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Monty Norman talks about the James Bond theme


Quintus
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It's a travesty that Barry got all the glory for the iconic theme! Travesty I tell you!

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The story of the genesis of the James Bond theme is a fascinating one that is considerably more complex than this snippet makes it out to be. All we get here is Norman's side of the story. But John Barry had one too.

Barry's story is given in Burlinghame's book The Music of James Bond. There, he says that

Barry often said that, apart from the familiar guitar notes of the opening bars, he found little to work with in Norman's material and just made up the rest, including the bass line, the countermelody and the jazz-oriented bridge. (He had, in the early 1950s, studed via correspondence course with Stan Kenton arranger Bill Russo, and the "bebop" portion of the Bond theme reflects that influence.)

He also mentions the circumstantial evidence that "Bees Knees", a recording of the John Barry seven from 1958, and especially Beat Girl, a Barry film score from 1960, owe much to the sound of the Bond theme.

Also consider that, in the video interview posted above, when asked where the Bond theme came from, Norman cited only the first four bars of "Bad Sign, Good Sign", which resemble the guitar riff of the Bond theme. He didn't mention the bass line, the jazzy bridge, or even the end of the first four bars of the Bond theme, where you get that characteristic little tag to close off the first phrase.

I find that incredibly suspicious. If he composed the whole thing, why didn't he say how he composed the other even more memorable bits?

There's also the fact that Barry began hinting in the late 1970s that he actually wrote the theme. And in 1997, he actually said so in so many words in an interview. That set in motion Norman's lawsuit against The Sunday Times, which printed the interview, for libel. They even had a musicologist (Stanley Sadie, editor of the reputable New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians) confirm that "Bad Sign, Good Sign" was a precursor of the theme in order to verify Norman's claim of authorship. Norman won the lawsuit and the composer of the theme didn't change.

It's also suspicious that fully none of the other music in Dr. No sounds jazzy in the way the Bond theme does. And that's no surprise since Norman wrote musicals. Barry had the experience in jazz.

Also consider that Barry was furious when he discovered that the Bond theme had been inserted throughout Dr. No and not just used for the main titles. But Barry was eager to continue working on the Bond films, and he was told by Noel Rogers, head of United Artists Music at the time, that producers Broccoli and Saltzman "know what your contribution is" and implied that there would be more work for him down the line. Reading between the lines, this simply means "shut up and we'll give you more work". Barry himself even said in the 1997 interview that "I didn't care that Norman took the credit ... in those days I'd write for anything that moved on celluloid."

Well, that's his side of the story, anyway. Judge for yourself.

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Unless you're a diehard Norman fan, I'd say most people know who the true composer is, regardless of what the legal system said.

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I never associated the guitar riff as the "James Bond Theme". The main theme for me was the jazz bridge thing, where it gets all swing and stuff. When I started looking at the Newman stuff and downloaded the "james bond theme" by Monty Norman, all I found was the guitar riff. I guess he didn't write the bridge..

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Unless you're a diehard Norman fan, I'd say most people know who the true composer is, regardless of what the legal system said.

The fact that one composer did nearly a dozen more Bond films, and became THE musical voice for films throughout the 60's, tells me more then any court ruling.

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Unless you're a diehard Norman fan, I'd say most people know who the true composer is, regardless of what the legal system said.

The fact that one composer did nearly a dozen more Bond films, and became THE musical voice for films throughout the 60's, tells me more then any court ruling.

Well, exactly. And that's precisely what Barry himself said as evidence. They should have just said that the thing was composed by both Barry and Norman, and be done with it. I'm not sure why they didn't.

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they couldn't . The lawsuit was bought by Monty Norman ( and one would presume his publishers ) as it was clear that the Sunday Times piece made a claim that Monty Normans income from the tune was fraudulent. A jury spent time considering it and decided that to all intents and purposes the "dum de de dum dum " riff WAS Monty's.......game over.

truth be told.....It Was.........

it's just a shame that WE all know...that's just a riff. The rest is all Barry's . And he got paid for it TOO. Just not "dum de de dum dum "

t

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Unless you're a diehard Norman fan, I'd say most people know who the true composer is, regardless of what the legal system said.

The fact that one composer did nearly a dozen more Bond films, and became THE musical voice for films throughout the 60's, tells me more then any court ruling.

Well, exactly. And that's precisely what Barry himself said as evidence. They should have just said that the thing was composed by both Barry and Norman, and be done with it. I'm not sure why they didn't.

(Y)

Karol

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they couldn't . The lawsuit was bought by Monty Norman ( and one would presume his publishers ) as it was clear that the Sunday Times piece made a claim that Monty Normans income from the tune was fraudulent. A jury spent time considering it and decided that to all intents and purposes the "dum de de dum dum " riff WAS Monty's.......game over.

truth be told.....It Was.........

it's just a shame that WE all know...that's just a riff. The rest is all Barry's . And he got paid for it TOO. Just not "dum de de dum dum "

t

Yes, of course. I agree. I meant that they should have given both credit from the beginning. That's what I'm wondering why they didn't.

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Yes, of course. I agree. I meant that they should have given both credit from the beginning. That's what I'm wondering why they didn't.

They probably weren't allowed to.

At the times it wasn't a matter of any importance anyway. Who could have thought the series would last so many decades?

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they couldn't . The lawsuit was bought by Monty Norman ( and one would presume his publishers ) as it was clear that the Sunday Times piece made a claim that Monty Normans income from the tune was fraudulent. A jury spent time considering it and decided that to all intents and purposes the "dum de de dum dum " riff WAS Monty's.......game over.

truth be told.....It Was.........

it's just a shame that WE all know...that's just a riff. The rest is all Barry's . And he got paid for it TOO. Just not "dum de de dum dum "

t

Yes, of course. I agree. I meant that they should have given both credit from the beginning. That's what I'm wondering why they didn't.

Monty Norman had sole music composition credit for "Dr. No" written into his contract.

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they couldn't . The lawsuit was bought by Monty Norman ( and one would presume his publishers ) as it was clear that the Sunday Times piece made a claim that Monty Normans income from the tune was fraudulent. A jury spent time considering it and decided that to all intents and purposes the "dum de de dum dum " riff WAS Monty's.......game over.

truth be told.....It Was.........

it's just a shame that WE all know...that's just a riff. The rest is all Barry's . And he got paid for it TOO. Just not "dum de de dum dum "

t

Yes, of course. I agree. I meant that they should have given both credit from the beginning. That's what I'm wondering why they didn't.

Monty Norman had sole music composition credit for "Dr. No" written into his contract.

Probably right. And as Stefan mentioned, it probably wasn't all that important at the time. Barry was just thrilled to get the work, so why make a fuss about who wrote what, especially when they dangled the carrot of the next film in front of him.

I suppose it was a catch-22 - even if he had felt it important to get credit, he couldn't have, given Norman's likely contractual stipulation. And if he had walked, he wouldn't have got all those subsequent Bond films (nor would we have got the Bond theme as we know it).

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Someone might want to change the thread title, technically the 007 theme is the one Barry wrote for From Russia With Love, not the James Bond theme.

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Just the other day I overheard two old biddies talking about it in Tescos and when I heard one call the James Bond theme the 007 theme I was absolutely disgusted. I just glared at her across the fruit and veg.

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Someone might want to change the thread title, technically the 007 theme is the one Barry wrote for From Russia With Love, not the James Bond theme.

Done.

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