(“James Bond Theme”)
Trailers for the twenty-third James Bond film, Skyfall, look pretty sweet. The enduring series, originally based off Ian Fleming’s magnificent spy novels, has a remarkable success rate – There are very few James Bond movies I simply didn’t enjoy, two of them being the terrible Timothy Dalton films. Fans have called Daniel Craig the best 007 since Sean Connery, and the movies have certainly been fun and exciting, although I cannot say I found the David Arnold scores as evocative and integral to the story as in the classic films, nearly all scored by John Barry.
Each new James Bond soundtrack is a musical event itself, and the scores – like the films themselves – follow reliable formats. Each soundtrack is distinguished by the new theme, sung by a pop singer or, as in more recent scores, a group. Each contains an interpretation of the famous theme and of Barry’s alternate “007” theme, and usually fits into a similar mood. Soundtrack collectors, who love our shop for the large collection of albums we always have in stock, love the James Bond albums.
Laura suggested we explore them here on the blog so I have been listening my way through what we have in stock and rediscovering my love of the movies.
John Barry scored most of the James Bond movies up until the dreadful Dalton took over the lead role in The Living Daylights. His work is characterized by the recurring “007” theme first introduced in the second film, From Russia with Love – bombastic and percussive but richly textured by strings and brass, his work in the Connery-era films is often integral to the story during long scenes without dialogue.
By the time Roger Moore took over the role of 007, Barry was creating less brassy and lusher orchestral arrangements, and other composers were occasionally taking on the role (George Martin for 1973’s Live and Let Die, which of course also featured a theme song by Paul McCartney and Wings, and big-name film composers Marvin Hamlish and Bill Conti for two films in the years to follow).
“Capsule in Space” captures a lot of Barry’s sense for suspense. It’s from the scene in You Only Live Twice when one rocket in space, the villian’s secret one, engulfs another which belongs to the Soviet Union. I’m pretty sure there’s Cosmonauts screaming, but I haven’t seen the movie in years.
It’s memorable, exciting music.
A word about the James Bond Theme: It is credited to Monty Norman, but there has been a dispute over its authorship ever since Dr. No, the first Bond film for which John Barry arranged the theme. Courts have always ruled on Norman’s side, but the issue has never been resolved to the satisfaction of both parties (since Norman still must file libel suits from time to time to prevent publishers from miscrediting the song to Barry and since Barry feels he deserves credit).
My favorite Bond film, sadly, is not one scored by John Barry – It’s The Spy Who Loved Me, a uniquely hammy film and the first not based on one of Fleming’s novels (per the author’s request the only things taken from his book, The Spy Who Loved Me are the title and the main character – although James Bond hardly appears in the original novel). I couldn’t defend it as one of the best, I just really enjoy the relatively stupid gags that run throughout the film, which is very nearly a comedy at times. Carly Simon’s theme, “Nobody Does it Better”, is one of my favorites, and I feel pretty strongly that Barbara Bach (Ringo Starr’s ex-wife) is the foxiest James Bond girl.
(“Nobody Does it Better”)
Hamlish reworked the beloved theme to incorporate a heavy string arrangement and a disco-heavy samba beat. It’s a pretty awesome ski-chase scene (better than the one in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) which ends with 007 parachuting off a mountain. His score for The Spy Who Loved Me is otherwise heavily based on Barry’s work, especially from Thunderball, 007’s previous scuba-diving adventure.
It would be a mistake to leave out Thunderball, which has some of the most enjoyable instrumental passages in any of the films. Like the other Connery-era films the music often fills the space left by the absence of dialogue (only instead of being quiet and sneaky, Bond isn’t speaking here because he’s underwater a lot).
My favorite theme in the more recent Brosnan/Craig era is the one Tina Turner sang for Goldeneye. I don’t think you can buy an LP of this soundtrack, but I suppose we could hope there was a promotional pressing of the theme on 45. You can hear the new theme for Skyfall by Adele on Youtube, but I prefer this one: