From Russia With Love’s 50th anniversary Part II: John Barry

John Barry

John Barry

John Barry wasn’t a happy man after Dr. No came out in 1962.

Barry had arranged and revamped Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme. He thought the piece would only be in Dr. No’s main titles. Instead, it was inserted by editor Peter Hunt throughout much of the movie.

With the second 007 film, From Russia With Love, “John Barry’s irritation at seeing his work all over the film of Dr. No would soon turn to elation,” author Jon Burlingame wrote in his 2012 book, The Music of James Bond. Barry got the job of scoring the new 007 film and, in the process, established the Bond movie music template.

Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman hired Lionel Bart to write the title song. But Barry would score provided all the dramatic music.

Barry’s impact was evident immediately. Dr. No’s gunbarrel logo utilized electronic noises. Barry instead used an arrangement of Bond theme. The pre-credits sequence, where where assassin Red Grant (Robert Shaw) kills a Bond double during a training exercise, was heightened by Barry’s music. In 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, composer Marvin Hamlisch did an homage to Barry’s work where Bond (Roger Moore) and Soviet agent Triple-X (Barbara Bach) are searching for Jaws amid Egyptian ruins. (CLICK HERE to see a Stuart Basinger-produced video comparing the two scenes.)

Barry’s work on From Russia With Love was the beginning of the James Bond sound.

“The 007 films demanded music that could be variously romantic, suspenseful, drive the action, even punctuate the humor,” Burlingame said in a 2012 E-MAIL INTERVIEW WITH THE HMSS WEBLOG about his book. “It was a tall order, and John Barry, especially, delivered what was necessary and helped define James Bond in a way that wasn’t possible with the visuals alone.”

Barry also composed what amounted to a second Bond theme, simply titled 007. It was used during two action sequences: A big fight between Bulgarians and gypsies working for MI6 and when Bond snatches a Russian decoding machine out of the Soviet consulate in Istanbul. Barry would end up bringing the 007 theme back in four more movies, the last being 1979’s Moonraker.

For the composer, this was just the beginning. He scored 10 more Bond movies and become one of the most sought-after composers in the movies. Remarkably, his Bond work never got an Oscar nomination. But he won five Oscars for non-007 films starting with 1967’s Born Free and ending with 1990’s Dances With Wolves.

Meanwhile, Barry’s template was something other composers had to keep in mind when they worked on 007 films. In the 1990s, David Arnold, a Barry admirer, produced new takes on classic Barry 007 songs. That helped him to secure work on five Bond films, making him the only composer so far besides Barry to work on more than one 007 film.

NEXT: Desmond Llewelyn’s debut as Q

January 2011 post: JOHN BARRY, AN APPRECIATION

September 2012 post: HMSS TALKS TO JON BURLINGAME ABOUT HIS 007 MUSIC BOOK

Thunderball’s 45th anniversary part IV: John Barry’s challenge

For John Barry, scoring Thunderball, the fourth James Bond movie, couldn’t have been easy. Deadlines were tight to make the film’s December 1965 release dates. Barry had to re-do the title song. And the film had a lot of underwater footage, with no dialogue which would need the composer’s music to bring it to life.

Thunderball may not be the best of Barry’s 11 007 scores. He himself has called On Her Majesty’s Secret Service his “most Bondian.” Still, Barry was more than up to the challenges presented by Thunderball. He ended up writing two title songs, Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang with Leslie Bricusse and, in a last-minute change, Thunderball with Don Black.

Barry, either by dramatic choice or to save precious time, used the 007 theme, a piece he originally wrote for two action sequences in From Russia With Love, in Thunderball. Bringing back 007 reinforced the idea that the composition was a second theme for Bond, a backup to The James Bond Theme. Barry would bring back 007 three more times, in You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever and Moonraker.

First, Barry’s score for the sequence where Bond escapes Fiona Volpe and her SPECTRE henchmen, during a street carnival in Nassau:

Barry then slows down the same basic music for the big underwater showdown between SPECTRE frogmen led by Emilo Largo who are carrying an atomic bomb and a U.S. force (with Bond, of course, joining in). Barry then speeds the music up for a sequence shortly thereafter where Bond confronts Largo on his hydrofoil as the villain tries to escape:

Barry’s bosses, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, sent Barry scurrying after deciding they’d prefer a song that actually had the word “Thunderball” in it. So Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was scrapped. But the Barry-Black team came through, with Tom Jones performing the song.