For many years John Barry fans had been misled into thinking he had composed the theme that accompanied the Black Magic series of commercials - ‘Who Knows the Secret of the Black Magic Box’. These had a theme, which most people remember – maybe because it ran the longest or because it was possibly the last specially composed theme for these commercials - shown when people actually watched them rather than fast-forwarded or muted them!
There’s no question that the theme, actually composed by Christopher Gunning, is very reminiscent of Barry’s style and, therefore, one would naturally assume – in the knowledge that he did write a commercial for this Rowntree’s (of York) product – that this was his music.
When I contacted Gunning in 2011 he confirmed ‘the music for the Black Magic commercial was indeed composed by me, back when I was 20 something’. This was just after he had re-recorded a full-length version for his ‘Skylines’ CD stating ‘it was always one of my favourite efforts’. There are actually brief moments in his score for the feature film ‘Man About the House’ (1973) which sounded very similar to this theme.
Those who were fortunate enough to have acquired this very rare vinyl album issued by CBS Special Products in 1974 would have known that is was Gunning who had composed this piece of music. I recall seeing this LP (only once mind you!) at a record fair many moons ago but at the time it wouldn’t have been of interest to me – especially as the other 11 tracks were all pop songs from the CBS who were obviously trying to cash in on the popularity of the commercials:
For those interested this theme, clocking in at 3 minutes 11 seconds, has now been loaded on You Tube by a devoted Barry fan:
But where was the theme that Barry had written, and why is it so elusive? Did he actually compose a theme? In my mind there was no doubt that he did because it had always been cited in a ‘checklist’ published in an early 70s issue of ‘Films & Filming’ or ‘Films’ (I forget which now) compiled with the assistance of the Performing Rights Society and Barry himself. After various searches on You Tube over the last few years, and because other Barry-scored commercials were turning up on this platform more often, I became even more frustrated in not being able to find ANY information on Barry’s theme. After all, everyone remembers the Black Magic series of commercials – they ran for years. In fact, they began in the early days of TV advertising in the 1950s and are possibly still running today.
Very recently I contacted the Yorkshire Film Archive and got an instant reply. Their website provides a list of all the commercials throughout the years, but only the title and dates are given. This week I visited the archive and viewed 30 Black Magic commercials from 1963-1980 in an effort to trace Barry’s theme and to ascertain when Gunning’s theme was first used. Pleasingly, I had 100% success in both cases!
The first commercial I viewed, from 1963, was purely and simply a classical-sounding theme played on violin and the following two were just 5-second commercial spots. The music within the next advert was instantly recognisable as Barry’s from the first few seconds. There was no doubt in my mind that this was his music but I continued to wade through the other commercials just in case there were more. In short, most of them used the simple violin theme, which continued in later adverts – and from 1967 was played on flute, double bass with strings. In fact, this later version could quite easily have been a Barry arrangement, but why would he arrange somebody else’s theme when he had already written his own theme since the former was first used? Unless, of course, he had been specifically asked to by the producers. Only the production details from the advertising agency would be able to thread any further light on who actually composed this theme, originally used since at least 1963.
Richard Lester did not direct a Black Magic commercial as first thought but he did the After Eight commercials for which Barry wrote the music. Ken Russell did, however, but although this was an extremely well made commercial, the music – consisting of organ and female choir – didn’t do anything for me. This was ‘Castle: Black Magic Because She Is’ (1966). It was one of two of the Black Magic commercials cited by the archive as being of interest because they used different directors to the other adverts. The second was the one with Barry’s music. It was directed by Lindsay Anderson in 1964 (not ‘66/’67 as previously thought) and titled ‘Taxi: And I’m Glad He Remembers Black Magic’. At first hearing the music instantly reminded me of Barry’s music for ‘Sophia Loren in Rome’. It began on flute with harp; and strings were later added. You could hear an organ in the background underneath the voiceover so it’s likely he used Alan Haven on this. The theme ended beautifully with strings and harp.
This was a one-off commercial, but even more interesting was the fact that it ran for 45-50 seconds – significantly more than the usual 30 seconds time slot for a TV commercial in those days. Maybe it wasn’t screened too often, which is why nobody remembers it or maybe it ran in cinemas only?
To finalise my research I carried on watching the remaining adverts. The very first colour one appeared in 1970, another with the aforementioned flute theme. Different variations of this theme lasted until 1972, which is the first time Gunning’s theme was used – in a commercial called ‘Assignation’ the first in the ‘who knows the secret of the Black Magic box’ series. Variations of the theme were used through later years and well into the mid 80s - including one in 1973, which had an added harpsichord. Two or three of these are on You Tube. Maybe Barry’s commercial will appear there one day. Here’s hoping.
© Gareth Bramley – September 2018
Article on the The James Bond International Fan Club (JBIFC) website.
August 30, 2010 update
information thanks to Ronald Van Zande
John Barry in Concert / Filmfestival Gent
donderdag 21 oktober 2010, 20u30 Kuipke
More links with information (Flemish/Dutch):
Deel 1 (46’)
Deel 2 (48’)
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March 22, 2010
John Barry is being honored with a lifetime achievement award from the World Soundtrack Academy. The five-time Oscar winner will receive the award on October 21, during the Ghent Film Festival in Belgium.
The ceremony will be followed by a performance of Barry's work by the Brussels Philharmonic. The program will include selections from Goldfinger, Out of Africa, Mary, Queen of Scots, Dances with Wolves and Midnight Cowboy. Conductor will be Nicholas Dodd, and the concert will be accompanied by a video presentation of film clips.
August 11, 2008
Vic Flick, Guitarman
(Paperback - 192 pages)
by Vic Flick
reviewed by Geoff Leonard
The John Barry Seven only existed for about eight years, and in truth was only really successful for around half of that time. Yet all four of the men who led the band during its relatively short existence have now written or had biographies written about them. John Barry was the first, followed by drummer Bobby Graham, trumpeter Alan Bown and now guitarist Vic Flick becomes the fourth. His is a fascinating book concerning the life and career of a man who always wanted to make his living through playing the guitar. By no means a household name on either side of the Atlantic, we learn how Flick nevertheless became the leader of the incomparable John Barry Seven and eventually the man to turn to for those crucial studio recordings.
he book includes a vivid account of growing up in the UK during the Second World War, before a brief attempt at a non-musical career faltered when the lure of playing music professionally proved too strong. The atmosphere of Butlins Holiday Camps at Skegness and Clacton in the fifties is perfectly captured, as Vic becomes a member of Les Clark and his Musical Maniacs & The Vic Alan Quintet. We re-live the days of endless, tiring, variety tours with The Bob Cort Skiffle group, leading to a meeting with John Barry on a Paul Anka tour which became the first big break for him when John later asked him to join the JB7.
There are tales of the nerve-wracking "live" performances on BBC TV's Drumbeat show - the series which introduced Adam Faith to the general public. Also the JB7 recording sessions at the famous Abbey Road Studios and at CTS Bayswater - where the original version of The James Bond Theme was recorded, and on which Vic played solo guitar. There is even an extract from his diary verifying the time and date on which the recording of probably the most famous film theme of all time took place!
The book is full of hilarious anecdotes of both off and on-stage antics at pop concerts, touring with Adam Faith & Shirley Bassey, characters he worked with and for at recording sessions at virtually every studio in London, often at four different ones in a day. The idiosyncrasies of the powerful session "fixers", meeting and working with star names at both recording sessions and on TV shows. Painful and seemingly endless recording sessions with Burt Bacharach and Tony Newley, embarrassing ones with Angela Morley and Basil Kirchin. Clashes with Sacha Distel and Lita Roza. What happened during a drowsy moment on a Parkinson show recording on which James Stewart was the guest.
There are also some poignant and moving moments, when we learn that the career of a freelance musician is not all roses, including the devastating moment when he eventually discovered he had been denied the chance to become "Britain's answer to Duane Eddy" when executives at EMI were told he was under contract to John Barry during the early sixties - which was not the case. He was later denied the chance of another stab at fame, when his recording with Eric Clapton on a James Bond film theme was ultimately replaced by a pop-ballad.
“Names” are scattered like confetti throughout the book, but never gratuitously. This is simply a reflection of the variety of people he encountered during a long career as one of Britain’s foremost session guitarists. What is apparent is the integrity and honesty of the writer, whose career was well-supported by his family. If you want to read a factual and absorbing account of the life of a professional musician during the heady days of the fifties, sixties, seventies and beyond, this book is thoroughly recommended.
|The Alan Bown Set Before and Beyond
Author: Jeff Bannister
|Format: Hardback (235 pages including many b & w photos)
Publisher: Banland Publishing Ltd.
List Price: £18.99
The Alan Bown Set Before and Beyond
|Click to enlarge|
A review by Geoff Leonard
6 September 2007
This is the second book to be written by or about a former leader of The John Barry Seven. And, just as in the case of Bobby Graham’s effort, this joint biography by Jeff Bannister & Alan Bown is thoroughly recommended.
Whether you are fans of the Alan Bown Set, of that music or that era in general, or are merely curious about life with the JB7 after the Vic Flick/Bob Graham era, this is the book for you.
Of particular interest to John Barry fans will be the account of Alan & Jeff joining the band, the comings and goings of various members, tales of touring the UK & Germany with the likes of Billy Fury & Brenda Lee, their on-stage repertoire (which had changed markedly from Vic Flick days), and the sad demise of the band when John Barry decided it had run its course.
|Click to enlarge to complete image|
The rest of the book has a highly detailed account of the various formations of the Alan Bown Set, which initially included several of the JB7 personnel, including the period when Robert Palmer was the singer. There are stories of drink, drugs (not too much!), sackings, record companies, promoters, Alan’s switch into A & R work with CBS and finally the formation of Alan Bown Management which combined an administrative role for Keith Mansfield, the well-known composer, especially of library music. Alan & Keith co-wrote "Seven Faces" the last Columbia single made by the JB7.
The 230-page book is full of photographs (including an excellent one of the JB7 I had never seen before), press-clippings, tour posters, concert bills & programmes and has a meticulous account of tour dates.
If you’re interested in purchasing a copy you will find details on the accompanying flyer. You may also be able to find it on-line at the usual sources.
|Click to enlarge to complete image|
By Geoff Leonard
22 July 2012.
Back in the summer of 2006 I received a surprise phone call from a project manager at Sony/BMG. He had been given my name by David Stoner of Silva Screen Records, who had told him that as a fan of John Barry, I might be able to provide some “expert” assistance.
He told me that his company were planning two compilation CDs, one a previously postponed 4-CD box-set and the other a TV-advertised single CD. Someone had been working on the box-set before departing from the company, so he had a provisional track-listing, but the single CD had to be a very commercial compilation which could be TV-sold.
My mission, should I choose to accept it, was to choose the tracks for both projects, identify the current owners, write suitable liner notes and lend them suitable photos and album covers etc. In recognition of this I would receive a substantial fee. Of course, like many of us, I would have been happy to take it on free of charge, as it was a rare opportunity to influence the contents of what Sony hoped would be the definitive box-set. A year and literally hundreds of emails later, it’s fair to admit that a certain amount of frustration had crept in.
The first thing to happen was that my contact announced his departure to New York and the handing over of the Barry projects to two colleagues. Yes, that was the first sign of possible trouble ahead in that I would be dealing with two different project managers.
They were both very enthusiastic but, not surprisingly for youngsters in the music business today, not necessarily very knowledgeable about the works of John Barry. This became apparent when it came to the track selection for the “Greatest Hits” single CD when I was asked, in all seriousness, from which films were the tracks The Ipcress File, The Knack, Somewhere In Time & The Lion in Winter taken.
Anyway, back to the plot. My first task was to come up with around 30 of not necessarily the best themes, but the best known, for the TV-advertised CD. I was advised that this could be a joint-project with EMI so there was no problem including quite a few of the James Bond theme songs. Whereas I could see this would be a good marketing opportunity, I could also see that it would invariably lead to the omission of some arguably better but less commercially successful tracks. However, I could only give my opinion. What I was keen to avoid was any misunderstanding over the versions of the chosen tracks. I was very keen on original versions whenever possible, and at the risk of offending JB I was particularly anxious that it didn’t become a “Moviola III”. For those not familiar with Moviola volumes I & II, these featured re-recordings of Barry’s favourite tracks but with an often slow tempo and, in some cases, over-elaborate arrangements, which in the opinion of many, did not quite match up to the originals. I knew this might be a hard nut to crack since Sony owned the Moviola albums and it would be tempting, easier and cheaper for them to utilise tracks from them, but I was determined to try.
We eventually agreed on a 26-track CD which included all the “hits”, plus one or two more unusual tracks. I soon realised that I would have to spell out not only track title but also film, in many cases, if we wanted to end up with the correct version. While this was going on I was also fielding vast quantities of emails from the box-set project manager who was very often asking the same questions.
I was then told that because the licensing had taken so long, they had missed their “slot” for the Christmas market and so the TV-advertised CD would be postponed. In the meantime I would continue to work on the box-set which was altogether more challenging. As I said, they already had a draft list of tracks provided by someone who had left the company after the original box-set had been postponed. I could tell that this must have been a Barry fan because they had included, just as I would have done, all the rare B-sides from Barry’s sixties sojourn with CBS (now Sony). Unfortunately they had also made a few wrong assumptions and included tracks which either didn’t exist or would be impossible to licence. So my first task was to remove tracks like Drink-a-pinta-milk-a-day and The Black Hole which my predecessor had linked to EMI. I also had to correct the owners of several of the listed tracks (to the best of my knowledge) and try and pick some replacements for ones I knew we would never be able to licence, or in some cases did not exist, such as L-Shaped Room.
I’d had some previous experience of licensing tracks, but was not really prepared for the lengthy delays which now entailed. Not only that, certain tracks could not be cleared, frustratingly in some cases when it seemed obvious (well, to me) who the owners were. In one case EMI cleared six assorted tracks from the days of the John Barry Seven, but apparently refused a seventh, even though it was from exactly the same era, with the same writer (Barry) and publisher. The most baffling of the rejections was a track called Romance for Guitar & Orchestra which was an abridged version of Barry’s magnificent concert piece for the Bryan Forbes directed film Deadfall. This version had previously appeared on countless CBS/Sony LPs and CDs, yet now they were telling me it could not be licensed — from Sony?
Next up the TV-advertised CD project made a reappearance with a new project manager. He told me that they would have to reduce the track-listing by two tracks to fit everything in. This surprised me a little because I thought I’d already worked out the timings would not be a problem. It also meant losing a couple of non-Bond tracks, which was a blow to my hopes of keeping a varied line-up. Then Mr & Mrs Barry entered the fray. They vetoed my idea to include a JB7 hit, Walk Don’t Run (it had recently been used for a Debenham’s TV advert) and also wanted to remove The Persuaders on the grounds that it was not that interesting. I’m happy to say the project manager stood his ground at this point, and refused to remove the latter.
I asked for some guidance on the length of liner notes required, since my co-writer Pete Walker was anxious to make a start. We also wanted to establish if these notes should be a reduced version of our notes for the box-set or completely separate. I was surprised to be informed our services were no longer required. We had apparently been replaced by TV and radio presenter Jonathan Ross, who was willing to do it free. Moreover they could use his name to “sell” the CD, unlike ours. No argument there!
I carried on with the box-set and when the original project manager came back briefly to work on the TV-advertised CD, I took the opportunity to check if the right versions of The Lion in Winter & Séance on a Wet Afternoon had been included. A few weeks later the CD was released. I never saw any TV advertising for it, though Sony/BMG did send me a video file of it, so I know it existed. They spent ages trying to think of a catchy title — something similar to Themeology, which had sold well for them back in the nineties. In the end we got yet another “The Very Best of …”
Sad to relate, this was very much a low-budget affair in production values. A rather tacky booklet cover with made-up film images relating to some of the tracks. No photos whatever of John Barry and the briefest of notes by Ross which could have been about any composer.
The other problem was the tracks themselves and now it became apparent why they’d had to drop a couple for space reasons. Somewhere In Time, though credited to pianist Roger Williams and MCA, from the original soundtrack, was in fact a nine-minute suite taken from Moviola — the very thing I‘d been anxious to avoid. What’s more, they’d licensed Nancy Sinatra’s main title song You Only Live Twice from EMI, but included her pop cover version for Reprise!
I’ve neither time nor energy to outline all the comings and goings involved in the compilation of the box-set, now named Themependium. Suffice it to say the listing changed almost daily as tracks were acquired, refused, replaced or rejected (mainly by the Barrys).
I had suggested it would be a good selling point to make sure there were 100 tracks spread over the four CDs. This proved somewhat difficult in the hectic last few days before the deadline as most of my suggestions for new tracks were rejected for a variety of reasons. In the end I managed to sneak in a couple of tracks from a CBS compilation album which the project manager was unaware were actually further cues from OHMSS. If she had been she would have refused them on the grounds that she only wanted one track per film. Sadly, this led to The Lion in Winter Part 2 featuring Alan Haven, being rejected, as I could not disguise its origins.
I did my best to make sure nothing was overlooked in the effort to make this a truly definitive box-set, often getting good advice and suggestions from friends and colleagues. I was pleased we managed to include a few rarities, such as the aforementioned CBS singles, and also that 98% of the tracks were originals or re-recordings by Barry himself. I would have preferred original versions of everything but licensing proved very tricky in some cases and we simply ran out of time in the end.
When it came to the mastering, there were more problems when Sony/BMG couldn’t obtain anything for at least a dozen tracks. The only solution was for me to lend them CDs from my own collection, which I did. I was sent CDRs of everything, and they all contained at least one wrong track. I think their budget, or lack of one, meant little attention was paid to reducing the noise on the 45s, such as Sleep Well My Darling & Barbra’s Theme, which was a pity.
Now it was time for the notes. Sony/BMG also wanted photos, scans of LP covers etc. I was told it was a 24-page booklet so if we supplied notes to fill 20 pages, they would fit in the various photos as required. This was no problem at all and Pete and I duly wrote around 12,000 words, managing to sum up JB’s career and also mention the majority of the tracks. There was another problem, however, because Sony had realised they had nowhere near enough space to accommodate our notes, because of the room taken up by the track credits and the photos. All my photos/scans had been rejected and instead they had accepted an offer from the Barrys to provide photos. They sent me scans of these and I noted three of them were photos John had “borrowed” from me back in the nineties!
We had to edit our notes considerably but Sony still wanted all the tracks to be mentioned. This was not an easy task, as we didn’t want it to become merely a long list. Nevertheless I was quite pleased when we got it down to around 9000 words without losing the thrust. But this wasn’t good enough for them and we had to make two further edits before finally notes of around 8000 words proved acceptable. Both Pete and I were disappointed that our efforts to inform had been somewhat thwarted, though we hoped it was still readable.
I was told that JB had personally approved both the track-listing and the notes and I should be delighted with my part in the project. Well, yes, it was good to be so involved in this definitive project, but incredibly frustrating in the time it took (well over a year) and because of the tracks we couldn’t include.
So, if your favourite track is missing it probably wasn’t for the want of trying that it wasn’t included. Of course, since the box-set was released, many more Barry soundtracks have been released, and some of the omitted tracks are now available.
Now, what else was there? Oh yes, what about the substantial fee? Still waiting …..
February 12, 2010
Tribute video below from the Music Industry Trusts Award given to John Barry in 1999:
I set off from deepest darkest Northumberland at 9am on the Friday intending to drop my wife and daughter off near Haywards Heath in Sussex before catching a train up from Gatwick to Victoria and then onto my Hotel in Maida Vale to change for the gig. I was going to fly out to Brussels from Gatwick the next day and needed to drive to Swansea as soon as I got back. (Hence the need to drive).
I got to the M25 at 2pm full of the joys of autumn having subjected my family to my six stack CD player. At 5pm we were still on the M25 at a standstill and my demeanour having changed somewhat so I started to rearrange my plans. The bit where I went to my hotel was out etc etc. Bear in mind the event was due to start at 7pm and dinner was at 8pm.I decided to get off the M25 and try the B roads, which resulted in my standing at Haywards Heath station at 6.20pm waiting for a London train which should get me into Victoria for 7.22pm.Bear in mind that it had been pouring with rain for 3 hours and I was dressed in jeans and a baggy Record company freebie jacket clutching my suit and overnight bag.
This train which arrived late decided to stop at 3 more stations than normal and got me into Victoria at 7.38pm. Anyone who has ever arrived at Victoria station will know that the distance from the platform to the Taxi rank is long enough to be a separate train journey itself. Thank goodness I jog because I tried to beat the 1500 metres world record only to find it still raining and the Queue right round the block. (If had stood there I would probably still be in it now). So I ran into the London traffic and starting in the general direction of Mayfair. With a bit of luck I managed to hail a cab who on being told I would double his fare if he beat the world land speed record, set off like the clappers. I am still in very wet jeans and jacket and wondering how I am going to change.
I get to The Grosvenor House hotel at 7.50pm belt into the cloakroom past a 1000 guests do a Superman impression in a cubicle and at 7.58 pm open the door of the toilet still a state of dishevelment to be greeted by the sight of John Barry waiting to go in........What a start!
Having just scrambled out of a toilet cubicle only to be greeted by the man himself was such a shock that we both nodded and passed. British reserve prevents me from accosting my hero in the cloakroom and besides a colleague had offered to introduce me later. So here we are in the Great Room surrounded by celebs. There is Alan Freeman (not 'arf) talking with the host for the evening Paul Gambaccini and just to one side is Michael Parkinson (he will hand over the award to John later in the evening with a small speech praising Barry). With announcements of "Will you please take your seats" I start to try and find out where my table is and am immediately accosted by a lady selling raffle tickets and by this stage I am so elated that I take out a pound coin, say I will have some and ask 'how much?'.. only to be told that they are £10 each. So I bought two. I must have been in a good mood. The raffle prizes included a limited edition movie poster signed by Barry, a days fishing in some river in Hampshire, a mini disc player, a shopping trip to New York, the autographed and framed original score for TWINE donated by Mr Arnold etc etc.
When I got to the table there laid in front of everyone was a limited edition CD and a very nicely produced programme (if you want the track listing I will do that another day). The meal consisted of baked Italian vegetables and mozzarella on a warm walnut crostini, served with asparagus tips. This was followed by fillet of cod sitting on an herb crust tapenade and nutmeg mash. And the trio of desserts to end.
Adam Faith helped himself to my bottle of wine (ok it was just a glass but hell I paid for it - £34 a bottle...Good grief!! this is getting expensive) and then David Arnold got up and spoke before playing a special edition 007 guitar (only one in the world which will be auctioned at Christies) along with four or five other musicians as backing to David McAlmont singing 'We have all the time in the world' .
Then the great Gambo gets up to do his bit about Barry and while I am sitting there I get this feeling of 'I have heard all this before'. Of course I had...sometime ago I had been asked to pen my thoughts about Barry (Not facts but descriptive stuff about his music etc) and had forgotten about it. They then ran an amazing Video which included a piece of Barry singing in the show Six -Five Special. This brought the house down with laughter and caused Bryan Forbes later to suggest that Barry never sing again.
I am sure you have read all about Roger Moore and Alice Cooper’s tributes and Don Black did a Video spot even though he was sitting opposite Barry. His was a Stateside story about the great man and Gambo did his own version of the JB7 by coming up with seven great Quotes attributed to John including what he said to Barbara Streisand when she said that he should move to LA! 'Foxtrot Oscar' I think is a pilot's version of his reply.
Then JB gets up and to be fair (he was very nervous) did not only speak up but crack a couple of not heard before comments which I can't remember now, so don't ask. Hey I had to drink my bottle of wine before Adam Faith helped himself to any more. .....
So now to the bit where everyone gets up from their tables and says hello to Barry .....but hang about there is no one talking to the man and everyone else seems to be quite happy drinking at their respective seats...Where is this guy who was going to introduce me or should I say re-introduce...Typical he is nowhere to be found and I have one chance to say hello before the rush...I must confess that back in the early 70s when I was trying to tie him down to do an interview and I used to ring that lady at N.E.M.s all the time and she used to give me the typical brush-off that I conceived a cunning plan.....Well no it was a spur of the moment decision based on the fact that after the concert at the Albert Hall I was passing the back-stage door and there was no-one there to stop me walking in, so I marched straight into Barry's dressing room and confronted the poor man with the fact that I had been chasing him for an interview for several months. He was so shocked that he gave me his home number and asked me to call him the next day....which led to lunch and all the studio sessions etc. (previously mentioned)....So there I was left with the decision of having to
do 26 years later the same thing...Gate crash his table...Nothing ventured!!...
Just as I got to him someone came up shook his hand and thanked him for all his music etc and JB smiled and turned to face me....I said "John I have not come over to thank you for your music as that goes without saying but to thank you for lunch!" Well that got his attention and I proceeded to tell him my lunch story and how relieved I was that he had paid the bill. He laughed and turned to Don Black who had by this time joined and had butted-in that "John always pays". JB was laughing and said it was a pleasure but was struggling to recall when this all happened and wanted to know what film he was working on at the time . I mentioned "The Glass Menagerie" and was that the only time he had actually played on one of his own Soundtrack sessions ? He remembered and said it was and started to talk about the film to DB and I. Don said JB's lunches were legendary both for him paying and the style of restaurant etc. I reminded JB of some of our conversations and remarked that the big talking point in 1973 had been "Who really did write the James Bond theme?" and what his answer had been then...he looked pained but was encouraged by me saying that I had never forgotten his response then and I was sure it was the same today and he confirmed that it was. He spoke about his son and how he likes to take him to school (Play School?) and be involved in his world and because of that he was going straight back to the states. General chit chat ensued and by this time there was a queue waiting to speak to the man and I felt that I had probably had my fair share. So he shook my hand and thanked me for coming and I left a thin and slightly frail (because he looks so thin) but otherwise well man who was enjoying the attention and the accolades. I even saw him later in the evening wandering around on his own stopping at tables to converse with various people. Oh yes, when saying goodbye to him I mentioned that there were a great many people around the world and Bristol who could not be there on the night but wished him well for the night and his forthcoming birthday. I then went back to my table to rescue my wine from Adam Faith and try and beg a few extra programmes.
By Terry walstrom
10 February 2011
The year is 1963 and I'm being dragged kicking and screaming to a film I don't want to see titled Dr.No.
My best friend, Johnny, has told me it is about a secret agent with a license to kill. Jeezus! It is going to be crap.
What is this music? No, not the awful Three Blind Mice.....this other thing...with the guitar and bebop. What in the bloody hell kind of style is this?
I LOVE IT!! Sean Connery is galvanizing and the weird theme music simply riveting.
Thus began a lifelong infatuation with a sound and a style and a mysterious emotion being wrenched out of me like no other in the music of a mysterious Englishman named John Barry.
Now, I can read very clearly the so-called James Bond theme has been "composed by" Monty Norman. I also can see that it is being played by John Barry's orchestra. For some peculiar reason I pay no attention to the name Monty Norman at all. I fix on Barry. I mark it for later. It will become a habit.
My 2nd encounter with they elusive John Barry occurs, once again, with my friend Johnny at a film title ZULU.
From the very first thundering strikes of the timpani and inexorable swell of horns my attention ratcheted up to a state of mind quite beyond reason! Why certainly! There is that name again: John Barry. No mention of Norman on this one.
Whoever this Englishman is--this composer with the arresting style and lovely way with a melody--he's got Mojo and a half!
What is it? Why does it make me feel like this?
Some people just accept things as they are and go about their business. Others, such as myself, have to know "why?".
Take falling in love, for example. Who would ever shrug their shoulders and toss it off with a casual "so what!"
Whomever had snatched your heart from you and stopped your world would instantly become the center of your attention and focus. This is what Barry's music created in me: a world-stopping event that demanded my attention.
The first opportunity to buy an album arrived one day at a small five and ten cent store in the bargain bin. It was the soundtrack to a new James Bond film: From Russia with Love. Great cover! Connery and Bianchi in a Turkish church shrouded in dramatic shadows. Walther PPK 7.65 mm pistol at the ready! Orange border with that name again!
Music composed and conducted by JOHN BARRY!
It sounds rather vapid to say this out loud but it is true: my heart skipped a beat. I was enthralled at the prospect of owning some of this potent drug: BARRY MUSIC!!
I played the album until my family threatened to send me to a monastery. I was mainlining!
The Bond films stepped up the excitement while the art films flummoxed my brain with beauteous encounters both ingenious and exotic. The creativity was astonishing. WHO WAS THIS GUY?
Living stateside across the pond from all things England I was without a clue save the few liner notes gleaned album by album. Tiny black and white photos provided a glimpse of a slim, serious face.
Like pieces of an arcane puzzle I began assembling the picture of who this young Yorkshire maestro was. Apparently there was some sort of Rock and Roll career. Odd that. The music I had heard so far didn't come close to the silly pop music blaring from my radio with the "Bop shoo bop" "Doo wah" "Bomp oompa Bomp a Bomp" and "Dip ti Dip ti Dips".
Every musician I had encountered in my life had ONE STYLE and one style only. That one way of doing things made them famous and they stuck with it. Glenn Miller sounded like Glenn Miller, Bill Hailey and the Comets sounded the same on every 45 r.p.m. and Mitch Miller was always Mitch Miller. This John Barry person sounded like three or four completely unique people who severally were pure genius at concocting a Brand New sound styling unlike any other. What gives?
As the Swinging Sixties swelled into a tidal wave of furious British Invasion estalt the page was torn from the book of Top 40 culture. America was drowning in an odd funk of soup tasting like whatever tidbit was tossed into the pot.
Above all that cacophony on a cloud of rarefied wisdom and craft soared this New Voice alone and apart: John Barry!
Birds of a Feather may flock together but I peeled off like a Blue Angel from my generation's squadron of droning screamers and twangers into a solo flight of film music devotion. There was a siren song to be followed and I was loosed from the mast. I came of age to the splendor of cymbaloms and kantala, moogs and French Horn choirs replete with syncopated eighth notes in a 3-3-2 rhythm preening away beneath gorgeously seductive melodies from the pencil and staff of Mr. Barry.
The Orchestral tour de force bonded with my DNA.
I created seduction tapes on my reel to reel to stupefy the lissome lasses and fell them sonically into surrender to the waving baton of a maestro who could awe and tame as adroit as any liquor.
My honeymoon, the birth of my children, the evenings of after work unwinding, the highs and lows of wretched life on planet Earth with Viet Nam raging outside: each and all were made sense of by Barry's music. His unique sound was the common denominator for crying babies and moonlandings; the yin and yang of presidential assassins and Hollywood decollete. The music of my life: the sideburned staffsman's uncanny concoctions.
Some men collect fast cars, great art or fine wine. I collected movie music albums in a burgeoning array of LP stacks replete with John Barry's latest, greatest incantations along with the Jerry Goldsmiths, Elmer Bernsteins and Lalo Schifrins galore. The crates proliferated and soon I was more owned by them than they by me!
Life, it is said, is what happens while you are busy making other plans.
I never planned to be a 64 year old man living in a bedsitter room with most of my children grown and a chilling obituary notice flashing on my laptop screen notifying me that the man with the greatest gift I'd ever witnessed was no longer alive: John Barry had died.
I remained numb for days as snow fell and the world seemed cold and silent outside. The silence bespoke an emptiness I'd never known. Then, I began reading the words of others; hundreds...thousands around the planet spoke up and gave voice to the same confraternity of worship I'd been unable to define my lifelong. The music of John Barry had really MEANT SOMETHING WONDERFUL without which life would have not been as full, enriched or meaningful.
Finally it sinks in.
Art fills us as light fills a darkened room. John Barry's art was the music of our soul extending the reach of our grasp.
If I have loved, I've done so more knowingly having been taught what beauty can be felt.
Whatever is noble, heroic, seductive, visceral and majestic was enlivened on his canvas of sound.
Thank God I can reach for those gifts and replay the music of my life preserved in the amber of recorded sound.
The Knack is my 18 year old self fresh out of school; alive to a world full of beautiful women.
The Lion in Winter is my encounter with God.
The Dove is my journey to a new life in California far from a cowtown in Texas.
Somewhere in Time is the death of my first wife as I rear three children alone.
Thank you John for being the ink of emotion upon the pages in the book of my life.
February 7, 2011
48 years after hearing the James Bond theme in the Poly theater in Fort Worth, Texas at the age of 16
Ron Curry, MBE
February 3, 2011
I am glad to have this opportunity to express my great admiration and respect for John Barry's music scores.
I first met Mr Barry at C T S Studios, Bayswater, London in December 1971 when he was scoring Sir Carol Reed's "Follow Me". To my mind there were two John Barrys, the Composer and the Conductor, each culminating in musical style. The work starting from subject matter, a film in rough cut after plotting musical cues with the then director and editor, the weeks and sometimes months of isolation when composing for a project, pulling the elements together however diverse, following his instincts being stylistic as only he could do it to "get a fix" from the blank manuscript paper. The work structured with musical intentions, the character of the writing of the music trenchancy and direction of the scoring and cross referencing, building layer upon layer of musical textures creating complex sounds all starting as dots on paper.
As if game-like, notation written with the help of a metronome and a stopwatch, musical colours exchanged from one instrument to another to be given a new life as it fades to be picked up by another musical bridge, to grow and then fade in spacious lyricism using his musicianship and interpretative imagination to bring his written "cues" to fit the confines of time restrictions.
Writing from one chord to another almost key changing. The melody staying in the logical sense but changes are happening like undercurrents taking the music into another mode his perfection of attach and clarity of harmonies and tone.
His feelings and moods, the theme and variations in his music are written structurally for film sequences, a score full of thematic motifs which can still retain its value as music when presented as a separate form. Divorced from the film.
His impact and depth of emotion with feeling not sentimentality for both orchestra and voices, for a non film work (The Beyondness of Things) using his own random thoughts for the function of the music.
To enrich the music was John Barry the Conductor. Mr. Barry always conducted his own work. Watching Mr Barry conduct in recording sessions, his body swaying, his baton jabbing and coaxing, this was the fun of the game for him. To finally stand in a Studio and conduct his finished score with the detail and subtleties that only he could give his music.
Thank you for the music John.
© Ron Curry MBE
Photo attachment: Centenial of British Film Commerative copy plaque being presented by Ron Curry to John Barry, Royal Albert Hall, Saturday 18th April, 1998.
February 3, 2011
You may not know the man, but you will almost certainly know his music.
John Barry OBE, a Honorary Freeman of York, is being remembered worldwide following his recent death at 77 yrs.
I feel very fortunate in that I did meet the man, when both of us were quite young, and I have adored his music from so many award winning films.
I came to first know John Barry Prendergast when I used to hang around back-stage at the Rialto cinema in York in the late 1950's during Sunday concerts on the stage. These shows starred some of the biggest names in music at that time, from jazz to skiffle, from big bands to individual singers. Lonnie Donegan, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Chris Barber, Dickie Valentine, Sarah Vaughan and, yes, even the Beatles - all performed on the stage at the Rialto.
Back-stage Barry (as we called him) used to regale the arriving audience with his favourite music played over the PA system from a turntable with LP's behind the stage curtains. His favourites were Stan Kenton - then a major American big-band - as he had studied through a correspondence course with Bill Russo, a trombonist with this band.
I was there taking photographs of all the stars for my own interest and personal collection. As a late teenager I had the run of the whole cinema, by kind permission of Barry's father, Jack Xavier Prendergast who owned it. I met and photographed all those greats and had a wonderful time most Sunday evenings.
At a time in the late 50's Barry decided to start his own rock band - the John Barry Seven - and his father asked me if I would take some photos of them for 'front of house' pictures. So I was the first person to photograph the John Barry Seven before they went on to success and other London photographers.
Over the years, as history tells, the John Barry Seven gave way to John Barry the movie composer after having first been asked to 'rework' Monty Normans original James Bond theme tune. That lead to other film music being scored for a whole series of Bond movies and then many other Hollywood and British block-busters including Born Free, Dances with Wolves, Out of Africa, Chaplin and many more. Wonderful music - almost classical, symphonic in its own way.
At the beginning of the new Millennium I got to meet up with Barry again, here in York. I had nominated him for the Honorary Freedom of the City of York. After doing battle with the City Fathers of the day (they were a lefty bunch back then which did not like 'honours') I eventually got them to bestow the Honorary Freedom of the City on Dr. John Barry OBE at a ceremony held in the Georgian Assembly Rooms. This was in June of 2002 and I and my wife Jean got to meet John again, and his wife Laurie, and had photos taken on that memorable occasion.
It was a great event for a great man and he was clearly humbled by the historic significance of the occasion.
A touch of irony was that the honour was bestowed on him by the Lord Mayor standing on the very same stage that Barry had sat on almost 50 years before as a young trumpeter playing in the dance band which used to play at the Assembly Rooms every Saturday - and that was where I had first asked Jean out to a dance in 1958 !
So the great man is gone but his great music will live on forever. I regard it as being a great honour to have known him, if only briefly, during his lifetime.
If you like John Barrys music I can recommend no better collection than his "Moviola" album which contains many of his most haunting and emotional film themes.
April 26, 2010
Capital Tales: Four in the Morning
The BFI screening of Four in the Morning
Wed 21 Apr. 2010, 18:20, NFT1
"Anthony Simmons' film, which plays like a L'Avventura of the Docklands."
Peter Greenhill saw 'Four In The Morning', the 1965 film directed by Anthony Simmons at BFI in London.
The film has three threads:
1) The river police picking up the body of a dead woman from the Thames.
2) A seemingly rootless young man (Brian Phelan) picks up a singer (Ann Lynn) he knows, after her work. At four in the morning they romp around the Thames' shores, steal a boat, leave it, almost touch each other emotionally but are they committed?
3) The other couple is shown as a woman (Judi Dench) waiting for her husband, (Norman Rodway) out on the town with a bachelor crony. The baby cries and exasperates her. The growing incompatibility of the couple is deftly outlined in bold, dramatic strokes...
The three threads are linked by London’s river. The film is bleak but is also absorbing and eminently watchable thanks to great performances, atmospheric photography and a haunting score by John Barry which is just perfect for the movie, underlining its sense of sadness and yearning with mournful oboes and sighing flutes.
There was a good turnout for the movie with BFI 1 almost full. The film was introduced by director/writer Anthony Simmons who also did a Q&A after the showing. Simmons said that he originally intended doing a documentary about London as he couldn’t find a suitable story. He then read a poem about a dead body in the river and the idea grew to make a film about London and its river. The screenplay was only partly written when shooting started. The Dench/ Rodway section was not written when Phelan and Lynn filmed their section.
In the end the film is really three short films combined into one. feature movie. It took 3-4 months to shoot. Judi Dench was not Simmons’ first choice for the role of the young wife/mother but he wouldn’t say who was.
Simmons said that John Barry was his first choice to do the score. He had previously worked with Barry on a couple of commercials. Barry was shown the film and loved it but Simmons had to tell him that there was little money. ‘No problem’ said Barry ‘I’ll get paid by the PRS, as long as you don’t want any royalties’. The interviewer pointed out that 1965 was a good year for Barry (Ipcress, Thunderball, Born Free etc) and that he could probably afford not to take a fee. Barry was definitely on a roll in 1965. Both the interviewer and Simmons agreed that Barry wrote a great score. The score, like the film, is underestimated but it certainly shows how Barry could ‘nail’ a movie so beautifully
Filming was not restricted to the early hours of the morning, sometimes cinematographer Larry Pizer would put black silk stockings over the lens and so there was an absence of black in the print which was consequently shades of grey.
The film played well in Europe and won several awards but had a limited release in the UK due to resistance by Rank. It was never released in US probably because it showed a London that wasn’t swinging.
The film is available on R2 DVD
and the score available at:
as well as other retailers.
January 19, 2010
According to the list prepared by Vic Lanza when he was compiling the John Barry – The EMI Years series, some tracks remain unreleased.
However, it’s possible they were retitled and released as were some in the following list.
Interesting to see the Moonraker track listed and also Man in the Middle.
The two A Matter of Who tracks are curious since they are much longer than the version that *was* released.
Little Old-fashioned Love & Throw All Your Lovin’ My way are both JB vocals. They were eventually recorded and released by Larry Page.
The “Michael Angelo” track was recorded a couple of weeks after Roman Spring/Tears.
Walk Don’t Run (Orchestra Only) is very odd. Orchestra on Walk Don’t Run?
December 11, 2009
By Terry Walstrom
I shall attempt a sort of free sketch of Main Title to The Dove without bogging down in sordid details the non-musician might find soporific.
John Barry prefers (if past choices are to be an indication) minor key melodies. Minor keys are the brooding, mysterious and sad ones. He also has a tendency to select the key of F for his major melodies and Fminor, Eminor or Cminor for his other venues.
The Dove is an exception The key is plain vanilla C Major. Look at your local piano. See those white keys? Yep, that's C major.
It is what we like to call the guitarist's favorite key. As an aside, George Gershwin would/could only play in C major. I guess those glissandos are easier that way:) (A glissando is a sweep up or down hitting all the notes in a scale.)
Barry's choices for what instruments are going to play his theme are unusual (for him.)
Normally, JB uses the guitar either for melody (James Bond theme) or for rhythm/percussive effect. The Big Band era used acoustic guitars for rhythm purposes and the jazz era developed a sort of strum and "fill" style that created an effective color. But, not until the invention of the electric guitar (so you could actually HEAR the notes) did the guitar come crashing to the front of the line.
In The Dove, Barry has chosen for the guitar something completely unusual. An arpeggio/rhythm. There are twin 12 string guitars (they sound like that timbre, but, I suppose they might simply be gutstring) creating a rather loud arpeggio in triplets (three notes cycling over and over) on both wings of the listener's field of aural soundscape. In other words: far left and far right.
Why? We might well ask. I can't say. From a musical standpoint, nobody else did it before and it seems to work. Is that good enough? :)
It has a rough texture that catches the ear and puts some "grit" in the mix. Further, it has a psychological motive. The guitar is not a "formal" instrument. It is portable. It represents the vagabond, the adventurer out and about. Otherwise, your conservatory brand composer would have placed a HARP here instead of the guitar. This choice is friendly to the ear and catches the spirit of a sailing spree by young people on an adventure. That's as much seat of the pants psychology as I can offer:)
Later, just for fun and contrast, I might go back and substitute different instruments in place of John Barry's and let you hear what a world of difference it makes to how you FEEL when listening.
In addition to the guitars, John Barry is going to play his melody theme on the violins as a section (not as a solo instrument) and will have the flutes playing the same notes. Musically, this is called "doubling". Barry's flute/violin section doubling gives a pure sound that is pretty without being corny.
Cumulatively, the bass notes will be plucked by the double bass (giant, fat, swollen-looking violins that stand upright:) as the low strings (always on the right) give us a carpet of---shall we say---additional rhythm, and provides a sweeping warmth to the mix.
For punctuation, the timpani (kettledrum) adds a bit of emphasis here and there. You can't have John Barry and not have Horns. Barry's singular use of horns is sui generis. He does it and nobody else does it like him. (I can't imagine why they don't, frankly!) The Horns, he discovered around 1965, can be used in a choir (three or more at once) the way the piano player uses chords or the guitar player uses chords. Not to say he didn't know this before. He didn't really use it and develop the horn choir until mid 60's. Great Movie Sounds of John Barry introduced our ears to this device. Listen to the track: From Russia with Love. The horns are clustered in the low register. It is turgid, muddy and almost unpleasant. This is a first effort. Later, Barry began putting the Horn Choir in the middle and high register to great effect. On Her Majesty's Secret Service unfurls the sweeping sonority of Brass Choir majesty in all its glory... But, I digress... In The Dove, the brass isn't used for beauty and majesty so much as it is for dramatic power and punctuation.
John Barry likes to double the strings, flute and marimba. A marimba is like a Xylophone or vibraphone, except the tone is precise and there is no after tone. In the Main Title's middle section the marimba "cuts through" the mix and gives definition to the rhythmic counter-melody in a way that neither strings nor flute can alone.
Further, if we subtract the melody content and expose the skeleton or spine of this composition we'll discover a sense of motion up and down the scale which is quite exhilarating in its energy and good-naturedness. The strings go high in one direction as another section goes low in the other. Barry builds interest by changing paragraphs of whole thought. Intro--melody--intermezzo--melody--etc. This highly stylized clockwork precision is transparent. You always know what part of the orchestra to listen to. Never a dull moment. Each space has content. No clutter, no fuss and not once a train wreck.
Now to the melody. The "tune", if we may call it that, goes from middle "E" to "E" above C and doubles back and forth on its way back down. The tune is a series of cells of phrases mirroring each other and setting on top of a decending harmonic device that is as old as music itself. A unifying device is like the foundation on a building; it keeps the construction from toppling in confusion. In this case, the chords (like Pachelbel's canon) decends the C major scale. The notes C, B, A, G, F, E, D, C are the scale. Barry indicates these notes either with harmony or with the bass as the melody rides on top. Think of the Christmas carol: JOY TO THE WORLD. "Joy to the World the Lord has Come." That's the C scale in spades. (Well, no spades necessary:) Hum the Dove tune (starting on the E of the scale) while somebody else sings Joy to the World and you have it!! (Each note must be held the same duration, however.) Oh, nevermind! :)
If the above is confusing or impressing to you--you've missed the point! All music has some architecture. James Bond theme has a "vamp" that goes up and down three adjacent notes PLUS the guitar melody has a catchy rhythm repeated over and over. That's the architecture. It is memorable and emotionally exciting.
The DOVE uses scalewise motion and the guitar arpeggios. PLUS, the 6/8 meter (six notes per measure; all of them 8th notes) allows Barry to syncopate little licks here and there (sort of like skipping) to offset any feeling of robotic predictability of a mundane nature.
Where does this leave us in our understanding of what this Main Title is? Let's sum up:
Bottom line? Simplicty is created by Barry by the magic trick of repetition. You don't get lost in all the commotion. Never. Why? Like any good Magician, John Barry directs you where he wants you to attend and hides the actual work involved in pulling off the illusion.
What is music but melody, harmony and rhythm? The tune is the melody. The string background and the movement of the scale (down and up the white keys on the piano or C scale) provide the harmony. The guitars, plucked string bass, marimba are the rhythm. ALL THE REST is VARIATION. Mostly, Barry uses a different part of the scale for his variation. High, Middle, Low. Up and then down. Down and then up.
One last thing to listen for: the flutes and woodwinds and marimba take turns. As one group is doing somersaults upward, the other group is merely sliding downward, downward downward. Then, they change places. The HORNS do this too. We have one choir sliding downward while the other choir somesaults upward. Note: this "blend" of tones creates tension and harmony. Passing tones are interesting to the ear. Think of a juggler keeping pins in the air and adding yet more. As one pin spins upward another is simultaneously decending as one hand passes the catch to the other hand's pitch.
What is the best way to keep track of what you are listening to? I start with the lowest instrument.
If you listen to the lowest thing you can hear you automatically hear everything else (on top) with clarity. It takes a little practice. You have to relax. Try NOT listening to the top notes at all. It ain't easy, Bub. Why? The human ear is selective. Information seeking. We learn culturally that information is at the top. Everything beneath is relegated to background (context). However, in listening to music, the rules change. Music is built on the lowest note. Beethoven composed his symphonies, for example, by first composing the bass notes! All else was built on the foundation.
Main Title to The Dove is built on that skipping bottom pizzacato (plucked string bass).
Barry has INTRODUCTION (setting of the tonal stage) MELODY (the tune) and varation (changes from beginning to intermezzo and back in variations. This is our cast of characters. We always know who is on stage. We always know where we are. We know why.
One last topic: what makes The Dove so enjoyable as a score? It contains recognizable Barryisms, certainly. However, John Barry had a very rich period of pure invention. Just before he sunk into a one-size-fits-all approach, John Barry approached each and every movie with a clean slate. Everything was different. You simply did not know what NEW thing you would hear. The variety of conception is astounding. Nobody else sounded like him. He never sounded like others. One of a kind.
One of John Barry's stylistic quirks is that he really loathed the drumkit. He tried to avoid typical percussion schemes. Too conventional and predictable for him! Instead, Barry began treating the right side of the strings (low end) as a rhythm section. From the early 70's forward, more and more of JB's creations used this scheme. This finally became a mannerism and a fall back.
Go back and listen to THE PERSUADERS theme. Listen to the drumkit. Ha! Bizarre! When does the downbeat come? Where is the typical beat? Gone. Listen to any of his tv theme work and ask yourself "where is the drumkit?" You will have a hard time finding any example of 2 and 4 beat. ORSON WELLES theme music too contains a transitional drumkit part that is so understated as to almost be a private joke on JB's part. I digress... The DOVE is about texture, movement and a really good mood. The horns give the adventure and the melody grants optimism.
Finally, one thought. A story about two beautiful young people on a sailboat would seem to cry out for lush romanticism. Right? Barry could do that, right? A string melody like Poledouris' BLUE LAGOON comes to mind. (A very Barryesque score!) But, John Barry doesn't give us lush at any part. Stop and think about that. Never are there sweeping violins in the (now typical) Barry manner. What do we have instead? Playfulness. Drama. Adventure. Never lush romance. This is youth+nature on the open sea first and foremost. The adventure is discovery "...while it's still FREE....." Lyn Paul tells us.
Of all the Barry creations, The Dove stands alone in the palette, colors and arrangement of instruments. Enjoy!
“Americans was a thrilling experience, a record with the concept of an imaginary soundtrack: for the very first time, instead of appearing on a screen, the images came from inside me."
John Barry interviewed by Stéphane Lerouge
October 2, 2009
"My vocation was born in the cinemas my father owned in Yorkshire. Seeing Mickey Mouse in black and white in 1937 was a decisive moment. I was four years old and those five minutes marked me for life. From then on, you couldn't get me out of my father's cinemas: being an assiduous visitor was the basis of my education, both in films and in music. It was the best school I could have had. I was a child and already I was analyzing the relationship between what I could see and what I heard. I'd see the same film up to three times a day with different audiences, and I ended up understanding films from the inside, especially the interplay between music and scenes, point or counterpoint. Films were an extraordinary means of escape from the everyday greyness and the war. They were a way to dream: I travelled to India, Africa and Asia, discovering the world. Not to mention the noir films or the Hollywood musicals: they gave me the impression I was living in the United States." That's how the great John Barry recently explained how he discovered motion pictures... and the power that music has over them. To his film-culture he added a solid, classical education that was thoroughly shaken when he felt the jazz earthquake as a teenager. "My brother Pat was ten years older than I was, and he was a great fan of swing, Ellington, Basie, Hampton and Woody Herman," emphasizes the composer. "He literally devoured everything that came from America. I was immersed in Chopin or Sibelius and I looked down at him; to me, jazz was a sub-language in music. Why would I bother listening to someone blowing into a saxophone when I had Mahler? One day, when I was around fifteen, I started getting interested in the history of jazz and its different styles, and I developed a passion for the modern school: Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Gerry Mulligan's Quartet with Chet Baker… What they played came as a revelation: I had to admit that it was another form of expression; it was stupid to create a hierarchy between jazz and the classical repertoire. And so I started playing the trumpet..."
The rest is history. In 1957, the composer formed The John Barry Seven with some old friends he'd known during his military service, all under the influence of Little Richard or Bill Haley. Their popularity grew crescendo and, one thing leading to another, Barry turned to composing for films. Thanks to the cinema, he was able to create a synthesis between the different cultures that had formed his apprenticeship. In no time at all, a series of box-office hits catapulted him into the limelight as a composer for the young and modern: Born Free, The Knack -a film-manifesto for Swinging London- the first James Bond films, and also those featuring the anti-Bond, Michael Caine in the role of Harry Palmer. Millions of film-buffs and music-fans discovered the singular splendour of John Barry's compositions: an unconventional harmonic universe filled with booby-traps, plus a very personal feeling for lyricism, melodies that were instantly catchy, a taste for characteristic, unusual timbres, not to mention the surprises created by his orchestration… Walking a tightrope between the wide-screen spectacular and the filmd'auteur, John Barry is a sophisticated composer whose most visible, most famous scores (say, the action movies, the Bond films) did little to hide a more secret, melancholy vein that tended towards introspection.
In 1975, John Barry was forty-two. He'd been living in Majorca for a year when he accepted an offer to go to Los Angeles and write the music for Eleanor and Franklin, a film made for television by the Canadian director Daniel Petrie, and in October that year he settled in at The Beverly Hills Hotel. His American stay was due to last a few weeks at most; he still lives there today, some thirty-four years later. Barry took advantage of his visit to begin composing a 12" LP that was highly original, containing music "seen" exclusively through his own eyes. "At the time," he remembers, "I was just coming out of an extremely intense period of work. 1974 had been particularly busy: the musical Billy had been staged, first in Manchester and then in London, and it was followed by the films The Dove, The Tamarind Seed and The Man With the Golden Gun. I needed to recharge my batteries, take on a new project that was quite different, like a breath of oxygen. So I went about it the way I usually do: I took notes spontaneously, on instinct, without even thinking about the way to treat them later. It might have been the first bars of a melody, a harmonic sequence or some counterpoint... The idea just came to me; I thought about it, jotted it down and then let it settle... and I took a look at it a few days later to see if it stood up. Put together, the different ideas all took shape as Americans, a personal impression of the sights and sounds of the United States. It was the vision which an Englishman (actually a Northerner) had of the country that had fed his imagination as a youngster. I tried to find the sensations of my first visit again, when I crossed The Atlantic for the first time at the end of the Fifties. Imagine the symbol: me, born in (Old) York, discovering New York! It was a way of confronting my dreams with reality."
In John Barry's career, Americans marks a deliberate pause, a desire to come face to face with his own self, as if he were taking his bearings now that he'd reached his forties. After the hectic pace of the previous fifteen years—a period that included ten films in 1965 alone—this first orchestral album outside the film-world gave Barry the opportunity to regain control over his freedom. "It's perhaps what I love most," he says, smiling. "It's exciting to work with a filmmaker who's touched by your contribution to his work. It's also just as exciting to have the power of decision over your own music... without having to explain it to anyone! (Laughter.) It allows your brain to function differently... Take the famous Yesternight Suite, for example; I conceived and imagined it the way I wanted to, quite freely. In films, I'd never have been allowed to compose a piece lasting seventeen minutes; in fact it's one of the longest I've ever written. It has a vast continuity exploring quite different atmospheres, and it links very contrasting moods. I wrote it first like a synopsis, before I got into the details of the orchestration, and I included quotes from As Times Goes By and By Myself. I didn't want to disconcert listeners too much, just give them the odd hint with standards that were objective... but also integrated into a brand-new original composition. That's a lesson I learned from my father: you must have a feeling for the audience. As an owner of cinemas and theatres, he always used to say: "Make them laugh, make them cry, make them thrill!" That's a caricature of course, but moving from one sentiment to another really is necessary."
Recorded in Hollywood in November 1975, Americans involved some spectacular sessions at Glen Glenn Sound. Facing John Barry were two formations, both of them physical incarnations of his twin cultures: an orchestra of fifty musicians (with first violin Israel Baker), completed by a fiery jazz combo. Barry had summoned some great players: trombonist Dick Nash and trumpeter Tony Terran, not to mention saxophone virtuoso Ronnie Lang, who was later the soloist on Body Heat, another Barry masterpiece. "I adore Ronnie's sound and phrasing," admits the composer. "He played with Les Brown... and Harry James, whose band was a reference in my young days. To me, the timbre of an alto saxophone has deep ties with America's great cities, and New York at night; a suggestion of urban solitude. That's what I tried to convey in the pieces where Ronnie's the soloist, like Social Swing or some parts of the Yesternight Suite. On the other hand, Strip Drive evokes Los Angeles, cruising down the coast at sunset. Speaking Mirrors represents the city-architecture, those forests of tall buildings with towers of glinting glass. Listening to these compositions again, I realise how much I loved working with those sublime musicians. At a pinch, I conducted them like a filmmaker directs his actors. Right from the start, they gave me the nuances I was counting on. They were rivalling with each other, playing together like brothers. Listen to the trombone and saxophone duet on Downtown Walker, for example, a kind of stroll through Manhattan: Nash develops a carefree melody while Lang stubbornly repeats the same phrase in a loop, like a translation of the unceasing movement there is when you're walking. I love that principle: like in Midnight Cowboy, the counterpoint is just as important as the melody..."
Americans was released both in Britain and in Japan, and is now available here for the first time since its original release in autumn 1976. To complete this reissue there are four John Barry titles from the Polydor years, including the theme from Follow me, the film that documented his meeting with veteran director Carol Reed. "He didn't have a musical background but his instinct for film-music compensated for it," remembers Barry. "Without thinking, he knew what would work. Personally, I was extremely flattered and impressed to find myself facing the director of The Third Man; the film left an indelible mark on me when I was a teenager. The theme composed and played on the zither by Anton Karas is a definitive model for obviousness and efficiency... It made me understand that a single instrument with a strange timbre, playing a tiny melody, can have more dramatic impact than a whole flood of orchestras. In a way, it was a lesson I remembered when I was writing the themes for The Persuaders, The Adventurer or Orson Welles’ Great Mysteries. They were meant to instantly catch the viewer's ear, with a heady bass line, scraping harmonies, and a very simple melody played solo on the cimbalom. At the time, I was working with an astounding English musician named John Leach, a real wizard who collected all kinds of ethnic instruments from around the world. John's help was very precious to me: the weird instrumental ideas he brought in allowed me to turn some of my ambitions into reality, particularly the idea of always aiming for a fresh, original, unconventional sound."
In their own way, the ten tracks on this present album act like a portrait of John Barry in the mid-Seventies. Americans, in particular, can be listened to like a permanent firework display, one whose jazz pulse and energy still allow glimpses of an overshadowing lyrical tristesse. A state of grace somewhere between swing and disillusionment… Twenty-three years later, for Decca, Barry would record two more albums outside the world of films, the works of a composer who'd reached maturity: The Beyondness of Things and Eternal Echoes. The colour of those albums is more autumnal, and their inspiration more elegiac, more introspective, too. As if spleen, both in the man and in the artist, had finally gained the upper hand. "You have to remember that the war hit me when I was six," concludes the composer. "It was a traumatic, wrenching experience that made me melancholy for life. It's a side of my personality that I no longer try and hide... So, when I listen to Americans today, I'm both amused and troubled at the same time: it's like going through an old album and finding a photo of me taken in 1975. But it was still a thrilling experience, a record with the concept of an imaginary soundtrack: for the very first time, instead of appearing on a screen, the images came from inside me."
Jarvis Cocker’s Meltdown – The Music of John Barry - Royal Festival Hall, London
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Other John Barry themes were conducted by Nicholas Dodd.
Programme submitted by Gareth Bramley.
The 2006 John Barry Royal Albert Hall concert featuring The Ten Tenors
By Geoff Leonard
30 September 2006
On entering the Royal Albert Hall arena well before the starting time of 7.30, there were two surprises. Firstly, no programmes had been printed (we weren't told why). Secondly, every other seat had a CD-sampler (4-track) placed on it of Here's To the Heroes, the Ten Tenors' new collaboration with John Barry. The hall seemed slow to fill and I guessed it was no more than two-thirds full when start-time arrived.
As I'd heard only a couple of days before that JB was feeling unwell, it was something of a relief to see him walking onto the stage at 7.35 p.m.. He was greeted by loud and enthusiastic applause, plus a few screams! He began at once, without a word, and it was as though nothing had changed from those triumphant concerts of the late nineties as he took the orchestra through a powerful performance of Goldfinger, always his concert opener.
But everything changes. With just a wave, he departed the rostrum and Paul Bateman walked on to replace him. And we soon noticed more than just a change of personnel. Bateman was conducting the usual suspects, Born Free, Chaplin, Body Heat and Mary Queen of Scots, but even on these slow numbers, an increase in the usual tempo was very apparent. I don't know if this was deliberate or due to slight unfamiliarity with Barry's repertoire, but it worked beautifully, giving the performances a freshness. Frances was one of the highlights of this first half, which also included Walkabout & Wednesday's Child (both possibly premiere concert performances).
Bateman ended with The girl with the sun in her hair, which destroyed my idea of a possible encore for John Barry. During the interval I could hear a few people grumbling about the lack of a programme – "what was the fifth piece they played?" – but it was also clear they were enjoying themselves and praising both orchestra and conductor. There was speculation as where the Ten Tenors would position themselves as room on the stage seemed to be at something of a premium.
John Barry reappeared at around 8.50 and we thought maybe we would see him performing again. But no, he briefly introduced the Ten Tenors and "our conductor tonight, Paul Bateman". He then departed, not quite quickly enough to avoid an earful of extremely powerful vocal from the TT's opening number. If I had to sum up the TTs, powerful would do it. Though this can be an advantage on certain numbers, and in particular on Here's to The Heroes, for me it doesn't work so well on all Barry's ballads. I still can't get on with We Have All the Time in the World, and the lyrics to "Places" (Out of Africa) are not Don Black's finest. However, they certainly gave it their all and I was impressed at how well they maintained their recorded sound in a "live" environment. They sang all the Barry numbers on their new CD, so many had the opportunity of hearing the three new songs for the first time. It's hard to estimate how they went down with the audience, since everything was applauded with the same vigour! They stood / sat right at the front of the stage, so Bateman had his back to them and conducted with the aid of headphones.
In between, Paul Bateman conducted a wonderful performance of The James Bond Suite. The augmented English Chamber Orchestra was in terrific form and once again there was a noticeable increase in the tempo. This was the best received piece of the evening, receiving prolonged and enthusiastic applause. John Barry returned to the stage for the usual ovation, and was happy to share the occasion with the TTs and Paul Bateman. He himself conducted the final performance, the TTs singing "We Have All The Time in the World".
And that was it. The second half was only about 50-minutes long, from memory, and although this was partly due to Bateman's impressive brisk style of conducting, we could have done with a couple more orchestral numbers to finish off. Zulu would have been a wonderful finale or even an encore for John. Never mind, it was wonderful just to see him again, looking a little thin and frail, as usual, but without any apparent nerves and with a smile on his face!
Here's to next year?
Article - Sunday Night at the London Palladium
(with the John Barry 7)
2 September, 2004
I saw Sunday Night at the London Palladium show at the National Film Theatre on Tuesday, August 31. It was a strange experience, like being in another era. The programme began with selected clips from early shows which included Hughie Green introducing Mario Lanza, and Bobby Darin singing 3 songs at the end of a tour of England. What a classy performer he was. Some of the 'variety' acts were acrobats and dancers and, to be honest, didn't really hold the attention.
Then we had a complete show from 1960, introduced by Bruce Forsyth. It included a speciality dance act who threw some poor girl around the stage, Beryl Reid as 'Marlene', an American opera star I'd never heard of, "Beat the clock" and finally, the moment we had been waiting for: The John Barry Seven!
Brucie made a point of talking about the 'new sound' or noise, as he kept saying, during his intro. Then the curtains parted to reveal the JB7 playing 'Hit & Miss', apparently augmented by some pizzicato plucking from the pit orchestra, conducted by Cyril Ornadel.
Vic Flick got *all* the close-ups, probably because it was basically just him, Dougie Wright & Mike Peters who were playing, though all the Seven appeared to be. John Barry looked nervous on trumpet and again when conducting. One curio was that regular saxophonist Jimmy Stead was missing. His dep was a short, very thin guy with receding dark hair - no idea who that was. Vic's famous Clifford Essex 'Bond theme' guitar is now in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and waiting to be put on display. The curators seem to be much enamoured of it.
Of course, the real star of the show was Adam Faith. And he didn't disappoint. He sang What do you want, Someone else's baby and Big Time, all accompanied by the Seven, or some of them, with JB conducting. For Big Time they were augmented by the orchestra so it was a little weird to see both John & Cyril conducting together!
Then, Brucie came on dressed as Adam. They bantered and did a duet of 'Poor Me'. I was really impressed with Adam who couldn't have been more than 19 or 20 at the time. He seemed quite unfazed by it all and matched Brucie line for line. There was mention of a Blackpool summer season up and coming so I'm guessing the show was recorded around Easter of 1960.
When it was over they jumped on the revolving stage thing with the JB7 and the rest of the performers as the credits rolled. The NFT audience applauded loudly at the end. I was so glad I caught it and pleased that the episode is in the archives. So much of the BBC stuff has been wiped so well done to ATV (or whoever owns it now) for saving it.
"Lion" Roars in New York
Barry & Prokofiev in Carnegie Hall
John Barry's celebrates his 70th birthday in style
By Michael Storck
John Barry made his first appearance on the stage of Carnegie Hall last night (5/25) as a 70-piece orchestra and world-reknown chorale gave his Oscar-winning 1968 score to THE LION IN WINTER it's New York premiere performance.
The first half of a concert by The Collegiate Chorale (founded by Robert Shaw in 1941) and the Orchestra of St. Luke's was devoted to a faithful re-creation of Barry's much-lauded score, a mixture of classical and modern influences from plainchant to Prokofiev. Actor Timothy Dalton, who made his film debut in THE LION IN WINTER, was on hand to introduce the evening, conducted by Robert Bass. In celebration of John Barry's seventieth birthday, the composer himself strode out to the podium for a rapturous standing ovation after the piece, which was presented accompanied by a specially created assembly of clips from the film while the orchestra and chorus performed most of the score's key sections admirably in synch, with a full and accurate re-creation of Barry's singular and unmistakable sound.
Program selections were: Main Title, Chinon/Eleanor's Arrival, Allons Gai Gai Gai, To the Chapel, How Beautiful You Make Me, Eya Eya Nova Gaudia, God Damn You, The Christmas Wine, To Rome, Media Vita in Morte Sumus, and We're Jungle Creatures.
That's the straight news; now for the gossip...
An hour before the concert, some Carnegie Hall dude whose name I didn't catch brought out John Barry (standing ovation) and Timothy Dalton for a casual Q&A. JB looked cheerful and healthy, if seventy (I hadn't seen him since six years ago at an NYC screening of MIDNIGHT COWBOY)...resplendent in a knockout suit & tie, hair trimmed very short, and seemingly as relaxed as I've ever seen him in front of a crowd. Unfortunately, the interviewer didn't know that Barry--a charming and amusing raconteur when dealing in personalities and anecdotes--hates talking about his "work process." So the first few questions about movie scoring elicited little more than rote replies, delivered in an unenthusiastic drone through that sometimes unintelligible basso Yorkshire gurgle. The New York crowd was entirely with him, however, and laughed appreciatively at JB's occasional mugging and one-liners. Once we got into the "movie stars are creeps," "Saltzman hated GOLDFINGER"-type anecdotes, the audience couldn't get enough and Barry seemed to be genuinely enjoying himself. When one admiring fan asked, in reference to the heart-rending sense of loss that informs SOMEWHERE IN TIME, "what was going on in your life at that time?" Barry shot back, "None of your business," which got a huge laugh and sustained applause.
In the break before the concert proper, I asked a very close contact if any of John's stuff was going to end up in THE INCREDIBLES and the answer, sadly, is no. I offered the speculation that JB is simply at a place where his tolerance for the kind of industry bullshit that's become SOP (endless revisions, micromanagement, no one person in charge) is at zero, and the contact agreed, "It' sub-zero tolerance. He's my favorite movie composer in the world, and it'll be a miracle if he ever scores another film."
After the intermission (or, for my Brit buds, the "interval"---that's "half-time," Terry), I discovered 9-year-old Jonpatrick sitting right behind me, along with a couple of cousins, and (I believe) Laurie's sister and her husband. The Barrys (up in a box) remained for the second half of the concert (Prokofiev's IVAN THE TERRIBLE score, accompanied by clips from the Eisenstein film).
As far as audience attendance was concerned, it seemed like a pretty full house to me, although one cannot see how many of the boxes/balconies are filled from down in the "prime parquet," where we were sitting. My most conservative estimate would be that Carnegie Hall was at least 3/4 full. And a more attentive and respectful audience I haven't seen in my last few years of theatre-going. You could hear a pin drop.
On the way out of the auditorium, I met LION IN WINTER director Anthony Harvey for the second time in twenty years, and... just on my way out the door, I swear, accidentally ran right into John and Laurie coming down the stairs. I never considered, even for a moment, trying to remind JB of our several previous meetings over the years (and that interview we never got round to doing, grrr), but since he was right there in my face, what the hell, I stuck out my hand and said, "Always great to see you, sir. I've been waiting thirty years to give you a standing ovation for that score, and all the others. Come back to this podium soon, and stay longer, will you?" He took my hand in both of his, smiled into my eyes, and said, "Maybe I will."
And that was the best news of the evening.
Oh, by the way, the performance of orchestra and chorus was quite wonderful... capturing the original sound so perfectly I found myself looking around trying to spot the synthesizer. The lead trumpet hit one or two minor melvins during the main title and the volume wasn't turned up to "eleven" as I'd have it on my stereo, but overall it was a superb performance.
By Terry walstrom
07 December 2003
What is the point of slippage? Slippage is a theory of how things are actually "created". Nothing is ever truly original. But, by increments an old way of doing things, or thinking things becomes entirely novel and fresh. This is easily done with musical tunes.
Take the tune GIVE ME THE SIMPLE LIFE and vary the last phrase and Presto! You have the theme to Candid Camera. But, let us go deeper. What if you take action music, for example, and apply slippage. What are the rewards? Onscreen there are frantic images and tense situations, lots of ambient sound, noise, effects, etc. The expectation is music that mimics that activity. For the composer that means writing a lot of notes. For the orchestra: playing fast. For the sound mixer: one more group of sounds to be blended. For the audience? Maybe just too much of everything. All that work the composer went through and the details are blurred into a soup.
What if the composer applies slippage? Instead of hundreds of fast notes he slips in just a few slow notes? What if the tempo is broad and brackets the beginning and end rather than changing lanes like a racecar? What if there is an actual melody instead of riffs and ostinati? After all, how many mood changes can be provoked in an audience? How many emotions SHOULD they be experiencing to move the plot along? Is the purpose of the action an emotionally significant one? Can that be stated in a word? Can the music not stick to that emotional tone and be successful?
Take any recent action movie with music behind it and you'll hear a mammoth wall of sonic assault. In effect, it is bursts of noise played by instruments. The visceral effect is not unlike a large group of people stomping their feet. Raw Energy is what it amounts to. But, is it emotionally informative?
I've stated all the above to make the following statement. Perhaps film composers by using slippage make a huge and important discovery about film music: Simple is better than complex in action music. A broad theme is something the audience can hang on to and stay with EMOTIONALLY. An exhilaration can stem from happiness or anger or awe but it is one emotion. Why duplicate what is onscreen?
Let us take an example: John Barry had many many opportunities to explore the effect of action music in the Bond films. Bond films had in the music a serious tone. My opinion is that the serious tone made the cartoonish action onscreen work much better. With the advent of Dolby sound recording the amount of sonic information delivered to the audience's ears doubled, then tripled over time. A film composer finds his music being drowned out. Melodic composers best efforts were, in effect, destroyed. But, the declamatory composers' efforts were not affected at all.
Not the only problem. With the advent of digital recording and editing the LOCKED DOWN print was a thing of the past for a composer. The scene could be changed and changed and changed again by the editor almost up until the week of release. A carefully timed score based on melody and synchronized action moments would be immediately rendered ineffective when edited. Not so a score with mere short cells of rhythm and chords.
Consequently, the truly gifted melodic composers began vanishing from action films. Enter SLIPPAGE and innovation. John Barry figured out a way. Loooooong, slooooow melody lines so broad it would fit over the entire scene no matter what the quick cut changes because the general definitive mood was in place. The music would "make sense" because it was now a COMPLETE thought as melodies are. It was no longer a salad but a meal. Our ears are accustomed to the usual approach, to be sure. But, I for one like the melodic approach very much.
The greatest tribute to Barry's method is in Dances with Wolves. The melodies are very strong. There is energy and there is content emotionally. The music tells you something as in a complete thought or sentence with the melody as the subject and the tempo as the verb and the emotional result the direct object. Slippage works.
Look at the flight scene in OUT OF AFRICA. The music is very slow and broad. There is no sense of matching the editing tempo to the music. However, the enormity of the exhilaration in realizing the beauty of Africa comes almost entirely from what the music accomplishes. Busy busy busy music simply could never deliver such a wallop.
Producers who are too scared of not being conventional with their music score are missing out on a great deal by not trusting John Barry's journeyman instincts. But, the biggest loss is on the part of the audience. We find it more and more difficult to FEEL something no matter how terrific the special effects onscreen.
I ask you to compare any action scene in a recent James Bond movie scored with wall to wall sonic assault by David Arnold with John Barry's efforts a decade or so earlier. Which is more emotionally satisfying? There is no ONE TRUE answer to this question. After all, like so many things in life it is a matter of taste. But, I'd rather slip out the current method and slip in the emotionally true one.
Long live SLIPPAGE.
By Terry Walstrom
2 December 2003
If you were seated in a room opposite two people having an argument in Chinese you are likely to remember what they did and the tone of their conflict. But, the particulars would certainly be absent; i.e. the why and the wherefore. The general grievances might have substance and merit on both sides, of course, but you'd never know--would you?
Now, change the Chinese couple to people who speak your own language. You could follow the nuances of the argument and fit the dialogue to the general tenor of anger, resentment and rebuttal in a more meaningful way. I submit that action music is analogous. How so?
In John Barry's action music, as we all know so well, there are "words" and "phrases" selected out of the melodic main theme which are always intelligible as such even when "spoken" fast or slow or this instrument and that one.
Take Goldfinger, for an instance of this. In the PRE-title sequence we will hear the "gold-fing-er" phrase in many guises. We will find it parallel with the semi-tone rising and falling James Bond motif too. These occurrences of readily identifiable phrases are like bookmarks that enable our perhaps non-musically educated minds to keep pace with the action onscreen in a discernible way. In effect, we are reading several texts simultaneously (like having three books open in front of us) and skipping from one to the other without losing THE SENSE of any of them in the process. The visual, the general ambient sound or dialogue and the music can fit together and integrate a conglomerate thought which might otherwise be too complex or inexplicable to cohere comprehensively.
From Russia with Love gave me personally the best glimpse into how Barry achieves the cohesion of his style with the film. There are many separate melodic themes that circulate throughout the film. The general genius of fitting them together and overlaying one atop the other is the real prize. The melody to the song From Russia with Love, though it be composed by Lionel Bart, is so elegantly taken apart and reassembled over and over again by John Barry that no matter what new guise it appears in we recognize it as a part of some previous whole.
Take GUITAR LAMENT as an example of this. The melody to Guitar Lament is From Russia with Love refashioned. Five note phrase....two notes...two notes....
From Rush Uh with Love I fly to you.......
behind which is a refashioned James Bond rising and falling figure.
MAN OVERBOARD...Smersh in Action gives us yet another incarnation of FRWL theme in 3/4 time transformed. This too has the James Bond rising falling figure. Now Guitar Lament isn't action music per se. But, it is a gentle way of demonstrating the technique in use.
The real action music is the 007 theme unique on all the Bond films. Barry has a theory about the lurching rhythm of 007 that I always refer to as 3-3-2. (Clusters of eighth notes with the duration of three eighth notes followed by three more and then two for a total of eight to the bar.) Barry believes by breaking up the rhythm into unconventional beats there is a sense of forward movement which is more dynamic than straight accents on 2 and 4 or 1 and 3 which is natural to pop music. Barry lays his very simple theme for horns and brass on top the lurching rhythm and it is all very easy to follow. The in-between accents in the snare drums and instrument groups certainly lend excitement without over-complicating what the mind easily follows.
Without overdoing my explanation I'll just point one thing out. There is a lot going on for the ear to follow individually in 007. However, it isn't difficult at all to comprehend because Barry's logic and layout are exceedingly well chosen. It is actually a surprisngly elegant variation on the old OOM-PAH band technique.
What is the OOM-PAH band technique? In German bands, for example, the tuba player hits the keynote with a loud OOM and the brass plays the "answering" PAH. The tuba lays down the bass with a first and fifth note alternating and the brass echoes the chord with their PAH. What Barry does is substitute the kettledrum or low bass for the Tuba and change the duration to the 3-3-2. The "answering" PAH fits in the spaces. OOM pah pah OOM pah pah OOM pah OOM pah pah OOM pah pah OOM pah. Clever and effective.
Goldsmith, on the other hand has many changes in rhythm per track alternating unexpectedly to keep your sense of expectation off-balance. He might have 4/4 followed by 5/4 and 7/8 or 12/8 without telegraphing in advance which way he is going. He varies his instrument groups and interlaces them with electronic "stings" or supplemental colors constantly. Now you see it--now you don't is the order of the day. I very much enjoy Goldsmith's action music without having instant comprehension of what the music is "saying" internally.
It is a Chinese argument.
For me, raised on songs and singing and lyrical melodicism I am drawn to a song-like leading line in music. Barry really beautifies his action music lyrically. Sometimes it has a disturbing beauty to it. Barry's music for the Diamonds are Forever laser weapon in space is gorgeous and stately---but, lyrical. In The Man with The Golden Gun his action music practically sings the song to you while the orchestra decorates the rhythmic background wittily.
The closest Goldsmith comes to a Barry type score is his OUR MAN FLINT/IN LIKE FLINT films. His theme returns again and again in so many variations and guises it is burned into your subconscious indelibly. Naturally it is obvious he is mining the Bond-like similarities of the films while remaining true to his own muse.
The greatest thrilling action music of Goldsmith, for me, is in films like Papillon and The Wind and the Lion where moments of great lyricism penetrate the kaleidoscopic variants raging in the orchestra in flurries of mathematical complexity.
These two men have invented their own particularities. Of the two you would expect the easier man to imitate is John Barry. You would be wrong! There are more composers imitating Goldsmith than have ever come close to John Barry. Take just two. David Arnold and George S. Clinton. Arnold only appears to complement Barry's style. But, he cheats. He simply traces certain figures familiar to Bond fans and injects them like gravy into a Turkey's innards for flavoring. 75% of Arnold's meandering is furious competing voices in overblown orchestral settings set to thundering drumtracks. George S. Clinton tries to ape the general ambience of a Bond film in Austin Powers films. However, the imitation is so colorless and bland the energy and the humor dissipate rapidly into mere Punch and Judy.
John Barry remains unique among action film composers because his personality is everywhere in the music; that of a master in control of vast forces summoned to do his bidding. The result is so intelligible that the emotional veracity hits the audience with a double whammy and the spellbinding pleasure of total immersion into the shadowy world of film is made into a magical experience.
By Terry walstrom
12 November 2003
In the history of dramatic presentation, the spoken word has reigned supreme until fairly recent times. With the advent of miraculous technology for throwing images up on a large panoramic screen and the infusion of vast surrounds of ambient atmospherics a gradual shift in emphasis has evolved.
Music and pure visual action has all but replaced the spoken word and even in some respects the plot! At first music was the "verb" that connected the visual subject to the object of desire.
Activity onscreen was synonymous with activity in the orchestra pit. So potent and moving was this device that more and more sonic layers have been added over the years in multifarious incarnations. Clever composers developed an approach which seemed a best fit for the marrying of onscreen activity with their musical creations.
Roughly these schemes and strategies fall into the following categories:
In the old days a guy like Tiomkin would use the entire orchestra in a fugue with parts carefully timed to ape (or Mickey Mouse) the action with a sound to match each action flourish.
Bernard Herrmann would repeat a small phrase modulating downscale with large or small choirs of instrumental colors. Or, he'd expostulate brazenly with large percussion canons and flourishing brass stings.
Elmer Bernstein would take 9/8 triplet-like rhythms and break them up in the lower section and let the horns and brass wail on top while the piano gave colorful obbligato decorations in the middle.
John Barry would divide eighth notes into 3-3-2 and alternate chromatic chords atop in a lurching rhythm while a definite memorable melodic phrase floated above.
Lalo Schifrin would take a West Coast Jazz instrument group and add ad lib Tabla drums, stream of consciousness flute and afro-cuban melody fragments.
Jerry Goldsmith would divide the rhythms into cells of uneven groups of beats, blend short motives of melody with electronic amplifications and batteries of percussion colors interspersed with huge blocks of heavy brass, glissandos and varied woodwind combinations.
Henry Mancini would take bass flute, low woodwinds, divided strings and agitato celli up a slow chromatic scale in half-tones with increasing dynamics.
Miklos Rozsa would build grand architectural choirs of instrument groups in a statement of theme and antiphonal "answer" of theme around vigorous brass configurations as counterpoints and obbligatos colored the dynamics.
Contemporary composers appeared. A new kind of action music was born. Melody vanished. Themes were banal or mere accidental motives tossed up by chord changes. Augmentation of acoustic orchestra with heavy batteries of keyboard synths mirrored onscreen action and "punched up" whatever appeared.
Slow builds of walls of sonic amplification became a muscular wallpaper as stings of sampled sounds slashed through the heavy soup with chalk-on-the-blackboard psychology.
You could transplant this "action" music from film to film and hardly recognize any switch had taken place.
Ah, Brave new world.
By Terry walstrom
08 June 2003
If we regard a film such as King Kong as an exception because it was shot while he was scoring it, we find he has a preferred approach. He likes to read the script FIRST before accepting an assignment. Why? It might be a strong tip-off that crap is on the way!
Barry likes to know what the decision-maker on the film wants for the background score. Why? He has been chainsawed from disagreements between a director and producer before (i.e. Born Free).
Barry likes to have - at least - a rough cut of the film to work from. Why? He is stimulated in the right direction by the Je ne sais quoi that emanates from the screen which no script can divulge in advance. Barry is attracted to the emotional core of a film. Is love, passion, revenge, loss, pathos the pivot point? If so, Barry can identify with that and his muse awakens.
Sometimes he is merely attracted by a genre or a director or a writer attached to a film's ethos. The Bruce Lee film Game Of Death lured him because of the worldwide magic of Lee's cult following. The Tamarind Seed had Blake Edwards at the helm and two fine actors at the center of the spy genre which was different in every way from his previous Bond forays into that oeuvre. Dances With Wolves was scenic, panoramic but personal--with one man at the center of the drama. All these considerations aside.... John Barry watches the key scenes over and over on his little viewing screen Moviola. He sits at his piano and plays chords while watching the flow of the images. The chords, the mood, the marriage of image and sound trigger that primal wellspring of dramatic affinity within his musical soul.
When an idea catches fire he fleshes it out. No electronic keyboards and software for this veteran gentleman! The sharpened pencil and staff paper are his companions as he, as Beethoven and Prokofiev before him, dots in the bass notes, the harmonic progression and the all-important topline of melody - glorious melody! In a jazz oriented score such as The Knack, Barry primarily uses the core idea of a strong melody which can sustain variation upon variation as the unifying element around which the score is built.
John Barry has an extraordinary gift for arranging. What instruments will play, in what combinations and how they will nip and tuck together and separately are the lifeblood of his special "sound". From his unique experience as a musician who has played ensemble with a group in front of a live audience Barry has one phenomenal advantage over conservatory trained composers. Barry knows that the flesh and blood lips and fingers of the person blowing, plucking and strumming are the center of gravity, the science and the magic of what the audience will hear and, especially - FEEL when the music is heard at last.
How much freedom will JB pencil in for the musicians? It goes like this. Barry has the central terra firma on paper; the chord progressions, the harmony, the punctuations of rhythm and cadence and the skeleton of form and function. But, he knows personally that there must be room for an improvising musician to let loose and *feel* their way through a moment in time. On The Knack, for example, Alan Haven is improvising his way through 99% of the score which imparts a looseness which would otherwise be missing. Often the muted trumpet part is ad lib. A coda to a piece can suddenly erupt with improvisation and madcap mayhem lending a New Orleans smoky cafe atmosphere to an otherwise conventional play through. The essential concept stitching together the various parts is the byplay and movement of the musical activity between groups and individuals. No stiffness allowed!
Do musicians enjoy working under his baton? The man is a legend! He knows his stuff. He understands his own music as a musician first and as a listener. There is little that is "old school" in his approach. He has played gigs as a trumpeter and bandleader. Fun, but no nonsense - that's our man. In the recording studio with the film running on the big screen at a session Barry often finds a last minute remedy for a scene that isn't working.
At the Goldfinger recording session, for example, he realised something was missing upfront. He had not composed the trumpet fanfare at the outset of Goldfinger, only the chords. Instinctively, on the spot, he wrote the now famous brass intro - and the rest is -well, an amazing moment in musical history.
He can change a line, add a harmony, excise a pattern that isn't working or create a miracle on the spot while the musicians warm their chairs. No mean feat - but, one of the major reasons he lasted so long in an industry that sweeps up yesterday’s heroes and dumps them in the dustbin with nary a blink of an eye.
The above is a loose accounting of the manner and method of a man alone. Once the contract is signed and millions of dollars invested in a fragile medium that can sink into oblivion if the audience is indifferent - Barry goes to work much as a surgeon with dying patient's heart in his hand. It is all up to him! His success and our collective enthusiasm testify to his expertise as a miracle worker par excellence!
Vive la Barry!
Geoff Leonard and Pete Walker - March 8, 2003
Disc magazine published in June 1959, following the release of his third (and ultimately unsuccessful) single, Adam Faith declared that his ambition was to become an actor/director - not a singer. Nine years, thirty-five singles, twenty-four chart entries, fifteen EPs, seven albums later; he finally decided to leave the record industry to concentrate fully on fulfilling his thespian dream. Over the next thirty-four years, Faith was to achieve at least the major part of this long-held ambition by becoming one of Britain's most popular stars of stage and screen. However, during his singing career with EMI, he vied with Cliff Richard as the UK's most popular male singer and pop-idol.
Adam Faith was born Terry Nelhams in Acton, London on June 23rd 1940, the third of five children. He attended John Perryn secondary modern school, Acton, and from the age of twelve was soon able to demonstrate his entrepreneurial skills by means of a series of paper rounds, which enabled him to finance his own clothes budget. This was augmented further when he started selling papers from a pitch to enable him to pay for more than, 100 worth of other 'gear'. This gear included a record player and an impressive bicycle, both costing around, 28; a large sum indeed by nineteen-fifties standards. All this was achieved before he left school, at which point he embarked on his first full-time job as an odd-job boy for a silk screen printer close to his home.
After only a few weeks with this company, he heard of a vacancy for a messenger boy at Rank Screen Services and was taken on at the princely sum of, 3.50 per week dedicating himself to the task of obtaining a transfer to the studios. However, after a year elapsed without any sign of his move, he left to join a company in Wardour Street, Soho, known as T.V. Advertising Ltd. This was a period when he, like many of his peers, was bitten by the skiffle bug which was then sweeping Britain. His first great idol was Lonnie Donegan who inspired him to form his first group with colleagues from work. They called themselves 'The Worried Men' after one of their most popular numbers, 'Worried Man Blues'. According to Nelhams, they played all the local Soho expresso coffee bars - Mars, The Cat's Whiskers, Orlando's, The Skiffle Cellar and of course the famous Two I's, where they eventually became resident.
Six-Five Special T.V. programme had a reputation for originality. One idea was to broadcast a show direct from the Two Is. Naturally, as the resident band, The Worried Men opened and closed the programme, valuable exposure, and, ultimately, Nelham's first big break.
HMV label on the strength of the T.V. appearance, but also helped him choose the now familiar name, Adam Faith. Faith's debut disc combined '(Got a) Heartsick Feeling' with 'Brother Heartache & Sister Tears', and was released in January 1958. It received very little publicity either in the form of music press coverage or from EMI's own advertisement department. Not surprisingly it failed to make any impression on the charts. Despite all Good's confidence in him, he failed to make any immediate impression on television either, but gave him another opportunity when he booked him to appear in his stage show version of Six-Five Special. 'The John Barry Seven' were also on the bill and this brief first meeting with Barry was later to prove of vital importance. However, the stage show wasn't the success Good envisaged, and after just four performances, Faith found himself out of work.
National Studios at Elstree. It was while he was there he received a phone call from John Barry in March of 1959, inviting him to audition for Drumbeat. This new programme was an attempt by BBC television to counter ATV's popular Oh Boy! show. After sufficiently impressing producer Stewart Morris, he landed an initial contract for three shows which was later extended to the full 22 week run. Drumbeat commenced in April and the following month, Faith, although out of contract with HMV, was once again heard on vinyl; performing one track, 'I Vibrate', as part of a six-track E.P. released by the Fontana label. Fontana's publicity claimed this to be "a direct recording from a BBC telecast!"
'Ah, Poor Little Baby' / 'Runk Bunk') was released on the 6th June, with only the former side benefiting from an arrangement and accompaniment by John Barry. Both sides, incidentally, were produced by Tony Hatch, just prior to his appointment as an A & R manager at Pye/Piccadilly Records. Unfortunately, the record once again failed to attract the pop pundit, but on this occasion Faith was clearly hindered by a total absence of publicity caused by the release date unluckily coinciding with a national printing strike! Despite the failure of his first three records, Faith was becoming very well known and popular through his Drumbeat appearances. Acting still held a sway for him, and in August he announced his intention of taking drama and elocution classes, in order to enhance his acting potential. It was about half-way through the Drumbeat series when Faith attracted the attention of film producer George Willoughby, who was searching for a young pop singer to appear in his new film, 'Beat Girl', then in pre- production stage. Although Faith had little record success up till then, Willoughby was struck by his stage presence and so signed him on the strength of this. The script called for Faith to sing a couple of songs. As Barry was by then arranging not only Faith's recordings but also his live Drumbeat material, it came as no surprise when the film company asked him to write the score to accompany Faith's big screen debut - Barry's own very first steps into the world of film music composing.
Drumbeat album, recorded on the 10th May at Abbey Road Studios, London and released two months later. On this LP, the rock 'n' roll influence remained. Faith sang three numbers - 'Say Mama', 'C'mon Everybody' and 'Believe What You Say' all accompanied by John Barry.
The Raindrops vocal trio. Worth was to become the final piece in the Parlophone backroom jigsaw that catapulted Faith from contender to champion in the pop market place. Worth, born in Battersea, London on 21st June 1931, began working as a draughtsman prior to his compulsory two years national service. On returning to civvy street, he was determined to stay out of office work and make his name as a singer. Like many singers, he also aspired towards song-writing although his first three attempts were rejected out of hand by music publishers. However, when Faith, striking up a friendship with him on the Drumbeat set, asked if he had any material suitable for recording, Worth approached JB7 pianist Les Reed to help him arrange a demo of one of these initial songs - 'What Do You Want?'. Barry has always been credited with the idea of using pizzicato strings (inspired by Buddy Holly's "Raining In My Heart"), but according to Worth, this was entirely his own brainchild. Because he was still under contract to Oriole, Worth felt the need to adopt a pseudonym whilst writing songs and so was born Les Vandyke. This was derived by combining Reed's own first name with Worth's London telephone exchange!
'What Do You Want?' (c/w 'From Now Until Forever') was recorded at Abbey Road studios on September 25th 1959 - a mere month after Drumbeat ended. At the same time Faith was also signed to appear in an episode of Rediffusion's No Hiding Place TV series. Norman Newell, Faith and Barry's A & R manager, was unable to produce the recording session. As a result, assistant John Burgess took the helm in his absence, and was to do so for the remainder of Faith's EMI career. According to Barry, on hearing the record, one of EMI's executives publicly declared his disapproval, vowing that Barry would on no account ever be allowed to take part in any more sessions! After the recording Barry admitted that both he and Faith were despondent following previous commercial failures. This time they were determined to impose their own personal tastes far more emphatically than they had done previously, when the flavour of the day tended to override aesthetic considerations.
The New Musical Express and Disc, manager Eve Taylor still insisted that Faith's future lay in acting. Keith Fordyce, writing in the former, praised Barry's arrangement and choice of instrumentation - Jack Good, columnist in its rival, applauded the production, tipping chart success on both sides of the Atlantic. EMI, perhaps scenting success, mounted a strong advertising campaign - promoting the single far more vigorously than either of Faith's first two HMV releases.
Disc, Eve Taylor, recognising good copy when she saw it, claimed Faith had definitely made his last record to concentrate on acting, citing his appearance in a ninety-minute drama for Rediffusion TV at the end of year, as evidence. Despite this, 'What Do You Want?' was given a considerable boost when it was played and voted a unanimous hit on BBC TV's Juke Box Jury, and when Faith sang it live on an edition of ATV's Boy Meets Girl.
The Record Mirror's 'British Only' chart listed 'What Do You Want?' as a new entry at number nine. Clearly, interest was growing, to a point when it entered the N.M.E. charts at number eighteen the following week. Adam Faith, singer, had clearly arrived. His mentor, Jack Good, whilst applauding his success, claimed his acting actually improved his singing. He also mentioned that the song was initially rejected by Johnny Kidd, although Worth denied this, maintaining that he had refused permission for Kidd to use it when the singer had wanted to give it a rock 'n' roll treatment. Another surprise arrived with the revelation that the orchestral backing consisted of just four strings, with two tenor saxes suggesting the sound of a cello.
'Poor Me' was released with 'WDYW' still at number two in the charts! Faith had finished recording his Beat Girl songs just three days previously and had signed to appear in another film - Moment Of Truth. The following day, he received a silver disc for 'What Do You Want', awarded for sales of 250,000 and appeared on BBC Radio's Saturday Club, following this with a guest appearance on the Beverley Sister's TV show on 25th January, where he sang 'Poor Me'. This song, another originally rejected by several music publishers in its original incarnation as 'Poor Man', shot to number one in the U.K. charts, despite some criticism from Buddy Holly fans. It was felt by some that Faith and Barry were contriving a backing and singing style that leaned far too heavily on the late lamented singer. The first Faith hit was compared principally to 'It Doesn't Matter Anymore' while 'Poor Me' was likened to 'Heartbeat'. Barry certainly never denied the accusation although it is probably fairer to say he adopted rather than copied the sound; an individual sound which itself was soon to be widely imitated throughout the popular music scene.
Never Let Go, commenced filming on 22nd February, and starred Peter Sellers and Richard Todd. With his newly acquired wealth generated from two number one singles, he announced his plan to buy a new car, a new house for his parents and to invest the rest! (a significant move in light of his subsequent financial success). He also revealed that 'Poor Me' took longer to make than 'WDYW' and outlined details of his first album project. At this juncture, he signed to embark upon his very first variety tour yet fitted time in to record a couple of tracks for EMI's 'Fings Ain't What They Used To Be' LP - 'Big Time' and 'Carve Up'. His own debut album, Adam, was scheduled to be recorded in March, touring schedule permitting.
'Big Time' / 'Someone Else's Baby', was released on the 8th April while 'Poor Me' was still at fifteen in the charts, and was advertised as a double 'A' side, in an attempt to demonstrate Faith's versatility. 'Big Time' was an archetypal big band show stopper taken from Lionel Bart's musical, Fings Ain't What They Used To Be. Here was Faith in quite a different guise. The flip, however, owed more to the usual formula, though on this occasion, Faith's enunciation of 'baby' was even more exaggerated. The song was written mainly by Perry Ford, with some help from Johnny Worth, who, at this point, revealed his rather curious way of composing - using an old out-of-tune piano given to him by his father-in-law.
Embassy, whose distribution was confined to the huge Woolworth chain. As these records were considerably cheaper than those put out by the majors, and always consisted of two current hits (albeit cover versions) sales were quite respectable.
Never Let Go was favourably reviewed in the music press, and premiered on 2nd June at the Leicester Square Odeon, London. This, Faith's second film, starred Peter Sellers in a rare villainous role alongside Richard Todd and Elizabeth Sellars. Faith, himself, played the part of Tommy Towers - a small-time tearaway. On this occasion, his only musical contribution was to sing 'Johnny' over the end titles. Barry adapted the traditional American folk song, while Lionel Bart, oddly, credited under the pseudonym John Maitland, updated the lyrical content. At this point, Beat Girl was still waiting in the queue of X certificate films to be released.
'Made You' / 'When Johnny Comes Marching Home' was released on 17th June, a week after Faith turned down an offer to act in Irish Jade, another George Willoughby production. The first pressing of 'Made You' amounted to a phenomenal 80,000 copies, based on initial enquiries through dealers and was aided and abetted by publicity resulting from Faith's appearance on ITV's Cool For Cats and Saturday Club. Once again, the single was released with Faith's previous record - on this occasion 'Someone Else's Baby' - still firmly entrenched in the top twenty. By now, Faith was also receiving good notices for his concert performances (most notably at the Blackpool Hippodrome), while in the NME's June chart survey, he even overtook Cliff Richard! Both sides of the new release made the top ten, despite a BBC airplay ban for 'Made You', on the grounds of exhibiting a lewd and salacious lyric!
Adam finally started with Faith and the JB7 travelling down to London from Blackpool overnight. A six-hour session ensued which was repeated the following Sunday. During a discussion after the session, Faith revealed a desire to do a TV and West End play as well as becoming an LP artist, while John Barry announced his intention of toning down the pizzicato effect on Faith's next single. This was released on September 9th, combining 'How About That' with 'With Open Arms'. Apparently, manager Evelyn Taylor, jokingly suggested to Worth that he should write a song entitled ‘How About That Then?' in recognition of one of her most well-used phrases. Worth duly obliged, more as a joke than anything else, yet didn't tell anyone until he'd finished it. The finished product, shortened to 'How About That', became another huge hit for the team. Barry, commenting on the arrangement said, "I've used strings and rhythm as before for the main side, but kept the pizzicato down to a minimum." However, the difference was not all that apparent, although the 'b' side, a Burt Bacharach / Hal David composition, featured the distinctive sound of a tuba.
Apache & Please Don't Tease. Faith himself was voted eighteenth most popular world musical personality, seventh world male singer, third British vocal personality and second British male singer. His success was splendid news for film producer George Willoughby, who was looking for a means of promoting Beat Girl, on the eve of its impending release. Although Faith had a sizeable part in this film he was by no means its star. Nevertheless, Willoughby was able to exploit his pop-star status by selling Beat Girl on his name. It finally opened at the London Pavilion on 28th October, to very mixed reviews, though Faith's own performance and the music were highly commended.
Dick Whittington at Wimbledon. The panto opened on Christmas Eve, and it was there where Faith revealed a desire to widen the scope of film roles offered to him. After playing two rebellious characters, he was conscious of becoming typecast.
Lonely Pup, was written by Scottish bandleader Archie Alexander. Freddy Poser of Mills Music explained how this came about: "Archie brought it in to me and wanted a decision on the spot. I liked it so I took a chance and accepted it with Adam in mind. When I took it round and showed it to him, Eve Taylor and John Barry, they all flipped for it at once." The 'B' side, 'Greenfinger', was written by Jack Lewis. True to form, the record again made the top ten, but Barry's arrangement for 'Lonely Pup' was criticised by Nina and more particularly by her singing partner Frederik on the BBC TV programme, Juke Box Jury. When asked to comment on this, Faith said that he felt the duo were out of touch with the current music scene.
Adam was released on 4th November to much acclaim - as much for the inventiveness of musical director John Barry's arrangements, as for Faith's own performances. The breadth of chosen material ranged from standards as diverse as 'Summertime', 'Hit The Road To Dreamland' and 'Singin' In The Rain' to more contemporary songs, such as Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman's 'I'm A Man', Johnny Worth's 'Fare Thee Well My Pretty Maid', and Howard Guyton's 'Wonderful Time'.
Face To Face programme - a major coup this, for Faith. Transmitted live on December 11th, Faith surprised many a viewer by dint of his resolution and alertness in the face of some tough questioning from presenter John Freeman.
Dick Whittington duly opened with the very first performance lasting a marathon three and a half hours, culminating in a 25 minute impromptu concert, during which time he performed most of his hits. He opened with the recent Bob Luman hit, 'Let's Think About Living' and ended with 'Lonely Pup', on which he was joined by children invited from the audience. Johnny Worth specially altered some of the lyrics to fit in with the pantomime's plot. Drawing a spectacular 1960 to a close, Faith and Barry appeared on Christmas Eve's Saturday Club, at a time when both his current E.P. and L.P. were top five in their respective charts.
On The Fiddle, although nothing transpired of this. January also saw Faith bouncing back after the somewhat lack-lustre critical response to his Christmas record, with a double 'A' sided Johnny Worth penned effort, 'Who Am I?' / 'This Is It'.
Disc, writing in the vernacular of the day, enjoyed the record: "'Who Am I?' is a very brisk romancer which lilts along brilliantly to a strings and chorus backing (the Vernons Girls) directed as always by John Barry. I like the wide open noise of this half. Faith's performance is as good, perhaps better than ever. 'This Is It' is also riding a quick pace with strings a-plucking and chorus ah-ahing in the rear. Tune's a simple one, and the lyric matches. Polished arrangement and performance lift it high. With either half - another hit." Although this review is undeniably couched in the non-critical style evocative of its time, it does, however, clearly illustrate Faith's elevated status in the music industry during 1961. As predicted, both sides climbed into the top ten bringing the Faith/Barry/Worth team to the fore once more. Faith celebrated its success by consulting Sir Gordon Richards about the feasibility of buying a race-horse.
The Kitchen. Written by Worth, but this time accompanied by Johnny Dankworth, it was surprisingly overlooked for commercial release; all the more surprising given Faith's considerable fan-base. On 5th March he appeared at the N.M.E poll-winners concert (televised on 25th March by ATV) and on 12th March was the mystery guest on BBC TV's What's My Line. At the concert, he sang 'Wonderful Time', 'Singin' In The Rain', 'What Do You Want?', 'Worried Man', 'Lonesome Traveller', 'Who Am I?' & 'When Johnny Comes Marching Home'.
'Easy Going Me' / 'Wonderin''- on 22nd April 1961, saw Faith renew his acquaintance with Lionel Bart, who wrote the 'A' side. All the characteristic ingredients were evident but, in the midst of some luke-warm reviews, the record only reached number 12. From certain quarters of the music press, criticism was levelled at the arrangement. Faith's records and arrangements were, it was suggested, becoming a little too predictable and formalised. Nevertheless, the record remained in the charts for ten weeks. Faith's new film, What A Whopper, started filming at Pinewood on 23rd May, where, in spite of emphatic denials, he was linked romantically with actress Juliet Mills, following sightings of them out together. On the 23rd June, in celebration of his 21st birthday, Disc presented him with a special E.P. record containing spoken tributes from Barry, Worth, Newell, Taylor, Good & Cliff Richard.
'Don't You Know It', was the complete absence of pizzicato strings. Suddenly, here was an Adam Faith 45 that didn't possess the archetypal Faith sound. Experimentation was the key buzzword on this release, one which was dominated by Ted Taylor on clavioline. In truth, the song was simply stylised in the standard pop form of the day in typical ‘Runaway’ style. Faith couldn't please everyone, however, as some reviewers this time round accused him of being too gimmicky. The flip-side, 'My Last Wish', was the first occasion on which Barry and Johnny Worth combined to write a song. Ultimately, the record made exactly the same progress chart-wise as its predecessor.
Holiday show - a seven week tour of coastal towns beginning at Southampton on 3rd July - The Red Price Combo provided the backing, as the JB7 were not on the bill. In September, during the same month he started recording his new album (Adam Faith), he embarked upon a new venture, a fortnight in cabaret. Backed by the JB7 rhythm section during a fifty minute set and watched by many celebrities, his debut in this field proved successful despite his misfortune in slipping, then falling over after his opening number on the very first night. His short cabaret run was followed by a one-hour TV spectacular on 30th September for ATV.
What A Whopper, was premiered during the summer although the title song was not considered strong enough for single release. Instead he chose a song from the film, entitled 'The Time Has Come' written, as usual by Johnny Worth. This reached number four in the charts, and fared better than the film, which opened at the Rialto, London on 28th September, to a terrible pasting from the press. In reaching number eleven in November, 'The Time Has Come', ended a six weeks absence from the charts - his longest gap since 'What Do You Want?'. Faith was reported to be still very keen on pursuing a film career, but not on embarking on a stage musical. A recording of ATV's All Kinds Of Music, was accompanied by the welcome news that the N.M.E. December poll results placed him at number nine in the world musical personality ratings, sixth world male singer, first British musical personality (ahead of Richard & Donegan) and second British male singer (behind Richard). 'The Time Has Come' was even voted seventh best British disc of the year; Faith's hard core following were obviously NME readers!
New Musical Express, itself, responded to criticism from Faith fans that the paper had previously treated him unfairly in relation to their coverage of Cliff Richard and Elvis Presley, by printing a track by track review of his next album - which they loved! The fourteen-track LP included three songs composed by writer/actor Trevor Peacock, who, like Johnny Worth, had first encountered Faith on the set of Drumbeat when he acted as compere. Among the tracks were Peacock’s 'As Long As You Keep Loving Me', 'Watch Your Step' (the subsequent single), 'A Help-Each-Other-Romance', 'Sho Know A Lot AboutLove', and an excellent version of Buddy Holly's 'I'm Gonna Love You Too'.
'Lonesome'. Admittedly the flip, a raucous vocal version of the recent JB7 instrumental, 'Watch Your Step', was more in character but in 'Lonesome', Faith took an artistic gamble in promoting this slower number as the 'A' side. Most reviewers welcomed the change of mood and couldn't see the disc failing at all, whilst a few wondered how Faith's following would react. In the event the record peaked at number 12 and spent 9 weeks in the charts and so the gamble could be said to have paid off. Certainly Faith was reported as being happy with the change.
Meeting Point and discussed both religious and moral issues with the Archbishop of York - Dr. Donald Coggan; some subsequent reports of these talks erroneously attribute them to the Face To Face programme. The interview was later covered in Time magazine. In view of his frequent television, radio and recording sessions, Faith decided he needed a London retreat and duly purchased a flat in the West End.
'You Can Do It If You Try', but this was never released in any form at the time. This was probably due to the impending release of Peter Gordeno's own vocal version, using a very similar Barry arrangement.
Mix Me a Person, which was due to start filming immediately after this short period of recuperation. He also revealed that he was writing a comedy script with his agent, Colin Berlin. Recording sessions, however, always took priority. On 29th March, therefore, Faith embarked upon further recordings with the John Barry Orchestra, some destined for Mix Me A Person. His new single, 'As You Like It' coupled with the tongue-in-cheek 'Face To Face' was released on 28th April, and climbed to number five, ensuring Faith his thirteenth consecutive hit - one more than his main rival Cliff Richard had achieved at this stage. Eve Taylor announced that he would star as Aladdin in pantomime that Xmas in Bournemouth.
Dan Farson Meets and on 23rd June, Thank Your LuckyStars. August dawned with good reviews for Mix Me A Person which opened in London. This, his fourth film, was a thriller in which his character (Harry Jukes) spent a great deal of time behind bars. He did manage to sing a couple of songs, however, en route; the title song and a version of 'La Bamba' both emanating from that March session with Barry.
'Don't That Beat All', arranged in the style of the black American 'hully gully' sound, dubbed 'Country Gully' by Johnny Worth, who had previously written successfully in this style for Eden Kane. The film theme song, 'Mix Me A Person', constituted the flip-side, while, at the same time a new album was being planned, to incorporate new backings and arrangements at Faith's insistence. A new BBC TV series, Adam Faith Sings Songs Old And New, commenced on 19th September - six half-hour shows, all telerecorded the previous evening. Keating acted as the orchestral arranger while The Roulettes, making their TV debut, were introduced as Faith's new on-stage backing group.
'Baby Take A Bow', with the 12 track From Adam With Love album. Other tracks included 'Ballad Of A Broken Heart', '(I'm) Knocking On Wood' (the 'B' side of 'Baby Take A Bow'), 'Learning To Forget' and 'You 'N' Me'. On discussing his new single, Faith admitted that the arrangement for 'Baby Takes A Bow' owed a debt to the style of John Barry, but didn't necessarily believe this was a regressive step. Both sides, on which Faith was again accompanied by Johnny Keating, were written by Johnny Worth, but it stalled at number twenty-two. Faith attributed his poor chart placing to the recent bad weather (fog and smog). Climatic changes notwithstanding, it slipped out of the charts after only six weeks and was Faith's least successful record since his career took off. Incidentally, "Baby Take A Bow" was to be the last Faith hit composed by Johnny Worth, although he continued to write hits for other artists during the remainder of the sixties. Faith ended 1962 back on stage in panto at Bournemouth, starring in Aladdin.
'What Now', written by Finnish songwriter James Jacques, with 'WhatHave I Got?', penned by Johnny Worth. After the relative failure of his last single, Faith was grateful for the opportunity of singing it on Thank Your Lucky Stars the day after its release, but the record proved less successful than its predecessor in terms of both chart placing (thirty-one) and time spent in the charts (five weeks). Meanwhile, The Roulettes, who had released their own first record, an instrumental version of 'La Bamba' the previous October, underwent another change of personnel, when Russell Ballard took over from Henry Stracey. He was actually recruited to play keyboards but proved so accomplished a guitarist that he was soon sharing lead parts with Peter Thorpe. They were forced to make one final change two months later, after the tragic death of bassist John Rogers, killed in a car crash; with John 'Mod' Rogan, who hailed from West Hartlepool, taking over.
Please Please Me and recalls this as the point when he realised that life in the cut-throat world of song-writing was sure to become far more difficult for him. As a result, even more care than usual was taken over the choice of Faith's next single, the release of which was delayed until the 22nd June. 'Walkin' Tall' / 'Just Mention My Name' emerged as the final choice and was once again arranged by Johnny Keating. Despite all the care and attention given to this selection, the record fared only marginally better than 'What Now' peaking at number twenty-three. Faith, with the Roulettes in tow, started a Bridlington summer season on 24th June, undeterred, and was said to be in line for the title role in a forth-coming West-End musical, Tom Sawyer, written & scored by Tom Boyd, despite previous misgivings expressed about this genre.
Chris Ravel and The Ravens on early editions of Oh Boy!, and who had paid his dues undertaking a long and arduous club residency in Hamburg. He rewarded her faith in him by composing 'The First Time', released on 6th September, which became Faith's biggest hit for over a year. The 'b' side, 'So Long Baby', was composed, somewhat surprisingly, by veteran band-leader Cyril Stapleton! Faith vigorously and successfully promoted 'The First Time' with appearances on Saturday Club on 27th October and ITV's Comedy Bandbox on 9th November. This single marked the first occasion on which he worked with the Roulettes in the studio, although Keating remained in charge of the overall accompaniment.
For You, was to feature thirteen cover versions of familiar pop hits, in an orchestral setting. Among the tracks chosen were 'My Kind Of Girl'. 'Let There Be Love' & 'Lazy River'. As a representative example from this LP, 'Forget Me Not' is included in this package; a Johnny Worth song which had been a hit for Eden Kane the previous year. On the 4th October, Faith left for the U.S.A. where he recorded two more Chris Andrews tracks intended for the Tom Sawyer musical - Talk To Me' & 'Promise Of Love'. However, shortly after he returned, the production of Tom Sawyer was postponed indefinitely due to the lack of a suitable theatre in London.
'We Are In Love' / 'Made For Me', both sides penned by Chris Andrews, but also the aforementioned album. He also announced his intention of starring in the New Years Eve edition of Ready Steady Go. The overtly Beatle-like 'We Are In Love' consolidated the impetus generated by 'The First Time', by reaching number eleven, and running up a total of twelve weeks in the charts. The December N.M.E. poll, placed Faith as fourteenth most popular world male singer, twenty-fifth world musical personality and fourth British male singer. Faith was clearly riding the Mersey wave with some aplomb. What's more he was invited to appear on Sunday Night at the Prince of Wales on 22nd December and Sunday Night at the London Palladium on 29th December - his first appearance there for three years.
'If He Tells You' (which reached number 25 in the charts). The Roulettes were required once more for backing purposes, although Ralph Carmichael rather than Johnny Keating took up the arranging mantle for the 'b' side, 'Talk To Me'. The record was released at the beginning of March as a precursor to a fully fledged Andrews composed LP. Entitled On The Move, this album demonstrated Faith's complete confidence in Andrews' song-writing ability. However, he did himself few favours when he suggested to Eve Taylor that Andrews should also start writing for Sandie Shaw, a singer discovered and introduced to Taylor by Faith himself. Despite three more minor Andrews-inspired hits, it seemed that the writer was now concentrating his best efforts for Miss Shaw. Hindsight proves that this was the right direction to take.
'I Love Being In Love With You' disappointingly spent a mere six weeks in the U.K. charts. However, its poor performance on this side of the Atlantic was offset by the success of its "B" side, 'It's Alright', in the American Billboard charts where it reached number 31, thereby securing for Faith his only real success there to date. He attributed its popularity to its exposure on American television's Shindig, a show devised by his old mentor Jack Good, who preferred 'It's Alright''s fashionable Mersey sound. Americans bought it in sufficient quantities to justify Good's faith in the song.
'A Message To Martha', on which he was accompanied by new musical director Ken Woodman -who was also working with Sandie Shaw. Bacharach and David were one of pop's hottest tickets in 1964. Record companies, on this side of the Atlantic, plundered their back catalogue to provide quality material for UK acts determined to make an initial chart impact; Cilla Black and Sandie Shaw among them. Faith was therefore clearly playing safe, with what turned out to be a fine rendition. In fact, it restored him to the top twenty over the Christmas period and was his biggest hit since 'The First Time'. The song was also included on an e.p. entitled A Message - From Adam, along with the Chris Andrews composition, 'Come Closer'.
'Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself' / 'I've Gotta See My Baby'. Although reasonably placed at twenty three, it was becoming evident that Faith, himself, was rapidly becoming disenchanted with the pop-world. He announced his intention of going into repertory in an effort to re-establish his acting credentials, which had necessarily taken a back seat of late. Nevertheless, he continued to record for Parlophone and on the 23rd March, released 'Hand Me Down Things', written by American Andrew Sparks, coupled with 'Talk About Love', another Andrews song. This single completely failed to capture the imagination of the record-buying public. Perhaps he simply chose the wrong song on this occasion, for it might have been a very different story had he chosen instead, another Andrews song, 'I'll Stop At Nothing', (included on a recent E.P., Songs And Things). Within a few weeks of hearing it, Sandie Shaw recorded and released her own version which duly reached the top five!
Faith Alive - live in the sense of being recorded with no overdubs in front of a specially invited audience at Abbey Road Studios. On this LP, Faith was backed solely by the Roulettes, and of the fourteen tracks, only five emanated from Andrews’ pen. The others comprised of 'classic' rock 'n' roll songs such as 'Little Queenie' and 'Heartbreak Hotel', together with an acknowledgement to the Beatles in the form of a version of 'I Wanna Be Your Man'. This album proved extremely popular and actually reached number fourteen in the album charts.
'Someone's Taken Maria Away', provided Faith with another minor hit in June, but the decline in his popularity was ably demonstrated the following month, when for the first time since 1960, he was unplaced in a music paper poll listing top world male vocalists - though he did manage to scrape into the British section. Although The Roulettes played on 'Someone's Taken Maria Away', and the subsequent single, 'I Don't Need That Kind Of Lovin'', this turned out to be their swan-song. On the 7th October, they announced their decision to concentrate on their own recording career. As Bob Henrit recalls: "Adam was moving more into ballads, and anyway we felt that we needed to be a fully-fledged band in our own right, not just a backing group."
'If Ever You Need Me', (the former's 'B' side) illustrated his interpretive skills as a vocalist. Perhaps Faith's heart lay in a completely different field of entertainment. Music had become, subconsciously at any rate, little more than a perfunctory chore. Nevertheless, his spirited cover of Bob Lind's 'Cheryl's Goin' Home' restored him to the top fifty, albeit briefly, and proved to be Faith's final chart placing as the lure of the grease paint beckoned.
'What More Can Anyone Do' (his final Chris Andrews song), 'Cowman Milk Your Cow' (an early Bee Gees composition), John D. Loudermilk's 'To Hell With Love' and Tony Romeo's 'Close The Door'. However, for Faith, the event which overshadowed all others that year, was undoubtedly his marriage to former dancer, Jackie Irving. Quite possibly his biggest commercial coup was in persuading Sandie Shaw to perform and record 'Puppet On A String' - a decision she was later to regret. Not only did it become the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest, but it also reached number one in the U.K. and in a plethora of other European countries. Faith convinced her it was in her best interests to sing it, after she had fallen out with Eve Taylor over its merits as a song. Her gratitude to Faith for his advice was somewhat tempered, however, when Taylor revealed much later that he had a financial interest in her and the song's publishers! Clearly Faith's aptitude for spotting an investment opportunity had not diminished.
'You Make My Life Worthwhile'. Arranged and conducted by Ken Woodman, it was an excellent recording which deserved a better fate, but with Faith opting to make his stage debut playing Feste in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, he was in no position to promote it. In view of this, both he and EMI decided to part company; Faith, the actor, was consigning Faith, the pop star, to the annals of music history.
Night Must Fall, playing opposite Dame Sybil Thorndike. In effect, this amounted to his big break; his stage equivalent of appearing on 'Drumbeat'! In the autumn of '69 he took the lead in a touring version of Billy Liar, and eighteen months later found renewed television fame in the title role of Budgie.
Budgie in 1988, Faith has since concentrated almost solely on acting and has gone a considerable way to achieving his ambition expressed so lucidly back in 1959, prior to his nineteenth birthday.
Stardust and McVicar, and also found time to immerse himself in the management side of the rock industry. Budding agent and song-writer Dave Courtney (who Faith knew as a result of his association with The Roulettes) introduced him to former busker Leo Sayer. Instantly impressed by Sayer's vocal prowess and song-writing ability, he immediately set out a strategy for launching his protégée, and, as a direct spin-off, also produced a solo album for The Who's Roger Daltry, which contained a selection of Sayer/Courtney songs.
THE MAIL ON SUNDAY, aptly titled 'Faith In The City', which epitomised the "get rich quick" philosophy espoused in that Thatcher-drenched decade. It ended on something of a sour note when he was prevented from issuing a free fact sheet which promised to make its recipients millionaires! This was also a period when Faith was often heard to be scathing about his own recording legacy, holding it chiefly responsible for scuppering his attempts at securing a lasting acting career. As guest at a dinner party where his old hits were being played, he was chastised by the host for criticising them so harshly, for rubbishing the very music he had enjoyed as a youth. Faith was rather taken aback by this accusation and was forced to re-appraise his feelings for his pop career.
The Daily Mail that he was no longer dismissive about his pop star roots and saw no incongruency in combining an acting with a singing career. "I retired from singing 20 years ago so I could be an actor. I had begun to hate my pop association because I so wanted to act. In those days you couldn't really do both. Now I realise that the two things I do best are singing and acting. I'm only sorry that it has taken me so long to combine the two."
Alfie around the provinces, played the narrator in A Chorus Line and very recently toured the UK in Love & Marriage. Often in demand for television, following his initial success with Budgie, in the nineties he starred in the highly successful BBC TV drama, Love Hurts, with Zoe Wannamaker; and in 2002 he made the less popular TheHouse That Jack Built – also for the BBC.
The Money Channel, a couple of years ago, resulting in his bankruptcy, may have taken its toll. He was planning a one-man stage performance tour of Britain next year, in which he would act out his career, including some of the songs which launched his career. He died at the age of 62 from a heart attack, after a performance of Love & Marriage, in Stoke-On-Trent.
(Published on this site 12-7-2002)
On Friday 28th of June the Ian Fleming Foundation and EON Productions held their annual charity James Bond Golf Classic and Gala Dinner at Stoke Park, Slough. For the Bond fans amongst us Stoke Park is where Bond beat Goldfinger at golf and made love to Paris in Tomorrow Never Dies. This year's charity was The Variety Club.
As well as the golf match featuring showbusiness and sports stars there was a gala dinner in the evening. A feature of the yearly galas is the presentation of the 'Goldeneye' award. Named after Ian Fleming's home in Jamaica this is presented to a person who has made 'a significant contribution to the success of James Bond'. Past recipients have included Albert R. Broccoli, Terence Young and Michael G. Wilson. This year the IFF board voted to honour John Barry.
The evening began with a champagne reception in the Great Hall as we gathered ready to take our seats in the large marquee. Members of the Bond cast and crew at the reception included John Cleese, Samantha Bond, Rick Yune, Rosamund Pike, David Arnold, Michael G. Wilson, Lee Tamahori, Vic Armstrong, Peter Lamont, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and, of course, John Barry accompanied by his wife Laurie and son Jonpatrick. Music was provided by Kenny Clayton on the piano ( Kenny worked with Matt Monro on 'From Russia With Love').
Others I remember being at the dinner were Caroline Munro, Shirley Eaton and Maryam d'Abo. And Billy Zane, who was completely bald. With his white tuxedo he looked like a young Blofeld! Just missing the pussycat. Nice guy tho'. Asked my name and wished me luck. Vic Flick was supposed to be playing too but I don't think he was there. (Comment by Geoff Leonard made in the discussion group: "Indeed he wasn't. He told me he had far too much work on to travel, in the end. I suppose flying from LA to London could have been rather expensive, too!)
After an hour or so the 500 guests took their places at the 50 tables in the giant marquee. A stage was located at one end of the tent from where the night's entertainment and presentations would take place. The MC for the night was Samantha Bond (the current Miss Moneypenny) who began by welcoming everyone to the dinner, especially the Guest of Honour, John Barry.
The food menu was as follows:
At the back of the room was the 'silent auction'. Bond memorabilia was laid out on tables along with sheets of paper to write down bids. The highest bid for each item at the end of the night won. Jonpatrick Barry went away with a full set of Bond diecast model cars for £300.
Whilst we ate, original music from the Bond films was played as background. Following presentation of the golfing awards (the main prize being won by George Lazenby's team with John Cleese doing his best Basil Fawlty and walking off with one of the prizes) the entertainment began.
First up were the Opera Babes who sang a couple of tracks from their number one album, followed by 'their tribute to John Barry'. Unfortunately, they picked 'From Russia with Love', composed by Lionel Bart!
Next was a live auction hosted by hypnotist Paul McKenna. Amongst the prizes were tickets to the Die Another Day premiere and party, and a sword used in the film (eventually going to David Arnold). Two of the most eagerly bid for prizes were those donated by John and Laurie Barry. The first was a signed score to Goldfinger complete with the baton used to conduct the orchestra; the second, dinner with John and Laurie in London. Both went for thousands of pounds.
David Arnold then introduced Bond author Raymond Benson who played a selection of John Barry's Bond music on the piano.
Then came the presentation of the 'Goldeneye' award to John Barry. Although this was supposed to be the highlight of the night it passed by very quickly. David Arnold made a short presentation speech mentioning how John Barry had influenced him since he started writing film music and how John Barry has more Oscars than any other Englishman and than 'the great John Williams'. John Barry walked onto the stage to a standing ovation and made an even shorter acceptance speech thanking the 'Bond family' and stating how honoured and gratified he was to have been honoured with the award. A surprise to everyone was a letter read out praising John Barry and his influence on the Bond films, the actors playing Bond and on the history of films in general. The letter was signed by Roger Moore. There then followed a disco until the early hours.
Personally, I will best remember meeting and talking to John Barry for the first time. When I mentioned that I was from Hull he told me that his father once owned the Astoria cinema (now a bingo hall) located just around the corner from where I live. When John introduced me to Laurie I said that I had congratulated him on his award 'from one Yorkshireman to another' and she whispered to me, "Yorkshiremen are the best in the world". Obviously I had to agree!
After meeting David Arnold he told me that his music for Die Another Day would be 'the same but different'. When I asked him if the sword he had won in the auction was to use on Madonna he just said, 'this will come in useful during the next few weeks'! He has also written a song with Don Black (also at the dinner on John Barry's table) for the film but does not know if it will be included in the final cut.
Samantha Bond, as well as being gorgeous, was more than happy to talk and sign autographs. And Billy Zane (Kate Winslet's 'fiancé' in 'Titanic') was very friendly too.
From the group I met Andy Dickenson and son Joe who now has a taste for expensive champagne and Bond girls!
A very friendly, good, night was had by all.
Next up for the dinner suit should be the Die Another Day premiere at the Royal Albert Hall in November.
Andy Dickenson adds:
My own little extra memories include everyone we spoke to being so generous with their time and so friendly. I took the opportunity to ask my favourite (you're all bored with it now) question of JB. About the vocal to Inside Moves that was sung live on Pebble Mill at One around the time of the film - by Catherine Howe. He looked baffled and suggested that as 'Dick Donner' was involved, he could have been responsible (!?) Still a mystery then. I only regret not asking Don Black. Maybe Someday!
I was moved to chat to John Glen briefly and reminded him that I approached him over 20 years ago after the last taxis had gone from the premiere for For Your Eyes Only, to congratulate him. He was appreciative then, and says he remembers it now. I also wrote to him afterwards asking about future involvement from Barry, and he replied in longhand with a considered answer. Three films later, the rest is history! A true gentleman.
Vic Armstrong was ebullient and introduced his wife Wendy (daughter of George Leech the stunt arranger on OHMSS and herself a double for many Bond girls). He claimed to be desperate to be given a shot at the director's chair. Understandable. I think it's kind of sad that those days have passed. Especially when you consider the classics OHMSS and Living Daylights. I rest my case.
Finally.....and bizzarely! John Cleese actually intitiated conversation with me! In the loo! I was able to tell him that my father did several odd jobs for his late mother who lived in our old home town of Weston Super Mare. Again....an utter gentleman.
Rob Snow and Andy Dickenson
Peter Stanhope, 25th June 2002.
>Well, it's all over ! John Barry is now an Honorary Freeman of the City of York !
>We had a great lunchtime with John Barry, his family and the extended Prendergast clan when the City of York paid tribute to and honoured the man of music with the Freedom of his native City.
>John seemed very touched by the ceremony and the tributes which were paid to him by the Lord Mayor of York, Cllr. David Horton who had obviously done his research well ! In a detailed account he traced from John's roots in York through his long career and many awards to his present day position as one godfathers of the movie music industry.
>In his response John thanked the Lord Mayor and people of York for their support over the years and for the tributes now being paid him. He said that, amongst all of the accolades that he has received over the years of his work in the film industry, to receive the approval and honour of your own home City was extremely touching and held most dear.
>He received an illuminated scroll in a decorative casket to record his Honorary Freedom - one of extremely few which have been granted by the City of York since the very first one in 1723. The Honorary Freedom of the City is only granted to 'distinguished persons or loyal servants of the City'.
>Gathered together were the many members of the Prendergast family including his sister June Lloyd Jones, nieces and nephews, great nieces and great nephews, as well as Laurie, his wife, and Jonpatrick, his son. There were also many other people present who had connections with Johns life including his ex-army mates from his national service days in the Green Howards, friends from the old Rialto days, childhood friends from Fulford, York, his music tutor and mentor Dr. Francis Jackson, previously Master of the Music at York Minster. There were also many present from the City of York side including past Lord Mayors, Councillors.
>Altogether it was a magnificent occasion and one which I know John really did appreciate. I had the opportunity to have a few words with him and he thanked me for making it all possible - since I had made the initial nomination for this special honour.
>All I can say it that in making it all possible for John, I have realised a long held ambition that this man and his music would be celebrated and ackowledged by his own City of which I am very proud to be a Freeman by hereditary right.
These things are entirely subjective, naturally, but -- I've always had a very special place in my heart for Barry's melody to the Alice's Adventures tune to THE ME I NEVER KNEW in its instrumental form not to mention the Matt Monro vocal.
The construction of the thematic material has some unexpected turns which never fail to elicit a strong response from me. Normally in a song we would have the first line repeated in the second line identically or pivoted up an interval of a fourth. But, Barry -- the second time the phrase "The me I never knew" appears--works a bit of magic and injects a poignant twist to the direction of the theme. It goes up instead of down at an odd interval and--as if that were not enough--elevates the entire mood in a transcendent manner when the phrase "without a word of warning" occurs.
Now -- I'd like to call your attention to what is NORMAL in a song. You introduce a theme or melody line and repeat it. Then you bridge in something of contrast in the middle eight bars. Back to the same original theme with a change in it to top off the feeling of completeness. But -- in THE ME I NEVER KNEW there is no resting place and return until the ENTIRE first and second lines/bridge phrase have spun through to completion. Rather, a transformation process is applied throughout. The emotional core transmutes mood after mood climbing in intensity reframing the "feeling" in greater and greater tensions which cry out for some sort of release. "You smiled and I discovered..." on the word "discovered" a remarkable feeling of interior transformation rushes forward. The discovery is imbedded inside the melody itself. And a wonderful one it is too!
The orchestral version of this song is just a joy. The tension and release is masterful. The conflict is never overpowered by the instrumentation. It is kept personal yet significant. A grandness and nobility is present when the horns and the strings sing full out.
I simply wish there had been an alternate lyric written for this melody which would be more universal; allowing singers an avenue of expression less reflective and more declarative. Nobody sings about interior transformation it seems--unless they are holding a guitar!
The long and the short of it---this may be my favorite Barry melody. Dunno, there are so damned many!!
Stephen Woolston - Jan 5, 2002
John Barry was probably once the biggest name in film music. Bigger than Goldsmith. Bigger than Williams. Today he is appreciated massively but mostly in retrospect and out of affection for his first thirty years in the medium. He doesn't appear to have been the directors' choice of this or the last decade, and a rapidly decreasing body of film music listeners understands his music.
Many of the new detractors choose to disfavourably compare John Barry's scores with the grandeur and energy of such epic scores as Ben Hur, or modern actioners from Star Wars to Total Recall. They cite the excitement of the big sound and the energy of driving action cues. It's a flawed comparison. It assumes all film music aspires to the same sensibilities and all composers to the same films. Despite the Bond movies and Dances With Wolves, John Barry is not a composer of epic action and adventure scores. He never has been.
John Barry developed his style in a reactionary phase in films: the sixties. Golden age classics and old fashioned direction values were subsiding. The new generation had been disaffected by war but enjoyed their young adulthood amidst the excitement of new social and sexual values. Culture had revolutionised. There was new economic growth, new eras in world politics, new world anxieties and new cultural icons. The new directors admired the cinematic new wave of Jean Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut. Production line cinema had gone out of vogue in favour of films stamped with personal style and authorship. Directors wanted to express their political views and became more interested in what they could say on a smaller, more intimate scale about the human condition.
The result was a wave of films interested in pseudo-ordinary people, intimate and rich in expressionism and stylistic freedom. The list of such films in Barry's CV are endless: The Knack, although an anarchic comedy, is still a close study of people heavily influenced by new individual expression. Bryan Forbes' films became a standard bearers of the new plain cinema in England. The list includes Petulia, The Chase, Midnight Cowboy, Follow Me, Walkabout, Dutchman, The Appointment. None of them were plain films stylistically but all favoured these pseduo-real people to the glamour icons that had gone before.
John Barry had a perfect European sensibility suited to these films. He was the English Nino Rota, not the English Rosza. By establishing and insisting on memorable melodic themes in intimate arrangements, his music brilliantly observed the humour, tears and drama of the people that had been filmed, their unusual bonds and their very different journeys through this life. It was a perfect marriage of film and music and John Barry was its undisputed master.
In 1977, one film changed the industry forever. Star Wars revived interest in fantasy in an irrevocable way. Society was emerging from its post war optimism with a new drudge of industrialism. It brought a new need for escapism. Cinema as art subsided towards cinema as the easy story telling medium, and character studies became out of vogue. The world community's taste in films shifted increasingly towards the low brow. As we stand today, by consensus and box office vote, we like our entertainment dumb, fantastic, unreal and very, very noisy. Intimacy in films has almost died, at least in America.
It would be an oversimplification to box Barry in as simply the composer who scored innovatively styled character films. After all, his music often swelled beyond character themes. I'm thinking of the defection scenes of The Tamarind Seed, and the fight music of The Ipcress File. But these cues extended out from a score whose central point was nonetheless a theme for a character or place. Bond was a form of escapism too, and he had mastered that art. Yet Bond is a remarkable exception. These worked mostly because of the scores were derivation from a song, and songwriting is a superb springboard for a melodist such as Barry. But even here Barry did not compose as for the classical epics. Bond music was hot, but that heat came from the exploration of combined jazz and Bacharachian easy listening, with mellow strings and cracking high notes in brass. Not from the jagged rhythms voiced by today's action composers.
The wonderful strokes of John Barry's intimate melodies is an intimate poetry undiscovered and unachieved by the modern purveyors of action music such as Zimmer and Elfman. Sadly, there's a declining demand for that in the modern American film. Not the mainstream film at least. There are some. American Beauty would have been an ideal Barry vehicle. Playing By Heart was another ideal vehicle that Barry did score. I rather fancy that Barry might have come up with something very interesting for Pulp Fiction too.
In fact, it's too sad to reflect on some of the wonderful films that Barry could have really gone to town with. Imagine the wondrous score he might have written to 2001. Imagine the dark wonder he might have written in Apocalypse Now.
So where does Barry go from here? He can also fish for those few films like American Beauty that do call for a composer who can observe bittersweet humanity in music. But that's if the directors rediscover him. Could he go back into Bond to re-establish his popularity to get those assignments? A possibility, but only likely to work if he can have that song springboard back. Numb action films are not the solution. Neither The Specialist nor Mercury Rising could light the right fires, though in each case his music was strongest looking at the strange bonds of the characters again.
If Barry can't relate to something delicately emotional or explore the jazz idiom he has no place to go. It's not that Barry can't score humanly empty films with professionalism and craft. The Black Hole and Game of Death proved that. But then these scores have no special relevance in his career.
The modern trends simply do not suit Barry. Conversely, Barry does not suit them. Films like Hollow Man, Lord of the Rings, Planet of the Apes and Harry Potter are truly more suited to names like Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams.
Perhaps the best way to tap in to what Barry does truly well is to do what Herrmann did when his career ceased to flourish in Hollywood. Herrmann went to Europe. Not for long, but long enough to be rediscovered in a major way. Herrmann had become unpopular in Hollywood for his lack of pop scores, but he found a new vehicle for himself in films like The Bride Wore Black. Europe is still the predominant home of films about humanity made in creative styles. If John Barry could have scored Cinema Paradiso or even the difficult French film Beau Travail, he might have written something remarkable.
Bottom line? It is an empty comparison to put Barry head to head with Rosza on accomplishment in biblical epics, or with Williams on accomplishment in summer blockbusters. It's like saying Steve Martin is funnier than Gregory Peck. So what? Answer this. How would Rosza do in a head to head on accomplishments in melody and intimacy?
Over the last few years I have done a fair amount of work for Silva Screen. Mainly on liner notes for their John Barry and related albums, but also research. Very recently at the request of James Fitzpatrick I spent some time going through the first James Bond films, noting any notable music cues which do not appear on the official albums. James’ idea was to combine these cues with the best of the previously released material into mini-suites. Nic Raine would have the rather more exacting job of reconstructing the ‘new’ music and arranging it.
For some years now, Silva have recorded much of their catalogue in Prague, mainly due to the spiralling costs of London-based musicians and studios. To make the best use of the time and facilities over there, James always ensures there is a variety of music to be recorded – certainly enough to last for a few days. On this occasion, apart from the Bond album, he would also be recording a tribute album to Gordon McCrae and Howard Keel, using Welsh baritone Jason Howard with arrangements by Paul Bateman; a Barbra Streisand film music album (for another company) and, to my delight, Nic Raine’s reconstruction of the entire score to 'Raise The Titanic'!
Recording in Prague was set to begin on the 9th June, lasting until the 14th, and I was surprised and delighted to be asked along to the sessions. The journey from Bristol to Prague went very smoothly. By coincidence, a friend of mine was also going to spend some time in Prague, and, living only a few miles away, we were able to journey to Heathrow together.
This was the first time I had flown anywhere from Heathrow, but I had precise directions from James as to where everything was. Most of the rest of the party had already flown out earlier in the day, either from Heathrow or Stanstead, but James told me to look out for Jason, who, due to a late change of plan, would be on my flight.
After an initial frustrating delay on the plane waiting for our ‘slot’, the flight went very smoothly and lasted only one hour twenty minutes. I had a rough description of Jason but failed to spot him either on the plane or at the airport, although there was one or two who looked as though they might be him. I later discovered he thought he had seen me but was put off because I appeared to be with someone rather than on my own as he had been told. For my part, I have to say James’ description of Jason wasn’t particularly accurate!
I’d heard one or two horror stories about Prague taxis, especially their prices, but I was able to share a mini-bus with my friend who had one booked and paid for as part of his package.
I knew recording was due to start at 5 p.m. and as I didn’t get booked into the hotel until about 7.15, I decided it wasn’t worth turning up for the last half-hour. Instead I met James in the lobby about an hour later. He quickly introduced me to Jason, who I was embarrassed to discover was one of the people I’d been staring at at Prague airport a little earlier! We were soon joined by the other members of the party, John Timperley (Chief Engineer) Nic Raine (arranger/conductor) and Paul Bateman (arranger/conductor).
James has spent so much time in Prague that he has a good knowledge of the restaurants, and, in fact had already pre-booked all the evening meals! Two of the choices were in walking distance of our hotel and dinner followed a few minutes later at one of these. The food was excellent, though not always easy to digest due to much laughing as Nic Raine kept up a relentless succession of jokes, puns and banter - much of which was directed at John Timperley. Paul Bateman also had a few good stories (and the local accents to go with them) and Jason proved as unlikely an opera star as is imaginable, with some truly awful limericks and the most disgusting jokes! Incidentally, he revealed he spent six years in the fire-brigade before embarking on a professional career as a singer. He has a marvellous voice. Later on in the week I got to hear stuff like 'Oklahoma', 'You'll Never Walk Alone' and 'If I Loved You' - wonderful and very moving stuff.
Anyway, next morning we walked down the road to the studio for the second session. Nic Raine was first up with Raise The Titanic and James arranged a chair for me in the studio so I could alternate between there and the control booth. Being there for the recording of RTT was a never to be forgotten occasion. I could hardly believe I was sitting just a yard or so behind the violins during the live recordings - and I managed not to cough!
There's not much more I can say about the music itself as one will need to hear it to appreciate it. Suffice it to say I considered it was brilliantly played and sounded so authentic. The string sound in Prague is remarkable, and the woodwind pretty good, too, although the brass and especially rhythm section is never completely at home with 'Western-style' music. This later resulted in a few problems recording the Bond music. But it was explained to me that they would overdub any problem areas in London. Isn't technology wonderful?
During the afternoon, Nic finished off Raise The Titanic and made a start on the first Bond suite. The evening session was the first allocated to Paul Bateman & Jason Howard, and they got through a fair amount, despite the fact that Jason’s voice was a bit ‘gravelly’ – as he put it.
Friday was James Bond day. Having heard some of the ‘previously unreleased’ music via video so often recently, it was wonderful now hearing it played live in the studio. One has to remember that although nearly all this music is very familiar to most of us, as far as the Czech musicians are concerned, it is all still very new. In the circumstances, and with considerable assistance from Nic, they soon get into the swing of things. I am very new to orchestral rehearsals in the studio and was slightly taken aback by the tempo adopted by Nic Raine on occasions. For example, ‘From Russia With Love’, particularly the opening, was taken at a gallop, so much so that the rhythm section was a good yard behind the strings! "Surely they won’t be able to get that right?", I thought. But this is just Nic’s way of warming them up and making room for even more ‘takes’ per session, and after another couple of tries they were almost perfect. It’s an odd thing, but on occasions after an apparently successful take, I found myself wondering if they couldn’t get the opening just a little more together, when as if by magic Nic said as such to the orchestra! I should point out that both Nic and Paul Bateman used an interpreter for nearly all their instructions to the orchestra. The interpreter, a violinist herself, was really good at her job and very little time was lost because of this. Occasionally Nic would ask for a retake but mostly the decision would be made by producer James (following the music bar by bar) or by engineer John, who might have heard a noise from the studio or be unhappy with the miking of a particular instrument or section of the orchestra.
As I mentioned earlier, there were some problems with the rhythm section. The Prague studio isn’t especially big, and although it easily coped with the 75 or so musicians, it isn’t always possible to position the percussion and guitars to the best advantage. The cymbal player was moved upstage and backstage, the vibraphone player’s mike was moved closer, the guitarist was completely re-sited – all until John was satisfied. On one occasion the decision was made to ask the electric guitar player to remain silent during his piece, since he had brought the wrong guitar to the session! When they played the ‘spider’ music from Dr. No, with its final crash, crash crash, the orchestra fell about laughing! Must remember to tell Monty Norman!
John Timperley is an amazing character. This is his fortieth year in the business and he is now an independent engineer. He started his career at Chappells in 1960 and was given his first opportunity by legendary Robert Farnon. He also recalls working with John Barry and Ron Grainer around that time, ‘King’s Breakfast’ was one of the latter’s earliest films. He spent nine years at Chappells during which time he worked with all the great artists, before moving to work in France for several years. I was surprised to learn that Norman Newell recorded several EMI acts at Chappells during the sixties. I had assumed everything was done at Abbey Road. One year in the late seventies, he spent one year recording rock groups - a year which nearly finished him off, he claims! He and Nic Raine were absolutely scathing in their opinion of the musician’s union, in particularly holding Don Smith as being responsible for losing musicians so much work in England.
Back in the studio, it was strange to see the acoustic guitarist, Peter Binder, playing ‘Gypsy Camp’, the cue originally created by Vic Flick back in 1963. He managed pretty well even though he had to be asked to put on his headphones because his timing was slightly out. Incidentally, Peter is one of the few Czech musicians to have a smattering of English.
Visiting Prague was once again a wonderful experience. And even though the days were almost exclusively taken up by the studio sessions, we still found time to visit some excellent restaurants in the evenings.
The visit began early for me as I needed to catch the 3.15 a.m. train from Bristol to Heathrow Airport (coach from Reading), hence I had no sleep either that night, or indeed very much the following night in the hotel. It’s an odd thing, as you would think that tiredness would automatically kick in, but it didn’t work for me. In fact, I never really slept well on any of the nights in Prague, nor even on my first night back in Bristol. But gradually I’m getting back into the normal pattern of things.
Anyway, there was no problem with the train and coach, though it was a little cold at 4.45 a.m. outside Reading station waiting for the driver to let us in! The coach was surprisingly full, but it did have to drop people off at all four Heathrow terminuses. On arrival at terminus 2, I had to collect my foreign currency, which turned out to be a right pain and took almost half an hour due to the incredible stupidity of the staff at Travel X. I moved down to check-in and soon spotted Rickie Clarke from Silva, who was to be our score reader during the sessions. He had arrived from the nearby hotel with Nic Raine who was now busy parking his car. Chief Engineer John ‘One Take’ Timperley soon appeared and when Nic joined us we queued for our boarding passes and checked-in our luggage. James Fitzpatrick had flown out the day before, incidentally.
The flight was uneventful and on time, and I had a few hours to relax before the first session began at 5 p.m. Unlike JT, who had to spend 6 hours setting up his equipment in the studio!
I was pleased to recognise many familiar faces amongst the orchestra and the first session began with ‘The Lion In Winter’. I thought at the time, and James confirmed later, that it’s always a nervous moment when they start. This was no exception and my heart sank a little, as they seemed ‘all over the place’ with certain sections of the orchestra playing at different tempos! But this was just a warming-up exercise, apparently. By the second or third attempt they sounded much more like it, and soon we were ready for the first recorded take. I think the orchestra numbered around 70 for the Barry sessions and they sounded terrific. Of course, for both ‘Lion’ and ‘Last Valley’, it’s difficult to judge how effective the recording has been, since the choir is missing and will be added later on in London. But everybody seemed highly satisfied with this first session, so this was a good omen.
The Last Valley was next up on the schedule and with the orchestra now fully in a ‘Barry’ mode, they sailed through it with aplomb and confidence and with the suite from Mary Queen of Scots also going smoothly, we began to get ahead of schedule. This was sure to prove useful when the orchestral had to tackle more complex material from Newman and Tiomkin later on.
My own day or days was Friday and Saturday with the recording of Robin & Marian. On the flight out I had mentioned to Nic that this year sees the 25th anniversary of the film, which is sure to prove a useful marketing tool for the CD. Once again, the orchestra proved more than equal to the task and despite a few retakes being necessary for ‘noise’ in the studio, the scheduled session for Sunday morning proved almost superfluous, there being just one cue left to record. By now we had been joined by Mark Ayres, who was having three of his compositions recorded by the COPP. One of these, ‘Meg Foster’, contained challenging variations in style and tempo – and the orchestra seemed to find this rather stimulating. They were smiling a lot, anyway.
The majority of Sunday and Monday were given over to recordings by Alfred Newman, Max Steiner and Dmitri Tiomkin, but there was also time for themes to Hannibal (Cassidy), Young Sherlock Holmes (Broughton) and Sunshine (Maurice Jarre). The latter required the presence of a Cimbalom. This was a special moment for me as I never previously seen one of John Barry’s favourite sixties instruments. In fact, I enjoyed Jarre’s composition very much, and it was this melody that remained in my head during the somewhat tedious plane journey home. I took some video film of many of the rehearsals for all the sessions, though annoyingly my Lion In Winter one has disappeared!
Newman’s Street Scene was a real treat both to hear and to see played. By now the orchestra had swelled to a 90-piece, and included five sax players! Nic took a lot of trouble with this piece and I think the end result justified him entirely. I have to say that it must have been a little out of the ordinary for this orchestra but they looked to be having a really good time. Other themes recorded included ‘Nevada Smith’, ‘20th Century Fox Fanfare’, ‘Captain From Castile’ (also wonderful), ‘Anastasia’, ‘Duel In The Sun’, ‘Bonanza’ & Gunfight At The O.K. Corral – another highlight.
I suppose it will be some time before I hear any of this music in the comfort of my own home, but at least I have the videos and some reasonable photos. I have to mention and pay tribute to the expertise of the entire production team which made things go so smoothly, led, of course, by James Fitzpatrick. He occasionally seemed to hear tiny little imperfections in the playing that I missed, necessitating another take, but as he said "You have to do these things properly"!
One amusing moment came when one of the percussion team, I think it was Tony, was asked to give us a little more from his cymbals. He replied that loud noises frightened him. And he had no answer when Nic asked him in that case why had he become a percussionist!
I mentioned the restaurants earlier. During one evening in one we were approached by an American gentleman who had heard us talking about music and wanted to know who we were and what we were recording. We said we were recording film music and his eyes seem to glaze over a little. We then gave a little more detail by mentioning Max Steiner, Alfred Newman, John Barry & Dmitri Tiomkin etc., but he still seemed somewhat disinterested. He said he was the principal clarinettist with the New York Philharmonic, and I suppose it's just possible he was not familiar with much film music - golden or silver age. His wife had a few words, too, and it turned out she is also a clarinettist.
A night or two afterwards in a different restaurant we were approached by another gentleman, this time from England, I think. He, too, had heard our musical discussion (we must have loud voices) and in particular caught a reference to an engineer named Keith Grant, who is quite well known around the London studio circuit and Olympic Sound in particular. He immediately adopted a sneering attitude when he made the assumption we were recording music in Prague 'on the cheap', but apart from saying he was a musician who had recorded with Grant "many times", he refused to identify himself. I didn't like him very much.
So, an enjoyable and successful trip. I wonder if there is any Barry music left to record now? Something will turn up by this time next year, I’m sure. In the meantime, I’m sure James & co. will be returning before then to finish off what didn’t quite fit into these sessions.
A study in contrast: Barry's stylistic journey from the 60s to the 90s
John Barry has four distinct styles of music composition. Three of them he has virtually discarded and only one remains. I propose to take a look at these stylistic personas and comment on the whys and the wherefores which have led to his present day one-size-fits-all approach to film-scoring.
In the 50s something unique was happening to popular music in the world at large; particularly in the United States and in England. The 40's war years drew the populations of those countries closer to the technology of radio more than ever before. Big Bands and news broadcasts force-fed a unified style of music on what had previously been very different national sensibilities.
Movie attendance and the escapism of fantasy on screen allowed a pressure release on people stressed to the breaking point with bloody realities of everyday privation and danger. With the World War over and a new decade underway the radio remained an indispensable melting pot of international music exposure which unified populations in their tastes and commonalties. Movies provided the same unifying icons and background scores permeated subconscious vaults with 19th century Romanticism. Television was taking a foothold that would strangle the competing technologies.
If radio and movies were to avoid being relegated to the heap of dinosaur bones in the graveyard of pass‚ artefacts---there would have to be a massive RETHINK to grapple with a workable strategy.
YOUTH culture was the key. Radio and the movies turned to the younger audiences and tapped into the red-blooded vein of youth music. The young are the audience of the future, as a rule. But, parents were giving their kids allowances now and a consumer population was arriving on the scene. Young people had jobs and responsibilities and cash to spend.
The music world was poised on the brink of something big which was about to happen.
John Barry's SEVEN were panning for gold in the old streams and rivers where others had made their fortunes. But, the leftovers were not enough to sustain a career. The bulk of the fortunes had vanished. Barry struggled to find a template into which he could pour his talents for music-making. Doing "covers" of Stateside hits for English audiences was stale now - yet, it was a learning mode for record production and important business contacts.
Big Bands were taxed into disintegration. A club owner could ill-afford large bands with many hands out for dough. The only solution was the "single" act. Preferably singer-songwriters who could do it all. Thus the folksinger era replaced the Big Band era. And the folksinger was the grandparent of the Rock n Roller of the near to arrive future.
Barry straddled all venues like a modern day Colossus. He wrote, arranged, produced and played in first one and then another genres. None, however, was innovative in a way that would ignite popular enthusiasms and generate a career. He was relegated to a producing role for others eventually, leaving the JB7 to fend for themselves in a dying genre. There were only two choices: find a "star" to produce for and earn a living as a man behind the man; or--emerge as a composer in his own right. The odds against the latter were astronomical. With the "discovery" of Adam Faith Barry was suitably nested in a temporarily secure niche which allowed him to meet the "right" people and become a mover and shaker.
Had movies not come along to tempt him away--surely Barry would have remained a producer of first one group and then another along the lines of a Berry Gordy of MOTOWN.
With the opportunity of scoring BEAT GIRL suddenly Barry's stylistic persona was glimpsed in the raw. We will call this STYLE ONE. The Beat Girl score could have been done by an old school gentleman aping a popular style little understood and mostly scorned. Or it could have been injected with needle-dropping opportunities utilising hit songs of the era. Instead--a very youthful composer, arranger, conductor producer and maven of ALL STYLES had a go at it. Beat Girl is nothing if not original. It sounds--even today--original.
The components of the music are familiar. Guitars are played and a big-bandish backing chimes in. Percussion is not sedate--yet not overtly Rock. What sets Barry's composition apart is the identifying use of a rhythmic device he has never abandoned. It is a choppy beguine-like rhythm that enforces the dotted quarter notes (two of them) and gives us 2 chopping beats and 1 remaining lesser one. This 3 beats to the measure is definitely NOT a waltz but a catchy jerking motion that allows the next device--the ostinato--to fit into the gaps left by the sparse rhythm. These are like puzzle pieces-hand in glove. There is a sense of movement and an inexorable forward motion and incessant and insistent activity. Atop these two devices floats the hooky melodic line. It is not complicated. It is brief and readily identifiable. This simple recipe comes across very easily to the ears. It is closer to Stan Kenton than to Max Steiner--but not derivative of either. It has a 50s Rock 'n' Roll snarl to the instrumentation but it is not Rock. It definitely owes more to Jazz than anything else--yet, it is not merely Streetcar Named Desire ala North (one of Barry's heroes.) No--we have a full-fledged mosaic of stylisms pressed into a new service, a new voice and a new youthful vigour. It is Scarlett O'Hara turning the drapes from Tara into a lovely dress to impress Rhett Butler! Barry is the seamstress and designer rolled into one. He has CUSTOM-FITTED what the quires using anything that will fit. This style will return again and again. Barry visits the junkyard of previous eras and idioms and grabs a piece of this and a part of that and - Presto! - Picasso-like welds them into artistic sculpture than is no longer junk but a work of art. BEAT GIRL is a new kind of junk---fabulous artistic junk!
With the success of Beat Girl as a scoring assignment Barry became "hot" and was impressed into service to fix another project in music need. James Bond needed a musical fix to make him relevant. Barry was handed more junk and he went into his laboratory and started hammering, welding and filing away. The result was something astonishingly NEW! Yet--Tailor-like--it was a perfect fit. Bond had a Saville Row suit and the music was as tailored as that to his persona. The James Bond Theme is an amalgam. It has Dizzy Gillespie scat choruses, Les Paul/Duane Eddy guitar idioms, it has Minnie the Moocher razzmatazz brass writing and a harking back to the Big Band Era with expostulations that punctuate the segues from the middle eight back to the main theme. It is tailoring of the highest order. It is arranging genius. It is fresh and endlessly interesting. Barry has invented something new out of something pre-existing. This is what an artist does best. Suddenly Barry's career as a movie composer is assured. The usual fate of one such as he is to do variations on James Bond until the offers stop coming. Yet--two things happened to side-step this fate. Barry was offered arthouse melodramas by Bryan Forbes at the same time he was covering the spy genre.
For Bryan Forbes, Barry would cism. Using small combinations of evocative instruments Barry would achieve atmospheres as delicate as miniature impressionist paintings. These chamber music effects were not actually chamber music. Once again they would be amalgams; puzzle fittings of first this and then that. Jazz flavoured flutes and bass lines would be overlaid with harpsichord tinklings or violin obbligatos. The end result being more tailor-made backdrops highly evocative of the right mood and the right emotion. SEANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON is all mood and is achieved using very few instruments. The melody wants to find a key but is ill-fitted to tonality--yet, there is a melody lurking there.
The main character is a fraud psychic who fools even herself at times and longs to be recognised as an important person. The music and the character are one and the same.
Barry evolves a Romanticism that is sturdy and muscular rather than cloying and fey. His strings are always pure and in easy registers. The countermelodies are harmonically simple but gorgeously beautiful. The Horns infuse the emotional content with full-blooded vigour and strength of purpose. The melodies are usually cast as straight ahead "song" tunes which you end up whistling in your sleep. Yet--his chord changes can suddenly startle you with unexpected twists and turns that chromatically complicate the underlying feeling of inevitability. In fact--you can count on the fact that Barry will create a superstructure of unusual chords that will take you outside the usual pathways into exotic territories. Midnight Cowboy has a simple theme. Yet--those chord changes are not customary.
Midnight Cowboy is a good example for us to examine. Barry creates a clockwork mechanism of inevitability in the opening falling melodic background of four notes followed by four notes --over and over again. Many of Barry's arrangements will do something similar. He lulls your sense of expectancy into a regularity of singsong familiarity. Once you are introduced to the "environment" of the piece then the main melody is injected. It works in contrast to that background and fits perfectly like a Russian Kachina doll nested within another doll within yet another.
In THE IPCRESS FILE we have a jaunty rhythmic line of punctuated flutes and vibraphone that is overlaid with the Cimbalom melody. It is all very jagged and textured but is catchy as hell! QUILLER MEMORANDUM has hurdy gurdy rhythmic line over which the flexitone melody is laid to startling effect. Here is a lovely songleider melody set to a weird background of exoticism and intrigue. So in each instance the idea is to put simplicity to work by overlaying it with yet another simplicity dressed up in an exotic garb of orchestration. Barry's orchestration SOUND complex--yet you never lose your way. It is rather more like watching a juggler add yet another ball to those already in the air! Bach-like effects are achieved without the audience having to resort to internal intellectualities to sort the parts from one another. This is an enormous achievement and singular to Barry himself. Nobody else comes close to doing this.
We'll call this simply JAZZ. Barry has his own brand of Jazz. It is not like anybody else in its entirety--yet, it never grabs you with a feeling of innovation for innovations sake.
" again the way a mechanic does. He fits them in. The background may "feel" like a jazz improvisation in the piano and the sax may sound like an improvisation in the melody---but--there is a fixed architecture of melody in the strings and horns that is flat-out Dance band slow-dance. Barry has sleek and sensuous Jazz pieces in his repertoire. They can be big and audacious such as the quintessential MR. KISS KISS BANG BANG or they can be subtle and lush such as FUN CITY. Yet they are never ordinary. The difference between a regular jazz band performance and what Barry achieves lies in the fact that the improvisations are merely colorations and commentary. They are not THE raison d'etre of the composition. They owe more to Gershwin's Porgy and Bess than to Paul Whiteman or Duke Ellington. Barry's jazz are masterpieces of journeyman compositional/arranging skills.
Many of Barry's best Bond scores rely on this Jazz flavouring couple with his Romanticism and occasional eclecticism. His bag of tricks in the 60's was very large and often surprising.
Yet--in the 90's he has discarded most of his stylistic innovations and inventions. His approach has become one of pure music for music's sake. It is more of a religious philosophy. Barry's music is now ZEN. It is HAIKU. It is discipline and feeling and the tailoring is out of the same bolt of cloth again and again.
Those who only know Barry from Out of Africa and Dances with Wolves think this is all Barry can do or will ever do. "They all sound the same" is the mantra of the neophyte listener who is just discovering what Barry has to offer. I feel that John Barry is a person who has used his musical gifts to vicariously express the deepest possible feelings in his stiff-upper lip English soul. He has done a massive Freudian bit of therapy on himself along the way. By mining the depths of heartbreak, sexuality, fear and heroics his music has served two purposes; one for the moviegoer and one for Barry himself. At some point along the way the demon was exorcised and Barry became at peace with himself. Whatever muse/demon was tormenting his creative soul became exorcised and only once facet of his nature remains to be plumbed for treasure. That is the Romantic side. Again and again Barry tours the gentle and heroic in himself and demonstrates it romantically. He is relaxed about life. He accepts it. His music is-- gentle it is accepting. He eschews the action adventure vehicle. Been there/done that. There is nothing more for him to say about those emotions. The beauty of life and joy of feeling Life is what remains. While those of us who have accompanied John Barry on his musical journey may long for the wondrous times of innovations and exoticism of the past-- we have learned to savour the multifarious flavours of his vineyard of today. John Barry still vints a heady brew!
1. I am a Michel Legrand fan
2. I am a James Bond/John Barry fan.
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.
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).
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.
Geoff Leonard & Pete Walker
Tomorrow Never Dies, the eighteenth official James Bond film, opens around the world in December. David Arnold has written a marvellous score, his first of the series, which is already receiving rapturous reviews. Arnold is just the latest in a long line of talented composers who have left their mark on the series, but the overall musical style and format of a James Bond score was developed by John Barry. To date he has been responsible for eleven complete scores, and he had a significant hand in the theme for the very first, Dr. No, which was scored by Monty Norman.
Barry’s involvement in the series began in July of 1962. In those days, he was still mainly involved in the pop music world as musical director for EMI Records in London, despite having already scored a few relatively low budget films. Monty Norman, a noted songwriter, had been commissioned to write the score for Dr. No, but with time running out had been unable to develop an exciting and dynamic theme. Barry and his band, The John Barry Seven, had, by that time, acquired a reputation in the UK, which probably explained why Barry’s name had entered a discussion over the problem with the music at a hastily convened meeting. He was contacted by Noel Rogers, the head of United Artists music publishing division, then invited to a Saturday morning meeting with Rogers and Monty Norman. From this point onwards, opinions differ on exactly what part Barry played in the composing of what is now universally known as ‘The James Bond Theme’.
Whereas both Norman & Barry remain equally convinced they wrote it without any help from the other, music editor Peter Hunt (who was arguably closest to the situation) believes that it was a joint effort, with Barry moulding Norman’s basic melody line into the classic arrangement we know today. What is certain is that after accepting the assignment, Barry had to work very fast. He recalls now that he was so keen to further his film career, he would ‘score anything that moved on celluloid’! In fact, he completed the theme without seeing even a rough-cut of the film, basing it on the style of Mancini's Peter Gunn and Nelson Riddle's Untouchables.
Whatever one makes of the writing controversy, one can’t deny that The James Bond Theme remains a classic record. When it was recorded at Abbey Road Studios, producer John Burgess remembers just how fastidious Barry was in arranging the orchestra prior to recording, giving special attention to the brass section in order to get the sound he wanted. This recording was so good that the Bond production team hastily inserted it, not only over the titles, but also throughout the movie, unbeknown to Barry, who only found this out after paying to see the film.
With Messrs Broccoli and Saltzman so obviously impressed with his rescue work on Dr No, he immediately came into the reckoning for the sequel, From Russia With Love. Barry recalls meeting Lotte Lenya, Ian Fleming and Robert Shaw at Pinewood, and then being flown out to Istanbul with Broccoli, Saltzman, Sean Connery and director Terence Young. During a conversation with John Williams, Mr Young looked back to those early days of the James Bond series. "John Barry came into our lives when we were making Dr No. We had someone else doing the music and although the score was all right, we didn't have anything exciting for the title music. I think it was someone at Chappell who said you must listen to him. He had a little band called The John Barry Seven and he came in and wrote this Bond theme.
Then, I don't know why, they were awfully wary about him. They thought he was too young and in-experienced in film music and I had a little bit to do with his finally doing From Russia with Love. Somebody wanted Lionel Bart to do the music. Lionel came into my life a few years earlier when I chose a song of his for a film I was making, Serious Charge. The song was called 'Living Doll' and of course is still around today. I said that if John Barry was in-experienced, then so was Lionel, and I think we owe it to John to give him a chance. Harry Saltzman, I think, was keen on Lionel Bart and I must say I was too, I liked him very much, but I couldn't see why they were doing John down because of his in-experience. If they had taken someone like Williamson who was one of the classical composers, it would have made more sense. Cubby Broccoli was on my side and in the end it was two to one - I think Cubby was the decider we should go with John. In the meantime, I think Harry had committed himself to Lionel Bart, and that's why Lionel wrote From Russia with Love, which was a charming song."
Still without a Bond theme of his own, Barry decided to introduce us to 007 as an alternative action theme, possibly not wishing to continually use The James Bond Theme, in view of Norman's writing credit. He also began his long tradition of making orchestral arrangements from the title song and reworking it into a love theme. The soundtrack album contained most of the important music from the film and also included a splendid track entitled The Golden Horn, which wasn't used in the film. Matt Monro was chosen to sing the theme and this was first heard briefly a few minutes into the film, as background radio music. Monro's recording is heard again though, in almost complete form, as the end credits roll. The highlights of the album included Girl Trouble, Leila Dances (though not the version heard in the film), 007 and Gypsy Camp. Many of these including excellent guitar work from Vic Flick, who was fast becoming a sought-after session player, following his decision to leave the John Barry Seven.
Goldfinger is without doubt Barry's favourite of all the Bond scores, and he has often stated how he believes he caught the mood just right. It contained the most internationally successful title song so far, sung by Shirley Bassey, despite only reaching number 21 during a nine-week stay on the UK best seller lists. It did, however, make the coveted number one position in Japan in June of 1965. Interestingly, Bassey's single featured a slightly different vocal to the soundtrack album version. Subtle differences can easily be detected in her phrasing of the words and also on the playout where she holds the note on "gold" far longer than on the album take.
Having been given the responsibility of writing the theme song for the first time, Barry invited Tony Newley and Leslie Bricusse to compose the lyrics. According to Bricusse, he and Newley had known Barry on a personal basis for some time, though they hadn't worked together professionally. Barry also frequented Bricusse's restaurant, The Pickwick Club, where along with his friends Michael Caine and Terence Stamp, he lunched every Friday. Moreover, he also shared the same divorce lawyer as Newley. According to Barry "Goldfinger was the craziest song ever. I went to Tony Newley to ask him to write the lyric. He said, "What the hell do I do with it?" I said "It's Mack TheKnife - a song about a villain. The end result worked just perfectly." In fact, Newley and co-writer Leslie Bricusse initially dumbfounded Barry after he played them the opening bars of Goldfinger, by singing the next line as "Wider than a mile" - a line from Mancini's Moon River!
Although sales of the soundtrack album were steady in the UK, they were absolutely sensational in America. There, Goldfinger succeeded in knocking the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night from the top of the album charts, and in winning John Barry his first gold disc for over a million dollars in sales. It sold over $2m worth in six months, was number one for three weeks and stayed high in the US charts for seventy weeks. The score also won a Grammy nomination. The US album contained less music than the UK release, omitting Golden Girl, Death of Tilley, The Laser Beam, and Pussy Galore's Flying Circus. However, unlike the UK release, it did contain the instrumental version of the main theme, which had been released as a single both in Britain and America. The CD re-issue disappointingly stuck to the original American format, but completists were able to pick up the missing tracks by purchasing the double CD: The Best Of James Bond - 30th Anniversary.
For Thunderball, the fourth film in the Bond series, the producers realised from the outset that Goldfinger would be a difficult act to follow. They had already started introducing more and more gimmicks into the films and for this outing they felt it a good idea to drop the normal title song, (Thunderball was thought to be lyrically difficult in any case). They therefore decided to use the name by which Bond had become known in Italy and Japan - Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Accordingly, Barry based the entire score around this title song which had lyrics written solely by Leslie Bricusse (Newley was working in America at the time). The Bond team had even chosen Dionne Warwick as singer, after Shirley Bassey's original version had failed to impress. Barry takes up the story: "Dionne's was a marvellous song and she did a great arrangement for it. It was a really strange song. I had about twelve cowbells on it with different rhythms, along with a large orchestra, and thought it a very original piece. Then, at the last minute they got cold feet and decided to have a song called 'Thunderball'." The official reason for this sudden change of mind revolved around the possible controversy surrounding the sexually risqué song title in conservative America. More pertinent, possibly, was an alleged court action from Miss Bassey herself following her replacement by Warwick. Obviously if the song wasn't used at all, there could be no case to answer!
Whatever the reason, it led to Barry's long partnership with Don Black, who took over as lyricist as a result of Bricusse’s inaccessibility through working in America. When director Terence Young heard Thunderball for the first time, he said it sounded like 'Thunderfinger'. Barry's laughing rejoinder was to the effect that "I gave them what they wanted." Incidentally, both unused vocals are on the double CD: The Best Of James Bond - 30th Anniversary, along with a lengthy suite of music also excluded from the soundtrack album.
On You Only Live Twice, Barry teamed up again with Leslie Bricusse to produce a beautiful song, sung over the opening credits by Nancy Sinatra. However, the appearance on the American issued Bond 30th Anniversary double CD, of a completely different song entitled You Only Live Twice - demo, raised a few eyebrows. 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.
The singer turned out to be Julie Rogers, best known for her hit, The Wedding. Julie was quick to point out that her recording was not intended for demo purposes. On the contrary, she was actually chosen to sing the new Bond title theme on the strength of her aforementioned hit. As she rightly points out, "Successful TV and recording artists do not record demos!" Her song was recorded at CTS studios, Bayswater with Barry himself conducting a sixty-piece orchestra. Julie believes that only late pressure from the producers resulted in Nancy Sinatra eventually taking over as vocalist. Although Sinatra did indeed get the job, she was by no means second choice either. According to Bricusse, Barry had already lined up Aretha Franklin on the eve of her signing for Atlantic Records. However, the producers were insistent on using Nancy Sinatra who had just topped the charts with 'These Boots Are Made For Walkin'. Barry recently revealed that it took twenty takes before he was completely satisfied with Sinatra’s performance, due apparently to her nervousness in front of the microphone.
Unusually, Barry composed an instrumental to open On Her Majesty's Secret Service, probably as a means of resolving the problem of fitting a suitable lyric around what is a rather cumbersome film title. Although Barry's most recent ‘Bond Theme’ collaborator, Leslie Bricusse, was convinced of his ability to write a suitable lyric, the decision to opt for an instrumental proved the right one.
The film's screenplay was closely based on Ian Fleming's original story relating Bond's romantic entanglement and eventual marriage. To compliment the courtship scenes Barry wrote a beautifully haunting melody with the working title, We Have All The Time In The World, directly lifted from one of Fleming's own lines from the book. This combination of music and title provided Hal David with the skeletal framework around which a lyric could be constructed. Although he had only just left hospital after a long illness, Louis Armstrong was considered the ideal person to sing the finished song, on John Barry's own suggestion. "There was a line in the script, almost the last line – ‘We have all the time in the world’, as his wife gets killed, which was also in Fleming's original novel, and I liked that as a title very much. Now I'd always liked Walter Huston singing 'September Song' in the film September Affair, where as an older character he sang about his life in a kind of reflective vein. So, I suggested to Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman that Louis Armstrong would be ideal to sing our song in this fashion." Tragically, it was to be his last recording before his untimely death. "He was the sweetest man alive but having been laid up for over a year, he had no energy left. He couldn't even play his trumpet and still he summoned the energy to sing our song – if only a verse at a time. Afterwards, we were able to edit everything together to produce the marvellous recording you hear today. At the end of the recording session in New York City he came up to me and said ‘thank you for this job’. I couldn’t believe it, he was my hero and he was thanking me!"
The Armstrong song was a huge hit in Italy, thanks fortuitously, according to Barry, to a DJ based in Rome, who played the record virtually non-stop for an entire evening. Such saturation coverage sent it hurtling to number one, where it remained for nine months!!! Barry commented: "Italy was the only country where we had any success with the song. It was a very heavy song so we couldn't use it as the title track. It was buried inside the film and that probably hurt its chances of success. The song itself was written for a very emotional moment. I had pictured Sean Connery in the role of Bond when Hal and I first wrote the lyrics. If it had been Sean who married Diana Rigg and then lost her to Blofeld, then the song would have been beautiful and highly appropriate. Having Sean Connery and Diana Rigg together in the last scene would have really created a bombshell of a moment. With all due respect to the inexperience of George Lazenby, he couldn't have created a boiled egg in that last scene! He turned up for one of the recording sessions and seemed surprised that my music worked for a particular scene. He congratulated me as though he was doing me the biggest favour I had ever had – it was as though he hadn’t realised I wrote film music for a living!" Lazenby’s other ‘contribution’ towards the music was to suggest ‘Blood Sweat & Tears’ to perform ‘We Have All The Time In The World’, though he later admitted he was wrong.
The failure of Armstrong's song to dent any chart outside Italy, was remedied in England almost 25 years later after it was used for a Guinness television commercial. EMI saw fit to issue the song, as a result of public demand, at which point it climbed to number three in the charts.
Actor Charles Gray met an early death in You Only Live Twice in the guise of Dikko Henderson, Bond's initial contact in Japan, but was reincarnated in the form of Ernst Stavro Blofeld for Diamonds Are Forever, the seventh film of the series! Sean Connery was persuaded back for a final appearance as James Bond, after United Artists promised to back two of his own future film projects, plus the payment of an enormous fee for his services. John Barry needed no such encouragement to work on his own seventh Bond score, although afterwards he was reportedly furious with co-producer Harry Saltzman's low opinion of his theme song, performed by Shirley Bassey in her own inimitable style. According to Don Black, Saltzman thought that the lyric "hold one up and then caress it, touch it, stroke it and undress it" was "dirty". Apparently, after questioning Saltzman's competence to make a critical analysis of the song, Barry virtually threw him out of his Cadogan Square apartment. His anger with Saltzman even influenced his decision not to score Live & Let Die, the next film in the series, but fortunately few shared the producer’s opinion, since the song went on to win an Ivor Novello Award for Barry and Black. As usual, Barry produced some memorable action cues, yet they failed to find their way onto the soundtrack album, dominated as it was by those cues that reflected Las Vegas mood music.
By 1973, Barry was heavily involved with Don Black in the writing of the musical, ‘Billy’. He had agreed to give this project priority over any film music assignments and his disagreement with Saltzman hardly helped matters. Filming of Live And Let Die (Roger Moore’s debut in the title role) began in the Bahamas with no decision made as to who would score the film; that was until Saltzman received an unsolicited title theme song tape demo from Paul McCartney - and they weren't going to turn THAT down! After embarrassingly suggesting a female singer to perform the song, the producers eventually agreed to McCartney tackling it himself, with friend and mentor George Martin commissioned to write the score.
After turning down many other film-scoring opportunities due to his involvement with 'Billy', Barry was now faced with a particularly heavy schedule, and may not have been able to devote sufficient time to Man With The Golden Gun (1974). Apparently, he wrote the complete score in just three weeks, and was, according to Don Black, dissatisfied with the title song they wrote together. Vocalist Lulu was not at her best on the recording session, either, due to a sore throat. Not surprisingly, the resultant single sold very poorly - one of the few Bond theme vocals to miss the charts completely. Even though the soundtrack was a reasonable representation of the film score, Barry appeared to be signalling a certain boredom with the JB formula.
In fact, soon afterwards, Barry left England to initially live in Majorca, before moving permanently to America. He was badly missed on 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, although his replacement, Marvin Hamlisch did write an excellent theme song - Nobody Does It Better (with lyricist Carol Bayer Sager). Sung by Carly Simon, it was deservedly nominated for an Oscar. However the rest of his score didn't really match the requirements of a 1970s Bond film, in spite of receiving an Oscar nomination - something even the classic Barry scores failed to achieve. The score has its good moments, but ‘Bond 77’ and ‘Ride to Atlantis’ both have a very dated 70s sound.
A dispute with the Inland Revenue almost deprived the Bond camp of Barry’s services for Moonraker (1979), until it was decided to partially shoot in France. As a consequence, recording at the Davout Studios, Paris became a practical necessity, enabling Barry to avoid entering the UK. Now resident in America, Barry was reunited with lyricist Hal David to write a title song with Johnny Mathis in mind. Unfortunately, his vocal failed to work in the way it was envisaged. Barry was reflecting on this dilemma one day in a Beverly Hills hotel, when Shirley Bassey happened to walk in. Eureka! Problem solved. Moonraker became another excellent, haunting song, performed admirably by Bassey in her most sensual fashion, and it was a major surprise when the single failed to register in the charts. A much faster, almost disco-oriented rendition accompanied the end credits. Both versions made up the aforementioned single, although in Britain, the label credits were reversed - doubtless causing considerable initial confusion to radio presenters!
It was John Barry himself who persuaded the producers to appoint Bill Conti as his replacement for 1981’s For Your Eyes Only, when he found himself unavailable because of the aforementioned tax problems. Conti’s main worry centred around the theme song. After scrapping his original version on the advice of a friend, he combined with lyricist Michael Leeson to create an Oscar-nominated title song, performed during the opening credits in vision by Sheena Easton – the only occasion on which this has happened during the series. Unfortunately, the rest of Conti’s score was dominated by the then very fashionable disco beat, which has since dated the score rather badly.
In 1983, Barry decided the time was right to work again England. In order to do so, he not only chose to settle an outstanding tax bill, but also bought a property to use as a London base. He returned to the same Cadogan Square in which he resided during the sixties, and where he had written so many of his successful scores. John Glen had started his long run as Bond director with For Your Eyes Only, but Octopussy was the first time he and Barry had worked together as director and composer. However, as he recently told JohnWilliams, he had known Barry from many years prior to this: "In the fifties when I was a national serviceman stationed on the East Coast of England, playing at the local town hall was the John Barry Seven. Later our paths were to cross again. As a film editor I was associated with John on several movies. I remember On Her Majesty's Secret Service particularly well, as this was my introduction to the 'big time'. John wrote a particularly memorable score for the ski chase sequence using a moog synthesiser, at that time a novel instrument. He was always searching for that unique sound, sometimes new and sometimes from an ethnic source. Of course, the search for the broken guitar, which gave the James Bond Theme in Dr No such a great quality, is legendary in Bond circles. Never to be repeated as Vic Flick apparently threw it away. What else would a great guitarist do with a cracked guitar? John was lost to the Bond films for a number of years and I was fortunate that he was able to return for three of the films I directed: Octopussy, A View to A Kill and the Living Daylights. As a director what can one say to John Barry about the music for a Bond film? His contribution to the success of the series has been enormous. His needs were always very simple. A piano, a Moviola and not very much time. Six weeks was about as long as he got. Bond films always had a pressing release date and then there was always the title song."
On the subject of the Bond title song, the majority have eponymous themes, but there are occasions when this is not possible - Octopussy, an obvious example. When Barry and his new lyricist Tim Rice began working on the theme, Barry set Rice an unusual task. In order to satisfy the producers, he asked Rice to write half a dozen lyrics, on the basis that they would like at least one of them! Rita Coolidge was the surprise choice to perform All Time High in view of her low profile at the time. However, the producers were convinced that here was a potential ‘standard’, requiring someone of the class and easy-listening singing style of Coolidge to perform it. In the event, their conviction proved accurate. After reaching only number 75 in the UK charts it has since become something of an evergreen. The original soundtrack CD was issued on A & M but quickly withdrawn due to a printing error. Bond collectors have been known to pay hundreds of pounds for a copy. Thankfully, Rykodisc have recently re-issued it, complete with detailed booklet notes and photographs from the film.
John Taylor, of Duran Duran, a keen Bond / Barry fan, had cheekily suggested to Cubby Broccoli that the group would be ideal to write and sing the theme song for A View To A Kill. However, when they got the job, their initial reaction was one of fear! Of course, this was one offer they simply couldn't refuse, particularly with Barry apparently keen on working with them. Lead singer Simon Le Bon: "He didn't really come up with any of the basic musical ideas. He heard what we came up with and he put them into an order. And that's why it happened so quickly because he was able to separate the good ideas from the bad ones, and he arranged them. He has a great way of working brilliant chord arrangements. He was working with us as virtually a sixth member of the group, but not really getting on our backs at all."
Barry was amused by John Taylor's knowledge of his work: "He knows more about stuff I've done than I know myself. He'd pick out a scene from an old movie, and I mean old, and talk about it like I'm supposed to remember it as if it were yesterday!" Following the departure of CTS's resident engineer John Richards to America, A View To A Kill was the first occasion on which Dick Lewzey had been entirely responsible for the mixing. He was also responsible for recommending the orchestrator Nicholas Raine to Barry. The two have worked together on many occasions since. ‘A View to a Kill’ remains the only Bond title song ever to make number one in America (it reached no. 2 in Britain).
A View To A Kill marked the end of Roger Moore’s long run in the title role and his successor, Timothy Dalton, made his debut in The Living Daylights. For the first time in the series, Barry wrote a separate theme for the end titles sequence. He commented: "I thought it would be lovely at the end of the movie, instead of going back to the main title song, to have a love ballad which is the love theme that I used throughout the four or five love scenes in the picture." This theme was sung by Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders, who also wrote the words. Another Barry / Hynde song was included within the body of the film, and both of them were recorded with synthesised backing at Paradise Studios in Chiswick, London.
Barry started work on The Living Daylights in May 1987 by making full use of a 24-track digital technology available at CTS, Wembley. Both Barry and Lewzey were impressed with this format with Barry recalling how he recorded the very first digital film soundtrack, Disney's The Black Hole. "I love digital - it's just that much better than analogue, everything major I've done has been onto digital." A majority of the score used synthesised rhythm tracks and Barry added: "I wanted to put in these tracks and they really cut through. We've used them on about eight pieces and when we got them mixed in with the orchestra it sounded really terrific with a lot of energy and impact - a slight freshness and a more up-to-date sound."
Barry wrote some 57 minutes of music for this film in just four weeks! Band tracks were laid down at Maison Rouge Studios in South London, overlaid orchestrally at CTS, and finally remixed at the Power Station in New York. John Barry was reportedly unhappy with A-ha’s approach towards their performance of the main theme, comparing the experience as "Like playing ping-pong with four balls."
He was even less pleased with their attitude following completion of the theme song, when they refused to have anything further to do with the film. There was undoubtedly a certain amount of creative friction - "The old meeting the new", said Aha, who had been recommended to Michael G. Wilson by Ray Still, who had been involved with the Duran Duran project, and was then director of the US label, Warner Brothers Records. Pal Waaktaar, leader of the group, liked the idea of working with Barry but afterwards described it as "a strange experience - the song is not really a favourite in its current form!"
Illness prevented Barry from returning to score Licence To Kill, in 1989, even though production was delayed in the hope he would recover in time. Vic Flick did return, however, to play guitar on Michael Kamen’s sessions. Originally, Flick and Eric Clapton were to have performed the title theme as an instrumental but the producers reneged on the idea - hence Gladys Knight, and what was to lead to a worrying trend in demarcating song and score chores. Kamen, recruited to write the score following a string of successful action assignments, provided an interesting blend of traditional elements and a new approach with Latin guitar. The new tradition of having a different end-titles song continued via Patti LaBelle with ‘If You Asked Me To’, but this wasn’t written by Kamen, either.
Legal wrangles prevented any further James Bond adventures until 1995’s GoldenEye, by which time Timothy Dalton had decided it was time for him to hang up the tuxedo and revolver. Barry, too, apparently decided enough was enough, and although courted at length by the producers, claimed he was too busy on other projects to be able to give the film the time and attention it deserved. Director Martin Campbell was keen to use Eric Serra, famous for his electronic, synthesiser scores for Luc Besson’s films. Barry thought that a change in direction was certainly one option, especially after a six-year gap, but warned it might prove difficult to move away from a long established format. Words that were to prove only too true when Serra’s score was heard. In truth, it wasn’t a bad score as such, but didn’t seem appropriate for a Bond film. It is rumoured that had the producers more time, they would have rejected the score completely, but as it was they did insist on replacing the music for a key tank chase sequence with an orchestrally scored version of the James Bond theme. This was arranged by John Altman, Serra’s conductor for the sessions, as Serra was of the opinion that what he had written should be left in the film! Only the title song, written by Bono and The Edge and sung by Tina Turner can be said to be satisfactory, but even that is very derivative of the Barry/Bassey approach. Serra also made an error by electing to sing his own end-titles song, which was not entirely suitable for that purpose.
This leads us back to the current score to Tomorrow Never Dies. David Arnold has written a traditional Bond score, cleverly utilising elements of previous Barry scores while simultaneously updating it and imposing his own personality. He has also composed an excellent song, ‘Surrender’, sung by k d lang, with lyrics by Don Black, which is disappointingly relegated to the end titles sequence. Like Barry before him, Arnold has incorporated parts of his theme into other cues in the score, but this cannot be said of the main title song by Sheryl Crow. Fans of techno are rewarded by a version of The James Bond Theme by Moby, and it is encouraging to note that the overall length of the album is, like GoldenEye before it, well over fifty minutes. Now that the musical baton has been successfully passed onto a self-confessed Barry connoisseur, one can only hope that the true spirit of Barry’s original blueprint will live on into the millennium. Tomorrow, as they say, never dies.
Geoff Leonard & Pete Walker
Most of the online Barry fans have described the Royal Albert Hall performances in depth. I'll leave those orchestrations to what's come before. My reflections are less about "how this piece sounded" and "what was on the program" and more about the emotional impact of witnessing a John Barry concert for the first time. I've had the good fortune to have met the Man on a few occasions, even witnessed a mixing session for a small score he did to a short film called "The Witness." But I had never seen him stand in front of a full orchestra and conjure up the sounds that have been familiar to me since childhood.
To gaze upon Barry conducting the James Bond theme and taking in the orchestra and what instruments contributed to what sound and seeing it all come together in a powerful duel of brass and strings – sheer magic. To soak in the grandeur of Out of Africa and it sweeps across you in all its aural splendour... or to be seduced by the rapturous trumpet playing of Chris Botti on Playing By Heart -- which in my opinion is Barry's finest score since "Frances" -- incredible!
And to think I came this close to not sharing in this transcendent experience. Living in Los Angeles, the idea of buying tickets for a concert taking place on another continent strikes most as being quite an extravagance. The notion of flying ten hours to attend a three-hour concert and then flying straight back -- well, to most people, that seems to be going to extreme lengths to hear what you can just pop a CD into your player for. It wasn't like there was to be live recreations of Bond movies or 3-D effects or even synchronised film clips. Just a man conducting an orchestra.
Try explaining to customs officers in both London and America that you're only here (or were gone) for three days, basically to see a concert. See them sizing you up as some drug mule. "Yeah? Who did you go see?" "John Barry." "Who?" "You know, the guy who composed all the James Bond music?" "Oh, him. He does that, does he? Concerts?"
Barry's music has always effected me in a way that I'm sure many of his fans can identify with -- it just seems to get inside of me. To go deep. Shakes up the emotions. There's an emotional balance to it that no other composer can get even close to. It just seems that Barry knows how to go deep core while others barely penetrate the surface. Those minor chords distributing exquisite goose bumps down the spine. I think he taps into all the tragedy and beauty and poignancy of real moments. He's had them and we've had them. And he lends a beautiful voice to life moments, be it romance or tragedy. It's reflection for the soul, bottled only as John Barry can do it.
Anyway, after reading the many raves about last year’s concert, I was ready to go walk in traffic for not taking the opportunity to see Barry in concert. Christ, how many times is one going to get a shot at that in this life. Or in Barry's life. I totally screwed up. Then... it's announced, he'll be returning this year for another appearance. The moment word came across the Internet that tickets were going on sale, I was on the phone to the Royal Albert Hall. I bought a pair of the best seats. For my wife and I. This was at three in the morning. I then woke her to tell her we were going to London. "What? Yeah, whatever."
By daylight, I started to take account of the damage I had done. Concert tickets. The need now for plane tickets, accommodation, etc. And all for a concert. I'm not poor. I have the money --but then I'm not stinking with it either. It just seemed an extravagant undertaking for a weekend of concert going. And then there were work concerns. Writing deadlines. Family obligations. I second-guessed myself through a couple of months. I even waited on buying my plane ticket until the last moment. But in the end, insanity won out. Thank god. I mean, I had to live with myself. My wife caved to her family obligations – her mother's 60th birthday party and bowed out. There's something good to be said for mother-in-laws. Hearing about this sudden impending party got me on the phone the next morning booking passage to ol' Blighty as Pete Briggs lovingly describes it. John Barry actually got me off the hook and that's something else to be thankful for. My wife came to her senses a day before I was supposed to leave -- but, alas, too late. She had no plane ticket and I had already promised her ticket to a friend in London -- who also happened to be offering accommodation. He wasn't a Barry fan -- at least not until after the concert. He's already working on his CD want list. Poor guy.
After rummaging around a book fair on Saturday morning -- bought an original first edition of The Wicker Man by Robin Hardy and Anthony Shaffer; paperbacks: Get Carter and some other Ted Lewis British crime classics -- I hooked up with Geoff Leonard, Gareth Bramley and Russell Thewlis at the Cinema Book shop. Where I bought a copy of Playing By Heart off Gareth. Geoff and I had corresponded via email for a few years, so it was a pleasure to finally meet him. We met up briefly at the concert later, where I was also introduced to Pete Walker. The exultant trinity were now known to me. And then into the Royal Albert for The Show...
I had a good seat in the stalls to the right of the stage, where I could see Barry's face while he was conducting and had a pretty good view of the orchestra as well. There was no way this concert was going to disappoint. And it didn't. Let's be honest: it's a rare treat to hear an orchestra play the music of John Barry in public. Just doesn't happen all that often. And like I always say, no imitations will suffice. At least to my eyes, he had a very unusual style of conducting. Almost like a dance. He really seemed to be into it. And at ease. I thought he looked to be in fine health. He does come across as quite a fragile man, but one who has lived the good life. For anyone who has ever been face to face with him, he has the most piercing blue eyes and I mean that not in any kind of romanticised description of him - I'm perfectly straight. The Barry sound is right there in his eyes. Depths of emotion. He's very modest about his fans. To the point that it seems he doesn't care much for them. I'm sure he does, but he's not in it for the fans, and to be perfectly honest, I'm not in it for him. I'm greedy for his music. And the fact that he's a gentlemanly conduit for it is a plus. His life is fascinating, and back in the 60s he was pretty much a rock star, but, so what? I'll take a new CD over his bio any day - no offence to Geoff and the gang. I'm sure they'd agree with me.
I only wish (as others, I'm sure) is that he would have included some more obscure stuff into his repertoire: "Frances" or "Petulia." And talk about "Raise the Titanic" for an encore. Would have brought the house down. He needs to get a serious clue about that score: it's a &*$$%%### masterpiece! Still, whatever was on the menu was sheer delicacy -- and as fresh as the day it was conceived. John Barry is James Bond to me. As someone commented on the way out, "I never realised how much that music made the Bond movies." I definitely could have done with another hour of the man's cool stylings. As, I think it was Gareth who said to me, "You wouldn't have come over for Jerry Goldsmith, would you have?" As much as I love Jerry's music, and I am attending his upcoming Hollywood bowl concert, the answer is, of course not. That's says it all. For John Barry, I'd fly halfway across the world. For his music, I've got all the time in the world. This is one time I'm not going to have any regrets.
John Barry’s music has been a big influence on my life ever since I was a teenager. I can’t remember the first occasion on which I became aware of his music, but it was probably through watching the Saturday night BBC TV programme, Juke Box Jury, which used his ‘Hit & Miss’ composition as the signature tune. Looking back, the programme seemed to be on every Saturday night throughout the sixties, but I suppose it must have rested during the summer months of each year! There was also a Sunday morning BBC radio programme entitled Easy Beat, for which he also wrote the theme. It was required listening before the walk to catch the 11 o’clock service at our local church, which, incidentally was inevitably followed by dinner of roast beef, pork or lamb. Poultry was strictly only for Easter or Christmas. For the first few months of Easy Beat, The John Barry Seven were resident band, but I think they had been replaced by Bert Weedon by the time I tuned in.
The John Barry Seven vied with The Shadows for the position of Britain’s top small band. Although I was keen on The Shadows, too, there was some indefinable quality about the John Barry sound which made me want to start collecting his recordings from then onwards. Indeed, ‘Walk Don’t Run’ was the first 45 I ever bought, albeit a second-hand copy!! I think I paid two shillings for it (full priced singles were about six shillings and eight pence) from a shop in Gloucester Road, Bristol called Wookey & Jones. They also sold second-hand TV sets, as I recall. I must have listened to that record hundreds of times in the attic of our family home in Bristol - the only place I was allowed to play music at a decent volume level - marvelling at Vic Flick’s guitar solo which was so different from the other versions released at the time. He has since told me that EMI released the take on which he felt the guitar tremelo arm effect was slightly over done, and out of tune – which might explain my fascination! And the sound coming from those big old-fashioned speakers has never been matched. As I type this out I can almost hear that opening drum sound from Walk Don’t Run and smell the rather musty scent of the attic, prior to it being modernised. Other singles I bought around that time were Roy Orbison’s ‘Only The Lonely’ and Helen Shapiro’s ‘Don’t Treat Me Like A Child’. The latter being the first full-priced single I ever bought.
I was the second eldest in a family of three boys and a girl, and in the late fifties/early sixties in Bristol, we led rather a sheltered life. My mother wasn’t too keen on ‘pop’ music, she didn’t like me listening to Radio Luxembourg (the only radio station playing proper pop music back then), and as I have no memory of Drumbeat - Barry’s first big TV success in 1959, I can only assume the programme was turned off during that summer. Bear in mind that BBC was the only channel we could then receive. ITV had started a few years previously but you had to purchase a new TV set to be able to receive it. I think I remember her expressing outrage at the general appearance of one Adam Faith, and as he was a regular on Drumbeat, that might explain it.
I really want to be able to say I saw the JB7 on Drumbeat, but in all honesty I cannot recall it. Even if I saw part of a show, as seems likely seeing it ran for 22 weeks, at eleven years old I probably wouldn’t have been aware of the band and Barry. Eleven was a lot younger in terms of appreciating pop music in those days. I’ve even examined the details of a Saturday’s evening’s BBC TV output from that period, and gallingly I can definitely remember watching the closing overs of England v. India at cricket which directly preceded Drumbeat. As I said, maybe Mum or Dad turned off or maybe I rushed out to the local park to try and copy my heroes? I shall never know! I do remember seeing them appear in a TV play called Girl On A Roof. Well, to be fair, I remember watching the play. A girl threatened to jump unless her pop-star hero (played by Ray Brooks) agreed to meet her or maybe even marry her. He eventually did but destroyed her dreams by proving how appalling he really was by singing unaccompanied very loudly (and badly) right in her face ‘I Want You Baby’, which he clearly didn’t. And neither did she after that! I remember hearing the JB7’s music playing while they were on-stage and the action was off-stage, but not much about them being on camera. Well, it was 38 years ago!
As I grew older, I continued to collect John Barry records, which had become more and more experimental - particular the ‘B’ sides of his singles. The famous guitar sound was now beginning to share top billing with strings. The very last track on his first studio album, Stringbeat, was entitled ‘The Challenge’, and some critics felt this was a theme written for a film yet to be made. It was in such contrast to compositions such as ‘Hit & Miss’, from only a year or so before, that even at my tender age I could tell a change was on the way. I came across his soundtrack to Beat Girl, again, in a second-hand shop. This had been an X-certificate (over 18 only) film so it wasn’t so surprising that I’d missed both the film and the album when they were originally released in 1960. This, too, contained tracks unlike anything I’d heard before, in particular jazz-styled numbers like ‘Time Out’ and ‘The Off Beat’. I like to think I bought all his records in those early days, mostly as soon as they come out. Some I definitely remember buying new, like ‘Starfire’, ‘The Menace’ and, of course, ‘The James Bond Theme’. I also bought an e.p. called ‘Theme Successes’ new for about 11 shillings and 6 pence, but ‘The John Barry Sound’ e.p. cost five shillings second-hand. I remind myself that before I got a regular paper-round in about 1962, pocket-money was one shilling a week which eventually rose to two and six. So the buying of new records was an absolute luxury.
Indeed, Stringbeat, my first LP, was a Xmas present in 1962 and the following year came the soundtrack album to From Russia With Love - Barry’s first real dramatic film score. I must have bored the entire family and guests almost to death by insisting on playing it repeatedly downstairs during the festivities. I was allowed down from the attic because film music seemed a mite more respectable!
In 1963, Barry signed for Ember Records. As a small label, their distribution was poor and I was fortunate that a new record shop opened near me, with a helpful owner. The shop was called 'Stephen Francis Records', even though the owner was called something quite different. He got me all the early Ember singles like 'Fancy Dance', 'Zulu Stamp' and 'Elizabeth', before he was forced to close down through lack of business!
Barry's Bond and 'Elizabeth Taylor In London' albums succeeded not only on getting me hooked on film music, but also on the cinema in general. The sixties was a great time for cinema-going in Britain and I saw all the major films - some of them more than once. However, not all Barry’s scores were for major films. Consequently, unlike his ‘pop’ days with EMI, I didn’t buy all his recorded output simply because I didn’t know about the film or the album. Albums like KingRat, Four In The Morning and Boom! come to mind. Man In The Middle was slightly different. I was working by then and ordered the album especially from a shop in Park Row, Bristol. When it finally came into stock I couldn’t afford to buy it. I was earning only about £7.70 a week, so £1.75 was a large chunk to find. Some weeks later I thought it was safe to return to the shop without being recognised and the LP was in the racks. However, although I had the money I was mortified to see on the cover: ‘Music By Lionel Bart’. Though a thorough examination of the back of the sleeve would have revealed that Barry did write a few tracks, I left it. And there it stayed for a few more months – if not years. I regretted this incident when I eventually bought the album in the eighties for around £15!
And there were albums which weren’t released in this country - I had no idea how to obtain these. Bear in mind that back in those days there were no specialist film music magazines that I was aware of and certainly no Internet! But the albums continued to surface and I bought many more than I missed. And, nearly always brand-new. Goldfinger, Ipcress File, The Knack, Zulu, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice and O.H.M.S.S., Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland - I recall buying as if it were yesterday. And where!
Then there were the concerts. I’ve already said I was living in Bristol back in the early sixties, and apart from a brief period away, I have lived here ever since. Nowadays it is relatively easy to find out about London concerts of film music. There are friends with similar interests to tip you off, adverts in film music magazines, the Internet and quite often appearances by the composer/conductor concerned on radio and TV programmes. But John Barry’s first film music concert in 1972 had taken place at the Royal Albert Hall before I was aware of it. Indeed, the first I knew about it was when he appeared on BBC TV in a special about his music, introduced by Michael Parkinson, when he conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a selection of music taken from that concert. At the Royal Albert Hall he had conducted the second half of the concert after Miklos Rozsa had occupied the podium for the first half – what an occasion that must have been! The following year, Barry was back again, with Muir Mathieson in tandem. This time it was several years before I found out about it.
But in the mid-seventies, Barry moved to America to live and the word was that he would not be returning, due mainly to various tax problems. UK-released albums seemed to dry up a little and it was a long time before I bought another one. Man With The Golden Gun was probably the last one I was aware of until Moonraker. I had no knowledge of scores such as The Deep, King Kong or Billy – it still puzzles me that a musical could run for over 2 years on the London stage without my knowledge! Maybe London was a ‘bridge too far’ in those days?
A few months working in London at the end of the seventies proved a good move for me. My brother was working there as a sound designer for the RSC and he told me where I could find rare soundtracks. 58 Dean Street & Dress Circle were his tips, and what gems I found there! I virtually filled all the gaps in my Barry album collection, including some from films of which I had never heard, like Starcrash, Petulia, The Last Valley, The Dove, Robin & Marian – the list was endless. And they weren’t cheap, either!
I was resigned to never seeing Barry perform in public, but for some unaccountable reason I did think it would be rather a good idea to write a book about his life in music. I’ve no idea why I had this thought. I had not written more than the odd letter since leaving school in the sixties, and even back then, essays were not my strongest point. To make matters worse, since his move from England there was very little information available about him in newspapers or magazines, and a Leeds-based fan club appeared to have folded. But I persevered and started to seriously research the book around the mid-eighties. I got some help from his ex-guitarist, Vic Flick, as well as two fellow Barry fans, Pete Walker & Gareth Bramley, whom I contacted via Record Collector magazine. From then onwards the book has been aborted, re-started and shelved again on many occasions, mainly due to the absence of a willing publisher, but also, it has to be admitted, due to a complete lack of interest from Barry himself. I had spoken to him on several occasions from the early nineties onwards but he seemed really only interested in the future. But in late 1997, Gareth, Pete and I decided we must go ahead and finish the book anyway, and were fortunate enough to find a sympathetic Bristol publisher, Sansom & Company. Gareth agreed to fund the book and a long-held ambition was finally realised in November, 1998, with the publication of John Barry – A Life In Music.
During quite a lengthy interview with Barry for Music From The Movies a few years ago, I had broached the subject of concerts. He made it clear that if he could get an orchestra he was familiar with, (the RPO was suggested) and the rehearsal time he considered necessary, he would be happy to perform. But subsequent comments from him gave the distinct impression that the thought of performing again in public filled him with dread. So, when film music writer Paul Tonks told me early in 1998 that Barry had agreed to give a concert at the Royal Albert Hall, I wasn’t entirely convinced this would ever happen! As it turned out, it was a day I (and I suspect Pete & Gareth) will never forget.
Pete and I had written the programme notes – at very short notice, I must emphasise – so we already knew what was likely to be played. I was both surprised and delighted to see that we were sitting in seats just one row from the very front and almost directly underneath the conductor's podium. Bear in mind we were so close, we couldn't see anybody walking on until they got right up to the podium. So I heard this great shout and chorus of approval and waited for the first glimpse of Barry. But it was Michael Caine! He got virtually a standing ovation himself! I guess he is still one of the most popular English actors around. He introduced Barry by re-telling the true story of how he kept him awake during the composing of ‘Goldfinger’, when he was a temporary guest at Barry’s Cadogan Square apartment. He embellished and extended it somewhat (a little inaccurately) and also delivered it quite slowly and deliberately – he knew he had us in the palm of his hand! I think it was almost 8.15 by the time Barry arrived on stage to thunderous applause, looking very nervous. He was visibly moved by the occasion - very moist-eyed - and said a few words in response to Caine, adding it was appropriate to start with Goldfinger and said, "Let's have some fun." And we were away.
For me, the undoubted highlight of this half was The Persuaders. To my great surprise, Barry & the orchestra performed it just as the original single was done, albeit presumably with a synth providing the sound of the cimbalom or whatever it is. But also outstanding was Midnight Cowboy, featuring Tommy Morgan on harmonica and Dawn Attack - from Dances with Wolves. Just a little different and even more exciting than the OST version. I also really enjoyed Moviola, even though Barry felt it was necessary to mention the Streisand business again! The first half lasted around 65 minutes and with a twenty-minute interval, the second half didn't start before 9.45. Clearly the expected 10.30 finish was way out of line!
Caine reappeared again at the beginning of the second half to present Barry with a replica of a BFI plaque which will go on the wall of the house where he was born in York. This added yet more time onto the half. Barry didn't introduce or back-announce everything. In the first half he commented on The Persuaders, Midnight Cowboy (partially to introduce Tommy Morgan), Amy Foster (to publicise the film) and Dances With Wolves. In this half, he introduced the saxophonist, David White, who was brilliant on Body Heat. Chaplin was extended to include Smile, and he then announced Space March as one of his most requested cues. This went down a storm! Then came Ipcress File and The Knack. This was another treat as both were performed in traditional style. The
Cimbalom (Synth?) sounded a little unsure of itself at first, but soon got into its stride. It was a wonderful moment. The Knack was simply terrific. A choir was sampled by the synths, presumably, and it was obvious the orchestra were enjoying this one! It proved exceptionally popular with the audience and Barry was seen to shake his head almost in disbelief at the ovation. "Very definitely a sixties sound," he commented. Obviously the Beyondness Suite was well-performed as the orchestra was most familiar with it. Barry pointed out 'Kissably Close', billed in the programme, was replaced by 'Heartlands'.
Finally, he introduced The Bond suite by commenting on the wonderful lyricists he worked with - "Don Black, Hal David, Tim Rice, Lionel Bart. Uh, Duran Duran, a-ha - is it any wonder I left?"!!! The suite was absolutely fantastic! The Bond Theme and OHMSS were the highlights for me. Brilliantly played. He left the stage to rapturous applause and returned to encore The Girl With The Sun In Her Hair. Despite a standing ovation, he didn't come back again and possibly there was nothing left to play, or no time to play it.
It was now around 11.15 - Pete would miss his last coach! And if I went to the Barry reception I would too. Well, of course I was going anyway, with Paul Tonks & Gareth Bramley. They wouldn't let Pete in without an invitation - of course, with his coach journey already booked, we hadn't thought he was going to be available for the reception - and we couldn't find any Decca officials within. I found out later that Pete had found an official outside the room, and told her that he had co-written the programme notes but she seemed to think Gareth was the co-writer and was already in and still wouldn't let him in. A great shame. Anyway, inside it was a heaving mass of people (not quite literally!). I couldn't believe the number of people there! I spotted Michael Caine and his wife just inside the door but they made a very quick exit, as did Don Black. Michael Winner was there, as was Gloria Hunniford and the DJ and writer Paul Gambaccini. Later I saw Basil Poledouris with Barry. I was introduced to Nick Redman, Jon Burlingame and Marilee Bradford, and also Richard Kraft - Barry's agent. A real thrill for me. I’m sure there were other personalities there, too, but I either didn’t recognise them or missed them in the initial crush. Barry himself was there with his wife, Laurie but was surrounded by people getting him to sign programmes. Eventually I took Gareth over there, introduced myself and asked him to sign my invitation card. He seemed pleased to see me and I think he remembered who I was. He sounded a little slurred - several glasses of Champagne, I guess! I told him how good the concert had been and he agreed! He thought there would be more at some stage in the future.
We left right at the end and wandered around London trying to find a decent restaurant open. This was now after 2 a.m.! We couldn't. We settled for a Burger place in Leicester Square in the end, and after Gareth went back to his hotel around 3.30, I spent the rest of the night/morning with Paul while we waited for our respective trains home. I’m hoping to get some sleep very soon, but as I said at the outset – it was a day I shall never forget, and who’s worried about missing a few hours' sleep?
A few days later at the HMV Signing
I'd arranged to attend the JB signing with Gareth, after we'd visited a few other places in town. We arrived at HMV at about ten minutes before the signing was due to commence. To my horror, there was a queue which stretched around the shop controlled by stewards and crash barriers. I had imagined him sitting behind a desk downstairs in the soundtrack department, chatting amiably to the occasional punter after a signature. No! HMV had set up a kind of stage on the main ground floor. There was a giant screen showing footage from Raise The Titanic and when that finished they played music from The Beyondness Of Things. So this could be heard throughout the ground floor - a floor which usually shakes to the latest dance or rock music! We decided to hang around for a while to see if rapid progress was made. Just after 5.30, some chap came on the PA and asked to give a big welcome to the one and only John Barry. To the sounds of 'Give Me A Smile', the man strode across the floor and up onto the temporary stage. It was like watching a Conservative politician entering the stage of his party conference while being cheered by his supporters.
Barry then took the microphone and made a little welcoming speech, thanking us all for turning up on such a miserable day (it had been raining an awful lot). He hoped we would all have short names like Ron, Eric and Bill. He didn't want any Alexanders, or Von Ryan Defreitases! He looked forward to meeting us ALL! The MC then said Mr Barry had consented to answer a few questions. He had some himself and would then put some from the floor which he had collected earlier. I got the impression some people had been there for hours! Anyway, suffice it to say, the most interesting question was about the concert. JB admitted to being terrified for the first ten minutes and for the previous 3 days! He considered throwing himself under a bus and seriously wondered about turning up at all (I worried about that!). But after that initial feeling of panic, something wonderful happened and the music and orchestra took over. He thought it was a very special evening. The MC reminded him and us that the concert could have been sold out on two more days. Barry said he was having discussions about doing another 3 days at the RAH (didn't say when) and then taking the orchestra to selected UK cities like Manchester & Birmingham "Where they have these wonderful new symphony halls". He said money wasn't an issue. He would do it for the sheer joy and as long as they broke even he didn't mind. But he insists on doing it with a full orchestra, not 40 players. Otherwise the fun goes out of it.
In other questions he admitted that the producer / director do have the final say on the music in films, but maintained that sometimes you have to insist you know better than they do about music. He cited Born Free & Goldfinger as songs which wouldn't have been in the movies if they had had their way. He also said that pressure for a hit title song had grown and grown, especially in the JB situation. He confirmed he had been asked to score TND, but told them to stick it when they insisted on somebody else writing the title song. The cimbalom sound in Ipcress File was very much a homage to The Third Man - one of his favourite scores. I think he said Orson Welles was his second wife's godfather!
It wasn't always easy to understand him since he was holding the mike too close and his voice is SO deep! He said that sadly days of sheet music sales were gone and it was now very much a record situation. This was in response to somebody who wanted to know why they couldn't get sheet music to Out Of Africa. He said that back in the days of Born Free they sold thousands of copies. He decided to demonstrate just why, and gave an impression of a youngster banging it out on the piano and calling his mum to listen! He reiterated that arranging and conducting his own music was essential as far as he is concerned. He talked about how the theme for Midnight Cowboy isn't exciting on its own, but it's the rest of the accompaniment and counter-melody which makes it. He loves counter melodies, and mentioned George Gershwin in this connection. I think that was the main highlights.
He then started the signing. I should mention at this point that it was all being filmed by Sky TV, and that the