The Thunder Child

Science Fiction and Fantasy
Web Magazine and Sourcebooks

Radio Drama
Science Faction

New Movies!
"Stand By For Mars!"
New Movies

Music Sourcebook: The Music's By Barry. John Barry.

By Ryan Brennan

The release of a new Bond film creates an opportunity to discuss the music of the series, particularly its famous James Bond Theme. Controversy has surrounded the authorship of the defining tune, the instantly recognizable melody and rhythm epitomizes the action film. Monty Norman, composer of the first Bond score, Dr. No (1962), is credited as writer, yet he did not carry forward as the composer of choice for the series.

John Barry, the up and coming leader of the John Barry Seven, had been brought in to spruce up the theme when the producers decided it lacked oomph. They promised to make it worth Barry's while and he was rewarded with one assignment after another. Since then, Norman has continually taken public credit for that piece of music though he never worked on the Bond series again nor ever composed anything of comparable interest or popularity. Barry, no doubt forfeiting a fortune in music rights, but gaining by the dozens of score commissions that resulted, has always demurred on the subject by pointing out who was asked back to score other Bond films. A recent win in court by Norman has done little to change the minds of Bond music aficionados.

Barry's jazzy compositions created a new and unique sound in the world of film scores. His imagination provided a seemingly endless string of musical compositions to accompany gyspsy camps, alpine drives, raids on Fort Knox, a capsule in space, a moon buggy ride, a stroll to Blofeld's hideaway, and Bond below the Disco Volante. Romantic themes flowed as effortlessly as the suspense and action themes, not to mention a number of hit theme songs. Although Barry referred to these themes a "million dollar mickey mouse music," a reference to music that slavishly matches the on-screen action (an assertion demonstrably untrue in his case), he produced a body of work filled with memorable and distinctive compositions. More importantly, over the course of twelve films (counting his work on the first Bond) Barry defined the musical sound of a Bond film, a feat which other composers can only imitate but not equal.

John Barry

Dr. No
From Russia With Love
You Only Live Twice
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Diamonds Are Forever
Live And Let Die
The Man With The Golden Gun
The Spy Who Loved Me
For Your Eyes Only
(Never Say Never Again)
A View To A Kill
The Living Daylights
Licence To Kill
Tomorrow Never Dies
The World Is Not Enough
Die Another Day
Casino Royale
Quantum of Solace
Sean Connery
Sean Connery
Sean Connery
Sean Connery
Sean Connery
George Lazenby
Sean Connery
Roger Moore
Roger Moore
Roger Moore
Roger Moore
Roger Moore
Roger Moore
(Sean Connery)
Roger Moore
Timothy Dalton
Timothy Dalton
Pierce Brosnan
Pierce Brosnan
Pierce Brosnan
Pierce Brosnan
Daniel Craig
Daniel Craig
Daniel Craig

Live and Let Die was the first time since Dr. No that another composer was allowed to score a Bond film. George Martin, the Beatles' producer, created a serviceable score and brought ex-Beatle Paul McCartney into the mix with the high octane title hit tune Live and Let Die. Marvin Hamlisch, who made a splash adapting Scott Joplin's music for The Sting, scored The Spy Who Loved Me and provided some memorable themes including Nobody Does It Better. Bill Conti tried his hand at For Your Eyes Only, offering up a score mired in the age of doo-whack guitars and other then contemporary musical stylings that hopelessly date the music, although gold was struck with the hit title theme. Licence to Kill tried recycling some of the Goldfinger title tune pizazz but Michael Kamen's score was one of the most disappointing. But it remained for Eric Serra's score from Goldeneye to reach the musical nadir of the series. Two "renegade" productions, Casino Royale (1967) and Never Say Never Again, featured, respectively, the delightful music of Burt Bacharach and a unexpectedly lackluster score by Michel Legrand. The only thing they shared: Both had main titles featuring Herb Alpert.

For most of the Pierce Brosnan era, David Arnold (Independence Day, Stargate, Godzilla), became Barry's anointed replacement. Through Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough, Die Another Day, and, now, Casino Royale, Arnold has provided background music that simulates the Barry sound, heavy on horns but pumped up with the latest percussive tricks. He seems to be improving, TWINE and CR are both effective scores, but the songs, with exceptions, have been forgettable and he has yet to demonstrate the musical palette and variety of Barry, instead concentrating on loud, propulsive themes that compete with the pumped-up sound effects. Arnold's music is not much different from what can be heard in other similar action adventure films. The Austin Powers films and The Incredibles featured scores that could easily have been transplanted into or from a Bond movie. (Even Steve Martin's The Pink Panther features a Beyonce song that belongs in a Bond film.) This may be a symptom of the times when the Golden Age composers no longer exist and many of the Silver Age film composers -- like Jerry Goldsmith -- have passed away while even a stalwart like John Williams seems to have lost the knack of composing scores with catchy, memorable themes that continue to inhabit the mind long after the images of the film have faded.

For years James Bond has been synonymous with sexy ladies, cool gadgets and an uncanny knack for winning at various casino games like baccarat, poker and blackjack. But what about The James Bond Franchise? The James Bond film list boasts an extensive list of signature tunes, which over the years, have received countless awards and culminated in what are now considered classics in the movie World. So, the next time you hit a poker table why not plug in your headphones and go fro broke to your favorite Bond tune.

Return to:
The Thunder Child Reviews Index

Click on the icons for new features in The Thunder Child.
Radiation Theater: 1950s Sci Fi Movies Discussion Boards
The Sand Rock Sentinel: Ripped From the Headlines of 1950s Sci Fi Films

[Home Page] [Contact Us] [Triskelion] [TechnoOcean] [Daily Space] [Store] [Site Map]

To see our animated navigation bars, please download the Flash Player from Adobe.

All text © 2006, 2007 The Thunder Child unless otherwise credited.
All illustrations retain original copyright.
Please contact us with any concerns as to correct attribution.
Any questions, comments or concerns contact The Thunder Child.