The music of James Bond part four: Bond is back on top

The music of James Bond part four: Bond is back on top

The less said about this The Man with the Golden Gun, the better. John Barry (now back in charge after George Martin took the reins for Live and Let Die) considered this his weakest score. 

 

The theme song is bizarre. Lulu, a veteran singer by that time, had about the coolness factor of a Vauxhall Cavalier. That was a remarkable contrast to Paul McCartney.

 

Not surprisingly, the song charted neither in the US nor the UK. Overall, it just shows that Golden Gun was not a labour of love — to put it mildly. It seems more like a place holder while the producealsors were thinking of what to do with the series.

 

And then came The Spy Who Loved Me. Bond was back with a vengeance. This was a big-budget production that had everything a Bond film needed. A proper villain with a great lair, a popular henchman, a Bond girl who was Bond's equal (a departure from Bond's cringe-worthy behaviour towards women in both Live and Let Die and Golden Gun), a funky soundtrack (not Barry though), and great gadgets. 

 

Again, Carly Simon was an interesting choice. She was not really a glamorous singer of the disco era that was in full swing at the time, but rather a singer-songwriter much more at home in the early '70s than late. 

 

Yet it showed that the producers had learned from their past mistakes (at least commercially): this time they wanted a performer who was a household name in the US. Again, there were more prominent names at the time, but the gamble paid off.

 

Not only is Nobody Does It Better Roger Moore's favourite Bond song, but it also peaked at number two in the US charts. It made the charts in the UK, but continental Europe largely ignored the song. 

 

At that point, it became clear that the music was to be tailored to international (mainly American) tastes. The instrumental soundtrack by Marvin Hamlisch works surprisingly well. Okay, that sounds rather condescending since he was one the most successful composers in film and musicals in the 20th century. But basically, so was Barry. 

 

Any soundtrack for a Bond film, regardless of whom, will always be measured against Barry's superb instrumental scores. Hamlisch uses the Bond theme and gives it an overall modern sound — yes, it might sound a bit dated and disco-ish today. But at the time, Bond (and Moore), was what your parents watched and they needed to get back the young audience.

 

Third time lucky: The Spy Who Loved Me was a huge hit and worked on every level. Bond was back on top. 

Thorsten Krings

Thorsten has been a Bond fan since 1977. He teaches at DHBW University in Germany and writes books — but mostly on very boring topics. Asked if he fancies himself as James Bond, he replied: "More as James Bond’s accountant".

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