(AFP) – The music of James Bond is first a theme masterfully arranged by composer John Barry then songs from the saga worn by Shirley Bassey or Paul McCartney in the past, Adele recently and Billie Eilish today.
. “Dr No” and the forgotten Monty Norman
From the credits of the first opus, “James Bond against Dr No” (1962), the musical signature is there, with a theme between phlegm and adrenaline rush. “James Bond would never have been cult at this level without music”, explains to AFP Cyril Roux, editor at Diggers Factory, a vinyl start-up which offers a double album of 007 soundtracks set by the orchestra Prague Philharmonic.
The story especially retains the name of John Barry, monument of film scores (“Macadam Cowboy”, “Out of Africa”, etc.). But the original plot is signed Monty Norman, another composer, less known. The producers are not fans of the song and ask Barry to retouch it: his genius arranger paw does the rest. Barry will then print his tempo, twelve times in total in the service of Bond (between 1962 and 1987), whose initials he shares. “In the Bond house, Barry is the musical foundations”, summarizes for AFP Stéphane Lerouge, designer of the discographic collection “Listen to the cinema!” and who worked with the maestro.
. Shirley Bassey, power of three
The brilliant find of the producers is to blackmail the credits. “Goldfinger” (1964) is a turning point and propels Shirley Bassey to the top of the charts. She will be the only one to sing three times on Bond, adding “The Diamonds Are Eternal” (1971) and “Moonraker” (1979). Barry will always say “Shirley Bassey fits Bond’s styles of music so well”. For “Goldfinger”, she remembers the master asking her to keep the final note to the extreme: “When we were done, I thought I was going to die (laughs)”. But the reward is there. “It was my first hit and the only one of my career,” she will repeat. For “Moonraker”, she will comment soberly “I did it for John Barry”. Formula more than elegant: she knows then that she is not the first choice – the other tests remain in the drawers – but here saves the Bond-Barry duo.
. Paul McCartney, textbook case
After a first Barry period, Bond will be hitched to another “B”, with stars from the Beatles galaxy. George Martin, historic producer of the Fab Four, is at the helm for “Live And Let Die” (1973) and the Wings, group of Paul McCartney, sign the credits. “Macca” writes the title track with his wife Linda. This hit will be picked up by the Guns N’Roses and will become the credits of the political program “The hour of truth” in France.
“Live And Let Die is also” a caesura “, with a separation between the composer of the generic song and that of the film’s music: this is the precise point that prevents Barry from coming back one last time to + Demain Ne Meurt Jamais + (1997, Pierce Brosnan period) because, contractually, he is not guaranteed the song of the credits “, explains Stéphane Lerouge. Tina Turner indeed relies on the backbone of U2 (Bono, The Edge) for “GoldenEye” (1995), while Eric Serra manages the rest of the soundtrack.
. Adele and Billie Eilish, the next generation
In the 21st century, Adele hits a big blow with “Skyfall” (2012), the original song’s Oscar. “It’s a big slap, says Cyril Roux. I’m a fan of Daniel Craig – he has that animal side that Sean Connery had – and there, the music fits perfectly”.
“Barry forged the Bondian canons, his specter (pun intended, it’s the name of the sworn enemy organization of 007, note) hovers over the musical specifications: the song + Skyfall + is the most recent and beautiful homage, in the form of an exercise in the neo-barryan style “, abounds Stéphane Lerouge.
What about Billie Eilish, chosen for “Die Can Wait”, Daniel Craig’s latest appearance? Shirley Bassey has already dubbed her, releasing in The Big Issue: “she did a good job”.