A Rambling Post Seeking A Destination

Like the real universe all around us, the musical universe continues to expand. I scan each new edition of Rolling Stone and the weekly music news in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and online, and more often than not I see unfamiliar titles released by groups and performers I do not know, many of those in genres I could not define if my beer supply depended on it.

And I explore some of those unfamiliar groups and performers, sometimes through music borrowed from friends or the library, sometimes through the many blogs I visit each week and sometimes through just taking the famed flying leap and buying a CD by a group or performer entirely new to me. The RealPlayer shows me this morning a tally of something more than 350 tracks released last year, about half of those by relatively new groups and performers. Compared to the total number of mp3s residing in the RealPlayer – something around 58,400 – that might seem a paltry amount, but it nevertheless indicates to me that I continue to explore new music.

In addition, as my recent post about the historical anthologies new to my collection indicates, I also explore music in the other direction, looking back through the clouds of the universe to see what things sounded like fifty years ago or more.

But I realized this week that I’ve set myself one more task in regards to music and listening and collecting: I’m trying to replicate my own early universe, duplicating on CD the record collection that I had sometime around 1970. That’s perhaps not surprising, as 1970 has a grip on me stronger than most years. But sometimes I’m slow in figuring out my own motivations. In December, as I was finishing off one of my occasional sprees at Amazon, finally purchasing a number of CDs that had been languishing for a while in my holding bin there, I found myself ordering John Barry’s soundtracks for the third and fourth James Bond movies, Goldfinger and Thunderball, released in 1964 and 1965, respectively.

I vaguely wondered why as I clicked the buttons. I have the original soundtracks on well-preserved vinyl. But, I thought, the CD versions are expanded, with additional tracks from the movies presented for the first time. Well, I argued with myself, hadn’t I already heard those expanded tracks via blogs? Yes, but . . .

And the argument in my head foundered there and stopped, and I clicked my way through the purchases and a few days later found the two CDs in the mail. As has always been the case, I enjoy Goldfinger more than I do Thunderball, but at odd moments in the past weeks, I will find myself humming a portion of either soundtrack. And I realized that many of my CD purchases in recent years are of music that resided on LPs kept in a cardboard box in the basement rec room on Kilian Boulevard when I was seventeen.

And that’s fine. Given the moderate epiphany of realizing my motivation, I’ll likely continue to replicate my early collection. But the arrival of the two Barry soundtracks pushed me further back, to an album I’d not owned before. Last week, I found myself picking through the Amazon website again and ordering the soundtrack to the Bond movie that came out in 1963: From Russia With Love, Barry’s first full Bond soundtrack.

And in reading the notes as the music played, I discovered the answer to a question that I’d wondered about a fair amount during my mid-1960s James Bond immersion: Why, given the iconic success of the “James Bond Theme” – which was introduced in the first Bond film, 1962’s Dr. No – did Barry write another iconic and heroic identifying theme, “007”? That second theme was introduced in From Russia With Love and, like the “James Bond Theme,” bits and pieces from it popped up on occasion in Barry’s soundtracks for the following Bond films. It’s a good piece, but why did Barry think it was needed?

And the answer was, perhaps understandably, pride. Barry had arranged the “James Bond Theme” for Dr. No, but it was written by Monty Norman. And, say the notes for the CD release of From Russia With Love (written by the fortuitously named Jeff Bond), “Barry was keen to put his own musical stamp on the series, and the result was ‘007,’ a pulsing syncopated action ostinato which included a bold, heroic trumpet theme.”

And that’s as good a reason as any, I guess. But as stirring as “007” is, it’s never entered the public consciousness the way Norman’s “James Bond Theme” has, right along with martinis shaken not stirred and the laconic words from Sean Connery: “Bond. James Bond.” I was reminded of that – and spurred to write this rambling piece – this morning. I was wandering through the Billboard Hot 100 for this week in 1982, trying to find a topic, any topic, and I came across a listing for “Spies In The Night,” a record by Manhattan Transfer that was sitting at No. 105 thirty years ago this week. It’s a record that owes a lot to Monty Norman.

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One Response to “A Rambling Post Seeking A Destination”

  1. Paco Malo says:

    As I both learn about new music and old, I find looking back is more profitable. I was listening to Alan Lomax’s Smithsonian recordings of Woody Guthrie today. To explain the Dust Bowl Refugee problem, Woody sang a Jimmy Reed song, “California Blues”, that praised California as the solution to Texas, Oklahoma, and Georgia’s poverty problems during the Depression. Reed helped fuel the refugee crisis without even intending to, because that record was famous throughout the South.

    Alan Lomax, Mrs. Lomax, and Woody got it all on tape and its in the Smithsonian collection — and mine. Thank goodness for these musical treasures documenting American history. When The Foo Fighter do something that important, let me know. Till then, my best new find is “I’m Not Ready To Make Nice” from The Dixie Chicks.

    I found that one looking for new music by watching the Grammys.

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