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Discovering John Barry for the first time/Bond Theme authorship


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I really am not familiar with John Barry's work. I couldn't hum a single theme of his off the top of my head, unless you consider the Bond theme his. I would like more information on this. Not that it matters too much but I'm curious. As for the rest of his work, I can't remember the last time I have ever seen a film he has scored other than a Bond film. Dances With Wolves as a child and never since.

 

I would really appreciate suggestions. The major arcana, off-the beaten path, whatever; I know nothing. A compilation or two of incredible quality would be nice for a sampler maybe? I have a lot of free time recently.

 

The reason I have never gotten into John Barry was purposeful but silly. I absolutely adore Basil Poledouris and I was sore about what might have been had he scored Dances With Wolves. I am sore. However, it is not John Barry's fault and so therefore a silly resentment.

 

I hope the quality of the music is good enough that I won't feel the twang of bitterness when I hear his name. I reiterate that I really don't think I know a single theme. Unless Bond's is his. Is it?

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5 minutes ago, Anthony said:

 

I appreciate the suggestion but I would rather not start with the City of Prague. I don't find their performances to be emotional very often and apparently John Barry is quite the romantic.

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2 minutes ago, Bespin said:

My "basic" John Barry collection, as I am a pretty recent fan:

 

20210628_145924.jpg

 

Those Bonds look nice all lined up. What series of releases is that which looks so nice?

Just now, Edmilson said:

Dances with Wolves is one of my favorite film scores ever. It's an absolutely masterpiece.

 

I'm still tender. I will get there.

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2 hours ago, blondheim said:

 

I appreciate the suggestion but I would rather not start with the City of Prague. I don't find their performances to be emotional very often and apparently John Barry is quite the romantic.

 

John Barry's music is also often simplistic enough not to challenge the 1990s abilities of the City of Prague too much. I actually like most of their recordings of his music in that era, and this 4 CD set is pretty decent so don't be too put off by it.

My favorite Barry scores are probably The Last Valley and The Lion in Winter. For the latter in particular I recommend you seek out the incredible film!

 

Yavar

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I am still waiting for the City of Prague to go for broke. It always seems like they are holding back, which I don't understand. The only recording of theirs I really like is their Pirates of the Caribbean disc. And part of me wonders if that isn't just because it was the first version I heard that sounded like it was being played by an actual orchestra. If I had more options, I'm not sure how it would stack.

 

It's not about the technical proficiency for me. I'm still waiting to feel it.

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4 hours ago, blondheim said:

I appreciate the suggestion but I would rather not start with the City of Prague. I don't find their performances to be emotional very often and apparently John Barry is quite the romantic.

 

The CoP Barry recordings were considered good even before the orchestra got a deservedly better reputation through its Tadlow recordings.

 

I've been wondering if Barry's The Lion in Winter may have been an influence behind Goldsmith's The Omen:

 

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1 minute ago, Marian Schedenig said:

 

The CoP Barry recordings were considered good even before the orchestra got a deservedly better reputation through its Tadlow recordings.

 

I've been wondering if Barry's The Lion in Winter may have been an influence behind Goldsmith's The Omen:

 

 

That video is unavailable but comparisons to The Omen are a sell for me.

 

I will definitely check out the City of Prague recordings later. I typically do. I just don't have enough confidence in the ensemble to let them be my first impressions of these scores because first impressions stick with me.

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14 minutes ago, blondheim said:

That video is unavailable but comparisons to The Omen are a sell for me.

 

Just search The Lion in Winter on YouTube (or a streaming service of your choice), I'm sure you'll find something. It's not necessarily *that* similar to The Omen (it's no Satanic mass, for one), but I do think there are striking parallels between the two. (Also, I'm just referring to the Latin choir bits in the main title - the other parts of both scores are very different).

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19 minutes ago, Marian Schedenig said:

 

Just search The Lion in Winter on YouTube (or a streaming service of your choice), I'm sure you'll find something. It's not necessarily *that* similar to The Omen (it's no Satanic mass, for one), but I do think there are striking parallels between the two. (Also, I'm just referring to the Latin choir bits in the main title - the other parts of both scores are very different).

 

That's my plan as soon as I get a chance to sit down and really listen to these suggestions. I will let you know what I think

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I always assumed the guitar riff was the only thing Norman was responsible for, given the "songs" he made to try and clear the air only ever mentioned that piece of the composition, which would make for a pretty flimsy case of authorship if the courts weren't so useless in music cases a lot of the time.

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17 hours ago, blondheim said:

I am sore.

 

You should put some ointment on that.

 

17 hours ago, blondheim said:

Unless Bond's is his. Is it?

 

 

 

With all that Bond money he should be able to pay for some piano lessons!

 

...and here's the original song that the JB theme was based on.

 

 

17 hours ago, blondheim said:

I would really appreciate suggestions.

 

His best score is Out of Africa.

 

 

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6 hours ago, Jurassic Shark said:

 

 

 

See the problem with this is that at the end of the video, an Indian ensemble performs the *full* Bond theme on the instrumentation it was supposedly originally intended for... but then here...

 

6 hours ago, Jurassic Shark said:

 

 

 

...when playing this it becomes more than obvious that Norman's only contribution was that (admittedly cool) opening riff. None of the rest of the Bond theme as we know it ("arranged" by John Barry) is present in Norman's original song, beyond that. So the end of the other video is actually incredibly misleading that way; Norman himself doesn't demonstrate any other elements of the Bond theme either.

 

Yavar

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13 hours ago, Sweeping Strings said:

Could've sworn that there was a court case that finally judged Norman to be the composer and Barry the arranger.  

 

Yes, it came up as a result of an interview David Arnold did with Barry before Arnold scored his first Bond film. Barry claimed that he was the composer of the Bond theme. This wasn't the first time he had made such a claim publicly, but The Sunday Times ran a story sensationalizing it. This caused Norman to sue because he his royalties on the theme, according to Burlingame, is often in the hundreds of thousands of pounds each year, and Norman claimed that the Times "rubbished my career".

 

Anyway, long story short, yes @Sweeping Strings is right. After a very detailed trial, a jury decided in favor of Norman, who remains officially credited for composing the theme to this day. Barry always was considered the arranger, though he wasn't officially credited as such, only his band was credited with the performance.

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Barry was sure more interesting and varied before the wake-comatose part of his career, meaning his Out of Africa-and-beyond phase. I'm still fond of a lot of it, but it sure is very slow and very repetitive. Three not yet listed here:

 

 

and one of his most glorious old-school themes, after the 1-minute mark:

 

 

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King Kong. Glorious.

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Hi Blondheim. To put it very generally, I would say pre mid-70’s Barry was much more jazzy and unique (in regards to orchestration). Late 70’s through the end of his life he really settled on a very definite orchestration that fit his style. Violins would play the theme, horns and trombones played the chords, and celli and harp played a counter melody. 
 

Again, that’s a very general way of categorizing it as there are outliers in both of his different style periods. I think above all, Barry was very focused on melody and harmony. Apart from the Bond films, he disliked “Mickey mousing” aka scoring the action precisely. As Nic Raine once put it, Barry would just write a piece of music and things would sync automatically. He was more concerned with the mood and feel of the piece with how it related to picture rather than how fancy or dense it was compositionally or how it “hit” the action. 

 

Here are a few additional pieces which might help you decide which direction to go in. 


The Knack (1965)

 



Deadfall (1968)

 

 

 


On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

 

 

 

 

 

The Deep main title (1977)

 

 

 

High Road to China (1983)

 

 

The Specialist (1994)

 

 

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3 hours ago, blondheim said:

Closer and Closer: This one was so good I listened to it twice in a row. It's really fun. I really need to be seeing these movies so I can understand how he lays to picture.

 

Don't. It will be a letdown, at least it's in case of 'Follow Me'.

3 hours ago, blondheim said:

Wednesday's Child: I loved this. I will definitely be watching this movie and visiting this score.

 

Though it may be over-analyzing at this point, this is peak Barry in the sense that the calliope-like theme plays over a dark and moody opening scene at the east-Berlin wall - the idea being that later in the film there is a conversation between agent George Segal and a schoolteacher about children being the the next generation germans, having to bear the nazi burden and also being the hope to build something better. This is a needle-bare thread, but Barry went along with it, making the child-like innocence theme the central musical idea to characterize something much more lofty than the basic movie plot, yet ironic (with the calliope being at odds with the grave danger).

 

Nowadays probably no composer would get away with that.

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31 minutes ago, publicist said:

 

Don't. It will be a letdown, at least it's in case of 'Follow Me'.

 

Though it may be over-analyzing at this point, this is peak Barry in the sense that the calliope-like theme plays over a dark and moody opening scene at the east-Berlin wall - the idea being that later in the film there is a conversation between agent George Segal and a schoolteacher about children being the the next generation germans, having to bear the nazi burden and also being the hope to build something better. This is a needle-bare thread, but Barry went along with it, making the child-like innocence theme the central musical idea to characterize something much more lofty than the basic movie plot, yet ironic (with the calliope being at odds with the grave danger).

 

Nowadays probably no composer would get away with that.

 

That's fascinating. Thanks for that info. John Barry is getting more interesting all the time.

 

1 hour ago, MikeH said:

Hi Blondheim. To put it very generally, I would say pre mid-70’s Barry was much more jazzy and unique (in regards to orchestration). Late 70’s through the end of his life he really settled on a very definite orchestration that fit his style. Violins would play the theme, horns and trombones played the chords, and celli and harp played a counter melody. 
 

Again, that’s a very general way of categorizing it as there are outliers in both of his different style periods. I think above all, Barry was very focused on melody and harmony. Apart from the Bond films, he disliked “Mickey mousing” aka scoring the action precisely. As Nic Raine once put it, Barry would just write a piece of music and things would sync automatically. He was more concerned with the mood and feel of the piece with how it related to picture rather than how fancy or dense it was compositionally or how it “hit” the action. 

 

Here are a few additional pieces which might help you decide which direction to go in. 


The Knack (1965)

 


Deadfall (1968)

 

 

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

 

 

The Deep main title (1977)

 

 

High Road to China (1983)

 

 

The Specialist (1994)

 

 

 

That piece from The Knack is fantastic. I love this sound. You can also hear Giacchino's Incredibles theme being born out of that piece from OHMSS.

 

High Road to China has a great theme. I can tell that one is going to be lush.

 

I forgot to mention The Specialist last time. I have really enjoyed both of these pieces. This one was different from the last one but haunting, not like anything else I have heard so far.

 

These were also great suggestions. Thanks. I'm having a lot of fun with this.

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A couple more suggestions to check out:

Peggy Sue Got Married - the deluxe edition is quite expensive now but there was a song/score album which has the main Barry themes on. Peggy Sue's Homecoming is definitely worth checking out.

Chaplin - the opening sequence to this film and Barry's main theme fit so perfectly together.

Howard the Duck - the score is no where near as lame as the movie and is quite a fun score. Has a Bond feel to it.

The Dove - a really nice score that captures the essence of the film very well. Sail the Summer Wind is a nice song and also worth checking out.

 

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2 hours ago, AJM said:

A couple more suggestions to check out:

Peggy Sue Got Married - the deluxe edition is quite expensive now but there was a song/score album which has the main Barry themes on. Peggy Sue's Homecoming is definitely worth checking out.

Chaplin - the opening sequence to this film and Barry's main theme fit so perfectly together.

Howard the Duck - the score is no where near as lame as the movie and is quite a fun score. Has a Bond feel to it.

The Dove - a really nice score that captures the essence of the film very well. Sail the Summer Wind is a nice song and also worth checking out.

 

 

Which piece from Howard the Duck would you recommend?

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11 minutes ago, blondheim said:

 

Which piece from Howard the Duck would you recommend?

You're the Duckiest and Journey to Earth (Main Title)

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