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

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HMSS talks to Jon Burlingame about his 007 music book

Image of the cover of The Music of James Bond from the book’s Amazon.com page (don’t click it won’t work here; see link at bottom of this post).

Jon Burlingame, who has written extensively about film and television music, is coming out with a new book, The Music of James Bond. He’s come up with some research that should intrigue 007 fans. Example: one of the singers of Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, originally intended to be Thunderball’s title song was involved in a lawsuit to try to stop release of the fourth James Bond film.

We did an interview by e-mail. He provided a preview of his book. The author didn’t want to give away too much in our interview, including identifying which Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang singer was involved. Both Shirley Bassey and Dionne Warwick performed the song before Eon Productions went with Tom Jones singing Thunderball.

Anyway, the interview follows:

HMSS: Did you come across information that you found surprising? If so, what was it?

BURLINGAME: I was able to piece together the chronology of what happened with “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” — the unused theme for THUNDERBALL — which had always eluded previous writers and researchers. And I discovered that one vocalist was so incensed about the failure to use her recording that her company sued the producers to attempt to stop distribution of the film in late 1965. (She didn’t succeed, of course.) It was a stunning new discovery and, to me, one of the most fascinating stories in the book.

I also got Paul Williams to recall many of his unused lyrics for MOONRAKER and Johnny Mathis to confirm that he recorded that song, which no one has ever heard. I successfully unraveled the story of the missing Eric Clapton recordings for LICENCE TO KILL and the sad and unfortunate tale of why John Barry was ready to score TOMORROW NEVER DIES and how studio politics derailed it. I obtained new details about the aborted Amy Winehouse song for QUANTUM OF SOLACE and finally got to the bottom of the story involving “No Good About Goodbye,” which has always been rumored to be an unused QoS song.

HMSS:How long did it take to prepare The Music of James Bond? How many of the principals were you able to interview directly?

BURLINGAME: It took eight months to write — and about 45 years of intense interest before that. I signed the contract with Oxford in May 2011 and delivered a final manuscript in December. Like any film-related history that covers several decades, it required considerable research as well as interviews with those key players who were still with us. I had interviewed John Barry often since the late 1980s, so I had material from him prior to his passing.

New interviews included Monty Norman, Vic Flick, Leslie Bricusse, Don Black, Hal David, producer Phil Ramone (OHMSS), engineers Eric Tomlinson and John Richards, Sir George Martin, Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager, Paul Williams, Bill Conti, Tim Rice, Michel Legrand and Alan & Marilyn Bergman, Maryam d’Abo, Narada Michael Walden and Diane Warren (LICENCE TO KILL), Eric Serra (GOLDENEYE), David Arnold, conductor Nicholas Dodd (the Arnold films), and Madonna (DIE ANOTHER DAY), among others. {plus extensive, previously unused interviews I had done with Michael Kamen (LICENCE TO KILL) and Michel Colombier (DIE ANOTHER DAY) before each passed away.

HMSS: What is your view of the disputes related to the creation of The James Bond Theme? To some laymen, it really does sound like Barry at the very least added a lot to Monty Norman’s work.

BURLINGAME: He did. The story is very, very complicated, as anyone who followed the London court case should understand. The creation of a piece of music for a film — whether in 1962 or in 2012 — can be a complex process involving a melody line, the addition of rhythm and countermelodies, bridges, etc., and performance issues related to what instruments are being used and how. So it started with Monty Norman and an unused song from an unrealized production; passed through the hands of his own orchestrator; reached John Barry, who undertook what one expert witness at the trial called an “extreme” arrangement; and when Barry called in guitarist Vic Flick, he added his own special touches before the theme was recorded for the first time. To his credit, Norman — despite his differences with Barry over the years — continues to credit Barry with the definitive orchestration of his theme.

I would urge Bond fans to read my first chapter very carefully before drawing, or modifying, their own conclusions. I believe it is as complete a chronicle of the creation of the “James Bond Theme” as is possible at this date.

HMSS: Harry Saltzman almost killed the title songs to Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever and while liking the Live And Let Die song didn’t want Paul McCartney to perform it. Are there any other examples of this sort of thing (not restricted to Saltzman)?

BURLINGAME: From the beginning, it’s always really been a kind of crap shoot to try and create a song that would serve the film but also reach the pop charts to serve the broader promotional needs of the film and be successful on its own. There has always been second-guessing, from the examples you cited to the rush job on MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, the last-minute decision to change lyricists and singers on MOONRAKER, the involvement of record-company people on the songs for A VIEW TO A KILL, THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS and LICENCE TO KILL, and finally the deep involvement of the studio music department on films like TOMORROW NEVER DIES, DIE ANOTHER DAY and the 2006 CASINO ROYALE. I detail all of these in the book.

For a long time, no composer not named John Barry did a second turn as a 007 film composer, until David Arnold came along. What did he bring to the table that the likes of Bill Conti, Marvin Hamlisch, etc., didn’t?.

BURLINGAME: I don’t think it’s fair to compare David Arnold with Conti and Hamlisch. Each composer tried to do his best with the film he was given. The circumstances were different in each case. All three attempted to “modernize” the Bond sound in their own way, with Hamlisch and Conti applying the pop rhythm sounds of their day (1977, 1981). Arnold came along at a time when the largely electronic (Eric) Serra
score for GOLDENEYE proved problematic for the filmmakers and they were eager to return to a more “traditional” sound. Arnold’s TOMORROW NEVER DIES score took the classic Barry sound and “updated” it with contemporary synth and rhythm-track sounds that proved just right for that film. He delivered what was needed and thus was retained — especially in a time of risk-averse studio thinking that often says, “that worked, that movie made money, let’s have more of that.”

HMSS: What qualities make James Bond scores different than scores of other movies?

BURLINGAME: One of the main points of the book is the assertion that these composers invented a new kind of action-adventure scoring for the Bond films. Partly pop, partly jazz, partly traditional orchestral scoring, the 007 films demanded music that could be variously romantic, suspenseful, drive the action, even punctuate the humor.

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.

John Barry


HMSS: John Barry won five Oscars for his film work but never for a Bond movie. Meanwhile, Marvin Hamlisch got nominated for his score for The Spy Who Loved Me, and three title songs where Barry was absent (Live And Let Die, Nobody Does It Better and For Your Eyes Only) got nominated. Why was that?

BURLINGAME: This is a sore point with me. “We Have All the Time in the World” and “Diamonds Are Forever” are two of the greatest movie songs of their time, and both should have been nominated. But the reality is that the Bond films were not taken seriously as artistic achievements at the time, and neither song was a big hit (while record sales helped to drive Barry’s “Born Free” into Oscar territory, and the Bacharach-David “The Look of Love” from (1967’s) CASINO ROYALE was from a very popular, L.A.-based hitmaking team and so was an obvious choice for Oscar attention).

“Live and Let Die,” “Nobody Does It Better” and “For Your Eyes Only” went to no. 2, no. 2 and no. 4 on the American charts, respectively, and thus could not be ignored at Oscar time on the basis of their commercial success alone.

I think you could make a case that “You Only Live Twice,” “We Have All the Time in the World,” “Diamonds Are Forever,” “All Time High” and “Surrender” from TOMORROW NEVER DIES could and should have been nominated for Oscar. Maybe even “You Know My Name” from CASINO ROYALE, which has grown on me over the years. Changing Oscar rules in recent years hasn’t helped, but this year, with five nominees for Best Song assured because of a rule change, I think it’s quite likely that we may have a Bond song in contention.

HMSS: What do you think is the best Bond film score? What do you think is the most underrated?

BURLINGAME: You can’t ask a guy who spent six months listening to nothing but Bond
music to choose just one!

I love every note of both GOLDFINGER and ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. I think FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE and DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER are terrific scores in every way. And the fact that I grew up in that era may influence my passion for the early Bond scores, when the Barry concept and sound
was so fresh and exciting. I believe THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS may be the most underrated score. There is so much original melodic and rhythmic material there, and a very contemporary sound for 1987; I feel that Barry went out on a very high note with his last Bond score. I also think there is much to admire in Arnold’s first two Bond scores, TOMORROW NEVER DIES and THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, and I think his unused song from the latter, “Only Myself to Blame” (with Don Black lyrics) ranks with “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” as another of the unsung masterpieces of Bond music.

HMSS: What do you think Thomas Newman brings to Skyfall?

BURLINGAME: I very much look forward to the SKYFALL score. Every few years there is a new voice in Bond music — this year we have two, in Adele and Thomas Newman — and it’s always a good thing to reexamine what makes Bond music work. Arnold tried to do that with each new Bond score, but I think Newman will offer a fresh musical point of view and I can’t wait to hear what he brings.

For information about ordering the book, CLICK HERE to view Amazon.com’s Web site. You can look at some pages on the Amazon site BY CLICKING HERE.

UPDATE (Sept. 28): Jon Burlingame passes on the following about “rejected” James Bond title songs:

One of the book’s appendices is a chronicle of “would-be” Bond songs. There is a widespread notion out there that these were “rejected” (Johnny Cash for THUNDERBALL, Alice Cooper for GOLDEN GUN, etc.) when in fact most were, at best, unsolicited demos that never even reached the producers, who were not in the habit of entertaining song suggestions from outsiders.

The idea that Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were sitting round their offices listening to these and giving them serious consideration is the height of lunacy.

There really was a “cattle call” for songs for TOMORROW NEVER DIES, but that was done by the studio, not the producers, and I detail the unhappy results in the book.

John Barry’s shadow and the David Arnold debate

John Barry

John Barry


A Jan. 4 story on the MI6 James Bond fan Web site saying Thomas Newman rather than David Arnold will be scoring Skyfall renewed debate among 007 fans about the quality of Arnold’s work. Once more there were arguments whether a new composer is needed for the film series.

First a major caveat: the move hasn’t been confirmed yet. Many Web sites summarized the MI6 report, but a quick look through those stories didn’t indicate that any of them actually confirmed MI6’s story. They’ve been more concerned with analyzing what it means. There’s also been no official announcement about a composer for the 23rd James Bond film. The official 007 Twitter feed has only been doing “this day in Bond history” the past few days.

Arnold, who turns 50 on Jan. 23, is the only composer other than John Barry to work on more than one Bond film in the series produced by Eon Productions. The likes of Bill Conti, Marvin Hamlisch, Eric Serra and others got to do one but were never asked back.

Barry, who died last year at age 77, still casts a long shadow over the series musically. He worked on 12 Bond films. He arranged the James Bond Theme in Dr. No and composed the scores for 11 more, ending with 1987’s The Living Daylights. Paul Scrabo’s Bond Memories video series last year reported on a screening of You Only Live Twice (which featured one of Barry’s best scores in the series) in Suffern, N.Y.. Barry’s memory was a big part of the proceedings. (Disclosure: Scrabo complimented a recent post on this blog and Gary Firuta, a speaker you’ll see in the video, is a friend of HMSS, providing invaluable help on a recent story about Bond movie scripts):

Arnold in the 1990s re-recorded John Barry songs from the Bond movies, giving them a contempory revamp. That helped get him the job of scoring 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies and remained in place through 2008’s Quantum of Solace.

Arnold divides fans. His supporters say he’s carrying on the Barry tradition while adding a modern flavor. His detractors say he’s the musical equivalent of an empty suit, that there’s no there there. You can sample the arguments yourself at this thread on the MI6 Web site’s message board or this thread on the Commander Bond message board.

Assuming Newman does score Skyfall — he has worked several times with Skyfall director Sam Mendes — it will be interesting to see what direction the debate takes. Can Newman, part of a family dynasty of movie composers, satisify the Arnold detractors and/or supporters? Will Newman veer from the Barry music template? You would think yes, but that’s hardly guaranteed.

Lazenby and Flick on Aug. 16 Dave White Presents

George Lazenby, the one-time James Bond, and Vic Flick, the talented guitarist who helped bring The James Bond Theme to life, will be on the Aug. 16 edition of Dave White Presents, the Internet radio show.

The show is celebrating its third anniversary. Here’s an excerpt from a press release about the event:

Back in Aug. 2008, our very first guest was 007 guitarist Vic Flick. Yep, the guy who played the original James Bond theme and performed on hit records for everyone from Peter and Gordon to Petula Clark to the soundtrack of A HARD DAY’S NIGHT. A few months later, DWP’s most popular guest to date talked with Wes Britton about his starring role in ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE—James Bond himself, George Lazenby.

On Aug. 16, 2011, Vic Flick and George Lazenby will appear together for the first time anywhere on our anniversary show. It’s quite a ride! In fact, the conversation quickly becomes the Vic Flick interviews George Lazenby feature with these two gents swapping memories, anecdotes, stories and jokes. No Bond fan should miss this one!

The show is scheduled to be available at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time at http://www.KSAV.org, which you can also find by CLICKING HERE. It will be run again at 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

Starting Aug. 17, you can access the show at http://www.audioentertainment.org/dwp or BY CLICKING HERE.

Listen (and sort of watch) the John Barry memorial concert

Last month’s memorial concert for John Barry, composer for 11 James Bond films and a five-time Oscar winner, has been written up on numerous 007 fan Web sites. There’s not much more to say except if you give it a listen, it’s a wonderful experience. The concert was later broadcast by the BBC. A version of that broadcast was uploaded to YouTube and here it is:

The BBC is also making the concert available on its Web site for a limited time. You can check it out by CLICKING HERE.

Either way, it runs almost two hours. It contains a lot of Barry work outside the Bond series and it’s all outstanding. Michael Caine speaks from the U.S. (because of working on next year’s Batman movie), Dame Shirley Bassey performs, David Arnold plays guitar on a rendition of The James Bond Theme (Barry did the arrangement of the version heard in Dr. No, in addition to his 11 Bond scores)….it’s worth the time invested.

Meanwhile, if you’re a big Bond fan and you can’t wait to listen one of the highlights, well, here’s one (we’ll see how long it stays up on YouTube):

007 music at the Olympics courtesy of Kim Yu-Na

Korean ice skater Kim Yu-Na used a medley of James Bond music for her short program at the Vancouver Olympics. NBC waited until 11 p.m. ET to show her performance.

Selections included some of John Barry’s scores, including Thunderball and From Russia With Love and a Barry-esque sounding selection that David Arnold composed for Die Another Day. There were also versions of Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme.

She scored 78 points, a record, for the short program.

UPDATE: Our friend Mark Henderson points out this wasn’t exactly her debut at using 007 music:

UPDATE II: J.A. Adande, a participant in the Feb. 24 edition of ESPN’s Around the Horn, praised the “James Bond moment” during a commentary at the end of the show after he won the game of “competitive banter.”

The murky origins of the James Bond theme: a sequel

Eleven months ago, we posted about the murky origins of the James Bond Theme which included a link to a portion of a U.K. documentary.

The gist of the documentary was that while Monty Norman wrote the theme originally, John Barry contributed a great deal with the way he arranged and orchestrated it. And it should be noted that producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman would retain Barry, rather than Norman, to compose scores for future 007 films.

Last month, a YouTube poster called Blofeld39 weighed in with a video. It basically shows how various compositions, mostly by Barry, influenced what has become one of the most famous pieces of film music ever. Here it is: