A new film on the craft of creating music for movies, Score: A Film Music Documentary, opens this weekend in New York (and next weekend in Los Angeles). It features new interviews with composers including Hans Zimmer, John Powell, Quincy Jones, Brian Tyler, John Debney, David Arnold, Rachel Portman and others; footage from earlier films featuring John Williams and Thomas Newman; and commentary from critic Leonard Maltin, agent Richard Kraft, Disney executive Mitchell Leib, record producer Robert Townson, director James Cameron, and many more. I am on camera from time to time to offer historical perspective. Filmmaker Matt Schrader filmed numerous scoring sessions in Los Angeles and London, and the result is a fast-moving, illuminating look at the art and business of movie music. You’ll see me in the trailer, which is here along with the New York Times‘ rave review.
I was delighted to be asked to participate in Britain’s latest TV special devoted to songs from the James Bond films. The Nation’s Favourite Bond Song aired on ITV on December 17, and I was in pretty good company — Composer David Arnold, lyricist Don Black, members of Duran Duran and a-ha, etc. Plus previously unknown footage of Louis Armstrong singing “We Have All the Time in the World” for a UK TV show in 1970. I was especially pleased to be able to discuss the importance of composer John Barry in the creation of the Bond sound.
Cosmos composer Alan Silvestri won for both Music Composition for a Series and Main Title Theme Music at Saturday night’s Creative Arts Emmy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles.
Predictable, maybe, but also well-deserved. Here’s a look at just how he did it, over several weeks at the beginning of the year.
The other big winners included David Arnold and Michael Price for the final installment of this year’s Sherlock series on PBS, and veteran pop-rock artist Don Was as music director for the Beatles special The Night That Changed America.
A rundown of the Emmy winners in all five categories is here.
Veteran U.K. broadcaster Tommy Pearson asked me to join his two-hour Classic FM radio broadcast on the music of James Bond. The catch: he would be in London with Skyfall composer Thomas Newman and five-film Bond composer David Arnold, while I was in L.A. at the studios of KUSC-FM. It was all done live over two hours, with classic 007 music bits interspersed with the conversation. Amusingly, there was a camera in the L.A. studio (no one told me, or I’d have donned something other than an old T-shirt) so that the live audience in London could see me. Anyway, it was all great fun. Here’s an overview of the show; and more photos are here.
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 book 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
David Arnold is, without a doubt, one of the most fun composers in movies. He has a wicked, often dry wit — and yet takes his job very seriously. His five James Bond scores (from Tomorrow Never Dies to Quantum of Solace) took the series in new musical directions while maintaining a stylistic link with the classic John Barry scores of old. He was exceedingly generous during the writing of my Bond music book, giving me an entire day to discuss his music (and this was the morning after his stellar performance at Barry’s memorial concert in London). Here is a story I wrote in the aftermath of his acceptance of BMI’s highest award, when he was preparing to be musical director for the closing ceremonies of the London Olympics. And here is another, from 2002, that I wrote for BMI about his third 007 score, Die Another Day.
Of all the sections I’ve done for Variety on composers over the years, this is one of which I’m most proud: I flew to New York to interview John Barry on the occasion of his 75th birthday in 2008. I had always loved his music and we had become friends over the years. This is the main story, an overview of his life and career with quotes from Roger Moore, Michael Caine and David Arnold; here is a look at his invention of the spy-music genre, featuring an especially articulate Arnold; here are quotes about 10 of his greatest scores; this is a piece featuring some of his collaborators, including Sydney Pollack, Don Black, Bryan Forbes, Anthony Harvey and Barbara Broccoli; and here is a final piece that looks at his theater and TV work.