Mad Men meets 007 (not once, but twice)

Mad Men, the popular drama on cable network AMC, had its season finale on June 10, which included not one, but two, James Bond references.

The most noticeable was how the episode ended with Nancy Sinatra’s rendition of You Only Live Twice, written by John Barry and Leslie Bricusse. The fifth 007 film made by Eon Productions premiered premiered 45 years ago this month.

However, there was an earlier Bond reference, albeit a brief one. Near the episode’s conclusion, Jon Hamm’s Don Draper was in a movie theater. While no images of the movie were shown, the first several notes of Burt Bacharach’s main theme to the 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale, could be heard. That film had its 45th anniversary in April.

The Sinatra song has an interesting back story, familar to many, if not most, 007 fans. Namely, Barry and Bricusse wrote two versions. The first, performed by Julie Rogers, was deemed not good enough. The second, the Nancy Sinatra version, is a 007 fan favorite though Sinatra was so nervous, the song had to be cobbled together from multiple takes. If Mad Men fans are curious (and don’t already know the story), a 2006 special on U.K. television about the 007 theme songs provides the details:

This isn’t the first time Mad Men referenced 1960s spy entertainment. In 2010, the popular show included a clip from a first-season episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

UPDATE: Time magazine’s review of the episode picks up the You Only Live Twice connection and runs with it.

A modest proposal for any official 007 50th anniversary gala

James Bond fans worldwide have been chatting this week since Tom Jones performed the title song from Thunderball at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts 2012 awards show the other night. Most readers of this blog have already seen it plenty, but just in case, here it is again:

Jones really made an impact with the audience of celebrities. What could possibly top that?

Well, how about if there really is a 50th anniversary gala — particularly if such a gathering could really bring the six 007 film actors together — having Jones perform with Shirley Bassey and Nancy Sinantra? That way you could bring the surviving performers of the major James Bond title songs from the first decade of the 007 film series. Bassey’s performance of Goldfinger (written by Barry, Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley) set the standard. Jones’s Thunderball (Barry and Don Black) was a worthy follow-up and You Only Live Twice (Barry and Bricusse) is one of the most memorable of the series.

We have no idea if this idea is practical. But if it could be pulled off having that trio would make a 50th anniversary gala special. Bassey performed last year at a memorial concert for John Barry. Jones showed at BAFTA he’s going strong. We don’t know if Sinatra would be interested, but it would merit an inquiry if a big 007 gala takes place.

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.

Goldfinger’s 45th anniversary: even Michael Jackson wanted to get into the act?

Over at Examiner.com, they’re running a story saying Michael Jackson had wanted to perform the song Goldfinger. The quoted source for this? None other than Shirley Bassey, who became a star performing the title song of Goldfinger, first released in the U.K. in September 1964 and in the U.S. in December of that year.

A sample of the article:

Although Michael Jackson never had the opportunity to perform Goldfinger during a concert at London’s O2 Arena, Shirley Bassey had grown close to Michael Jackson and actually looked forward to hearing the King of Pop perform her most famous of the three James Bond theme songs she provided for the legendary film franchise.

“He loved Goldfinger and had said he wanted to do Goldfinger in his next show,” revealed Bassey.

Goldfinger’s 45th anniversary (cont.): the first hit 007 song

Nearly 45 years after it was introduced, Goldfinger’s title song still resonates with the public. As we’ve written about before, the song was nearly killed because co-producer Harry Saltzman hated it. But there was no time to record a replacement. So it remained and became a big hit.

The previous 007 film, From Russia With Love, had a title song but the main titles used an instrumental version coupled with the James Bond Theme. The Matt Monro performed vocal version was used in the middle of the movie (supposedly playing on a radio) and in the end titles. Thus, Goldfinger was the first 007 to have a song play in the main titles. Goldfinger was also composer John Barry’s first opportunity to write a title song for the series. He had arranged the James Bond Theme in Dr. No and composed the dramatic music for From Russia With Love while Lionel Bart wrote that film’s title song.

This time, Barry teamed up with lyricists Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley. Meanwhile Robert Brownjohn designed titles where scenes from the movie (along with an outtake from From Russia With Love and a shot from Dr. No) were projected over actress Margaret Nolan, who played Dink in the film (the character Sean Connery slaps on the rump). The results can be seen in this video:

That’s not the end of the story, though. In 1992, an alternate version of the song surfaced as part of a CD celebrating the 30th anniversary of James Bond’s film debut. Anthony Newley, co-writer of the lyrics, had given it a try with an alternate arrangement of the music:

For John Barry, Goldfinger would become part of a spectacular career scoring movies. In 2001, Barry conducted an orchestra playing an instrumental version of the song, which sounds similar to the sequence in the film where Bond drives the Aston Martin in the Swiss Alps. Take a look:

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Countdown to Goldfinger’s 45th anniversary part I

Whether you like the movie or not, Goldfinger in 1964 was the first mega-007 hit. There may be better Bond movies (From Russia With Love and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service come to mind), but Goldfinger made James Bond a cinema super star.

Next month is the 45th anniversary of the film’s world premier. In honor of that upcoming anniversary, we begin with a 1970s rendition of the title song by Shirley Bassey. Clips of this performance were used in a 2006 U.K. TV special that named Goldfinger the most popular 007 song. Here’s the entire clip:

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