Legendary composer John Barry has re-opened the debate over the James Bond theme this week in a candid radio interview..

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 shot.'"

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 lot."

Above: Monty Norman

Official Credit
Monty Norman has expressed his version of events on his official 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.

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