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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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.

Octopussy’s 35th: Battle of the Bonds, round 1

Octopussy poster with a suggestive tagline.

Poster with a suggestive tagline.

Adapted from a May 2013 post with an epilogue added at the end..

Thirty-five years ago, there was the much-hyped “Battle of the Bonds.” Competing 007 movies, the 13th Eon Productions entry with Roger Moore and a non-Eon film with Sean Connery, were supposed to square off in the summer.

Things didn’t quite work out that way. In June 1983, Eon’s Octopussy debuted while Never Say Never Again got pushed back to the fall.

Producer Albert R. Broccoli was taking no chances. He re-signed Moore, 54 at the start of production in the summer of 1982, for the actor’s sixth turn as Bond. It had seemed Moore might have exited the series after 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. Broccoli had considered American James Brolin, and Brolin’s screen tests surfaced at a 1994 007 fan convention in Los Angeles. But with Never Say Never Again, a competing 007 adventure starring Connery, the original screen Bond, the producer opted to stay with Moore.

Also back was composer John Barry, who been away from the world of 007 since 1979’s Moonraker. Octopussy would be the start of three consecutive 007 scoring assignments, with A View To a Kill and The Living Daylights to follow. The three films would prove to be his final 007 work.

Barry opted to use The James Bond Theme more than normal in Octopussy’s score, presumably to remind the audience this was the part of the established film series.

Meanwhile, Broccoli kept in place many members of his team from For Your Eyes Only: production designer Peter Lamont, director John Glen, director of photography Alan Hume and associate producer Tom Pevsner. Even in casting the female lead, Broccoli stayed with the familiar, hiring Maud Adams, who had previously been the second female lead in The Man With the Golden Gun.

Behind the cameras, perhaps the main new face was writer George MacDonald Fraser, who penned the early versions of the script. Fraser’s knowledge of India, where much of the story takes place, would prove important. Richard Maibaum and Broccoli stepson Michael G. Wilson took over to rewrite. The final credit had all three names, with Fraser getting top billing.

As we’ve WRITTEN BEFORE, scenes set in India have more humor than scenes set in East and West Germany. Some times, the humor is over the top (a Tarzan yell during a sequence where Bond is being hunted in India by villain Kamal Khan). At other times, the movie is serious (the death of “sacrificial lamb” Vijay).

In any event, Octopussy’s ticket sales did better in the U.S. ($67.9 million) compared with For Your Eyes Only’s $54.8 million. Worldwide, Octopussy scored slightly less, $187.5 million compared with Eyes’s $195.3 million. For Broccoli & Co., that was enough to ensure the series stayed in production.

Hype about the Battle of the Bonds would gear back up when Never Say Never premiered a few months later. But the veteran producer, 74 years old at the time of Octopussy’s release, had stood his ground. Now, all he could do was sit back and watch what his former star, Sean Connery, who had heavy say over creative matters, would come up with a few months later.

2018 epilogue: Over the past five years, Octopussy has continued to generate mixed reaction.

One example was an article posted this month the Den of Geek website. 

While the site said Octopussy deserves another chance with fans, it also levied some criticisms.

It’s a funny old film, Octopussy, one used as evidence by both Moore’s prosecution and his defense. Haters cite the befuddled plot, an older Moore, some truly silly moments (Tarzan yell, anyone?), a Racist’s Guide to India, and the painfully metaphorical sight of a 56 year-old clown trying to disarm a nuclear bomb (rivalled only by Jaws’ Moonraker plunge into a circus tent on the “Spot the Unintentional Subtext” scale.)

At the same time, Den of Geek also compliments aspects of the movie, including its leading man.

Moore also submits a very good performance, arguably his strongest. Easy to treat him as a joke but the man really can act. Sometimes through eyebrows alone.

Thirty-five years later, Octopussy still has the power to enthrall some and to generate salvos from its critics.

I know someone, now in his 40s, who says it’s his favorite James Bond film. I have a friend who refuses to buy a home video copy of it (and every other Roger Moore 007 film) on the grounds that none of the Moore entries are true James Bond films. So it goes.

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.

A View To A Kill’s script: Q goes out in the field

A View To A Kill’s poster

In 1984, the writing team of Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson commenced work on their third consecutive James Bond film.

A View To A Kill (shortened from the Ian Fleming short story title From a View to a Kill) would go all-in on a contemporary plot involving computers and microchips.

A copy of a script identified as a first draft (but with some pages saying they had been revised later) indicates the Maibaum-Wilson team had worked out most of the story issues.

The script is similar to the final film that reached audiences in 1985. But, as is often the case, there are interesting differences.

The most significant is that Q is out in the field during the long San Francisco sequence.

As in the film, Q first shows up in the briefing scene shortly after the main titles. He explains the importance of computer chips and how they can be rendered useless by electro magnet pulses. Bond also comments, “expertise showing,” according to the script.

From there, we’re off to Ascot, where the MI6 crew is at the races. We’re introduced to Max Zorin, described as “tall, slender, impeccably dressed, in his late thirties. Unusually handsome he has one grey eye and one blue eye.”

David Bowie (1947-2016)

Eon initially courted David Bowie to play Zorin. Bowie turned 38 in 1985 and had two different eye colors. He turned down the part and Christopher Walken. who turned 42 the year the movie came out, got the job.

The script also describes May Day as “a shapely, tall, somewhat bizarrely dressed twenty eight year old girl with a distinctively short hairdo and a beautiful but saturninely placid face.”

Most of what follows mirrors the final film until the story shifts to San Francisco.

Bond and Q are in a van using’s Q’s surveillance device, identified in the script as “Snooper.” They’re spying on Zorin and his minions, trying to figure out what he’s up to in his operation in San Francisco Bay. A sample:

IN VAN BOND Q

watching and listening at TV SCREEN showing GROUP in STATION CONTROL ROOM. Voices from TV are faint and somewhat obscured by sound of pumping.

CONLEY ON TV
We’re at maximum pumping now…

ZORIN ON TV
We have a deadline. I’ll hold you personally responsible if we miss it.

A guard dog menances the Snooper. The device sprays the dog with repellent that Q describes as, “Foul smelling stuff.”

Thanks to the Snooper, Bond and Q discover that the Russians are also trying to plant bugs on Zorin’s operation. One Russian is captured by May Day while the other escapes. The second Russian, of course, is Pola Ivanova. Bond intercepts her and things proceed more or less as in the movie.

Desmond Llewelyn (1914-1999)

In the script, we don’t hear anymore from Q until the end of the movie. Still, one suspects this idea resonated with the Eon creative team.

Previously, Q (Desmond Llewelyn) journeyed into the field to provide Bond with gadgets (Thunderball, You Only Live Twice and The Spy Who Loved Me). But in the script, Q is working with Bond side by side.

Q would venture out into the field to assist Bond directly in Licence to Kill.

A few more things of note:

–No Dick Tracy joke when a police captain tries to arrest Bond. In the script, the captain is in plain clothes, rather than a uniform as in the movie.

–Some lines of dialogue between Zorin and Mortner in the blimp were switched between this script and the final film.

–The scene where May Day, having been betrayed by Zorin, sacrifices herself reads flat. It has the dialogue (“Jump! “Have to hold the brake off…..Get Zorin for me!”). But it’s mostly explaining how we get from point A to point B.

After reading the script, I again watched the scene in the movie. Roger Moore and Grace Jones did a lot more with it than what was written. It’s possible director John Glen influenced that (an observation from reader Matthew Bradford made on The Spy Command page on Facebook). Also, having a John Barry absolutely increased the drama. I think it’s one of the best scenes in the movie but you couldn’t tell it by reading the script.

–At the end, it’s the U.S. ambassador to the U.K., and not Gogol (as in the movie) who is visiting M (who “looks very glum,” according to the stage directions).

“The president is most anxious to personally thank Mr Bond and inform him he will be the first foreigner ever awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor,” the U.S. ambassador says. In the final film, Gogol shows up with the Order of Lenin for Bond.

Bond is missing, which accounts for the sad mood at MI6. But, as in the movie, Q is on the job (and still in San Francisco) using the Snooper to track Bond down. In the script, Q shuts off the monitor and quickly calls M. In the film, the gag would be extended for a bit.