John Barry’s James Bond Scores (Part 1 of 6): Goldfinger — 8 Comments

  1. Good discussion – I have never looked into the details of how a film score achieves its effect. You have set out very clearly some of the techniques used and how they work.

    A question occurs to me, and it is no accident it is in relation to the ‘In Miami’ theme (curiosity about which set me on the path of search and inquiry that led me to discover your analysis).

    I can well imagine you recall exactly the theme I have in mind. For others, it is the theme which kicks in immediately after the title song in the opening credit sequence. The scene starts with an airborne shot of an aeroplane trailer, ‘Welcome to Miami’, panning earthward for an aerial tracking shot of the glamourous Fontainbleau beach-front resort, gradually closing as the shot flies over.

    This music – ‘In Miami’ – has held my imagination since the first time I saw Goldfinger, as a youngster. I’ve never forgotten it – and always wondered about it.

    Picking up your theme of recurring motifs and repeated use of ostinato upon key melodic phrases, my question is: How the hell does this music fit in?

    My own view – with no grasp of film score analysis, and even less grasp of musicianship – is that this brash and brassy theme (actually ragged and bluesy sax, if I recall, so not the usual Bond fare of steely sharp trumpet hits) needed to be sufficiently strong and distinct to follow immediately upon the epic title song. In addition, it needed quickly and strongly to establish a whole new setting, quite distinct from the pre-title sequence. The ‘risque’ blues and jazz accidentals which the tune turns upon, and which skirt so near to actual dissonance as to suggest a wild departure from the world of ordinary things, transport us at once. We are at the limit of the game – in terms of harmony – and in terms of wealth, morality, glamour, and goodness knows what. This music would not go amiss in a night scene, with the scope for deviance that the dark affords, but in fact it is used on a brilliant summer’s day. The lives of the wealthy and the reckless do not return to the humdrum with the rising of the sun. The party goes on…

    Well, sorry, that is my long-winded and musically illiterate view. I really brought it up because it is the one piece of music which seems not to fit the scheme of devices and techniques you have so well outlined. Or do you also have an analysis of this short piece which places it snugly into the whole?

    I enjoyed your comments and I hope I have not bored you with mine.


    • There is something rather seedy about the Miami music and its darkly dissonant harmonies, isn’t there? In terms of how it fits the score, of course there is no leitmotif here for Bond, Goldfinger, or Oddjob. But it does have Barry’s compositional stamp on it through the use of a two-chord ostinato. That swinging accompaniment that opens the cue persists throughout the first four phrases of the brass tune that comes in. Then it changes slightly on its second chord and reiterates that for the four phrases of the solo for also sax, so this could be considered a slight variation of the opening ostinato. The brass tune then returns and, along with it, the original ostinato for another four phrases then continues under the strings for two more phrases before halting on the final chord.

      So in short, I’d say the cue blends with the rest of the score through its use of ostinato, but also its obvious jazz idiom, which is present in virtually all the other cues through the kinds of chords Barry writes, the syncopated rhythms, and of course the big band instrumentation. (Interestingly, Barry’s former drummer Bobby Richards is said to have arranged this particular cue on account of Barry being short for time. The music, however, is all Barry’s.)

  2. Does anyone know the exact orchestration for the Goldfinger theme?
    And how does John Barry achieve that amazing “way-wah” effect with the brass?
    I’m orchestrating this piece for my youth group.
    I believe it was one of the best movie themes ever written. It’s too bad that Mr. Barry didn’t get and academy award until he wrote “Born Free.”

    • Hi David. I don’t know Barry’s exact orchestration for Goldfinger (I’d love to know myself!), but his wah-wah effect was originally written as a simple wah-wah mute for the trumpets, but then he decided to change it to the plunger mute. The rest of the story is as follows (as given in Burlingame):

      “Once the plunger mute was decided on, Watkins [one of the trumpet players] said, Barry wanted the players to ‘make it even more dirty,’ so some of them added a throaty growl as they played the notes, ‘really kind of earthy. It just grew more and more, each time we played it. “Oh, yeah, that’s it! Give us more of that!”‘”

  3. “Goldfinger” was the first LP I ever owned. Prior to seeing the movie I’d only collected 45’s of current hit songs. Changed my whole life as a collector of music and movie soundtracks in general. I have many of the Bond soundtracks and still believe “Goldfinger” was the all-time best and should have won the Academy Award for that year. That the inferior “Skyfall” theme song won and “Goldfinger” didn’t is too typical of the Hollywood crowd.

  4. Hi,

    I just downloaded a midi file of the song. I was surprised to hear G E F on “He’s the man”; in the song by Shirley Bassey, I have always heard G Eb F.

    But the score here shows G E F :
    but that score seems corrected with a hand-written b :

    On the piano it seems that most people plays a natural E as here :

    For me the correct note is definitely Eb, is there an error in the score? It’s very strange, what do you think (or know)?

    Kind regards.

    Eb here

    But on the original score (pdf) natural E

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