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.
I am not sure YouTube has the right to air this, but it’s been seen an awful lot (and it’s in high-def!) so I am beginning to think either nobody cares or the rights are problematic. In any case, here is part 1 (of 14!) of the best television documentary ever made on the songs of 007. I was happy to participate (I’m more in the second half than the first). The droll narrator and the generally amusing tone make up for the unfortunate “countdown” format and the various idiocies perpetrated throughout (Alice Cooper, for example). It’s nearly two hours long but it’s so much fun that it’s worth your time. John Barry is delightfully candid, and he’s not the only one; producer Stephen Franklin convinced a lot of people to go on camera and be honest about their experiences (and their opinions).
This was one of my all-time favorite album projects: two brilliant John Barry scores. One was a landmark Richard Lester film from 1968, the other a little-seen musical version of Lewis Carroll’s children’s classic released in 1972. Luckily both were Warner Bros. LPs and so they could be combined into a single 79-minute CD. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland boasts an incredible British cast including Peter Sellers, Michael Crawford, Dudley Moore, Ralph Richardson and a young Fiona Fullerton as Alice. The film got terrible reviews but the songs by Barry and Don Black are delightful (especially “Curiouser and Curiouser,” “I’ve Never Been This Far Before” and “The Me I Never Knew,” all of which Barry later turned into a symphonic suite). Petulia starred Julie Christie and George C. Scott and seems today to be a sharply observed look at Flower Power-era San Francisco with one of the composer’s most haunting themes. Any excuse to call John Barry for fresh insights into his work was welcome, and I did so again here.
I was happy to pen the notes for this great John Barry score for director Bryan Forbes’ delicate, melancholy tale of a lonely old woman (Dame Edith Evans) in modern-day England. I was less happy when the label asked me to suggest dialogue excerpts to add between the music tracks, which I refused to do (and desperately tried to talk them out of). They did so anyway, I never worked for them again, and they never even sent me a copy of the album. I am happy to recommend the Kritzerland edition of The Whisperers instead (it’s paired with another favorite of mine, Richard Rodney Bennett’s Equus). I like what I wrote for the Ryko version; I just don’t like their CD.