When “The Music of Bond: The First 50 Years” special evening began, with the original theme played on the original guitar by the original guitarist Vic Flick – it sent fans into a Bond-like frenzy.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences event took place Friday at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Los Angeles, moderated by Jon Burlingame (writer of the upcoming book, “The Music of Bond”). The event marked the end of Global James Bond Day around the world. Fifty years ago, the first Bond film appeared and according to Burlingame, the Bond movies are now the longest-running movie franchise in history with “SkyFall,” the 23rd Bond film, coming on strong in November.
Burlingame proved to be a knowledgeable host, using the Bond title songs and themes with clips from the films, relating extra tidbits about what happened behind the scenes. Flick, Don Black, (the lyricist who worked on “Thunderball” and four other Bond films) and Bill Conti (who scored the film “For Your Eyes Only”) participated in questions about the films they worked on.
Flick recalled how he was paid only $15 to put down the track for the James Bond theme in “Dr. No,” the first Bond film out in 1962, using a guitar that was made in 1939 in London.
“I think it gave the tune an added impact,” Flick added.
Flick was also present when Shirley Bassey sang “Goldfinger”- the strong-willed singer got fed up with legendary Bond film composer John Barry wanting to do another take, and tossed her bra over a booth at him.
Black thought Barry epitomized James Bond himself.
“He drove a fabulous white Maserati, was surrounded by girls, and drank vodka – he was like Bond,” Black related in awe.
And when Black first played the title song “Diamonds are Forever” for Harry Saltzman, the co-producer didn’t like it, saying it was “filthy” – they persuaded him to use the song and Bassey had another hit on the music charts.
Conti recalled that Barry originally recommended him to work on a Bond song and that “we don’t do that among composers, but John did.”
As to the song “For Your Eyes Only,” Conti wanted Donna Summer to sing it, with Barbra Streisand writing the lyrics; the film executives asked him to try singer Sheena Easton, who just had a hit with “Morning Train.” The deal was set when the “vertically challenged” film title designer, Maurice Bender, met the even shorter Sheena Easton.
Later, Black became a little misty-eyed as he stated, “I personally think Shirley Bassey should sing them all,” in regards to the film songs.
At the end of the evening, several ex-Bond girls were introduced in the theater, including Maud Adams, Britt Ekland, Lynn-Holly Johnson, Trina Parks and Gloria Hendry; the audience went a little crazy after that.
But they can be excused – it’s what happens after you hear all that glorious Bond music.