Category Archives: Homepage

Born Free

It’s sad that the 1966 film Born Free seems to have fallen into obscurity. It’s really a wonderful film, based on the true story of an English couple who adopt and raise an orphaned lion cub in Kenya but then must teach her how to survive in the wild. I was delighted that the folks at Twilight Time asked me to participate in a commentary track, specifically to talk about John Barry’s music, which won Oscars for Best Song and Best Score. Prior to Born Free, Barry was primarily known as composer for the James Bond films; these were the first of five Oscars he would ultimately win for his classic film music.

The Blue Max

Jerry Goldsmith’s thrilling score is the reason I agreed to come aboard for this one. Producer Nick Redman, writer Julie Kirgo and I spent a fun morning talking about the making of this World War I movie starring George Peppard, Ursula Andress and James Mason. It’s a surprisingly good action film, looking and sounding great thanks to Twilight Time’s remastering.

I uncovered a good deal of new information in preparation for the commentary (much of which is not in any of the liner notes for the various LP or CD incarnations of the score). I was able to pinpoint the London recording dates as Friday, Saturday, and Monday, March 25, 26 and 28, 1966. And the concertmaster, interestingly enough, was David McCallum Sr., first violinist of the Royal Philharmonic and the London Philharmonic at the time. His son had achieved worldwide stardom as Illya Kuryakin on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. — which had a theme by none other than Jerry Goldsmith.

On the Waterfront

WaterfrontCriterionJBopenI was delighted when Criterion Collection producer Issa Clubb asked me to contribute a musical essay to their deluxe DVD and Blu-Ray edition of this 1954 classic. Over about 20 minutes I discuss composer Leonard Bernstein’s involvement with the film, the various themes and musical details of the score, and why he didn’t win the Academy Award.

The Music of James Bond

The story of the music that accompanies the cinematic adventures of Ian Fleming’s intrepid Agent 007 is one of surprising real-life drama. In The Music of James Bond, author Jon Burlingame throws open studio and courtroom doors alike to reveal the full and extraordinary history of the sounds of James Bond, spicing the story with a wealth of fascinating and previously undisclosed tales.

Burlingame devotes a chapter to each Bond film, providing the backstory for the music (including a reader-friendly analysis of each score) from the last-minute creation of the now-famous “James Bond Theme” in Dr. No to John Barry’s trend-setting early scores for such films as Goldfinger and Thunderball. We learn how synthesizers, disco and modern electronica techniques played a role in subsequent scores, and how composer David Arnold reinvented the Bond sound for the 1990s and beyond.

The boDeemsTaylorAwardok brims with behind-the-scenes anecdotes. Burlingame examines the decades-long controversy over authorship of the Bond theme; how Frank Sinatra almost sang the title song for Moonraker; and how top artists like Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Paul McCartney, Carly Simon, Duran Duran, Gladys Knight, Tina Turner, and Madonna turned Bond songs into chart-topping hits. The author shares the untold stories of how Eric Clapton played guitar for Licence to Kill but saw his work shelved, and how Amy Winehouse very nearly co-wrote and sang the theme for Quantum of Solace.

Winner of the prestigious Deems Taylor Award for excellence in music journalism, the book has been updated in paperback to include a new chapter on Skyfall, including extensive interviews with composer Thomas Newman and Adele’s producer and co-writer Paul Epworth (among others) as well as new photographs and material that has come to light since the original publication (including Lionel Bart’s newly discovered Thunderball song!).

A few reviews:

“The Bond films bounce from one locale and storyline to another, with the music serving as our constant frame of reference. And so it probably deserves a biography unto itself: a snappy, efficient and gossip-heavy one such as THE MUSIC OF JAMES BOND by Jon Burlingame.” — Colin Fleming, The Washington Post

“When it comes to writing about film music, Jon Burlingame is the man with the Midas touch. Both casual fans and 007 aficionados should find this book to be enlightening, informative, and great fun to read.” — Leonard Maltin

“An often wild, frequently amusing tale of accidental connections (how Paul McCartney and Wings wound up doing Live and Let Die), MTV-inspired choices (Duran Duran for A View to a Kill) and commercially savvy but controversial ideas (Madonna’s electronica for Die Another Day). No previous book has tackled the music of Bond in such depth and detail.” — Variety

“True 007 devotees will have already dug into Jon Burlingame’s excellent The Music of James Bond.” — The Wall Street Journal

“Burlingame has written an amazing behind-the-scenes dossier, revealing the personalities, the betrayals, the egos, the lawsuits, and the untold stories behind 007’s hits and misses. Nobody does it better than Bond, and nobody knows Bond music better than Burlingame.” — John Cork, co-author,  James Bond: The Legacy

“Burlingame provides the intriguing and often fascinating story behind the one heretofore neglected aspect of the James Bond phenomenon: the soundtracks, and the incredibly talented people behind them. This book manages to be exhaustively researched, yet highly entertaining.” — Lee Pfeiffer, editor, Cinema Retro

“A magnificent work… a meticulously researched history of James Bond music… James Bond fans will devour this like Beluga caviar and Dom Perignon champagne.” — Steven Jay Rubin, author, The Complete James Bond Movie Encyclopedia

“An authoritative and uniquely informative volume — the definitive examination of a major contribution in the longevity of the Bond film series… packed with memorable quotes and a sprinkling of photographic gems.” — Graham Rye, editor-publisher, 007 Magazine

“At last, a worthy historical analysis of 007 that finally puts the music in the spotlight… Burlingame’s incredibly detailed account successfully threads together the full story and, in doing so, reveals more twists and turns than an Ian Fleming novel.” — Geoff Leonard and Pete Walker, co-authors,  John Barry: The Man With the Midas Touch


Dr. Kildare

The success of our Man From U.N.C.L.E. albums led Lukas Kendall to ask me to assemble a 3-disc set of music from Dr. Kildare, the superb 1960s medical series starring Richard Chamberlain. There were five excellent Jerry Goldsmith scores to fill disc 1, and considerable fine material from the likes of Harry Sukman, Morton Stevens, Lalo Schifrin and others to fill discs 2 and 3.

The Magnificent Seven

My old friend Michael Arrick asked me to contribute a 15-minute featurette about Elmer Bernstein and his now-classic score for this landmark 1960 Western. It was great fun, not only talking about my friend Elmer but taking apart the score and providing a little thoughtful analysis of the music. I am told that our 2006 piece has been added to the currently available Blu-Ray.

King Kong (1933)

I am thrilled to be a part of “RKO Production 601: The Making of `Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World,'” the elaborate, behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of the 1933 classic. I talked about composer Max Steiner, provided a mini-analysis of the score’s themes, and discusssed its impact on future generations of film composers.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Volume 1

This was the project of a lifetime. The 1960s spy classic is still my all-time favorite TV series; over the years I had interviewed many of those involved with the show and often written about it. I worked on an album concept for more than a decade before all of the pieces finally fell into place. The idea, of course, was a “best of” collection, so I boiled down 19 of the best scores into suites ranging from four to 14 minutes apiece. The composers included Jerry Goldsmith, Mort Stevens, Walter Scharf, Lalo Schifrin, Gerald Fried, Robert Drasnin and Richard Shores. At the time, we had no idea how well it would be received (so you won’t see “Volume 1” on the cover!). It sold so well that we did three subsequent volumes of U.N.C.L.E. music.

Together, the liner notes for these four volumes constitute the most comprehensive history of the scoring of a single television show ever written. Even the venerable Down Beat magazine gave us four out of five stars! Here‘s another very upbeat assessment.

Sound and Vision: 60 Years of Motion Picture Soundtracks

An unparalleled reference source and much, much more, Sound and Vision offers a detailed history of movie music on record and compact disc; up-to-date biographical sketches of composers throughout movie history; and annotated listings of the best-selling, award-winning or otherwise noteworthy soundtracks of the past and present — original film scores as well as movie musicals and song-compilation scores. It even provides a comprehensive index so that can instantly know if the music you’re looking for is commercially available.

From Leonard Maltin’s foreword: “There are few chroniclers of the film music scene as astute and accurate as Jon Burlingame, and this book is a valuable gift to anyone who’s just getting hooked on soundtracks.”

A few reviews:

“Anyone with even a passing interest in film music should have this book.” — Randy Newman

“Burlingame’s taste is impeccable, and film score fans exploring the range of the hobby will find the book a perfect checklist for what they should seek out. Sound and Vision puts their obsession in a cultural and commercial context they probably rarely consider.” — Jeff Bond, Film Score Monthly

“A fun and informative look at scores on disc… a perceptive and reasonable examination of trends and trendsetters, with a clear-headed business consciousness that should give readers a renewed understanding of the politics of the recording industry.” — Randall Larson, Soundtrack!

“Smart, comprehensive and fun to read.” — Daniel Schweiger, Venice magazine

Sound and Vision is an absolutely indispensable reference book, with a fascinating history of soundtracks and a remarkably comprehensive listing of composers and their work.” — Fred Karlin, composer and author of Listening to Movies

“In an era in which books about film music are proliferating at a rapid rate, it is Jon Burlingame who speaks with the most clear and authoritative voice. He is a researcher willing to check the facts at the source. He speaks with great love for the art of composing music for film and is a kind and knowledgeable critic of the state of the art.” — Elmer Bernstein

“Jon Burlingame has approached this book with devotion and wide-ranging knowledge…. Every serious film buff should welcome Sound and Vision with genuine enthusiasm — Rudy Behlmer, author of Memo From David O. Selznick

“Burlingame has wisely chosen to chronicle those soundtracks that, by virtue of their quality, importance or popularity, should be made known to film music’s ever-increasing audience. His informative history of movie soundtrack recordings is alone worth the purchase price.” — Clifford McCarty, author of Film Composers in America

TV’s Biggest Hits: The Story of Television Themes from “Dragnet” to “Friends”

Everybody loves TV themes — from the silly Mr. Ed and The Addams Family to the intense Mission: Impossible and Peter Gunn to the atmospheric Hill Street Blues and The X-Files. But few people know how this music is made, or the stories of the men and women who have worked tirelessly (and often anonymously) to create it.

This book offers the complete story of this important musical field, giving it the serious, and colorfully anecdotal, history it deserves. Divided into chapters on each genre — from “Crime to a Beat” detailing cop and detective shows, through Westerns, Sci-Fi and Fantasy, TV Drama, Sitcoms, Action-Adventure, News and Documentaries, Cartoons, and Movies and Miniseries — Burlingame provides the real stories of the composers who worked behind the scenes to create the memorable music we all love.

Among those who have written and performed for television series are many famous musicians — like jazz pianists Dave Brubeck and Duke Ellington, arranger-producer Quincy Jones, film music giant John Williams, Broadway composer Richard Rodgers, and classical composer Morton Gould. Illustrated throughout with rare photos of the composers at work, this is a fascinating story of how a new genre of musical artistry was created.

A few reviews:

“Here’s a book that combines lengthy and impressive research, and tons of interviews, with good old-fashioned, behind-the-scenes stories…. Everyone will find something fun here… sets the record straight while providing a very enjoyable read.” — David Bianculli, New York Daily News

“Impeccably researched… crammed with musical facts, footnotes, biographical data — but also, lucky for us tune-deaf types, tons of juicy anecdotes about the making of our favorite tunes.” — Diane Werts, Newsday

“A far richer, more intelligent book… Burlingame has had one of those so-obvious-it’s-clever ideas and did a ton of research to dig up anecdotes about the theme songs and background music that are the soundtrack to a TV watcher’s life.” — Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly

“A serious, professional and comprehensive history of the songs and music that accompanied virtually every major show from Mr. Ed to The X-Files…. a required addition to any serious film or television library.” — Kathleen O’Steen, Emmy magazine

“A landmark historical overview of prime-time TV music from its beginnings to present day… comprehensive, informative and interesting.” — Lukas Kendall, Film Score Monthly

“Thoughtful and well-researched… Burlingame deserves high points for all the work involved; he spent several years tracking down the history of the medium, interviewing producers and composers.”Billboard