Music To Spy To – Scoring 007

I love movie soundtracks! I’ve been enchanted with them, since I realized that I could have a Star Wars soundtrack of my very own, and play it over and over again. This was in 1978, and it wasn’t really the Star Wars soundtrack by the AWESOME John Williams, it was the album Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk by Meco. Didn’t matter, I played that record over and over again. The next one I got, wasn’t until 1980, when I was introduced, for the first time to the masterful composer, John Barry. I bought the LP for The Black Hole, a score that is still one of my favorites and if I’m not humming and whistling John Williams tunes, or a Bond music cue, then I’m probably whistling something from that score.

So it should come as no surprise that I have all the James Bond soundtracks.

Much like the films, they are all good in their own ways, and always evoke my memories of their respective films. And on the day that I get to see Skyfall, this evening in IMAX (CANNOT WAIT!!) I thought it would be nice to take a look back at the scores and songs that have made played us to 007’s 50th Anniversary!

The two most prominent names amongst this select group who have composed music for the Bond films are John Barry and David Arnold.

And of course, Monty Norman for creating the original theme, which he’d originally written for a musical.

Barry was there from the get-go, he scored the first 7 Bond films, giving each musical cue the flavor of its location, interweaved with the James Bond theme, the 007 theme he penned, as well as the themes from the film’s title song (something that is worked into each Bond film). He established the tone, balancing tension and fun, and used sweeping scores to heighten the action and the locations.

The first 7 films have some great opening numbers as well, Shirley Bassey belting out Goldfinger (the first of the Bond films to have a song featured over the classic opening title sequence – it was also the film that perfected the pre-title action sequence), I love Nancy Sinatra’s You Only Live Twice, and the fact that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service went back to a bold, brassy instrumental title song.

With a new Bond in Roger Moore in 1973, Paul McCartney and Wings took center stage to give us a wicked cover tune, later savaged by Guns & Roses. Taking over scoring duties for this film was Beatles producer George Martin.

Barry returned for The Man With The Golden Gun, not my least fave Bond film, but one of them. He continued to pop in and out of the series, scoring Moonraker (my least fave), Octopussy, A View To A Kill and The Living Daylights (two of my fave Barry scores).

The Spy Who Loved Me, quite possibly Roger Moore’s best Bond, along with For Your Eyes Only, featured a score by Marvin Hamlisch. Heavily influenced by the sounds of the late 70s, not quite disco, but definitely a bell-bottomed, do the hustle feeling to it, and brought is the classic, Nobody Does It Better, crooned by Carly Simon.

For Your Eyes Only featured a switch up again, and is probably the most dated scores of all the Bond films, I have a hard time believing it worked at the time, it doesn’t always work now. Bill Conti, who gave us the Rocky Theme, took the musical rins on this one, and it just doesn’t feel 007 enough, although it does have the sexy Sheena Easton singing the title track.

A View To A Kill and The Living Daylights featured decidedly 80s bands, but all Bond films tend to be somewhat reflective of their time, and these two films, because they were so 80s, are my favorite, featuring title tracks by Duran Duran and a-Ha respectively.

Licence To Kill. sadly Timothy Dalton’s second and last Bond film, featured a darker, revenge based storyline, and the darker score by Michael Kamen (who also scored the Lethal Weapon films as well as a gorgeous score for Highlander) suits it perfectly. I do find the Gladys Knight title track a little tiresome.

Then there was the long wait until 1995, and the introduction of a new Bond, Pierce Brosnan. This time out, U2 superstars Bono and The Edge penned the title track, which Tina Turner kicks the hell out of. The film’s score is a little unusual, and very electronic. There are pieces I love, especially the pre-credit teaser, and staff I don’t, but Eric Serra (The Fifth Element) definitely put his mark on the film.

Finally, the man who had apparently been campaigning for the chance to score a Bond film for years, even to the point where he released an album of updated title tracks and instrumentals from the series called Shaken And Stirred, David Arnold became the series composer.

Like Barry before him, he worked in concert with the artist chosen to sing the film’s title track, weaving it in and out of the film. Arnold scored the three remaining Brosnan films working with Garbage, Sheryl Crow and Madonna tp bring some undeniably Bond songs.

We had to wait another 4 years for Bond to be reborn on the screen in the form of Daniel Craig in the brilliant Casino Royale (it’s a cop-out but this is undeniably my fave Bond film. Connery may have essayed the role and may be the Best Bond, but Craig perfected the character).

David Arnold was right there to launch the character anew, as Chris Cornell belted out the title track, You Know My Name. Casino Royale is an interesting Bond film in that we do not hear the Monty Norman theme until the last moments of the film, which is also when Craig finally delivers the immortal piece of dialogue we all practice in the mirror (we do right?) “Bond.. James Bond.”

Craig and Arnold are back for Quantum of Solace featuring Jack White and Alicia Keys sharing vocals on Another Way To Die. I believe that watched on its own, the film is ok, not great, but when watched back to back with Royale it works incredibly well.

This evening I’ll be seeing the new Bond film, Skyfall, and David Arnold isn’t around this time. This time, Thomas Newman (Green Mile, American Beauty, Wall-E) is bringing is the music that will carry Bond throw the moments of the film. The film also features one of the strongest female vocal performances since Goldfinger, as Adele belts out a brilliant title track.

I spent most of the day at work yesterday listening to the score, and I’ve come down very firmly on liking it a lot, I don’t know it all backwards and forwards yet, and can’t hum or whistle it beyond the title track and Bond theme, but I expect it’ll be added to my repertoire soon enough. Newman sounds like he had a lot of fun recording this one, and just let it loose and had went all out.

I’m looking forward to seeing how music and image match up this evening…

I’ll let you know tomorrow.

What’s your fave Bond song? Bond movie?

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