Television and radio presenter Aled Jones tells Ellie Rose how his career took off after recording "Walking in the Air".

…my childhood was brilliant.

It was very carefree; we were out every day. I grew up in North Wales, in the middle of the countryside, and the village we lived in was tiny. I went to a primary school where my mother was a teacher (my dad was an engineer). So she was Mrs Jones at school, and Mum at home—although sometimes I got it wrong.

 

…there was music in every class

Even in maths, the teacher would burst into song or a guitar would come out. Music was always in me, I suppose. When I was six or seven, I sang in a local church hall and a man said, “You’re all right,” and gave me 50p. I thought, Wow, someone likes my singing—that’s great!

My mum embarrassingly tells stories about me harmonising with the hairdryer, being a DJ with songs I’d recorded on cassette and having baths listening to the Top 40. During the week, I’d listen to that music, but Bruno bloody Brookes would talk over the intros and ruin it all. 

 

…walking into bangor cathedral, aged nine

I’d been asked to go and sing a few scales. I’d never been in a cathedral before or heard a large choir sing. I remember the smell and the majesty and the feel of history. And I remember the conversation in our little kitchen back on the estate.

My mum said, “You’ve been invited to join the choir.”

My dad said, “You don’t want to do that. You want to play football, don’t you?”

And I thought, My God! Half an hour ago, I didn’t even know what a cathedral choir was.

A lady in the cathedral’s congregation then wrote to a local recording company about me. I made an album with them; they probably released fewer than 1,000 copies. But for some reason, it was picked up by a BBC producer who was looking for a soloist to do three programmes for the BBC in Israel. He heard my album, and asked me to do it. And that was it!

They showed the first episode [below] on a Friday on BBC1 at 9pm and at the end they said, “If you liked the music, there’s an album in the shops tomorrow.” Within a week, it had got to number two.

 

...Keeping my feet firmly on the ground

Mainly because I had to go back to comprehensive school every day! So you don’t boast, “Guess what I was doing on the weekend”, because you’d get punched. During the week, I was just normal Aled, who pushed into lunch queues and played football. Then on Friday, I’d be on the 5pm train to Euston with everybody in the compartment staring at me. So I’d just listen to Les Mis on my Walkman, every journey for a year. I still know every word of that musical.

 

…recording “walking in the air” as a single in 1985

People think it’s the first thing I did, but I’d already recorded about ten albums! [Aled was 14.] Howard Blake, the song’s composer, had been approached by Toys R Us, who were doing an advert based on The Snowman and wanted to use the original recording—but couldn’t get permission. So Blake said, “Well, there’s a boy soprano in the news at the moment, let’s ask him to do a cover.”

The advert was only supposed to be the first verse, but they’d already recorded the entire song with the London Symphony Orchestra, so I did the whole thing too. They then decided to release it as a single—and weird things like Top of the Pops started to happen.

 

.…my top of the pops fashion dilemma

I was from North Wales, where my only clothing outlet was a Burtons. My mum thought she’d got me a nice outfit, but there were all these London people saying, “You can’t wear that—it’s not funky enough! Let’s take him shopping!” So there I was in jeans, a new jumper and white trainers, and all I could think was, What are the kids going to say at home?

That was a really mad time because it led to about two years in school with kids every lunchtime singing, “My name is Aled Joooooones” to the tune of “Walking in the Air”. You get pretty thick-skinned after hearing it for the thousandth time.

 

…my greatest football moment

I was 18, and my friend Joe and I went to Highbury to see Arsenal. We were standing on the North Bank and, all of a sudden, this chanting started. I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life—9,000 people singing, “Aaaled Jones, Aaaaled Jones, you’re not singing any more!”

Then Joe said, “My God, you can die and go to heaven!”—and I thought Yeah, actually, this is pretty cool.

I’ve always loved football and I take my kids now; I’ve got an Arsenal season ticket. 

 

.…there were a few serious rows between couples on escape to the country

With some of them, I even wondered if they’d stay together after the programme or if they’d realised they weren’t compatible! But it was a joy to present. It’s just an opportunity to be really nosy.

The same thing with Cash in the Attic: why anybody would let cameras into their homes, with drawers open and knickers everywhere, I’ll never know.

 

…learning that celebrities are just people

I’ve met a lot of celebs through presenting, which is obviously great. But when I was about to interview Desmond Tutu [on Songs of Praise in 2010], for example, everybody around was panicking so badly, saying they had to be polite and so on. But I just said to him, “Nice to see you, Desmond, how are you?” and he said, “What is happening with Arsenal? How could they sell Thierry Henry?” The producer was completely blown apart by this, but even Desmond Tutu’s just a normal guy.

 

…The queen telling me “My husband loves you on the radio”

I met her at a Commonwealth Day Service I sang at a couple of years ago. After she told me that, I said, “Oh,
OK, right.”

Then Prince Phillip came along and I said, “Apparently you like my radio show.”

“Rubbish!” he told me. “I only listen to that cheeky chappy Jones!”

“Err, yes, that’s me!” I replied.

He said, “Oh! Yes, I love your show!”

 

…meeting roland rat—again

He interviewed me on TV-am, and it was the first time I’d seen a man with his hand up a puppet’s bottom. I was probably 14, and the other guest was Sam Fox. So I didn’t know where to put my eyes—Sam’s chest or Roland’s bottom. For the whole interview he called me Alec. We hit it off though, because he realised I was into taking the mick out of myself, and I featured on his Christmas special.

Then this February, Roland came into the Daybreak studio for TV-am’s 30th birthday. What was the first thing he did? He called me Alec. I love the Rat.

 

…last christmas my son lucas ordered £500 worth of stuff on Amazon without us knowing

The little b****r! He was seven, but he’d seen my wife put in her code. Boxes kept arriving. I kept saying to my wife, “Have you bought…?”

She kept saying, “No.”

I said, “Lucas…?” And he said innocently, “Yeah, it was me!”

Box after box after box of Doctor Who stuff. My kids are great with technology.

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