Over the past few years stories have circulated suggesting that John Barry did not arrange and conduct Matt Monro’s 1972 single comprising of “This Way Mary” & “Wish Now Was Then”, both based on themes from Mary, Queen of Scots.
The instigator of these stories may have been Richard Moore, the Audio Restoration specialist, in his book about the recordings of Matt Monro, which was part of a special edition of a biography of Matt written by his daughter, Michele.
Richard credited Colin Keyes as arranger/conductor on these recordings; despite the fact the original single credits JB; and EMI repeated the credit when providing me with “label copy” for the CD, The Don Black Songbook. In view of this, I asked Richard for more details, and his explanation is worth repeating in full.
“Yes this was a mystery solved in many ways. The original single doesn’t list an arranger or conductor and no paperwork for this session other than the “red form” (which was the session booking form) survives and this has no indication of who it was. However, as I’m sure you’re aware; Matt does not appear on the soundtrack of the film so it wasn’t clear if John Barry had any involvement.
As luck would then have it, whilst Michele was interviewing Colin he spoke of his first session – This Way Mary/Wish Now Was Then.
A short while later Michele uncovered some contemporary paperwork which listed arrangers and conductors of all recent material (dating from about 1973) which once again confirmed Colin as Arranger and Conductor.
Matt must have recorded the songs due to his long association with Don Black without John Barry’s involvement, in a similar vein to the Alice in Wonderland tracks in 1972 – also arranged and conducted by Colin.
All arrangers and conductors have been verified in the book and if I can find no documentation as to who it was (this only occurs two or three times and often to unreleased material) this is specified in the text.
There are no alternate versions of those tracks so I can only assume that EMI were simply guessing when they gave you that information as they did not know themselves – after all how many times has John Barry been credited as arranger (and even sometimes composer) of “From Russia With Love” (even to the point where Matt’s version appears on one John Barry compilation when the recording has no JB involvement at all!).”
On the face of it his explanation sounds plausible, but he makes some assumptions which are contradicted by other evidence.
Firstly, he states that “The original single doesn’t list an arranger or conductor” — but it does; see the photos, kindly supplied by Gareth Bramley, below. Richard may have seen an on-line demo version which contains no credits.
Secondly, there is a photo of John, Don Black & Matt at a recording session, which, looking at their appearance, is clearly taken in the early 70s. There is no other Matt Monro recording involving John & Don at which this could have been taken. The later Matt Monro single of “Curiouser & Curiouser” & “The Me I Never Knew” was arranged & conducted by Colin Keyes.
Colin could easily have confused his session with the earlier one when asked about it by Michele — it was decades ago, after all.
Thirdly, the paperwork found by Michele “dating from about 1973” — could have been compiled some time after the 1972 recording, and if, as suggested above, the paperwork for the session is missing, somebody could merely have assumed Keyes was involved, based on his work on the tracks from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Finally, I think we should also trust our own ears. If you listen to the two singles, it seems clear, at least to me and those with whom I’ve discussed it, that John was responsible for the MQOS recordings.
Hopefully, this will put the matter to rest!