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Let’s Go to the Movies!: James Bond

As Hollywood searches for the next James Bond, we here in the Music Section are looking forward to the next soundtrack and theme song for the world-famous franchise. The James Bond films have produced some of the most recognizable songs in the world of film music, so keep on reading to learn more about these famous tunes!

Over the years there have been many pieces of music associated with James Bond. The ubiquitous “James Bond Theme” was originally written by Monty Norman, a London-born musician and composer, for the first James Bond film Dr. No in 1962. The producers brought in John Barry to arrange the work for a larger big band, and that is the version heard in the famous openings of each 007 film iteration.

John Barry stayed with the James Bond franchise and went on to write the scores for 11 of the James Bond movies, including Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice, and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. In addition to the scores written by Barry, he also assisted in the composition of the title songs for those films as well. Two of these titles songs went on to be chart topping hits: Shirley Bassey’s rendition of “Goldfinger” reached number 8 in 1964 on the US charts, and Duran Duran’s version of “A View to a Kill” reached number 1 on the US charts in 1985.

In 1973, the producers of Bond asked Paul McCartney to write the title song for “Live and Let Die.” Interestingly, the film producers originally envisioned the title song to be performed by a female vocalist rather than McCartney—and, in fact, a version recorded with B.J. Arnau was recorded and released. However, the version that McCartney recorded with Wings became a huge global hit, and was the most successful Bond title song up to that point. McCartney brought in Beatles producer George Martin (also sometimes referred to as “the fifth Beatle”) to produce “Live and Let Die.” The producers were so impressed with George Martin’s orchestration on “Live and Let Die,” they asked him to compose the rest of the soundtrack, since John Barry was working on another project.

In 1977, Hollywood composer Marvin Hamlisch was asked to write the score for “The Spy Who Loved Me.” This score is notable for its disco influence and incorporation of classical music. Most notably, Hamlisch composed the music to the title song “Nobody Does It Better,” recorded by Carly Simon. Like “Live and Let Die,” it became a popular worldwide hit.

Fast forward to 2011, and the producers of James Bond approached Adele to work on the theme song for the next James Bond movie “Skyfall.” Adele co-wrote the song with producer Paul Epworth, and it went on to be a huge success. The song was the first Bond title song to be awarded the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Notably, the award was also won by the next two Bond title songs (“Writing’s on the Wall” by Sam Smith in 2015, and “No Time to Die” by Billie Eilish in 2020).

So, as rumors continue to swirl around who will be the next James Bond, one thing is for sure: we’ll be looking forward to the next soundtrack!

If you’re interested in learning songs from the James Bond series, you might consider downloading the following titles from BARD! Please note that all materials listed below are also available to borrow by mail, not only through BARD. Please contact the Music Section to borrow talking books on digital cartridge or to borrow hard copies of braille music. Call us at 1-800-424-8567, ext. 2, or e-mail us at [email protected].

Braille

Adele. Skyfall. For piano, vocal, and guitar in line by line and bar over bar formats. (BRT37235)
James Bond 007: 15 Classic Songs for Keyboard. Contains the music for “A View to Kill,” “Goldfinger,” “James Bond Theme,” “Live And Let Die,” “Nobody Does It Better,” and more. For piano in open score format with chord symbols. (BRM36189)

Audio

Brown, Bill. James Bond Theme. A lesson in the style of The Ventures for guitar. (DBM02958)

And, if you’re interested in reading the original books by Ian Fleming, here are some “James Bond” books from the Talking Book collection available on BARD:

Dr. No (DB 58875)
Goldfinger (DB 56944)
You Only Live Twice (DB 18860)
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (DB 17675)
Live and Let Die (DB 65244)
The Spy Who Loved Me (DB 65356)

3 Comments

  1. Zach Gold
    December 2, 2022 at 5:08 am

    If you’re an espionage aficionado, an Ian Fleming follower or a 007 devotee then you must know about puffer fish poisons, who wrote the “Trout Memo”, what it was all about and how it was crucial to the ensuing Operation Mincemeat. If not, and you want to be an espionage illuminatus, you had best Google “Trout Memo”.

    Of course, most espionage aficionados and real spies have read Bill Fairclough’s epic spy thriller #BeyondEnkription in #TheBurlingtonFiles series. It was written by a real secret agent for espionage cognoscenti and actual spies and even includes many examples of lesser known spy practices and gadgets that Ian Fleming would have loved.

    The protagonist of The Burlington Files, Edward Burlington aka Bill Fairclough, lived just as “fast and furious” a life as James Bond or even the Gray Man did but with one subtle difference: it actually happened. Indeed, all his exploits in London, Nassau and Port au Prince in the first stand-alone novel in the series are based on hard facts some of which you can even check out with press cuttings.

    By the way, Fairclough’s MI6 handler Mac aka Col Alan Pemberton CVO MBE knew Ian Fleming, Kim Philby and KGB Col Oleg Gordievsky. No surprise then that John le Carré refused to write a series of collaborative spy novels with Fairclough given Philby ended John le Carré’s MI6 career. Little wonder also that in hindsight Ian Fleming was thankful that he didn’t work directly for MI6. After all, Pemberton’s People in MI6 even included Roy Astley Richards OBE (Winston Churchill’s bodyguard) and an eccentric British Brigadier (Peter ‘Scrubber’ Stewart-Richardson) who was once refused permission to join the Afghan Mujahideen.

    See theburlingtonfiles.org and if you have any questions remember the best quote from The Burlington Files to date is “Don’t ask me, I’m British”.

  2. David Hillman
    January 12, 2023 at 12:45 am

    Some people may be surprised to know that back in 1964, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin was a London session guitarist and he plays the famous guitar line on Goldfinger.

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