50 Years of a Well Known Movie Theme

In May 1962 Dr. No premiered in movie theaters, the first film about the adventures of Secret Agent 007.

James Bond is not only the hero of Flemmings novels and of the longest continually- running film series in modern history of cinematography, he also became a synonym for a movie theme by composer and trumpeter John Barry.

Although Monty Norman wrote the music for the first movie about Bond’s spy mission, the opening theme of John Barry defined the agent’s character. Arranged and orchestrated James Bond Theme was written for an ensemble and is a combination of rock’n’roll, jazz and classic music. Fresh sound for a new screen hero!

John Barry was 28 at that time, he was arranger and producer of the successful ensemble John Barry Seven. He didn’t have much experience with making film music but a lot with composing hits, which was reason enough to entrust him with this task 50 years ago.

“In his initial arrangement of the Bond theme you have the bebop swing vibe coupled with that vicious, distorted electric guitar. You hadn’t really heard that combination before. It was cocky, swaggering, confident, dark and dangerous”, said David Arnold, Barry’s longtime associate on many projects.

Barry’s opus includes, beside 11 soundtracks for James Bond movies, music for over 80 other films, five musicals, 24 themes for television, 5 solo albums, 10 singles that stayed for weeks in the British Top 50; and numerous awards including the Oscar, BAFTA Award, Golden Globe, the Grammy, the Emmy Award, and in 2009 the Austrian Max Steiner Award for Lifetime Achievement. The year after he got the World Soundtrack Academie award in the same category, and he was included in the Songwriters Hall of fame as well.

Barry liked to call his Bond scores “million-dollar Mickey Mouse music.” As he explained before his death last year at age 77: “The films put forth a kind of simple, almost endearing comic-strip attitude toward danger, intrigue and romance. The main thing is to carry it off with style. Don’t belittle the subject matter or make it cheap. Just give it a whole lot of style and make it sound like a million dollars.”

Take a look at a performance conducted by the composer himself.