As movie franchises go, the James Bond series is one of the most successful in screen history.
A winning movie formula with global box office receipts in the billions of dollars surpassed only by 'Harry Potter' and the Marvel franchises. From the casting of the leading men Sean Connery and the likes of Roger Moore of equal importance was the music. Enter John Barry, who would score no fewer than 11 of the Bond films and turn Monty Norman’s tune into arguably the most instantly recognisable theme music in television and film history.
John cemented Bond’s place within our musical and cultural landscape. And let’s not forget the singers, who added some showbiz pizazz and sparkle to the mix.
Here, Conductor for 'ASO Plays James Bond' Nicholas Buc lists five unforgettable Bond musical moments.
'Dr. No' (1962) - Bond, James Bond
The introduction of Sean Connery as James Bond in 1962 is surely one of the most iconic in film history. The timing of dialogue, music and camerawork as Bond utters those immortal lines is the stuff of legend, and it was John Barry’s arrangement of Monty Norman’s signature tune that instantly defined the sound of a suave, secret agent. A chromatic chord progression, twanging guitar and a laid back rhythm section was all that was required to convey the character’s sense of style and swagger. Nobody did it better than the original.
'You Only Live Twice' (1967) - Capsule in Space
One of the staples of the Bond films has been the pre-title sequences. The opening of 'You Only Live Twice', in which a US space capsule is literally swallowed by an unidentified spaceship is made all the more menacing by John Barry’s hypnotic music. Starting with the lone pulse of a timpani, it slowly reveals what became a staple John Barry trademark, the repeating four-bar phrase. Over the course of three minutes, the same harmony repeats and grows, adding evocative flutes, swirling harp figures and eventually building to a thrilling brass crescendo. The music was famously parodied in the 'Austin Powers' films, which surely makes it worthy of a mention as one of the top musical moments in Bond history!
'On Her Majesty’s Secret Service' (1969) - Dating Scene
Look, let’s be honest, George Lazenby wasn’t that bad! It certainly helped that the film is one of the tautest in the series, and George doing his own stunts added to the fantastic action scenes throughout the film. But it was leading lady Diana Rigg as Teresa Draco who stole Bond’s heart and, with a little help from John Barry, later became the first and only Mrs. Bond. The song 'We Have All The Time In The World' was one of Barry’s favourite Bond compositions, and featured the very last recording made by Louis Armstrong. The dating scene in the movie is quite unusual for a Bond film, with it’s montage-like nature serving as a way of showing the blossoming romance between the two leads.
'The Spy Who Loved Me' (1977) - Ski Chase
A few different composers have tackled the Bond films over the years, but surely none were as culturally rooted as Marvin Hamlisch’s disco-infused score to Roger Moore’s best outing. The opening ski chase is a ripper and the cliff jump still holds up as thrilling even by today’s standards, but the music couldn’t possibly exist outside the late '70s. Taking a cue from the Bee Gees, the score is funky and upbeat, but still with that hint of danger that only the classic Bond harmony can provide. Do you like cheese with your martinis?
'Casino Royale' (2006) - Death of Vesper
Daniel Craig’s first outing as Bond is arguably considered his best, and he was matched wit for wit by Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd. Their chemistry throughout was one of the film's strongest points and David Arnold’s superb score played a key role in cementing their relationship as the defining theme of the film. Vesper’s death at the end of the film packs an enormous emotional punch and, along with the death of Bond’s wife Tracy in 'On Her Majesty’s Secret Service', makes it one of the most tragic endings to a Bond film.
'ASO Plays James Bond' is on at Adelaide Festival Centre's Festival Theatre 15-16 February.