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Superb survey of the music of the James Bond films
on 28 December 2012
This is, so far as I am aware, the only book to survey the music for each of the James Bond films, with the exception of Skyfall. Other books that touch on this topic tend to be biographies of the individual composers, or books about the James Bond phenomenon, or the liner notes to releases of the James Bond music. For someone wanting to understand the music of a particular film, such books can often be frustrating, as they tend to concentrate on the way the Bond sound was initially realised in the 1960s, or how it is realised in the contemporary world. Burlingame avoids this by taking each film in turn, and providing (along the bottom of the pages) a minute by minute account of the score as it appears in the film, while (in the main text) giving the story behind the writing of the music for the film. This could have resulted in a rather dull book. Instead, while the familiar stories of Tom Jones going a bit wobbly at the end of the vocal recording of Thunderball, or Shirley Bassey ditching her bra to hit the high notes in Goldfinger make their predictable appearance, the lesser known stories of the later films are also told in full for the first time. So, for example, the section on Moonraker discusses the original version of the song written for Frank Sinatra and ultimately recorded by Johnny Mathis before that version was rejected in favour of the version as performed by Shirley Bassey. It also gives an illuminating account of John Barry's original vision of the Moonraker soundtrack as an eight movement symphony, together with the practical trials of recording a Bond score in France for the first and, to date, only time. The book also makes the (to me) surprising revelation that even if John Barry had not fallen ill before the release of Licence to Kill, he very likely would not have returned to score the film. This makes his willingness to consider scoring Tomorrow Never Dies before failing to agree terms all the more surprising.
The only negative aspect of the book is that the production quality is rather poor. It is always disappointing to have photographs printed in poor quality among the text, rather than on proper glossy paper, but I suppose it is inevitable to keep the price of a fairly niche product like this down.