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.

(snip)

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.

 

Michel Legrand’s brush with 007

Cover to Michel Legrand’s soundtrack for Never Say Never Again

The death of accomplished film composer Michel Legrand at 86 resulted in many tributes (see this story in Variety) because of the work generated over a long career.

But, given the subject matter of this blog, Legrand’s score for a James Bond film shows doing music for any movie isn’t easy and especially so when the core audience has built up certain expectations.

The 007 film, of course, was 1983’s Never Say Never Again, with Sean Connery heading up a Bond production competing with Eon’s Octopussy coming out the same year.

Jon Burlingame wrote in the 2012 book The Music of James Bond that Legrand wasn’t even approached until after filming had been completed. The composer had been working on Yentl, “one of his most complex projects,” involving nine original songs as well as the score, according to the book.

Then, Sean Connery came calling about Never Say Never Again.

“Sean’s warmth and his enthusiasm persuaded me,” Legrand told Burlingame. “And I told myself, to attach a Bond to my filmography, it’s not something to pass up!”

The musical template of the Eon 007 films had been established by John Barry, who had been signed to score Octopussy. Legrand chose to go his own way, especially with Never Say Never Again featuring an older Connery.

“The idea of Never Say Never Again was to bring a distance, an irony, a second layer of connection to the official series, in relation to Connery’s age,” the composer told Burlingame. “Immediately, there was a distinction.”

Over the years, I’ve heard fans complain about Legrand’s score. Burlingame, in a review of the score in his book, says “as a fundamentally jazz-based score, it has many fun moments and offers a very different slant on music for 007 even though it was far from what Connery fans were expecting.”

For more details on Legrand’s career, you can read obituaries from Variety (wrtten by the aforementioned Burlingame), the BBC and The New York Times. Below is a tribute on Twitter from film composer Daniel Pemberton.

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007 questions before Bond 25 starts filming

So how do you transition from the end of SPECTRE to the start of Bond 25?

In less than two months, Bond 25 is scheduled to start filming in time for a Feb. 14, 2020 release. Naturally, the blog has a few questions.

001: How do you transition from the end of SPECTRE to the start of Bond 25? Cary Fukunaga, the director of Bond 25, has said that Bond 25 will continue a “character arc” that began with 2006’s Casino Royale.

At the end of 2015’s SPECTRE, it appeared the Daniel Craig 007 had retired as an Double-O agent. So how do you get from there to a new adventure?

002: How do you reconcile the various Bond 25 scripts? The current effort began with a treatment (i.e. detailed outline) by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Then, that was put off to the side because director Danny Boyle and his writer John Hodge pitched an idea that supposedly was great. Then, a few months later, Eon thought better and Boyle and Hodge walked away.

There were many stories published during 2018 (See the blog’s sister site, The Bond 25 Timeline for details).

But Eon owns all those ideas. Will the final script reflect some or all of those ideas? In some cases, ideas from submitted scripts end up in Bond films years later. Also, it was reported last week that Paul Haggis (involved with writing Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace) had worked on Bond 25’s script.

We’ll see how this plays out for Bond 25.

003: How much leeway does director Fukunaga have for Bond 25? Eon Productions gave Sam Mendes a lot of leeway for Skyfall and SPECTRE, including granting Mendes his choice of composer (Thomas Newman in both movies) and director of photography (Roger Deakins in Skyfall). Does Fukunaga get that kind of love from Eon for Bond 25?

004: If the answer to 003 is not so much, does David Arnold get a chance to return to score Bond 25? Arnold, composer of five 007 scores (behind only John Barry’s 11) has been away for more than a decade. Much of that absence stemmed from Mendes’ relation with Newman. Does Arnold get a chance to come back?

005: Does Bond 25’s budget grow, stay the same, or shrink from SPECTRE’s? During the Sony hacks (hacked emails and other documents), it came out that SPECTRE’s budget was on pace to go past $300 million. Supposedly, the budget was closer to $240 million (after factoring in all the product placement and Mexico tax credits). It’s always easier to spend more — as long as a studio is willing to cut checks.

006: How energized are Bond 25’s lead producer and star? Over the extended break, Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli has worked on “indie-style” small films while star Daniel Craig has worked on other projects. Meanwhile, Craig said back in 2016 that “everybody’s just a bit tired.” Is everybody rested up now?

007: Does Universal’s involvement with Bond 25 change things? Sony Pictures (through its Columbia Pictures brand) released the last four 007 films (2006-2015). Now, a joint venture between MGM and Annapurna Pictures will handle U.S. distribution while Universal will handle international distribution. Does Universal change things? There’s no way to tell for now.

MI6 Confidential looks at 007 film music

Cover to the Dr. No soundtrack cover

MI6 Confidential is out with a new issue that includes a number of features about James Bond music and songs.

Included in issue 48:

–An interview with Monty Norman, composer of The James Bond Theme. (Yes the blog knows about how John Barry did the arrangement and the argument has been made Barry added bits from his own previous compositions.)

— A look at David Arnold’s score for Quantum of Solace, his fifth (and for now now, at least) his final in the Eon-made 007 series.

— A look at connections between Paul McCartney and Bond.

There are non-musical articles, including one about Latin American politics as explored by Quantum of Solace.

The price is 7 British pounds, $9.50 and 8.50 euros. For more information about the contents and ordering, CLICK HERE.

Update: Moonraker concert doesn’t appear likely

Moonraker teaser poster

An effort to produce a Moonraker music concert is struggling as it nears its deadline.

As of early May 3, ticket sales of 6,085 British pounds had been generated, against a goal of 60,000 pounds, according to the Indiegogo page with details about the project.

Promoters wanted to hold the concert of Moonraker’s score on Jan. 26, 2019 in the U.K. in connection with the film’s 40th anniversary.

The deadline is May 6. If enough tickets haven’t been sold by then, ticket purchases are to be refunded.

A reader passed along a May 2 e-mail from the promoters. An alternate, smaller-scale program may be in the offing.

The intention is to keep the venue booked and although we won’t be able to keep a 100piece orchestra and do Moonraker (this time), I will be putting THE biggest Q The Music Orchestra together yet that night – with around 35 musicians including live Strings, and we will be doing several cue medleys including Goldfinger, A View To A Kill, as well as Flight Into Space, Capsule In Space and of course our fave: Backseat Driver. We will be doing some new ones too: medleys from The Living Daylights, Live And Let Die & The Spy Who Loved Me.
(snip)

I very much hope to get the Moonraker, and indeed other Barry/Bond scores, back on the agenda further down the line and thank you once again for trying to make this amazing project happen.

For more information, CLICK HERE.

Effort underway to launch a Moonraker concert

Moonraker teaser poster

There’s an effort underway to get a U.K. Moonraker concert off the ground for the 40th anniversary of the extravagant James Bond film.

Here are some of the details from an Indiegogo page.

The James Bond fans of the World have often lamented the inability to be able to hear one of John Barry’s most beautiful Bond scores – that of Moonraker – in isolation, and complete.

Performed by a 100 piece Orchestra and Choir, this will lovingly bring the score from Moonraker to life.

26th JANUARY 2019 @ The Wycombe Swan, High Wycombe, Bucks, UK

This will be a complete one off opportunity and will not be recorded.

The promoters have set a goal of selling 60,000 British pounds worth of tickets. As of late April 20, New York time, 5,735 British pounds of tickets had been sold. Ticket prices range from 50 pounds each to 250 pounds each for a VIP package.

“Basically, if we don’t sell enough tickets, the concert doesn’t go ahead and you get refunded,” according to the website. “Donations are welcome, but not expected at all.” The deadline to meet the sales goal is May 6.

Moonraker, the 11th 007 film, had everything from Bond falling out of a plane without a parachute to a battle in outer space. John Barry, who established the 007 music sound in the early 1960s, was more than up to the task of scoring the movie.

Lyrics for the title song were written by Hal David, who had collaborated with Barry on the song We Have All the Time in the World for 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

For more information, CLICK HERE.

James Bond opera arrives in Canada

“Centerpoint Theatre? I’d like to order two tickets to your new opera, please.”

A James Bond opera has arrived in the Ottawa area.

James Bond: A Convenient Lie is being performed at the Centerpointe Theatre in Nepean, Ontario. CBC Radio’s All in a Day program devoted a segment to the production.

The opera is made possible by the fact that the James Bond character (at least the literary version) is now in the public domain in Canada. Already, new 007 stories have been published in the country.

James Bond: A Convenient Lie now moves the gentleman agent into opera. The show takes existing public domain opera music and added new lyrics written by actor Kyle McDonald, who plays Bond. A sampling:

The name is Bond, James Bond,

Don’t be nervous;

I’m in Her Majesty’s Secret Service

And whenever the world is in danger,

I’ll be there to dispatch the en-e-my

I’m the fearless, mysterious stranger

Who has been sent to apply the rem-e-dy

McDonald, in the CBC Radio segment, said people attending the opera needn’t have a detailed knowledge of 007 to enjoy the stage production. He said the opera retains, Bond, Moneypenny and Q. The opera concerns an eco-terrorist who Bond must stop. That, of course, is a plot familiar not only to Bond fans, but repeatedly used in spy entertainment in general.

To hear the full radio segment, CLICK HERE. You can also view a story on the CBC’s website summarizing the segment by CLICKING HERE. Below is a video that teases the production.