Legendary composer John Barry has re-opened the debate
over the James Bond theme this week in a candid radio
John Barry On The Bond Theme
9th September 2006
The bitter battle over the acclaim for the "James Bond Theme"
has been waged for years, with Monty Norman officially credited,
collecting royalties since 1962 and claiming court victories,
and by John Barry winning the hearts and minds of many 007 fans
for composing, orchestrating and arranging eleven Bond films (officially
credited). Their two sides of the same story differ greatly, and
have been the subject of court cases.
John Barry appeared on the Steve Wright show on BBC Radio 2 this
week (Thursday 7th September 2006) and in a brief interview covering
his career, gave his side of the story on who wrote the "James
Bond Theme". For a limited time you can hear the controversial
interview on the BBC's
"listen again" feature.
When asked about how he started with the Bond series,
Barry said "it was a very strange introduction. There
was a gentleman called Noel Rogers who used to run United
Artists Music and I had been doing one or two things with
him, and he said 'do you want to do a movie score?' and
I said 'well what is it?' and he said 'it's a James Bond
movie'. I had done one or two small budget movies up until
then but not much else, and I said 'I only know James Bond
from that [comic]
strip in the Daily Mail' (editors note: it was the
Daily Express). He said 'well they've got Monty Norman'
and I said 'well Monty can't write, can he? He's a song-writer
of sorts'. He replied 'well he's written a song for the
movie and they want you to do it', so I said 'well I write
the song as well'."
"So I wrote the song with Don Black, but we couldn't
get credit because of the legal thing - [Norman] was signed
to do the movie. I think I got £125 and I think Don
got the same. We recorded the first Bond theme and Lionel
Bart went to see the movie and he said 'ere! Monty Norman
never wrote that!' and I said 'he was signed to do the movie,
I came in at the last minute', I know he never wrote it
but I said 'if they continue, if this is a success, and
we go on then I'll do the rest of the movies, that's my
Above: John Barry was awarded
a BAFTA Fellowship at the 2005 ceremony.
"They did. After that they did 'From Russia With Love',
and Lionel Bart wrote the song for that because he was very successful
with 'Oliver' at that time so he wrote that and I wrote the score.
When the third movie came along, 'Goldfinger', I did the whole
Above: Monty Norman
Monty Norman has expressed his version of events on his
site. The conclusion of the sixteen-page account reads:
"Rumours, myths, innuendoes and Chinese whispers. Monty
has had to endure them all. But then, as the old showbiz
saying goes: Nobody argues over a flop. The James Bond Theme
was anything but a flop. Monty has had to go to Court three
times to defend his composition. Once because a monthly
magazine wrote that he had bought the James Bond Theme from
a Jamaican for $100! And twice because a weekly musical
paper and a Sunday newspaper respectively said that John
Barry wrote the James Bond Theme. Monty won all three actions.
The last libel case ended in the High Court on March 19
2001. The jury returned a unanimous verdict in Monty's favour.
Monty was completely vindicated. The world knew once and
for all, despite previous myths, innuendoes and Chinese
whispers: Monty Norman composed the James Bond Theme. The
Sunday Times paid damages and costs."
A thorough account of the Sunday Times case in 2001, in which
both Norman and Barry appeared, can be read at the John
Barry Resource website (unofficial). However, it cannot be
seen as a neutral report of events.
Bond Music Coverage