The new James Bond film Spectre is out, and I was privileged to interview Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Sam Smith and his writing partner Jimmy Napes Wednesday night after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening at The Grove. The guys were informative and entertaining, using terms like “expensive chords” that the composer/songwriter crowd loved. The song, which plays well with the lavish and beautiful title sequence — and can be best appreciated once you’ve seen the film and understand its context — has already hit no. 1 in the UK, the first Bond theme in history to do so.
Columnist Michael Coate was kind enough to ask me to join his roundtable of Bond experts, all chiming in for The Digital Bits on the impact of Goldfinger, which opened 50 years ago this week. My role, of course, was mostly to talk about the song and the score, which still resonate today. Most of these guys are old friends and I’m glad to be in their company.
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.