Some phrases are indelibly linked with certain characters.
"Shaken, not stirred." "License to kill." You already know who I'm talking about, even before I get to "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!" or the classic: "Bond. James Bond."
Even if there is never another James Bond movie produced after the impending "Skyfall," which hits U.S. theaters today, James Bond will be remembered as one of the most important fictional characters of the 20th and 21st centuries. Created by former British intelligence officer Ian Fleming 60 years ago, Bond has been a staple of the golden screen for a cool half-century. (The cinematic secret agent celebrated his 50th anniversary last month, with the Oct. 5 anniversary of the release of "Dr. No.")
As important as dry martinis, beautiful women, Aston-Martins and Walther PPKs have been to the legend of 007, so too has been the music written for the 25 James Bond motion pictures thus far (if you discount the 1954 television production of "Casino Royale"). Some of the world's greatest composers have written for Bond - Burt Bacharach, David Arnold, Anthony Newley, Marvin Hamlisch and Paul McCartney are just a few. But probably the greatest musical presence in the Bond story is the late John Barry, who wrote the "007 Theme"... and who possibly may have also written the more famous "James Bond Theme" as well.
Barry claimed he wrote it, anyway, or at least much of it - although courts have found in favor of composer Monty Norman in libel suits regarding the allegations. At any rate, as famous as the surf guitar-styled "James Bond Theme" is, it is Barry who contributed the greatest amount of music to the Bond films.
While Barry provided soundtracks for nearly half of the Bond films to date (starting with 1963's "From Russia With Love" and continuing through 1987's "The Living Daylights"), other composers have been enlisted to write the memorable theme songs of many of the Bond flicks. And many of those became hits. In 1964, Shirley Bassey's classic rendition of "Goldfinger" went to #2 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, and Tom Jones' "Thunderball" made it to #25 the following year. Nancy Sinatra's "You Only Live Twice" and Bassey's "Diamonds Are Forever" failed to make it to the Top 40, although both enjoyed a fair amount of radio play (in 1967 and 1971, respectively). In 1973, a composer other than Barry was enlisted for the first time in 10 years, when George Martin was hired to score "Live and Let Die." Martin brought with him his old friend, Paul McCartney and the latter's band, Wings, who made it to #2 with their still well-regarded titular theme song.
We'll continue our look at the music of Bond, James Bond, in this space next week. By then, Craven will almost certainly have seen the new "Skyfall." Part of what has him chomping at the bit to see the latest installment of the long-running franchise is Adele's brooding theme, which we'll discuss (along with some of the other more recent Bond hits) next week. In the meantime, watch out for razor bowlers and giants with steel teeth.
Craven Lovelace produces Notes, a daily cultural history of popular music, for KAFM 88.1 Community Radio, kafmradio.org. You can visit cravenlovelace.com for more of his musings on the world of popular culture.