Daily Mail rips the scab off the Barry-Norman question again

John Barry

Over the weekend, the Daily Mail ran a story ripping the scab off the question whether it was the credited Monty Norman or John Barry who really wrote The James Bond Theme.

The article tilts in Norman’s favor simply because the composer, 90, is still around (and was interviewed) while Barry died in 2011. Anyway, here’s an exerpt:

Barry and Norman, like their screen counterparts Bond and Blofeld, became bitter rivals, slugging it out for decades as they fought over this piece of Hollywood gold.


Norman says he’s amazed at both the riff’s success and its longevity. ‘I accept the good fortune that I wrote something that has not only lasted more than 50 years but will last another 50,’ he says. ‘There are musicals I have written that took six months and I think, “Oh God, James Bond took just six hours.’’’

The question was once part of a court case where Norman came out on top. At the end of the Daily Mail story, Norman takes a victory lap.

Barry died in 2011 but the two men never buried the hatchet. Does he have any regrets about that? ‘None whatsoever,’ says Norman. ‘I did not like him.’

The most neutral answer to the question is “it’s complicated.” Author Jon Burlingame in his 2012 book The Music of James Bond examined the conflicting stories between Barry (officially brought aboard or orchestrate and arrange the theme) and Norman.

Barry fans argue it’s really not that complicated, with Barry doing much of the heavy lifting and drawing upon some of his past work. Barry ended up scoring 11 Bond films and co-wrote famous title songs to Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever. He ended up winning five Oscars (though none for a Bond film).

For those who’ve never seen it, this 2009 video comes from the Barry side. You can judge its point of view for yourself.

UPDATE (4:15 p.m. New York Time): I exchanged an e-mail with a long-time (i.e. from Dr. No onwards) 007 film fan. This reminds me of the debate in comic books about who created what at Marvel between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. My correspondent referenced parts of the Dr. No score that incorporated the Bond theme that don’t sound like Barry. I am just referencing this for informational purposes.


2 Responses

  1. The online “discussions” on this topic have always amused me because of the potential legal ramifications from a certain party. It’s obvious there is no clear cut answer here but it’s also obvious that there is an easy, respectful and professional conclusion that won’t be put to paper until that party passes.

  2. All kind of silly to keep this going as it was concluded by those that were privy to the court case.
    That said, the ‘Bond Theme’ was in DOCTOR NO (Bond’s Apartment, Fight with Mr. Jones, Swamp killing, and Big Finale) before Barry’s Orchestration came on board . It is also in the UK Theatrical Trailer (Miss Taro answering the phone…it is very cheesy sounding) and the version not heard in the film and tossed.
    Peter Hunt confirmed it as well, and said he plastered the Barry Orchestration mix all over the film once he heard it, though it was to be used only once (for the titles). At one point, ‘Jamaica Jazz’ was played when Bond drives to Miss Taro’s hillside apartment, but Hunt, again, threw in the Barry Orchestration before the hearse appears. That version can be viewed on the SAT in the original Criterion Collection DOCTOR NO laser disc.
    Did John Barry write the theme…no. Did he improve it…damn right!

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