Posts Tagged ‘John Barry’

Saturday Single No. 479

Saturday, January 9th, 2016

My library bag was getting full. I’d already picked up the items I had on hold – five CDs, four by the Native American artists who record as Brulé and a posthumous release of music by Pops Staples – and had added three or four novels.

Then, in the new non-fiction section, I saw Coventry: November 14, 1940 by Frederick Taylor, an account of the German air attack against Coventry during World War II. I’ve read and enjoyed Taylor’s accounts of the Allied attack against the German city of Dresden in 1945 and of the history of the Berlin Wall, so I tucked Coventry into my bag and moved on.

And then I saw The Man With The Golden Typewriter, subtitled Ian Fleming’s James Bond Letters. I pulled the book from the shelf, replaced a couple of the novels on the new fiction shelf and headed home to begin reading Ian Fleming’s letters. Fans of James Bond – and I am one, as I’ve noted here several times – will have caught the title’s reference immediately: Fleming’s final Bond novel was the 1965 title, The Man With The Golden Gun. And I learned very early in the book – edited by Fergus Fleming, the late author’s nephew – that Ian Fleming did indeed have a golden (actually gold-plated) typewriter, purchased in 1952, when his first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, had been accepted for publication by the Jonathan Cape firm.

That was almost too good an alignment of life and art, and I dove into the nearly four-hundred page book, rarely coming up for air in these past few days. (I in fact got so involved in Fleming’s letters that I found myself not reading the Thursday and Friday editions of the Minneapolis Star Tribune until late Friday evening.)

The book is arranged in chapters corresponding to the thirteen Bond novels Fleming published between 1953 and 1965, so any letters from the author about, say, Casino Royale are collected in the first chapter even though the letter might have been written in 1957. There are some side trips, as well. Chapter Four is titled “Notes From America,” and includes letters Fleming wrote to and from American friends as well as missives written during several trips stateside, during which he did research for the novels Live And Let Die (1954), Diamonds Are Forever (1956) and Goldfinger (1959).

I get the sense that America in the 1950s both appalled and fascinated Fleming, who moved in generally rarified circles in England – not quite the top shelf of that very stratified society, but not too far below that level either. Our loud and busy cities, especially New York and Las Vegas, seem to have both attracted and repelled him at the same time. A portion of Live And Let Die takes place in the Florida city of St. Petersburg, which Bond and his American companion, Felix Leiter, find an unpleasant place. That was how Fleming found it, as well; comments in Fleming’s letters and in his nephew’s commentary make clear his great disdain for the city. The younger Fleming notes that the author “wrote on the flyleaf of his personal copy, with an ill-disguised shudder, ‘St. Petersburg is just like I say it is’.”

Another “side trip” chapter in the book is Chapter Seven, titled “Conversations with the Armourer,” which details a lengthy correspondence between Fleming and Geoffrey Boothroyd, a firearms expert from Glasgow, Scotland. Boothroyd noted in a letter that Bond’s choice of guns was poor. The .25 Beretta pistol was not powerful enough and, given its design, could become caught on Bond’s waistband or shoulder holster. Boothroyd suggested several alternative weapons for 007 to use.

Boothroyd’s letters to Fleming – some of which are also included in the book – began in early 1956, when Fleming was working on revisions to From Russia With Love. At the end of the book, which came out in 1957 (and any Bond fans who are reading this are smiling or at least nodding their heads, for they know where this is going), Bond’s Beretta pistol does get snagged on his waistband, and he nearly dies from the effects of Rosa Klebb’s poisoned shoe stiletto.

And in the opening portions of the next book, 1958’s Doctor No, Bond is lectured on proper armament by M, the head of the Secret Service, and one Major Boothroyd, the Secret Service’s armourer. Even though it’s been at least thirty years since I re-read Doctor No (and I first read it after Christmas 1964, when it showed up in my stocking), as soon as I saw the name “Boothroyd,” I remembered the scene. I especially remembered Bond reaching to take his Beretta with him at the end of the meeting, and I recalled M’s curt “Leave it.”

I’m about halfway through the book, and there have been a few other little treats like that, moments when I recognize a name, place or event in Fleming’s letters that then showed up in Bond’s adventures. It’s been a treat so far, and I have no doubt that the remaining half of the volume will be, as well.

I do know, though, that as the 1960s dawned and Fleming found himself and his creation becoming world-famous, the author became a bit weary of telling the tales; his letters even before 1960 occasionally worry about how fresh the novels could remain, given the fact that the tales were in many ways the same story: grand villain in an interesting location with the addition of at least one beautiful woman who falls for the hero. (Bond fans will recall that there is at least one exception to that last; Gala Brand of Moonraker remains loyal to her fiancé even after she and Bond save England from a nuclear missile.)

It will be interesting to see if Fleming’s later letters reflect his weariness with his creation. I imagine they will. I know Fleming tried to kill Bond in the 1964 novel, You Only Live Twice, even offering Bond’s obituary as one of the final chapters (perhaps the final chapter; it’s been years since I read the book). As was the case with another British literary favorite, Sherlock Holmes, the reaction by Bond fans around the world resulted in Fleming finding a means to resurrect his creation for the 1965 book The Man With The Golden Gun.

That was Fleming’s last novel. He’d survived a 1961 heart attack, but a second one in 1964 was fatal. I remember reading at the time – perhaps in Time magazine, which we got at home – that Fleming’s final words were “It’s all been a tremendous lark.” I don’t know if that’s accurate or not, and I’m not sure that I’ll find out in the second half of The Man With The Golden Typewriter.

As I’m only up to 1960, I’ve yet to read anything from Fleming on how he viewed the Bond films – only Doctor No and From Russia With Love had been released by the time of his death. Both of those hewed fairly close to the source novels, unlike some of the later films, so I think he might have been pleased. I’ll find out.

Anyway, it is a Saturday, and here, from John Barry’s soundtrack to 1963’s From Russia With Love, is a bit called “James Bond With Bongos,” and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Edited slightly after first posting.

Six From The ’70s

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

So we’ve sorted the tracks in the RealPlayer and found about 24,000 from the 1970s. Let’s go find six at random to think about this morning.

“In the corner of my eye, I saw you in Rudy’s. You were very high.” So starts “Black Cow” from Steely Dan’s 1977 album Aja, one of two Steely Dan albums I had before the 1990s (when I, as is well-known around here, went a little mad and bought more than 1,800 LPs over those ten years). My memory, aided by a look at the LP database, tells me that I won Aja for answering a trivia question on WJON while I lived in St. Cloud in late 1977, but there was a delay on the radio station’s part in getting the album, and then there was a delay on my part in getting to the station after I moved to Monticello. The delays didn’t bother me because Steely Dan wasn’t really in my sights at the time. I had Pretzel Logic on the shelves because of the presence of “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” (and I liked the rest of the album), but the work of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker wasn’t high on my list. Still, I wasn’t going to pass up a free album, so I took Aja home, and I liked it okay. But it’s probably not on my Top 200. So, “Drink your big black cow and get out of here.”

Canny marketers as well as classically trained musicians, the duo of Ferrante & Teicher rarely missed a trend in the 1960s and 1970s, and as the world hit the dance floor in the late 1970s, Ferrante & Teicher followed, providing us in 1979 with Classical Disco, one of the stranger albums of the duo’s nearly forty-year recording career. Covering pieces ranging from composers Rachmaninoff and Khachaturian to Grieg and Tchaikovsky, the album closes with a thumping version of Felix Mendelssohn’s famed “Wedding March” (cliché that it is). Given the move in recent years toward massively choreographed wedding processionals and recessionals (some staid, many not), I can see a couple and their friends putting together a disco processional to the beat of the Ferrante & Teicher track. If it were my wedding and up to me, I’d save it for the reception.

Head On was a late 1975 release from Bachman-Turner Overdrive, and its relative failure in the charts portended the end for the rockers from Canada. The group’s previous three albums of new music had all gone Top Ten in the Billboard 200, but Head On stalled at No. 23. A single from the album, “Take It Like A Man” (with a backing vocal from Little Richard) went to No. 33 in early 1976, but the band’s moment had passed. Fittingly, then, the track titled “It’s Over” is the one that pops up from Head On. It’s a decent enough track, not unlike most of the stuff in the group’s catalog, but its unsubtle pleasures didn’t offer listeners anything new as 1975 was turning into 1976.

As an object lesson that one can find almost anything online these days, we move next to “Tiffany Case” from John Barry’s soundtrack to the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever. When the RealPlayer offered the track to me this morning, I winced, but not because of the music. (It’s a decent bit of quiet and pretty musical fill for the movie, nicely portraying the soft side of Ms. Case, played in the film by the lovely Jill St. John.) The wince was for an expected difficulty in finding the track at YouTube. (I’d already made and uploaded one video this morning.) But there it was, and a quick click on the #JohnBarry hashtag shows me that what appears to be the vast majority of Barry’s work is now officially available at YouTube. I will have to do some digging there soon.

Whenever I write anything about Bobby Womack, I always feel as if I don’t know enough about the man or his work to write anything substantial. Today is no different, even though I know more about him and have heard more of his stuff now, thanks to a little bit of concentrated effort in the past few months. Anyway, what we have this morning is “Natural Man” from Womack’s 1973 album Facts Of Life. It’s a gender-flipped version of the Gerry Goffin/Carole King song “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” best known for the 1967 hit version by Aretha Franklin. It doesn’t seem to work, but then covering a classic is risky territory, and doing so with a gender-flip seems to make things all the more awkward. Womack’s delivery is fine, as usual. But it just feels, well, odd.

Speaking of covers of classic records, we close our expedition this morning with Ellie Greenwich taking on “Chapel Of Love” from her 1973 album Let It Be Written, Let It Be Sung. Greenwich, of course, wrote the song with Jeff Barry and Phil Spector, and the Dixie Cups had a massive hit with it in 1964, with the record sitting at No. 1 for three weeks. For her own album, Greenwich and co-producers Steve Tudanger and Steve Feldman take the song in an interesting direction, with bare-bones instrumentation and layered and entwined vocals, coupled with some ringing bells in the middle. It works for me.

‘I Am Wednesday’s Child . . .’

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

Being not nearly as iconic as Monday, Wednesday gets short shrift – and I wonder, not for the first time, what in the hell shrift is – when it comes to being the subject of songs. Out of 82,000-some tracks in the RealPlayer, only five have “Wednesday” in their titles:

“A Wednesday In Your Garden” by the Guess Who, 1969.
“Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.” by Simon & Garfunkel, 1964.
“Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday” by Wild Silk, 1968.
“Wednesday’s Child (Main Theme)” by John Barry, 1966.
“Wednesday’s Child (Vocal)” by John Barry/Matt Monro, 1966.

Those last two entries come from the soundtrack to The Quiller Memorandum, a 1966 spy flick set in Berlin that had a pretty good cast (George Segal, Alec Guinness and Max von Sydow among others). I’ve never seen the film, but the soundtrack came to my attention, of course, because it was written by John Barry.

It’s a moody and atmospheric soundtrack, which one might expect, and even without a zither (as far as I can tell), it reminds me vaguely of Anton Karas’ work for the 1949 thriller The Third Man. I think that comes from the presence of a lot of plucked strings, which distinguishes the Quiller soundtrack from the three scores Barry had written for James Bond films by 1966 (From Russia With Love, Goldfinger and Thunderball). One odd bit that must have been scored as source music in the film – from a radio or in a club, I suppose – is a saxophone arrangement of Petula Clark’s “Downtown,” and there’s a suitably Teutonic track titled “Autobahn March,” but the bulk of the score is quiet, sometimes melancholy, sometimes foreboding and occasionally sweet.

I’m not sure how well Mack David’s lyrics for “Wednesday’s Child” reflect the film, but like much of the score itself, they’re suitably sad:

Wednesday’s child is a child of woe.
Wednesday’s child cries alone, I know.
When you smiled, just for me you smiled.
For a while I forgot I was Wednesday’s child.

Friday’s child wins at love, they say.
In your arms, Friday was my day.
Now you’re gone. Well, I should have known.
I am Wednesday’s child, born to be alone.

Now you’re gone. Well, I should have known.
I am Wednesday’s child, born to be alone.

Wednesday’s child, born to be alone.

Monro, who did vocals for several Barry themes – “From Russia With Love” and “Born Free” among them – does a decent job with the tune, which makes it a fine selection for a Wednesday:

Saturday Evenings With Dad

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

It’s not very important, not after forty-seven years, but I’m still puzzled. For about five weeks in January and February of 1966, my dad and I went out and did stuff on Saturday evenings.

Oh, I didn’t mind at all. I liked spending time with Dad. I was twelve, and a Saturday evening with Dad was a pretty good weekend treat. And we did some fun stuff.

At least once during that stretch we spent the evening at St. Cloud State, watching the men’s basketball team – the college’s only basketball team in 1966 – take on another team from the Northern Intercollegiate Conference. The Huskies had one of the better small college teams at the time, routinely contending for the NIC championship and a spot in the national tournament of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), kind of a small college version of the better known NCAA.

We sat on the side, where our family always sat, but this time it was just Dad and me, three rows up from the Huskies’ bench, close enough to the press tables that I could listen in as a sportscaster named Peter Jay called the game for KFAM, one of the two radio stations in town. Being fascinated with radio and sportscasting, I likely greeted Mr. Jay before the game, as I often did when our whole family went to games. As always, he would have taken time to talk briefly to me, time that most surely could have been spent studying statistics, memorizing numbers or checking his connection to the radio station.

Then the game started, and I cheered for the Huskies, taking a break to get some popcorn from the concession stand at halftime. I don’t recall who St. Cloud State played that night; they likely won, as they did most nights. And it’s entirely possible that Dad and I went to two games during that five-week winter stretch, with me listening to the pep band play the “SCS Rouser” and taking my cues from the cheerleaders in their red and black uniforms. (The cheerleaders and the players – and their college-age fans, for that matter – seemed so much older than I was. It’s a shock this morning to realize that they were only ten or so years my senior. That gap now is minuscule; as I sail through my late fifties, they would now be pretty much my contemporaries.)

What else did we do on those Saturday evenings during that five-week slice of January and February in 1966? We went to at least two movies, maybe three. I think that’s why those Saturday nights linger in my mind. Just the two of us going to a basketball game at Halenbeck didn’t feel like anything out of the ordinary. That happened occasionally. But movies were a family thing (unless my sister and I went with friends). So a movie with Dad but without my mom and my sister was different.

What did we see? I recall The Sands of the Kalahari, about the survivors of a plane crash in that African desert trying to put together an escape craft from the wreckage of the plane that brought them there. I think we might have seen The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, a 1965 film based on the John le Carré novel and starring Richard Burton. And I know we saw The IPCRESS File, another spy flick from 1965, this one based on a novel by Len Deighton and starring Michael Caine. Why am I sure we saw that one? Because the music was by John Barry, whose name I knew from the James Bond films. I never got the soundtrack to The IPCRESS File, but I remember liking the music a lot.

Whatever we did on each of those Saturday nights, we found ourselves heading back to our car about nine o’clock. That was a late night out for a twelve-year-old kid in 1966. But our evenings weren’t over yet. On each of those four or five Saturday nights, after we got back to the East Side, Dad pulled the car over in the parking lot of the Ace Bar & Cafe.

We had dinner occasionally at the Ace, and I loved it when we did, as the Ace was one of the few places I ever knew that served liver pate as a part of its relish tray, and I loved liver pate on rye crackers. (I still do, though it’s more rare these days. So are relish trays, for that matter.)

But in the winter of 1966, Dad and I were walking into the Ace sometime after nine in the evening, and the character of the place was different. The dining room was nearly empty. Actually, I imagine that on a couple of those Saturday nights, Dad and I were the only customers in the dining room. The Saturday night action was in the adjacent bar, and the sound of weekend revelry came down the hall and around the corner

I’d been in the bar portion of the building only once, and that was by accident when I took a wrong turn from the restroom. Feeling very small, I’d ducked past big and loud people as I retreated to the familiar dining room. So during the winter of 1966, sitting at a table with my dad in the nearly empty dining room and hearing the sound of the drinkers in the bar made me feel a little vulnerable, a little lonely, a little bit how I often feel these days when I see the works of Edward Hopper. (Check out Nighthawks.)

However I felt, we’d order hamburgers, and Dad would have a Hamm’s beer. During our first stop at the Ace in that stretch of Saturday nights, I noticed something – a sign, an ad on the table, I don’t know what – that reminded me of a soft drink I’d recently heard of and never tried. So I ordered a Mountain Dew, and for the rest of that four or five week stretch, that was our order at the Ace: two burgers, one with raw onions, a Hamm’s beer and a Mountain Dew.

And after those four or five weeks, it stopped. Saturday nights went back to being nights spent mostly at home. Oh, we’d go see the Huskies play, but it was all four or us, not just Dad and me. And if I saw a movie, it was with the whole family or else with Rick or some kids from school.

I don’t know what was happening during that time. Did Mom and Dad decide for some reason that I needed more Dad-time? Maybe Mom needed time for herself, or with my sister, who was fifteen. Maybe Mom and Dad had their own issues – every couple has them from time to time, I know now – and my Saturday evenings with Dad were the result. I remember being puzzled, and I know that whatever I thought at the time, I came to no conclusions.

So there the minor mystery lies, forty-seven years later. I never asked Dad about it, and I have no idea what he’d have said. He was a pretty private man, my dad was, and I know very little about what he thought or felt about his life, or if he even spent time pondering how that life had unreeled for him. But I still think of him every time the RealPlayer falls on a couple of records by Frank Sinatra. I wrote a little about “Summer Wind” once, and that still brings Dad to mind.

But so, too, does one of Sinatra’s greatest performances, “It Was A Very Good Year.” If anyone was, Frank Sinatra was the voice of my father’s generation, and Dad might have found himself nodding to Sinatra’s interpretation of Ervin Drake’s song and its reflective nostalgia. So as I think about my Saturday nights with Dad during early 1966 and wonder why they happened, I find it fitting that “It Was A Very Good Year” was the No. 1 song on the Billboard Easy Listening chart forty-seven years ago this week.

A Rambling Post Seeking A Destination

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

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.

A Roundabout Appreciation Of Roger Williams

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

When I graduated from high school in 1971, my sister gave me an Alvarez acoustic guitar to replace the old second-hand instrument I’d been messing around with. And not long after that, I bought a songbook called 50 Sensational Songs for Guitar. I don’t know if the songs were truly sensational, but the book – for which I paid $2.50; this was 1971 – had a good collection of songs from many styles.

There was some traditional pop (“Misty” and “Sentimental Journey”), some Top 40 pop (“Dizzy” and “Sugar, Sugar”), some Broadway (“Applause” and “Hello, Dolly”), some Jimmy Webb tunes (“Wichita Lineman,” “Didn’t We” and more), some Burt Bacharach/Hal David stuff (“Do You Know The Way To San Jose” and more) and a lot of other stuff including four Beatles’ tunes, two of which now seem to be very odd choices: “Old Brown Shoe” and “Octopus’s Garden.”

(As I look at the book now, I realize that three of the Beatles’ tunes in the book were written by George Harrison and “Octopus’s Garden” was, of course, written by Ringo Starr. No tunes by Lennon and McCartney. I’d never noticed that before.)

I don’t know that I ever played any of the tunes in the songbook on guitar. I did play my guitar a lot in those days, sitting on the little bank on the north side of our house in the spring and summer evenings, practicing my own songs as I let my hands learn what they needed to do. But I found a use for the songbook anyway.

During my first two years of college, I took five quarters of music theory, every class St. Cloud State offered in the subject. And through those courses, I realized that I could use 50 Sensational Songs for Guitar, which offered melody lines and guitar chord charts, as a fakebook, making up my own arrangements of those songs. Among the songs that I learned to play that way was a tune that had originally been titled “Les Feuillies Mortes.”

I knew the song as “Autumn Leaves,” although I can’t specifically say how I knew it. I was just aware that I’d heard the song many times as a pop standard. I certainly didn’t recall the song from 1955, when it was a No. 1 hit for pianist Roger Williams.

“Autumn Leaves” was the first of thirty chart hits or near-hits hit for Williams, who passed on last week at the age of eighty-seven. (And I should note that my version of “Autumn Leaves” hews to the melody: I have never attempted those fantastic runs Williams plays, nor will I ever do so.) I see this morning in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles that Kapp Records re-released Williams’ version of “Autumn Leaves” in 1965, which is when I might have heard the tune; if that’s the case, I was one of the few, as the record peaked at No. 92. Many of Williams’ other single releases did better, but quite a few parked themselves in the lower portions of the chart. Nevertheless, Williams had singles in or near the Billboard Hot 100 every year but one (1964) from 1955 through 1969, with one more coming in 1972.

Williams’ second-biggest hit came when his cover of John Barry’s movie theme “Born Free” went to No. 7 (No. 5 on the chart now called Adult Contemporary) in December 1966. That’s probably the Williams record I recall the most, and I know I would have heard it – and liked it – on any of the radio stations I happened to hear at the time.

Even though he was on or near the charts during the 1960s, Williams’ better years had been the late 1950s, when he placed several records in the Top 40: “Wanting You” went to No. 38 in 1955; “La Mer (Beyond the Sea)” went to No. 37 in 1956; “Almost Paradise” went to No. 15 and “Till” went to No. 22 in 1957; and “Near You” went to No. 10 in 1958. After that, beyond “Born Free,” the closest Williams got to the Top 40 was in early 1962, when his cover of “Maria” from West Side Story went to No. 48.

My favorite Roger Williams piece, however, comes from 1980, when he teamed up with John Barry to record Barry’s “Theme from Somewhere In Time,” which closes the soundtrack album (and, I think, plays under the closing credits) of one of my favorite films. The track also showed up on Williams’ 1986 album, also titled Somewhere In Time. The record isn’t listed in Top Pop Singles; if it made any chart, it would’ve been the Adult Contemporary.

I know I’ve shared “Theme from Somewhere In Time” before, but it’s good enough to share again, and it provides an appropriate way to say farewell to Roger Williams.

John Barry, 1933-2011

Monday, January 31st, 2011

I heard this morning the sad news that one of my favorite musicians – one who influenced my listening probably as much as anyone ever did – had passed on.

John Barry, composer of soundtracks for eleven of the James Bond movies and so many more films over the years, crossed over yesterday, January 30, in New York at the age of seventy-seven.

It was my fascination with James Bond in 1964 that led me to Barry’s work and then to my long-time interest in soundtracks. Those of my age or older will recall that Bondmania had about a three or four year run. It began, from what I recall, in the early 1960s with – among other things – the admission by then-President John F. Kennedy that he enjoyed Ian Fleming’s novels about James Bond, secret agent 007 of Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Add the first Bond film, Dr. No, in 1962, with Sean Connery as Bond and Ursula Andress rising from the sea as Honeychile Rider, the first of the Bond girls on the screen, and the secret agent – blessed with gorgeous women, superb driving skills, an increasingly elaborate set of weapons and gadgets, and just the right double entendre at the right time – became an American sensation.

Barry didn’t score Dr. No – Monty Norman did – but Barry picked up the series with the second film, From Russia With Love, and when the third Bond film, Goldfinger, came out in 1964, the increasing fascination around me pulled me in. I turned eleven in 1964 and was too young, my parents judged, to see the movies or read Fleming’s books. But I could listen to the music. So I got the soundtrack to Goldfinger from our record club, and I sat by the stereo in the living room, listening and trying to create images and storylines that would match the sounds I heard, kind of the reverse of what Barry was doing as he created music to match the images and story of the film.

Of all the tracks on that first soundtrack, the instrumental version of the main theme remains my favorite:

By the time the fourth Bond film, Thunderball, came out in 1965, my parents had granted me permission to read Fleming’s books, and I went to see the new movie with my pal and fellow 007 enthusiast Brad. We followed that up with a double-feature of Dr. No and From Russia With Love, re-released as the nation’s attention to 007 increased. Somewhere along the line, we also saw a re-release of Goldfinger, allowing me finally to match the music with the scenes in the movie. And, of course, I bought the soundtrack to Thunderball, which included a new version of the “007” theme, first written for From Russia With Love.

Bondmania faded for the nation and for me, and although I saw some of the ensuing movies, many of which Barry scored, I bought no more Bond soundtracks after that. I did pick up Barry’s work for the film Born Free, and for many years, I noted when his name was in the credits of films I saw. But rock music and its relatives began to take more and more of my attention and my cash, and I bought few soundtracks by anyone for a few years. My early interest in Barry’s work had, however, cultivated the habit of paying close attention to the soundtrack any time I went to the movies, and during the 1980s I began to collect soundtracks again.

Fast forward a few years: During my graduate school days, I saw the film Somewhere In Time and noted that Barry had written the lush, romantic soundtrack for it, with pianist Roger Williams joining in for a turn at the main theme. I bought the LP and have since found myself watching the movie anytime I run into it on the cable channels. I mean, time travel, the luminous Jane Seymour and John Barry’s music – what more could one want?

The list of Barry’s work at All-Music Guide is amazingly long, with the earliest dated score being his work for Beat Girl in 1960 and the most recent being his score for The Dove in 2009. He earned Grammy awards for his work on Midnight Cowboy, The Cotton Club, Out Of Africa and Dances With Wolves and won five Academy Awards, earning Oscars for his scores for Born Free, The Lion In Winter, Out of Africa and Dances With Wolves and for the song “Born Free.”

As I write and think, I come to the conclusion that Barry probably had as much influence on me and my music listening as did anyone. Since the advent of the Internet, I’ve found my way to more and more of his soundtracks, work I enjoy hearing that I did not always know about when the films came out. Combine that with the attention I still pay to soundtracks and scores as I watch movies, and the effect of Barry’s work on me is huge.

I dabbled with writing some movie-type music when I was in college, at about the same time I dabbled in writing some short films. Not much came of either, except first, an awareness of the power of precise language in a script, and second – and more to the point here – a greater awareness of the difficulty of matching the mood of a scene with music. John Barry was a master at that latter task, and he deserves the lasting gratitude of anyone who loves movies or music.