The Music of James Bond
By Jon Burlingame
Oxford University Press, 2012
In 1962, the first in a fifty year franchise was begun with DR. NO, starring Sean Connery and Ursula Andress. But just as important as that first James Bond film was the iconic Bond theme written by Monte Norman and the wonderful arrangement of that theme by John Barry. That was the beginning and film music critic, Jon Burlingame, has written about that first film and all 23 other James Bond film scores and songs thus far.
He has written a concise and clear discussion of each Bond film. It is obvious that there has been an impressive amount of research done by Burlingame, including interviews and inspection of many sources. If only more film music books were this thorough.
Following the Introduction there are twenty-four chapters, each one devoted to a different Bond film, from DR. NO to QUANTUM OF SOLACE. Most filmgoers who see these films know the songs quite well. They include the marvelous "From Russia With Love", smoothly sung by Matt Monro; the Bond champion singer, Shirley Bassey ("Goldfinger," "Diamonds Are Forever," "Moonraker"), Tom Jones ("Thunderball"), Louis Armstrong ("We Have All The Time In The World"), Paul McCartney & Wings ("Live and Let Die"), and many more popular singing artists. The later Bond songs are not nearly as memorable as the early ones. For me, many of the latest Bond songs are forgettable. But there is no denying their popularity.
By now it has been settled in court that the famous "James Bond Theme"
was composed by Monty Norman,
but it is really John Barry's arrangement of that theme that made it so popular throughout the world. The same applies to the scores. The best ones were composed by John Barry. What may not be known by filmgoers is that not only did Barry compose the best Bond film scores, he also co-wrote or arranged many of the best Bond songs, such as "Goldfinger," "Thunderball," "You Only Live Twice," "We Have All The Time In The World," "Diamonds Are Forever," "The Man With The Golden Gun," and "Moonraker."
Some of the best film composers, songwriters and lyricists of the past half century worked on the Bond scores. Besides John Barry they include: David Arnold, Lionel Bart, Burt Bacharach, Don Black, Leslie Bricusse, Bill Conti, Hal David,
Marvin Hamlisch, Tim Rice, Carole Bayer-Sager, and more.
All of the Bond songs and scores are discussed by Burlingame, including one that might not fit the usual Bond formula -- the zany and chaotic film, CASINO ROYALE (1967), with Woody Allen playing "Jimmy Bond." But the score by Burt Bacharach is perfect 60's lounge music, including the memorable song, "The Look of Love," that was a favorite of my wife and me before we were married.
Burlingame also provides a handy "score highlights" section in each chapter for listener's to follow. That's a very nice addition.
After the chapters for each Bond film, there is an Aferword about a John Barry memorial concert on 20 June 2011 at London's Royal Albert Hall, featuring the best of all Bond singers, Shirley Bassey ("Goldfinger," "Diamonds Are Forever," "Moonraker"); composer David Arnold playing the famous "James Bond Theme," and other music performed by the Royal Philharmonic, conducted by Nicholas Dodd.
Burlingame quotes conductor, Carl Davis, who sums up the James Bond franchise this way:
The character of Bond is very inspiring. He is a sort of British Superman. We are talking about a subject that is dangerous and sexy, with a lifestyle that's very glamorous. Music can convey all these qualities. It's very potent.
There are several more worthwhile additions at the back of the book:
Appendix 1: James Bond Scores on LP and CD
The Bond Songs That Never Were (1965-2002)
Endnotes for each chapter
One very minor criticism is the endnotes don't have the page numbers for each of the quotes in the book. But that isn't so crucial since Burlingame provides thorough descriptions of each source he used. It is extremely well documented.
Burlingame ends his discussion with this statement:
But one thing is certain: "James Bond will return"...accompanied by music that will touch us, enthrall us and excite us. Ian Fleming would surely be astounded.
The same may be said for any fan of James Bond films and scores. Jon Burlingame's book should "touch, enthrall and "excite" them too.
This is the best book about the music of James Bond that you will likely ever see.
It's a marvelous achievement...well-researched and well-written.
For any Bond fan it's a must have!
-- Roger Hall, 14 November 2012
For any comments, write to:
Film Music Review
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