You Only Live Twice, Sean Connery's last outing as Bond for the time being, marked a fairly radical change of direction for John Barry's music score. By now he was an accepted member of the Bond team and expected to conjure up something different for each new film while retaining the familiar sound he had established. This film gave him a welcome opportunity to do just that, by exploiting through music a plot that ranged from Bond's venture into space to his 'marriage'. After limited success with Tom Jones's resounding Thunderball vocal, Barry chose a much gentler, romantic melody on which to base the theme song. He teamed up again with lyricist Leslie Bricusse to produce a beautiful number, which was sung over the opening credits by Nancy Sinatra. Years later, the appearance on the 30th Anniversary double CD of a completely different song entitled ‘You Only Live Twice – Demo’ raised a few questions. The vocal is by an unnamed female session singer, with Barry and Bricusse credited as writers. Leslie Bricusse confirmed that this was their first attempt at the title song, which they eventually discarded, but he could not recall the name of the singer.
However, Graham Rye is not a man to be defeated by any Bond mystery, and after a few plays of the song he was convinced that the singer was Julie Rogers, best known in the UK for her hit ‘The Wedding’. He was able to track down her manager and husband Michael Black (Don's elder brother) who immediately confirmed that Julie was indeed the uncredited singer. On learning the news, Julie was quick to point out that her recording was not intended for demo purposes only. On the contrary, she was chosen to sing the new Bond title theme on the strength of ‘The Wedding’. As she points out: "Successful TV and recording artists do not record demos!" Her song was recorded at CTS studios, Bayswater with Barry conducting a 60-piece orchestra. Julie believes that only late pressure from the producers resulted in Sinatra taking over.
Not that Sinatra was at first even second choice. Saltzman brought in a musical advisor, over Barry’s head, and he suggested Aretha Franklin. Barry felt her style wasn’t suitable, and in the end the two producers decided on using Frank’s girl, who had just topped the charts with ‘These Boots Are Made For Walkin’’. Asked about it later, she said: "That was a scary experience. John, whose music I just treasure, wrote the song with Leslie Bricusse, who is an old friend of mine. Cubby Broccoli had known my mother and father for years - he'd been there when I was born. The London Philharmonic played on the session. Real pressure." Pressure indeed. According to the composers, nerves got to Sinatra so badly that numerous takes were needed before a definitive recording was in the bag.
Presumably for commercial reasons, the Sinatra single release was not the version heard in the film. Instead, a completely new arrangement by Billy Strange was produced in Hollywood by Lee Hazlewood and issued by Reprise - the label owned by Nancy's father Frank. Nancy again: "They did a double-tracked Petula Clark kind of thing on the vocal. It got to be a fairly big record, but they put ‘Jackson’ on the flip side and that became the hit." As a counter to this, Barry released his own instrumental arrangement on a CBS single, but it was the Sinatra effort which charted both in Britain and the States.
One of Barry's former record companies, Ember, attempted to cash in on the success of the film by re-issuing his original recording of ‘007’. As was the case in 1963, it was a picture-sleeve single, but on this occasion the flip-side was ‘The Loneliness Of Autumn’ which had no connection with the film. To increase its chances of success, Ember chose to focus on Barry’s recent Oscar win for Born Free, by including a small picture of the famous statuette on the sleeve as well as crediting him as ‘The 1967 Academy Award Winner’. Alas, it was all to no avail as the record sold in very small quantities, making it one of the rarest Bond singles, particularly in the original picture sleeve.
As usual, the score was recorded at the Bayswater studios of CTS, where Sid Margo acted as fixer for the sessions. The London Philharmonic, in reality, were session musicians brought together by Margo on this and many other occasions to record a Barry score. Margo had worked with Barry on his first film score, Beat Girl, and fixed (or hired) musicians for him nearly every time he worked in England right up until his retirement, shortly after the recording of A View To A Kill. Once he knew the size and structure of the orchestra needed by Barry, Margo would try to engage his regulars for film music sessions. These were tried and trusted musicians who were well used to working under pressure, and most had worked for Barry on many previous occasions. Members of the orchestra on the Y.O.L.T. sessions included the following: Violins: Alec Firman, Sid Sax (leader), Paul Shurman, Erich Gruenberg, Henry Datyner, Leonard Dight, Raymond Cohen, Louie Rosen, Billy Miller, Peter Halling, Joshua Glazier, David Belmann and John Ronayne; Bass: Edmund (Nick) Chesterman; Clarinet: Jack Brymer; Trumpets: Ray Davies, Leon Calvert and Greg Bowen; Trombones: Tony Russell and Nat Peck; Horns: Andrew McGavin, Ian Harper and John Burden; Flutes: Chris Taylor, Jack Ellery and David Sandeman; Bassoons/Oboes: Terence MacDonagh, Ron Waller and Tony Judd; Tuba: John Fletcher; Harp: Marie Goossens; Lead Guitar: Vic Flick; Bass Guitar: Ron Prentice; Mandolin: Hugo Dalton; Percussion: Stan Barrett.
The original soundtrack album provided its own curio in the form of differing final tracks for the British and American markets. While the British album contained ‘Twice Is The Only Way To Live’, an instrumental play-out of the main theme, the American release contained ‘You Only Live Twice - End Title’ (vocal by Nancy Sinatra), which is precisely what cinema audiences heard during the closing moments of the film. All later European reissues corrected the final track title to bring it in line with the American album, but the record itself still included the instrumental. More recently, EMI have issued the album on CD, and on this occasion the credits and the music coincide to include the Sinatra vocal.
But what of the film score itself? The action opens in space and Barry provides a sinister theme for the swallowing of the American capsule by Spectre's rocket. This music, as is all Barry's space music, is orchestrated in a fashion that underlines the grace and beauty than can be observed in space machines. Barry was evidently particularly fond of this cue which he included as ‘Space March’ on his compilation albums for CBS, and it formed part of his 1998 Royal Albert Hall concert programme. After Sinatra's rather nervous delivery of the title theme, there is the usual annoyingly excellent cue which doesn't make it onto the Soundtrack album. Bond's faked murder concludes with a burial at sea, and as the frogmen retrieve the ‘body’, we hear one of Barry's most hauntingly beautiful underwater themes. The main theme is given a powerfully racy treatment for a glorious helicopter shot of Bond on a roof top at Kobe Dock, fighting off hordes of Japanese attackers. ‘The James Bond Theme’ is called upon once again to accompany Bond’s ariel battle against Blofeld's helicopters in ‘Little Nellie’, an autogyro thoughtfully provided by Q. However, this is another number not to find its way onto the album, possibly because it’s a merely an extract from the original 1962 recording.
The oriental style of the score comes over well in scenes filmed at a Japanese commando training camp and more noticeably in "The Death Of Aki", which begins as a typically Japanese flavoured melody which, however, soon turns to a more sombre theme as Bond's companion is accidentally poisoned in his place. A full orchestral version of the main theme is used as fishermen travel out to their diving areas, all filmed in long shot with Freddie Young's spectacular photography. ‘The Wedding’ is yet another outstanding cue and is scored with a delicate and introspective theme. The climax of the film comes with the invasion of the man-made volcano by the Japanese commandos led by Bond, and Barry provides an exciting mixture of all the action themes previously heard. Certainly a film score full of variety with John Barry approaching an all time high as regards his scoring of the James Bond series. Sean Connery, though, was starting to look rather bored by his alter-ego, and refused all entreaties to return for O.H.M.S.S. Barry though, did return for what many Bond aficionados still regard as his finest ever Bond music score.
Incidentally, a rumour has been circulating for many years as to why the original recording of ‘The James Bond Theme’ had to be used for the ‘Little Nellie’ battle sequence. Legend has it that guitarist Vic Flick was unable to recreate the sound he achieved on the original recording, because that famous guitar had cracked and had been discarded. Not so! Vic still has the guitar to this day. It was his trusty (and very elderly) amplifier which had cracked and become unusable. Much more recently Vic tried again to achieve the definitive sound, when working on Licence To Kill with Eric Clapton. But no matter how hard he tried, the absence of his old amplifier couldn’t be overcome.
The veteran singer-songwriter and pop-star, Roy Wood, once described Barry’s string introduction to his song, ‘You Only Live Twice’ as "absolute perfection." In 1998, another (younger) singer-songwriter, Robbie Williams, paid his own tribute to Barry by sampling this string sound for use in his no. 1 hit, ‘Millennium’.