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Terry Walstrom reflects on Bond without Barry

[Never Say Never Again - click to enlarge]Before I say anything that sounds absolute I'll try to make two things fairly clear:

1. I am a Michel Legrand fan
2. I am a James Bond/John Barry fan.

There!

I was very excited at the prospect of Sean Connery portraying James Bond again way back in 1983. Roger Ebert himself called it a "minor movie miracle". How much fun could he have with the role again after being absent so long?

When it became clear that Barry would refuse to take part due to misplaced (in my opinion misplaced in view of how he has been treated since) loyalty to the producers of the original series - I wondered like everybody else - WHO could fill his shoes. Cut to the chase. Michel Legrand was chosen. That really didn't bother me. Barry has a style of jazz that is personal to him and so does Michel Legrand. Both are masters at arrangements of all kinds of orchestral instrumentation. Both have music that is exciting and melodic. What's to fear?

Fast forward. I attended the World Premiere of the film Never Say Never Again which was also attended by Connery, Carrera, Caine, Rhonda Fleming and a host of other luminaries. I was high on life. I even got to pee with Caine and Connery. (That is another story for another time.) In the audience during the film Caine and Connery sat three rows behind me. A weird thing happened. Nothing. No audience reaction! Even to the funny parts. It was a vacuum. Strangest thing I've ever been a part of while in a packed house with lots of excitement in the air. What was going on? Years later I can guess.

[Never Say Never Again - publicity still - click to enlarge]1.With Connery in the role - I for one - and others - expected the originator of the role to kick Roger Moore's butt with a scintillating movie that showed the other guys how it is done. It didn't happen.

2. The ‘FORM’ wasn't observed. The original series has a form to it - a kind of dogma that has been engrained in the fans and we've come to expect it. Didn't happen. It was more of a pale imitation of form. (More about this later.)

3.The ‘plot’ wasn't allowed to stray far enough from Thunderball (as an officially allowed remake) to be very compelling. Instead - it wasn't even as interesting as Thunderball.

4. The music was, WAY, WAY different!

Now I professed at the beginning of this post to be a Legrand fan. I am and I was. I thought his score was just dandy for Never Say Never Again - but, not as JAMES BOND music! In fact - it was alienating in the same way that, years later, another composer would alienate fans by being sooooo different. Legrand wasn't copying Barry. I praise him for that. Legrand has integrity and talent - no need to enter into stylistic plagiarism. David Arnold did a bang up imitation recently - but, it deeply troubles me (on another level which is irrelevant) that he cannot successfully do his ‘own’ thing and make it work without stepping into Barry's skin. (That's a different can of worms which we'll ignore for now).

[Never Say Never Again - click to enlarge]So Michel Legrand did his take on Bond and it didn't work. Why why why? I think it is only partly Legrand's fault. 50% of the problem is mysterious fandom. And - ready for this? I think it ties in to recent arguments about ORIGINAL vs. Re-recorded scores. When you cannot divorce your mind and your emotions from the original you just cannot accept anything new or different! So - as Bond fans and as Barry fans -we had a level of NON-acceptance which Legrand could not hurdle. Can anybody? David Arnold found a way to gain acceptance. But - not on his own terms. At least as far as originality is concerned.

Barry has written some silly songs for the James Bond movies. But - the style and bravura arrangements and performances WORK dammit! NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN is no more/less ludicrous than MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN. But - one works and the other doesn't. I purposely picked the worst Barry song I could. Lulu is herself doing a kind of Shirley Bassey put-on in her performance. The lyric is not the best of the series. The arrangement is not the purest Barry/Bond. However, there is an absurd stylistic bravura that SELLS the song - I'll call it pure audacity! It is a sure-footed second rate song that has great charisma and drive – and - most importantly to fans - it sounds James Bondish. NEVER SAY NEVER doesn't have an edge. It doesn't have a powerhouse performance. It doesn't have a wicked Bondian spirit. It fails. End of story.

What James Bond needs and what John Barry gave the series is a kind of playful, yet deadly seriousness. His scores have an ingenuity about them as well. His Bond scores are like crossword puzzles. The Main Theme is spelled out here and there; horizontally and vertically in the most oddball modalities. He takes a piece here and a piece there - and weaves it into a whole made up of easily recognisable parts. Barry constantly self-references the Bond Theme and the Main Title. You know where you stand. The instruments are familiar. The rhythms are familiar. The C minor7th/9th chords comes along right on schedule. Yet - the score is new and fresh.

Michel Legrand scored the film as though it were a European spoof of a spy movie made in the late 60s. There is never the feeling that anything is serious. It is tongue-in-cheek always. Where Barry would be ‘serious’ - Legrand would be hip. Where Barry would be outrageously sinister - Legrand would be fey. You see - the personality and temperament are quite different. I think the secret of John Barry's personality is that he – HE IS James Bond! Look at his lifestyle. He has the best of everything. He has the best looking women, the best clothes, the best cars - the international globe-hopping and YET-he is strangely anonymous. In the movies James Bond is well known by reputation - but, he is a Secret Agent. Odd! How many people on this planet really know who John Barry is?

Since Barry is Bond and Michel Legrand is not - how could it ever work? Soooooo, we end up hating Michel Legrand's score. Undeservedly in many ways. Deservedly in others. A fan cannot change his love-affair with authenticity. A good copy is still a copy. Bond is an original. Barry is an original. Legrand is a European romantic and not a cool super sleuth. I rest my case.

Terry Walstrom

Read 9642 times Last modified on Tuesday, 24 February 2015 14:19
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Have a look at our old "Play It Again" label website here.

Play It Again Records CD catalogue offered the discerning listener a wide choice of digitally re-mastered recordings from film and television, and rare collections of work from the likes of Don Black and Ron Grainer.

Contact the JB site

If you wish to send an email, for example with content for the website, please contact Geoff Leonard:

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John Barry related Events or Concerts


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A lot more James Bond concerts collected on the link below, I have put them all in this news item. So check it out from there!

http://www.moviesinconcert.nl/index.php?page=concertlist


 

James Bond Spectacular
August 18, 2017
Time: 19:30

The Harlington Theatre
236 Fleet Road
Fleet
Hants
GU51 4BY

Website

Back by popular demand, popular Q The Music Show is coming back to The Harlington, Fleet bringing their fabulous and iconic music of James Bond to you in a stunning concert. This show has been a huge success at other theatres with its energetic and exciting performance by some of the UK’s leading musicians.

Featuring all the songs from the 007 movies, you can hear the greats like Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, Skyfall, Thunderball, Live And Let Die, Goldeneye and Licence To Kill amongst all the others. With top musicians, dancers, and an informative and highly amusing compere, this show as everything you could want for a fabulous night out – and one that you will be talking about for years to come.

Formed in 2004, Q The Music Show have established a worldwide reputation for their authentic covers, orchestral sound and fabulous hair-raising vocalists. The show has been popular abroad at events in Monte Carlo, Germany, Italy, Guernsey, Prague and many others.

Don’t miss this superb evening as…Nobody Does It Better!


James Bond Spectacular
August 20, 2017
Time: 19:30

Buxton Opera House,
Water Street
Buxton
Derbyshire SK17 6XN

Website

The popular Q The Music Show brings its James Bond Concert Spectacular to Buxton Opera House. The 13-piece band will be bringing the fabulous and iconic music of James Bond to you in a stunning concert. This show has been a huge success all around the world with its energetic and exciting performance by some of the UK’s leading musicians.

Featuring all the songs from the 007 movies, you can hear the greats like Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, Skyfall, Thunderball, Live And Let Die, Goldeneye and Licence To Kill amongst all the others. With top musicians and an informative and highly amusing compere, this show as everything you could want for a fabulous night out – and one that you will be talking about for years to come.

Formed in 2004, Q The Music Show have established a worldwide reputation for their authentic covers, orchestral sound and fabulous hair-raising vocalists. The show has been popular abroad at events in Monte Carlo, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Guernsey, Prague and many others.


The Best of John Barry: Bond and Beyond
Thursday 16 Nov 2017
7:30pm
Royal Festival Hall,
Address: Belvedere Road,
London, SE1 8XX

Nicholas Dodd conductor

Barry Goldfinger (1964)
Barry Main Theme, Zulu
Barry On her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) We Have All the Time in the World
Barry Somewhere in Time
Barry Moviola
Barry The Persuaders
Barry Mary, Queen of Scots
Barry Midnight Cowboy
Barry Suite, Dances with Wolves

--interval--

Barry Born Free
Barry All Time High, Octopussy (1983)
Barry Theme, Out of Africa (1985)
Barry Body Heat
Barry Chaplin
Barry Space March (Capsule in Space), You Only Live Twice
Barry The Knack
Barry Suite, James Bond

Legendary Hollywood composer John Barry won five Oscars throughout a career creating some of the most memorable music in the history of cinema. Enjoy an evening of his greatest hits – Bond themes from Goldfinger to We Have All the Time in the World, music from Zulu, Midnight Cowboy, Dances with Wolves and more.


19 Nov 2017

   Canada   Thunder Bay Shaken Not Stirred – The Music of James Bond

*

James Bond Spectacular
December 1, 2017
Time: 19:30

Camberley Theatre,
Knoll Road,
Camberley,
Surrey, GU15 3SY,
GB

Website

The popular James Bond Concert Spectacular by Q The Music Show is coming to Camberley Theatre.

They will be bringing the fabulous and iconic music of James Bond to you in a stunning concert. 

This show has been a huge success all around the World with its energetic and exciting performance by some of the UK’s leading musicians.
 
Featuring all the songs from the 007 movies...


 

Wiener Konzerthaus
Lothringerstraße 20, 1030 WIEN
(that's Vienna!)

Samstag 2 Dezember 2017
19:30 Uhr
Großer Saal

Sonntag 3 Dezember 2017
19:30 Uhr
Großer Saal

Dieses Galakonzert lässt 53 Jahre Bond-Movies live und auf großer Kinoleinwand Revue passieren. Von John Barrys «Goldfinger», «Thunderball» und «Diamonds Are Forever» über «Licence To Kill», «A View To A Kill» und «Goldeneye» bis hin zu «Skyfall» und dem Song des bislang letzten Bond-Streifens, «Writings On The Wall». Spezielle Arrangements für großes Symphonieorchester garantieren neben den Star-Interpreten einen unvergesslichen Abend.

Am 2. und 3. Dezember 2017 werden die legendären Songs und Scores aus den Bond-Movies von den Star-Interpreten Maya Hakvoort, Nazide Aylin und Sandra Pires im Wiener Konzerthaus präsentiert. Dabei werden sie von einem großen Symphonieorchester, ergänzt durch Top-Instrumentalsolisten für den speziellen Bond-Sound, begleitet, während die berühmten Filmszenen auf eine Leinwand projiziert werden. Die Arrangements stammen vom musikalischen Leiter der Galakonzerte, Alex Johansson. Als besonderes Highlight wird Stargast Conchita ihre Lieblings-Bondsongs interpretieren.