Thursday, February 03, 2011

Barry's Bond Legacy

I've gone through a ton of various phases in my lifetime – tennis nut, conspiracy buff, thrift store addict, hopeless Atari collector, PLANET OF THE APES-phile, you get the picture – but I'd venture that the World of James Bond was one of, if not the first, that I really immersed myself in.

My brother-in-law had original paperbacks of all the Fleming Bond books and as soon as I could appreciate them he started letting me borrow them so I could read the series in order. This was also around the time of the release of THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, arguably Roger Moore's finest moment as 007, and I remember trekking up the street to the local theater to see it a handful of times during the summer of 1977. Couple that with ABC's frequent airings of the earlier Connery classics and I was totally hooked on Bond.

It didn't hurt that my older brothers had already been through this phase, so our garage was littered with vintage Bond board games and not one, but two of the gadget-packed attache cases that sell for hundreds of dollars on eBay. My friends and I played with them till the cases fell apart and the guns, rubber bullets, soft plastic knives, cap bombs and booby-trapped notebooks broke or were buried in my backyard. Only a couple decoders survived my childhood.

So it was sad to hear the news that legendary soundtrack composer/conductor John Barry passed away earlier this week. Though his legendary career truly runs the gamut (the man did the score for the amazing STAR CRASH for god's sake!) I think most folks will remember him as the man behind the music of Bond. And rightly so... the oft-imitated, never duplicated 007 theme has become a cinematic music icon, copied, ripped-off and parodied to the limit.

Luckily, one small piece of my Bond collection that has survived eight moves is my cache of Bond-related LPs. While I think I only own one or two original soundtracks (including the LP for the underated ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE featuring the great "All the Time in the World" written by Barry and sung by Louis Armstrong) I've never been able to pass up an album of tracks "inspired by" the soundtrack contributions of Barry and Co.

In Barry's memory, here's a sampling of tunes that will forever cement his legacy as the Man Behind the Bond Theme. (You can right-click and download any of the MP3s to your computer for listening at your leisure or click and play them now.)

Once United Artists realized they had a hit on their hands with the James Bond film franchise there was no stopping the spin-off machine. In fact, the explosion of 007 merchandise in the wake of GOLDFINGER's release is simply amazing to behold.

One of the many offshoots was the 007 album, in this case an authorized United Artists release featuring songs from the first three flicks as well as "interpretations of the Bond scene" by artists like Sir Julian, The Leasebreakers, Dick Ruedebusch and others.

This particular selection – entitled 'Golden Girl' – comes courtesy of LeRoy Holmes who left MGM for United Artists in the 1960s. He became a staple of their movie-oriented LPs and has several tracks on this slab. I'm not sure what mood LeRoy was trying to evoke here, but 'Golden Girl' is more "bawdy strip club" than "action-packed spy affair". It also flirts with the revved up music that accompanied the late-1960s 'Spider-Man' animated series that warped my fragile little mind.

United Artists must have been in a hurry to get this one out as nobody noticed the back cover blooper that suggests taking a tip from 007 and settling back with a "tasty martini, gently stirred and not shaken."

The success of GOLDFINGER inspired many other record companies to get in on the action, including RCA whose "GOLDFINGER AND OTHER MUSIC FROM JAMES BOND THRILLERS" features naturalized British subject Ray Martin and his Orchestra interpreting 007 soundtrack standards such as the super-spy's theme as well as title tunes from GOLDFINGER and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE.

The back cover of this particular classic features some fine LP copy from one Mort Goode...
James Bond is the inspired 007: Sir Hocus-Pocus; Lord Hokkum; Duke of Deviltry; a combination of the Royal Marines, the FBI, the Rangers and Houdini; a name that makes Casanova sound like a Brazilian supper club. He scales super-heights in the erasure of inhuman Bondage and sparks romantic ideas for the timid, the tiresome and others who can't even entertain an option.
Wow! Keep that in mind as you enjoy the cut 'Girl Trouble' from the magnificent FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE.

Here's a couple choice cuts from the Springboard Records release: "Music from THE SPY WHO LOVED ME & Other Great JAMES BOND THRILLERS As Performed by the Film Festival Orchestra". I've had this album since I first snagged it in a grocery store back in the late-70s and it was probably the first piece in my Sounds of Bond collection, as well as the first of many Springboard records and tapes I would own (and sell or trade) over the years.

Looking at the cover now I wonder how I was expected to resist it – curvy babes, cars, helicopters, explosions and sharks! Even at 10 I knew this was super cool and that I was helpless against the power of cheesy ads.

Enjoy two tracks from this great release: the theme from ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE (arguably my favorite 007 flick) and Barry's historic "James Bond Theme" from DR. NO.

The "Sleepwalk" Guitars of Dan and Dale may be – along with Chubby Checker – one of the few accurate names in the history of recorded music. Never has surf guitar inspired so many naps on my part. Check out this surf- and western-influenced take on the theme from GOLDFINGER.

I love these split LPs with seemingly-disparate movies like GOLDFINGER and ZORBA THE GREEK getting the knock-off soundtrack treatment. Another favorite in my collection features FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE coupled with Henry Mancini's iconic score for THE PINK PANTHER. It might not make sense for everybody, but Bond and the Panther were probably the first two cinematic tunes I ever identified with and that LP feels like it was made just for me.

Last but not least, the world of Bond has inspired plenty of gentle and not-so-gentle parodies over the years. Matzoh jokes and politically incorrect schtick are the trademarks of the borscht belt 007 spoof, JAMES BLONDE: THE MAN FROM TANTE. In this sequence, Blonde confronts matzoh maker and master criminal Goldflaker on the set of his latest commercial, gently tweaking both Bond and Barry's tunes along the way.

1 comment:

VOD / SVOD said...

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