About forty-five years ago, I got hooked on a series of books that featured a British secret agent who was suave, sophisticated, deadly to his enemies, and irresistible to the ladies. (I was so fond of the books that I even tried vodka martinis – shaken, not stirred – but that experiment didn’t last long.) The British agent was, of course, ‘Bond — James Bond’.
I wasn’t the only fan of the books. I remember that they received a big boost in popularity when the word came out that JFK enjoyed them. However, I hadn’t voted for him, and I remember wanting people to know that I was into the books before the publicity created by his endorsement, although I secretly felt validated in my tastes — after all, the guy had intelligence and style even if I didn’t agree with his politics at the time.
This was before the first of the movies that would make the Bond character famous, and I still remember how skeptical I was that they would be able to cast someone for the lead who would be up to the job. I guess it wasn’t that different then from how it is now, when rabid fans of books such as Harry Potter But of course I was wrong. When the first Bond film – Dr. No – opened in 1962 with Sean Connery in the lead, he raised a sardonic eyebrow and became James Bond, and all who followed are imposters — including that new guy in the movie opening soon. (In fact, he’s literally a pale imitation since he’s the first blond Bond. Groan — sorry.)
I do recognize that not everyone thinks Connery is the best and only Bond, especially those who think of him as ‘the old dude in the kilt’, but whatever your preferences nobody could deny that the producers of the films have always traveled first class when it comes to the music.
From the opening scenes of Dr. No, where the action is driven by the distinctive guitar beat that became the opening for all the films, to pop hits like Shirley Bassey’s unforgettable “Goldfinger,” the films have always featured many award-winning songs, written and performed by such established stars as Paul McCartney and Wings, Carly Simon, Sheena Easton, Duran Duran, Louis Armstrong, Tom Jones, and Gladys Knight (sans Pips).
We’re sampling two different kinds of songs from the album The Best Of James Bond (which includes all the just-mentioned stars.) First is the familiar driving instrumental that opens all the movies, the “James Bond Theme”, performed by the Monty Norman Orchestra and arranged by John Barry, who ended up writing a lot of the music for subsequent Bond movies. One of those was our second selection (which is one of my favorites), “You Only Live Twice,” performed by Nancy Sinatra.