Derek Watkins (1945-2013)

Brass. Trombone. Tuba. Horns. The trumpet. The one sound which still eludes so many midi composers (and definitely myself). You can make strings sounds generally authentic, even woodwind can be replicated reasonably. Yet brass sounds just don’t translate – and there is just no beating the real thing. It is an art, a skill, a science and has a personality. I woke over the weekend to the sad news that one of these brilliant trumpet personalities is no long with us.

Derek Watkins had the unique honour of playing in the orchestra for every single Bond film to date. Considering the wide range of composers involved and the fact the series started over 50 years ago – this is an astounding feat. If John Barry is the true ring-master for the Bond sound and Vic Flick is the man who helped define that twanging guitar, then Derek is the man who developed that bold brassy sound associated to the series.

Recently I stumbled on to some fan-made unreleased music from A View to a Kill. MattJoe has clearly studied and transcribed by ear extremely faithfully (bravo Matt). I listened to the pieces a couple of times and there was a piece called “hanging by a thread” where I just adored the chord progressions. Now I haven’t studied it much beyond the initial listening, so this is my own memory based interpretation. It is a demo and unpolished, it won’t be entirely faithful, but it feels fitting to post it here as a tribute to Derek’s work even-so:

You can also see a brief clip of Derek in action here (which is also on the Skyfall disc as an extra):

Derek was suffering with rare form of cancer called Sarcoma. There is a charity page set-up by the Watkins family where you can help pledge (and buy a related t-shirt) to help raise funds for Sarcoma UK. This page and links to Derek’s official site can be found at:

I appreciate what Derek brought to the table in Bond music terms, so this news hit me particularly hard. I also found out shortly afterwards that another important and inspiring Bond member, poster designer Mitchell Hooks (who designed the very first poster for Doctor No) has also recently passed. Again, an incredibly talented member who helped shape the success of the series from the very beginning.

To end on a slightly lighter note, happy 67th birthday (Friday) to former Bond Timothy Dalton a happy 67th birthday! He was ahead of his time in terms of showing Bond as a flawed human and it can be argued his portrayal is closest in spirit to the original novels. It would have been interesting seeing him in a third movie (particularly as this seems to be the point where the actors hit their stride in the role).


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