Flash fiction: The Back of Tom Jones’s Head


When I was young my father wrote ditties and advertising jingles which he sent off to toiletry manufacturers and record labels. Every one was rejected until the call came from a secretary at Decca records.

My parents went to London, my mother’s hair newly set. ‘We saw the back of Tom Jones’s head,’ she said. ‘And what’s good enough for Mr Jones, is good enough for us.’ My father signed on the dotted line for a no-royalties payment; just sufficient for a summer holiday.

Twenty years later his song – 1973’s Christmas number one – is still hummed by housewives, still crackles from supermarket speakers. My father would have been delighted.


This 110-word piece of flash fiction is inspired by the picture above as part of the Friday Fictioneers online writing group. We all write 100 words or so from a picture supplied to us weekly by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (and this week provided by Rochelle herself). You can join in here, or read other people’s stories here.


Next year my novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, will be published by Fig Tree / Penguin in the UK, Tin House in the US, as well as various other publishers in other countries. If you’d like to keep up to date with news about my writing, you can subscribe to my newsletter here. Or, if you’re on Goodreads, you add the novel to your ‘to read’ list here.

53 thoughts on “Flash fiction: The Back of Tom Jones’s Head

      • As much as I love dark twists to story’s, I really think that it would have been overkill here. I love the imagery and use of references like Tom Jones and getting her hair “set” to establish the timeline. Very nicely done!


  1. And here I thought the narrator would be disappointed over the no-royalties contract. I like the satisfaction at the end–a good change of pace.

    The detail of Mother spotting Tom Jones is golden.

    All my best,
    Marie Gail


  2. Such a wonderful story and very well written! The father still should have received “fair compensation” for his work – regardless of the contract taking advantage of he and his wife being star-struck. This is a great story! Nan 🙂


  3. Dear Claire,

    It does seem the dad was quick to sign away his song. At any rate, a lovely, believable story that left me smiling and has me wanting to Google Christmas songs of 1973. BTW my mother adored Tom Jones. If he was on a show the TV was hers.




  4. For some people a lifetime of happiness is worth more than the pot of gold at the end. Though in a way the story is also a gentle poke at how big business ripped off the little guy (Superman creator Jerry Siegel anybody?)


  5. From Noah: I really liked your story and how you include what the narrator is thinking about how their father would have reacted to his song’s ongoing popularity.


  6. Although I can imagine myself to be bitter about the no-royalties agreement, I guess for creative people the kick out of creating a masterpiece is reward itself 🙂


  7. “…which he sent off to toiletry manufacturers…” this made me smile and showed me a bit of his personality. What a great imagination to take the photo prompt in this direction 🙂


  8. Lovely Claire, liked especially that to him, the greatest thing was to get his family a vacation, it is all in difference of scale. Back then he must have felt like he could buy the world. Very optimistic ! v


  9. It’s Not Unusual for somebody to love my songs. Unfortunately, no one bought one and made it famous. If they had, I would feel just like the Father in this story. I think the biggest thrill in creating something is to see others enjoy it.
    Congrats on the publication of your novel. This is big news indeed and sure to be enjoyed by the masses.


  10. This was a nice surprise at the end… I thought you were going to comment on how much money he’d missed out on, but to say he’d be delighted gave me a much better sense of the character, and was a much better ending to the story!


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