Deafening silence

You would be forgiven for thinking I’d left my blogging days long behind! I haven’t – it’s just been ridiculously busy! Now that certain milestones (or is that millstones) have cleared I am able to do some composing and film making once more.

We are in the final stages of completing our short film (this was rather shockingly filmed over two years ago). In October I met with Susie Stead (the writer/producer) and we gave ourselves a deadline of finishing the film “before the end of 2016”, the reality is I’d like it finished it even earlier.

This period of inactivity has been helpful in allowing us to reflect with a completely fresh perspective. The most significant change is we have renamed the title from “The Choice” to “Emmi” (the character which the film revolves around). We felt the original title no longer represented the film properly and we wanted something which was short and snappy!

Emmi Title

The film edit is locked but there are a number of post-production elements still to finish: visual tweaks, colour grading, sound. In terms of the sound we are working with Oxford Audio Post Production. They have worked on projects including the Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and the forthcoming Netflix “A Series of Unfortunate Events”.

The aim will be to take the film on the festival circuit in 2017, exciting times ahead!

Bourne Again

Last week I watched the new Jason Bourne movie. With no James Bond film on the foreseeable horizon – this seemed the next best thing (aside from The Night Manager).

In terms of Bourne, I’m in the minority who is not a fan of The Bourne Ultimatum (which most people consider the best). Whilst I can appreciate it on some levels (eg. the excellent Waterloo sequence) I’m a far bigger fan of the first two (The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy). Both of these films have the heart and humanity of Marie (Franka Potente) which is contrasted nicely against the duplicitous cunning of Abbott (Brian Cox). These characters are both sorely missed in the later installments. The new film (which isn’t a strictly necessary addition to the series) plays like a greatest hits album but with slightly different renditions. It’s fun, familiar but not as good as the originals – but that’s not to say it’s not still enjoyable.

I’m also a massive fan of the musical scores from the first two Bourne movies. John Powell’s score for Identity was rather unique at the time – mixing throbbing percussion, atonal electronics, stabbing staccato strings against occasional acoustic elements. Supremacy expanded on these themes in the best possible way and introduced some new material (‘To the roof’ being my personal favourite). Much like the films, by the third installment everything was feeling familiar (in fact they even dropped cues from the first film over the top of some parts). The most recent (Jason Bourne) score is credited to both John Powell and David Buckley. I was sad to learn that John Powell’s wife died earlier this year, I suspect this is why David Buckley has also been involved this time around. He does a good job of weaving together some of Powell’s familiar themes.

I decided for fun I’d also like to try to emulate John Powell’s style and create an imaginary Bourne score. Had tremendous fun writing this! That said it tested my playing ability (the end is some of the fastest track work I’ve done – probably a rebellious response to the torn ligament in my index finger I’m still nursing). Hopefully fans of these scores can have some fun trying to see how many of the original themes they can spot!

The Production Process

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to give a talk about covering “The Production Process” at Film Oxford. Like many I feel nervous talking in front of an audience. They say you should do something each day which scares you, so I agreed to give the talk for an hour or so. One of the problems creating the talk was knowing how experienced the audience would be and how much information to cover. I decided to fall back on earlier experiences of filmmaking and focus predominately on pre-production.

The Production Process
If pre-production is well planned then hopefully the rest of the production should all go to plan (at least until post production). There was a dazzling array of talent in the audience (many who were specialised and had years of experience). I tried to overcome my initial nerves to deliver a candid and hopefully useful talk. Whilst some of the context may be lost I’ve included my slides here. I hope any other filmmakers reading will find some of this information useful.

Download The Production Process Talk Slides by Andrew Carslaw

Cutting a long story short

After a rather difficult 2015, I find myself entering 2016 with renewed vigor! It feels like I’ve achieved more in a month than during the whole of 2015. If I’ve adopted a mantra this year it would be: “make it happen but keep it simple”. Simplicity often appears graceful and effortless, but the reality is getting there is usually anything but.

After months (indeed a year) tinkering on the edit for our project The Choice, I was going around in circles. During a test screening to the crew – it was clear that the film wasn’t hitting the spot. We discussed it with as many people as we could which resulted in a mass of differing opinions. Time passed – work, Christmas and a distinctly average Bond film all got in the way.

Andrew Carslaw - Director of The Choice
During this downtime, I had a rare moment of clarity. The problem with the film was that it was trying to say and do too much. So away I went and pared everything down to its bare essence, the entire structure was overhauled and streamlined. Recently we re-screened the film and it is now getting the response I was looking for. This hasn’t been an quick or easy process, but I can say it has been an incredible learning experience. We now have a picture lock and it feels liberating to be moving forward again.

Expect to see some new project developments soon, watch this space!

Spectre soundtrack review

Travelling back in time

One of the things I look forward to is listening to a new Bond soundtrack for the first time. When Sam Mendes announced that he would be returning as the director of Spectre it wasn’t any surprise to learn Thomas Newman would also return.

NewmanMendes

Before going any further, let’s revisit the Skyfall score (my original Skyfall soundtrack review is here) which seemed to split opinion. On the one hand, it was a classy affair and fit the film well. It certainly wasn’t as bloated as many of the David Arnold scores had become. On the other hand, whilst it worked for the film, it didn’t stand on its own outside of the film as a standalone experience. It felt awkward at times and I sense that Newman felt uneasy tackling the bombastic nature of Bond and incorporating other themes (the traditional Bond theme and Adele’s title song). The Adele theme was only inserted by request of the producers at the eleventh hour (for the track Komodo Dragon). It should be noted wasn’t actually arranged by Newman but by orchestrator J.A.C. Redford (who also did the orchestrations on the Adele song as well as the score). Newman was clearly feeling the pressure and was quoted in Film Score Monthly as saying he didn’t do this because his task “was already so huge and daunting”. Likewise his full rendition of the Bond theme was mostly taken from David Arnold’s orchestration on “The Name’s Bond… James Bond” in Casino Royale. That said, Newman seemed happy to do his own subtle references to Bond theme (those with a slightly musical background – might find some of this interesting), but perhaps this was too subtle for many. Should a Bond score really be subtle? People are still debating whether Newman should remain as Bond composer with arguments both for and against.

Writing’s On the Wall

Moving forward, the first piece of Spectre music was from the trailers. I loved the moody atmosphere of the first teaser trailer (well until that annoying toy xylophone plays the Bond theme towards the end). The second trailer was more action orientated and had some Bond fans salivating thanks to the incorporation of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (nice touch). But these tracks by Jeff Pfeifer do not form part of the soundtrack. The first real piece of music from the film was the Sam Smith Title song “The Writing’s On the Wall”. I don’t think there has ever been a more divisive title song in Bond history (save for perhaps Madonna’s Die Another Day which is now widely regarded as one of the worst). By far the most surprising and controversial element were Smith’s falsetto vocals during the chorus. Not only was it extremely high pitched, it broke away from traditional Bond chorus convensions by become something fragile, delicate, brittle rather than building to crescendo. There were many who were never going to give the song a fair chance just because it was Sam Smith and wasn’t Adele/Skyfall. Love it, like it or loathe it – the song made history and became the first Bond song to reach number one in the UK singles chart. Whilst not entirely convinced at first, I found the song to be a grower after a number of listens. I’m now curious to see how it fits with the film’s main-title sequence.

Backfire

A few weeks after the single release, John Suchet introduced two new track on ClassicFM from Thomas Newman’s score: action track (Backfire) and romantic cue (Donna Lucia). More on these later, but the interesting point to note was Newman was clealy reusing motifs from his Skyfall score. I recall one very ill-advised comment (no – not that Daniel Craig one about slash his wrists rather than play Bond again) from Sam Smith saying “I wrote the song in twenty minutes”, which only served to fuel the fire of his detractors. It could be argued that Newman has also set himself up by saying “Scores should be unobtrusive” and “if you notice them, maybe they are working too hard”. I can already hear dissention from his naysayers. The character of Bond is of course bold, brash, confident. John Barry clearly understood the necessary pomp of Bond and never shied away from this – in fact he revelled in it. Subtle and unobtrusive? Not a chance, but it was all done with Barry’s impeccable class with an element of restraint where required. Barry also made his scores have a unique timeless quality, with each having it’s own seperate identity (even if some of the later Roger Moore films were getting a bit samey). It no doubt helped that he was actively involved writing the title songs and would incorporate them into his scores. Times have changed and the process is now very different.

A place with no mercy

So the big questions on my mind: will Spectre be a new sound from Newman, will it incorporate the title theme, how will the Bond theme be used, how many more Skyfall references will be included, will I actually like it? I was somewhat underwhelmed by samples from ClassicFM. After much grappling with the terrible Sainsbury’s online site – my questions would be answered (or so I expected)! I’ll be frank here: whilst I didn’t outright hate it, it was perhaps the first time I failed to get excited by a Bond soundtrack. Harsh words!! I only listened to it once on the release date (Friday 23rd October). And then I pretty much forgot about it – unprecedented for a Bond score. Yesterday I decided to revisit and give it another listen and I’m really glad I did. As before, Newman’s material rarely hits me between the ears on a first listen. As I relistened, I decided to write a breakdown of my thoughts for each track as it played. I’ve posted these comments below – I don’t think there are any major spoilers – but if concerned, you should perhaps skip to my final thoughts.

SP-Without

01. Los Muertos Vivos Estan
We kick off in true Bond style: Mexican percussion set to the Bond theme: sexy woodwind, low strings, throbbing brass, twang guitars. It’s pure Bond and a great kick off to start the album! Newman seems particularly confident here. The orchestrals, percussive and electronic elements are all nicely mixed (without overloading things in the way David Arnold has in the past). However you could argue this is a bit of a false start for what follows. There isn’t really another track quite like this on the album. I can see it being a favourite track for many, Bond is clearly doing something cool and spy-like onscreen whilst this is playing.

02. Vauxhall Bridge
It starts with a couple of notes which feel familiar from Skyfall. About half a minute in we get a new motif, I’ll call it the “snooping theme” as this is what it sounds like to me. There is some noticeable restraint on the brass usage on this track. Nice referencing of the Bond theme using woodwind at the end.

03. The Eternal City
There are some lovely eerie Rome influences here. In particular there is good use of choir. However it isn’t long before “Brave New World” from Skyfall is referenecd. About halfway through we also get the Skyfall house theme (not the Adele title theme) which plays pretty much to the end. It’s a bit of a shame as I rather like the haunting new material and choir usage but the recycling of Skyfall material takes me out of the track.

04. Donna Lucia
A lush romantic theme, but one which is clearly indebted to Severine on Skyfall. Whilst this is a more complex track, I prefer Severine for it’s simplicity. A lovely if not entirely unfamiliar track.

05. A Place Without Mercy
Mostly unmemorable mood music. Cymbal percussion throbs urgently against some tremelo strings, with some subtle brass and electronics. It’s all rather subdued and unmemorable, I don’t think this will ever be a favourite.

06 – Backfire
It is apparent this is the way Newman intends to score his action scenes, which comes as a disappointment! The whole thing is frantically paced but there is little in the way of exciting Bond moments here. I feel this track should be screaming “Bond” but it doesn’t.  It feels like nothing more than some percussive 16th arps set to standard action staccato strings and occasional punchy brass – generic and at home in any action film. Newman quotes heavily from his track Grand Bazaar in Skyfall towards the end. There is one standout moment at the two minute mark where the Bond theme builds and then a lovely choir kicks in. Sadly this is the only fleeting 30 second highlight before everything returns to sounding generic.

07. Crows Klinik
Around half way through there is a nice lush motif (let’s call this the “travelogue theme” for now). It is the type of music which introduces us to a lovely sweeping vista to showcase the next location in the film (I might be wrong, but that’s my guess).

08. Pale King
It begins dramatically before falling off into mostly mood music. It has an impressive waterphone/strings stinger about half way through which was rather unexpected. Hopefully this will keep us all on our toes when watching the film. It doesn’t necessarily make for a pleasant listening experience, but it is clear something will be amiss and tense during this tracks film placement.

09. Madeleine
This is one of my favourite tracks. Whilst Lucia receives the more traditional John Barry major/minor romantic arrangement, Madeleine seems a more mysterious character. There is more than a touch of Danny Elfman’s Batman (“Love theme” from the first Tim Burton film) about this track. And I for one absolutely adore it. At last I feel we aren’t merely retracing Skyfall material! One of the standout tracks.

10. Kite in a Hurricane
A moody piece which sees the Skyfall house motifs return again, which builds to a rather intense finish.

11. Snow plane
Lots of fast tapping arps again. A fast paced piece does not however equal an exciting listening experience. Occasionally some Bondian brass flourishes pokes through, but once again this is generic action film music. Again this is exactly where the Bond score should be shining! The best material is when the arps are given a break and the brass grows. And once again, this feel like a complete missed opportunity.

12. L’American
Aha, I see the “snooping” theme from track two makes another welcome reappearance. Nice to see Newman reusing more of his Spectre material rather than recycling Skyfall motifs! There is also a nice variation on the Bond theme at the end.

13. Secret Room
Another nice track. Presumably this is the piece which will emotionally connect Madeleine with Bond. After a minute the melody makes itself known with a lovely piano motif which evolves into some beautiful string flourishes. I suspect this is the “emotional crux” of the film. It is also the type of piece where Newman sounds most confident – this is what he does. After this theme we get some electronic and Arabian/ethnic flavourings before building to a climax with the “travelogue theme” again.

14. Hinx
A Moody start before strings weave furiously try to and create some tension and brass cuts through. That said, it’s not a particularly memorable piece. Probably works okay in the film.

15. Writing’s On the Wall
Don’t get me wrong, this is a nice addition but it sticks out like a sore thumb on the album. It might have worked best at the start or end of the album rather than the middle. I have no idea if this will be used in the film, but it feels at odds with Newman’s material. It is an abridged instrumental version without the Sam Smith’s vocals. I prefer it when composers weave the title theme in and out. This is nothing more than a direct quote from the Smith version. When the soundtrack was announced, it seemed the marketing team were also conflicted whether it would feature the instrumental or Sam Smith version (see an early marketing image below). An oddity!

SP-WithSamPic: Marketing dilemna – will it, won’t it? An alternative album cover prior to the release suggested we would get the Sam Smith Title song. Ultimately we only get the instrumental version on the album.

16. Silver Wraith
This track begins with a moody opening minute which doesn’t add up to much outside the film. After this it gives way to perhaps my favourite theme on the soundtrack. My guess is that this is the “sinister” Spectre or Oberhauser theme. Some nice minor chords. Arabian chants echo in the background to give the piece a rather haunting feel. Bravo, at last – I feel I’m in a Bond film again! One of my favourites.

17. A Reunion
A rather long track, mostly moody. Just under a minute in and lovely strings/brass come in, but the chord progressions feel more like an epic Sci-Fi film than a Bond film. Will there be some kind of Doomsday device in this film? Half a minute goes by before some electronic percussives take over. After a minute or so – we repeat this: subtle introversion followed by electronic percussion. There is a hint of the Skyfall house theme creeping back again. This all no doubt works well in the film, but as it listening experience outside of it – it doesn’t really work terribly well.

18. Day Of the Dead
Another track which sticks out like the other sore thumb (like track 15). Presumably this one is source music (ie. background) from the film. Lots of percussion, clapping and cheering vocals. I’d love to know what they are actually singing!

19. Tempus Fugit
An atonal string riser kick things off before more Skyfall themes are back with a few eerie overblown staccato flutes echoing in the background. This feels like it will be used for a “count down to destruction” scene, but that is just a guess on my part. If it was much longer it would wear out its welcome – thankfully it just about makes it!

20. Safe House
One of the standout tracks. It starts off rather energetically and segues into a lively version of the “travelogue theme”. After this finishes, it goes a little bland for a moment until the beautiful motif from “Secret room” reappears again. The travel theme comes back afterwards as do some nice nods to the Bond theme which build to a lovely crescendo!

21. Blindfold
The track begins with some electronic underscoring, around half way through the brass comes in with strings. It’s all rather dramatic, if not entirely memorable. It hints at material from Skyfall but we will hear even more of this in the next track.

22. Careless
The guitar strumming from The Moors in Skyfall is back and kicks off the track and plays throughout. This is largely a forgettable and seemingly long track however.

23. Detonation
Begins with some more electronic underscoring before hitting a sinister note and the obligatory percussive banging comes back in. Just at the point I’ve lost interest we get a few nice brass blasts at 50 seconds in. That guitar riff and exhausting string and percussion arp then keeps throbbing away. Around the three-minute the Bond theme kicks in but it’s a bit late by now and I’ve lost interest again. Let’s hope I don’t feel the during the film.

24. Westminister Bridge
The Moors guitar strumming is back, but the opening has by far the best and most muscular use of it. Why? Well mostly this is down to the Bondian brass which screams in the opening part of this track (in fact the second brass blast references John Barry’s Jetpack scene climax from Thunderball – lovely little nod). Before long however we’ve lost these Bondian flourishes. The last-minute is moody music, clearly the core of the action has ended at this point and things now more psychological. I enjoy the first minute or so of this track, but could easily skip the rest!

25. Out of Bullets
A welcome and less exhausting/introspective track with that lovely “Secret Room” piano motif again. As suspected earlier on, the emotional musical backbone to the film.

26. Spectre (End Titles)
This is perhaps my favourite if only because it contains two of the best new themes. It opens with the sinister Spectre theme from Silver Wraith (a slightly longer version). Two and a half minutes in we get a reprise of Madeleine’s theme from track nine. The “Secret Room” piano motif makes an appearance at the very end – but without the lush string part. What a lovely way to end.

…And Finally, Here We Are!

Final thoughts? Well as you can tell I am a little conflicted! Much like the film’s title song, I think this is a grower (to be fair Skyfall’s score was also). There are some lovely themes in here: the sinister Spectre/Oberhauser theme, Madeleine’s theme, the travelogue music, the emotional piano “Secret Room” motif and the “snooping” theme.

On the flip side I am somewhat disappointed there is so much Skyfall material being reworked here. Mendes goes on record as saying whilst the film is a continuation “Spectre is a very different film to Skyfall”. Why recycle so much material from that film then? I might accept this if Mendes was expanding the subtext/themes between Skyfall and Spectre, but the musical choices and timings seem too random to  entirely justify this argument. I don’t believe Newman is being lazy, it feels more like this is used as a safety crutch (I may be wrong). My other gripe is that Newman is clearly not understanding what the audience wants during the action side of a Bond film – which is where this score falls flat. The music is fast, but generic, repetitive and largely unmemorable. I suspect this will open him up to criticism from members who like that John Barry (and to a lesser degree David Arnold) Bond sound. To be fair, he is an introverted composer and does the emotive character stuff wonderfully. I will also give kudos for showing restraint where David Arnold would most probably throw everything but the kitchen sink in. It’s a real shame he didn’t work the title song in (he had time unlike Skyfall), and there is an awful lot of mood music which I suspect fits the film like a glove but doesn’t make for an exciting soundtrack listening experience (and sounds like sonic wallpapering). According to Sam Mendes, Newman has composed over 100 minutes of music for the film, so it will be interesting to see if the missing 20 minutes contains any other surprises!

On the album side, it is very well produced (maybe the mix isn’t quite as strong as Skyfall’s), the track programming is random to say the least. I was originally going to be harsh and award this only two stars out of five, but like other Newman material this is at times dense and takes a couple of listens to fully appreciate. Being as I am warming to some of it after subsequent listens – let’s make that three stars. John Barry this ain’t, but times have moved on! If you disliked the Skyfall soundtrack, there is little here which will make you change your mind. If you loved Skyfall, this is essentially more of the same. I think on some levels I prefer this score to Skyfall with several reservations. Perhaps I was expecting something fresher from Newman who now seems settled in his approach. For the future I’d be keen to see someone new tackle the Bond 25 score – none more so than up and coming British composer Daniel Pemberton (personal favourite The Game, and more recently Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Steve Jobs which I suspect will raise his profile significantly) – a talent to keep an eye on!

Meanwhile I’m really looking forward to catching the film this evening, I’ll hopefully have a review of that shortly!

World Domination

There are only a couple of weeks until the new Bond film is released and I’m now at that ridiculously hyper but impatient stage. One of the things which keeps me going is analysing some of the score before seeing the film, but so far we haven’t had a peep out of Thomas Newman (or from his other spy score for that matter – Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies).

I therefore decided to write my own take (something contemporary but classic – without real orchestra/brass – just to make life difficult).

russian satellite killer
Being as the title is Spectre – I was clearly thinking along the lines of Volcano lairs, deadly satellites and “laser beams” with this one. Enjoy! Click here to listen to it on Soundcloud.

Best James Bond Songs (part three)

Here is the final instalment. What will be number one? Did you predict it and will you agree? Here are what I consider the crème de la crème of Bond songs:

9. Surrender (KD Lang, from Tomorrow Never Dies)
After Play Dead with Bjork (which sounds suspiciously like it’s trying to be a Bond song) and his Bond cover album Shaken and Stirred, David Arnold seemed a natural fit to take over the composing reigns. He wrote Surrender as the title song for Tomorrow Never Dies, turning to former collaborator David McAlmont to sing the demo version (ultimately performed by KD Lang). Sadly the studio favoured a more popular artist to do the main title song (but this did make the end credits). I think most would agree that this is a far better Bond song (and David Arnold never bettered this effort).

8. You Only Live Twice (Nancy Sinatra)
Those lush opening strings, so good Robbie Williams stole them for Millenium. Nancy Sinatra wasn’t a natural vocal fit and I believe they had a few issues honing her performance. Thankfully everything worked out okay in the end. This song was quite a change of pace for Bond songs at the time. The song has a lovely haunting quality and plays up the exotic nature of the film’s location without ever slipping into cliché.

7. We Have All The Time In The World (Louis Armstrong, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)
I know, I know – I said only main-titles or end-credits would be considered. I’m going to cheat this entry being as it is the emotional heartbeat of the entire film. Technically an instrumental version of it closes the film “when that thing happens”, so it’s allowed! This tune is made all the more poignant by the fact Louis Armstrong was seriously ill and didn’t have all the time in the world when recording it. The tune didn’t make either the US or UK charts at the time, but 25 years later it was used for a Guinness advert and soared to number 3 in the UK. Clearly like a fine vintage, the song only improves with age.

6. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (John Barry)
Following on from the song above is this amazing instrumental from John Barry (doing his usual Bond thing). For this track (and the score) he used a Moog Synthesizer and it holds up even today (unlike most synth music). It was covered by David Arnold and breakbeat artists The Propellerheads in 1997. Their version reached number 7 in the UK charts, but it already sounds more dated which proves you just can’t top the original! I just wish the studio/producers would feel brave enough to do another instrumental track – but I suspect this will never in today’s commercially driven world!

5. Live and Let Die (Paul McCartney and Wings)
Despite the fact that Bond himself admits he isn’t a fan of the Beatles, Paul McCartney lends his talents to create this song (along with support from “Wings”). The song is a hodge-podge, which also perfectly fits in with the film’s tone. What makes this song is the amazing chorus/instrumental.  Interestingly McCartney based the song on the book (which is rather different to the film). There are a number of covers floating around including versions from Guns and Roses, Chrissie Hynde and even Geri Halliwell (not quite as shocking as I suspected it might be). The song did pretty well at the time making it to number 2 in the US Billboard chart and receiving an Academy Award nomination.

4. A View To A Kill (Duran Duran)
Who would have thought this would work? Not only that it is perhaps the best thing about the whole film. Duran Duran’s John Taylor is a huge John Barry fan (indeed he seemed to know more about John’s music than he did himself). Rumour has it that it came about when Taylor, a bit tipsy at a party, asked Bond producer Cubby Broccoli when he was going to get someone decent to do the song again. The band was on the verge of splitting up when this song was made, so it’s their last hit before they split in the 80’s. It can be argued that this one is a bit more “of its time”, but it is still a great tune. It only just missed out on the top spot in the UK (thanks n-n-n-n-nineteen!), but it went straight to the top of the US Billboard chart. Following John Barry’s death in 2011, the band paid tribute by playing the track by playing it as their encore with Simon Le Bon dressed in a tuxedo. John Taylor would tell the crowd at the 2011 Coachella Festival: “We lost a dear friend of ours this year – English composer John Barry. This is for him.”. It would be interesting to let them have another crack at a theme song in the future.

3. Goldfinger (Shirley Bassey)
Own up, who thought this would be the top entry? Entirely justified being as it is the prototype and epitomises what the many Bond songs aspire to be: sexy, confident, big, bold, brash and brassy. It’s easy to forget this song is over 50 years old (it is still regularly referenced in pop culture). After those huge opening blasts, the trump card is revealed – Shirley Bassey’s incredible vocals. It seemingly references the opening of Moonriver by Barry’s composing pal Henry Mancini (you know the “Goollldfinnnnggerrraaa” part – you could equally sing “Mooonnriivvver” there). Ironically Bond producer Harry Saltzman absolutely hated the tune and wanted it replaced. Luckily there wasn’t time so it stayed in – close call!

2. Diamonds Are Forever (Shirley Bassey)
This one has it all: A dramatic tune with explosive and classy orchestrals, some wonderfully suggestive lyrics from Don Black (which producer Harry Saltzman called perverted and who once again wanted the song replaced) and  seductive/powerful vocals from the only performer who seems to get asked back. Simply wonderful, it sparkles and shimmers, I can feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end as it plays. As a rule of thumb – if John Barry writes it, Shirley Bassey sings it and Harry Saltzman wants it replaced – you probably have a winner on your hands!

1. The James Bond Theme (The John Barry Orchestra)
We all know this one of course! Without getting all political on “who” actually wrote it (we’ll never know – although having studied it a bit I have my own thoughts) it’s clearly the orchestration which makes this (and this part definitely *was* John Barry). Most notably that twangy surf guitar and the jazzy bee-bop section, both of which are now synonymous “cool” Spy movies. This is the very first Bond song we ever here and it nails all of the confident swagger, danger and excitement of the Bond character. It has an edge to it even now and has endured the years. I suspect everyone reading this is able to hum it because it is simply brilliant!

Hope you enjoyed this countdown (click for part one and part two). If Bond songs are your thing – I also highly recommend the entertaining documentary “James Bond’s Greatest Hits“. I haven’t seen this in ages, but recall it was excellent (even if it covers much the same sort of ground).

Right, so where on earth is Sam Smith going fit in?🙂