is to write a perfect short story or whatever. When I found out Johnny Cash was going to cut `Hart's Island,' it made me feel terrific. All you can do is write the truth and hope the people like your stuff. And that's just what I plan to do."

thanks to Bill H for the clues and to lapis for finding the article


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photo credit:
tom sheehan London 20th May 1977

This page updated October 2001 by Geoff
GMGough@clara.net