Happy Global James Bond Day

“Happy 50th, James.”


The 50th anniversary of the James Bond film series has arrived. It’s Oct. 5 in the U.K., Global James Bond Day, as we type this; in the U.S. it’s merely Global James Bond Eve.

The Adele theme song for Skyfall, the 23rd film in the 007 series is now live:

Other Oct. 5 activities include a program in Los Angeles hosted by Jon Burlingame and including Vic Flick and Don Black concerning 007 music. Burlingame is an expert on film and television music who has written a new book titled THE MUSIC OF JAMES BOND. The official 007 Facebook page also is scheduled to release details of its fan survey concerning the favorite film of the series produced by Eon Production.

Meanwhile, for those who missed it the first time, is our series about the 50th anniversary of Dr. No, which made its debut on Oct. 5, 1962, in the U.K. but wasn’t seen in other countries until 1963.

Happy anniversary, Commander Bond.

UPDATE (Oct. 5): Epix has come out with a Skyfall preview it uploaded to YouTube. The principals say many of the things they’ve said previously, although Barbara Broccoli now says Javier Bardem will be the best Bond villain ever.

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.

Bond music program on Oct. 5 to feature Black, Flick

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences formally announced an Oct. 5 program in Beverly Hills, The Music of Bond: The First 50 Years. Featured guests are Don Black, who collaborated with John Barry and David Arnold on 007 film title songs, and guitarist Vic Flick, who helped bring Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme to life in Dr. No.

John Barry


An excerpt OF THE ANNOUNCEMENT:

Fifty years to the day after the U.K. opening of the first Bond film, “Dr. No,” on October 5, 1962, the Academy pays homage to the memorable title songs and indelible scores that have become as celebrated as the character’s many exploits.

Over the 22 films released to date as part of the official James Bond series, there have been several constants: suave but deadly leading men, gorgeous and barely clad Bond girls, over-the-top villains and incredible music. Bond theme songs, sung by such leading performers of their era as Shirley Bassey (“Goldfinger”), Nancy Sinatra (“You Only Live Twice”), Paul McCartney and Wings (“Live and Let Die”), Carly Simon (“Nobody Does It Better”) and Sheena Easton (“For Your Eyes Only”), consistently landed on the pop music charts. Duran Duran’s “A View to a Kill” became the first Bond song to hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The host of the program is Jon Burlingame, who has written extensively about film and television music, including the upcoming The Music of James Bond.

The Oct. 5 program starts at 7:30 p.m. PT at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater, 8949 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90211. General admission tickets are $5 and can be ordered ONLINE or by mail starting Sept. 4. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 5 and seats are not reserved.

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.

Vic Flick update: James Bond Now

Wes Britton advises us of the following about Vic Flick, the guitarist on the original rendition of The James Bond Theme:

James Bond Now, a wonderful collection of Vic’s reworkings of classic Bond tunes along with original compositions, can be ordered from Vic himself for $15.00 including shipping and handling by E-mailing Vic direct at: Flight007@aol.com.

You can get it autographed by the “Guitarman” himself! (Guitarman is the name of Vic’s memoir that came out from Bear Manor Media last year—something for book and music aficionados alike!)

Information on the book can be found HERE or HERE

The story of 007’s favorite guitarist

It’s hard to talk about James Bond movies without The James Bond Theme and it’s difficult to talk about that tune without mentioning guitarist Vic Flick.

It was Flick’s fingers on the electric guitar that was a major part of the original version of the theme. Monty Norman, the composer, has made a lot of money. John Barry, who did the arrangement of that original version, became a living legend among film composers. Flick? Bond fans know who he is, but not so much the general public.

Well, if you CLICK RIGHT HERE, you can find out seven reasons why you should read his autobiography.

And if you CLICK HERE you can order Vic Flick Guitarman on Amazon.com

The murky origins of the James Bond Theme

The James Bond Theme, as anyone who visits here knows, is one of the most famous pieces of movie music. But trying to peel back the origins has proven a bit tricky. A UK court has decided that Monty Norman is the author. But when you see the UK documentary we’ve linked to (via YouTube). You can appreciate that without John Barry’s orchestrations and arrangements and Vic Flick’s guitar playing, it just wouldn’t have been the same. The behind-the-scenes story starts at the 49-second mark below: