John Barry’s James Bond Scores (Part 6 of 6): Barry’s Changing Bond Style — 5 Comments

  1. Thanks for that excellent discussion and analysis.

    It seems, then, that the “Bond theme” developed somewhat organically during the series of films (franchise). As the films continued, I noticed that they began to parody each other in subtle ways and I submit that the ‘re-casting’ of the theme is a major way to achieve that. I suppose it’s inevitable that a series of films with the same character is going to become monotonous – what new things can be possibly said? So I think Connery tended to parody the films towards the end and this was probably a reason why alternative actors were chosen – there was going to be an end point and inevitability with parody. A new “James Bond” would freshen the characterization. Connery was the most superb, but Moore tended towards the subtle tongue-in-cheek too. The 007 theme in its various incarnations became somewhat self-reflexive and, to a degree, parodying. The consistent use of a 007 “theme” also implied ‘quality assurance’ – audiences knew what they were getting, that it would be predictable but by transforming or paraphrasing the theme itself they knew to expect the unexpected.

    There are marketing reasons, of course, but I regard a ‘signature’ theme as synonymous with a type of film and a ‘guarantee’ about what audiences could expect.

    Newer, less familiar title music would disrupt that narrative expectation and create a newer set of expectations – so the ‘franchise’ can continue.

    • Sue – Yes, I would agree that the evolution of the use of the Bond theme (in its jazz-scored form) did provide a certain guarantee for audiences while giving them something new at the same time.

      One use that Barry seemed to stay away from is for a “heroic escape” that Bond makes. The first really prominent example is in Hamlisch’s score for The Spy Who Loved Me, in the pre-title sequence, when Bond skis off a cliff and opens his parachute, which is a big Union Jack (at 0:58):

      Michael Kamen used it in pretty much the same way in Licence to Kill, when Bond makes his escape by water skiing away with a harpoon gun:

      This use of the Bond theme seems to have become common in more recent Bond films. Barry’s conception of the theme didn’t really include this function, or at least marginalized it.

  2. I just discovered your blog and finished reading your whole Barry-Bond series. It is excellent! In your passage about other themes and songs, you neglected to mention other action themes that many of the films have. When the main theme is used as a love theme, Barry often writes an additional action theme to be used multiple times the film. In You Only Live Twice there is “A Drop in the Ocean”, in Octopussy there is “Gobinda Attacks/Yo-Yo Fight” and in A View to a Kill there’s “Snow Job/He’s Dangerous”. You also say that in “The Man with the Golden Gun, and Moonraker, the jazzy form of the Bond theme was generally confined to the gunbarrel sequence and perhaps the pre-title sequence.” The Bond theme is used for the car chase in The Man with the Golden Gun in its same form as in the gunbarrel, and in Moonraker, the form used in the pre-title freefall sequence is later used in a boat chase. Since The Man with the Golden Gun, Barry used the full-on Bond theme for chase sequences in every film. In Octopussy it’s used in the taxi chase and in the car chase on the train tracks. In A View to a Kill it’s used in the chase in Paris. And in The Living Daylights it’s used in the Gibraltar chase and in the Aston Martin chase.

    • Great additions, Matt! When I wrote these Bond posts, I never intended them to be comprehensive, so there are inevitably themes that go unmentioned. But it’s really nice to have your additional themes here. It’s a hope of mine to one day do a thorough examination of all of Barry’s Bond scores. Thanks again for your input.

  3. I feel it is worth pointing out that the use of the James Bond Theme in the clips you cite from From Russia with Love and You Only Live Twice were also sequences that were ‘scored’ without Barry’s approval/participation (in a similar situation to the one mention regarding OHMSS). These scenes were done in the dub and were not intended that way by Barry. Regarding You Only Live Twice, Barry wrote the cue 6m2 for Little Nellie’s take off and first flight, and the immediate next cue for the scene is 6m3, where Bond states over the radio that he is returning to base. Notice there is no gap in the cue numbers; if Barry had intended the James Bond theme for the aerial fight, that cue would have been 6m3 and the ‘returning to base’ cue would have been 6m4. The dogfight sequence was originally intended to play without music, with the James Bond Theme ‘tracked’ (and remixed to fit) into the scene for a more lively feel.

    Similarly, the train tracks chase in Octopussy that Matt S. mentions above is another case of tracking; that is, previously-composed being inserted into the sequence (either by the editor, director or music editor) where there was originally a different cue or no music written for that sequence originally by the composer.

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