The Music of James Bond

Title:                      The Music of James Bond

Author:                 Jon Burlingame

Burlingame, Jon (2012). The Music of James Bond. New York : Oxford University Press

LCCN:    2012006979

ML2075 .B87 2012


Date Posted:      April 28, 2016

Review by Gary E. Harter [1]

British secret agent, James Bond, celebrated his Golden Anniversary on the big screen in 2012. As part of this celebration, MGM released 22 Bond titles on BluRay; all “official” Bond titles are now available individually or in a set in BluRay. Author, Ian Fleming’s sixth novel, Dr. No,[2] launched the series on an unsuspecting public. And the rest, they say, is history. The soundtrack from Dr. No was re-issued, and this 2012 version included much of the original score, missing from its initial original release.[3]

Of the twenty-five “official,” and “non-official” movies in the Bond series, Burlingame’s book covers the first twenty-four.[4] The movies are storyboarded through a melodic lens, and chronicle not only the particular movie, but the music within the movie. Each movie rates a chapter; and within every chapter is a helpful “Score Highlights” section explaining the music and cues from particular· scenes. The book is packed with photographs of the composers, singers, and actors.

There have been eleven com-posers for the twenty-five James Bond movies.[5] Of these, none has matched the style, or been more prolific than John Barry (1933—2011). You can’t discuss Bond music without mentioning his name. Barry was the dean of Bond composers, creating music for 11 movies.[6] He established the tone of Bond through the early years. Whether brassy and bold, or somber and mellow, Barry used his music to define the character. Barry’s footprint continues to influence the music in Bond films today.[7]

As the years went by, cultural changes occurred in popular music. Burlingame chronicled the changes to both soundtrack and title song, as both were a reflection of the music of the day. Thus, performers as diverse as Matt Monroe, Tom Jones, Louis Armstrong, Madonna, Paul McCartney and Wings, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass among others, performed a title song in a Bond movie.[8] The inclusion of locale music within the movie was often utilized to enhance the overall experience of the film.[9]

The answers to the following riveting questions are found in Burlingame’s book: Who wrote the James Bond theme? Did Tom Jones pass out while hitting that final note, lasting some 9 seconds, on the title song, Thunderball? Which popular singers came close to performing a title song, and why it didn’t happen? Which Bond film didn’t have a soundtrack? Both Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton contributed music for a Bond movie. Yet one of them did not make it on a soundtrack. Which guitarist and why? Speaking of guitarists, who played guitar on the original James Bond theme? The answers to these and other earth-shattering wonderments may be found in The Music of James Bond. If inclined, I would search by chapter (movie).

This is a book for the Bond aficionado, as well as the casual fan of the movies. The strength of The Music of James Bond is its research and depth of detail. It is a true masterpiece. If you enjoy James Bond movies, this is a book that should be on your shelf.

[1] Carter, Gary E. in The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies (20, 2, Fall/Winter, 2013, pp. 136-137). Former Special Agent Gary E. Harter joined the FBI in 1972 and focused on counterintelligence issues and spy cases for much of his career. His appointment letter was signed by legendary FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. He retired after more than 30 years with the Bureau, and after 10 years at BearingPoint. He is a frequent reviewer for AFIO publications. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the FBI.

[2] Fleming, Ian (1958, 1968). Dr. No. London: Cape

[3] The original Dr. No soundtrack is somewhat of an oddity. Respected British composer Monty Norman wrote the score for the movie. Only seven of the eighteen tracks on the soundtrack were included in the movie. The Norman compositions heard in Dr. No were the haunting, “The Island Speaks,” (Bond, Quarrel and Felix Leiter boating to Dr. No’s lair, Crab Key) and, the James Bond theme. The Bond theme was arranged by composer John Barry, which later created some controversy as to authorship of this seminal piece of music.

[4] Skyfall, released in 2012, is not included in this book. The original producers of Bond films were Albert (Cubby) Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. Broccoli and Saltzman are considered the “official” producers of the Bond series. Their first collaboration was Dr. No. Saltzman sold his interest in the films in 1975, and Broccoli became sole producer of the franchise. Twenty years later, Cubby Broccoli turned over his responsibilities to daughter, Barbara, and stepson, Michael. As of this writing [2013], Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson remain co-producers of Bond films. Two Bond movies, unaccredited to either Broccoli and/or Saltzman, and thus “unofficial,” are Casino Royale (1967), and Never Say Never Again (1983).

[5] Bond composers include Monty Norman, John Barry, Burt Bacharach, George Martin, Marvin Hamlisch, Bill Conti, Michel Legrand, Michael Kamen, Eric Serra, David Arnold, and Thomas Newman.

[6] From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Man With The Golden Gun (1974), Moonraker (1979), Octopussy (1983), A View to a Kill (1985), and The Living Daylights (1987).

[7] Only Barry and David Arnold scored music for more than one Bond film. For those keeping score, Arnold composed music for 5 films. They are Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The World Is Not Enough (1999), Die Another Day, (2002), Casino Royale (2006), and Quantum of Solace (2008).

[8] Shirley Bassey was the vocalist for the most Bond theme songs. She sang the themes for Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, and Moonraker.

[9] Listen particularly to the soundtracks of Dr No, From Russia With Love, and You Only Live Twice. Each captured the spirit of the region; i.e., Caribbean, Turkey, and Japan, respectively.

The Maestro

Title:                      The Maestro

Author:                  John Gardner

Gardner, John (1993). The Maestro. New York: Otto Penzler Books

LCCN:    93019364

PR6057.A63 M3 1993


Date Updated:  October 26, 2015

This is ostensibly a novel about espionage, and it delivers in that department. It has, however, a number of qualities that make it interesting to readers who may not normally read spy thrillers. The main character is the greatest living conductor – supposedly on a par with Toscanini. The story of how he achieved prominence raises a number of questions that are interesting. I did not much like the book The main character, Big Herbie Kruger was just not interesting to me. The back story of his relationship with a coworker didn’t ring true to me. The foisting away of Maestro Passau seems counter to any experience I have had. I waded through the book but did not enjoy it all. The only thing that kept me reading it were the really interesting comments about music throughout the book.

Since we know that many great geniuses (Wagner is an example) led deplorable personal lives, the idea that this character would abandon and even kill some of the people who loved him and would live much of his life on the basis of lies and deceptions is quite credible. The method for telling the story is to have the Maestro deliver his autobiography as a full confession to a secret agent who must evaluate how he should be treated given that he betrayed his country as a spy for Hitler in World War II and also gave secrets to the Russians during the Cold War.

In the latter case, though, he believed he was actually serving his country. As the story progresses we get it from the point of view of the Maestro who is telling it, and of the agent who is listening to it. This causes us to see the same material from several different points of view, which makes it more challenging to determine our own judgment of the characters and events described. Thus we have a work of far greater complexity and literary interest than the normal spy novel.

As I indicated above, fortunately, for me, the author shows a decent knowledge of music and often refers to specific performances on recording, many of which are compared with the Maestro’s own fictitious recordings. This balance between history and fiction is interesting.