Favourite John Barry Score?

One of the most famous of all film composers, John Barry, died of a heart attack at the age of 77. He hadn’t done a score in some time, but from the ’60s through the ’90s, he built up one of the great bodies of work in film scores; even if you took out his work on the James Bond series, you’d still have a lot of exceptional scores. Sometimes his music was the best thing about a movie, whether it was an Oscar winner like Out of Africa or a Star Wars ripoff cheesefest like Starcrash (or Moonraker for that matter).

The U.S. composer he resembles in a lot of ways is John Williams, and not only because they were associated with incredibly successful franchises. Like Williams, Barry’s sound changed over the years from one that reflected a background in jazz and pop (the James Bond theme was based on melodies by Dr. No‘s composer, Monty Norman, but it was Barry’s big-band sound that made it a classic) to a more lush, symphonic, stately approach. You can hear the change reflected in his Bond scores, from the electric guitars and whooping horns of the ’60s to the almost classical style of some of the later Bond scores.

Also like Williams, he was more of a chameleon when he was younger; by the ’80s and ’90s his sound would be more similar from film to film, whereas if you look at his amazing run in the late ’60s — with exceptional scores for classic films from Petulia to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service — there are similarities in style but also a different approach each time. The Lion In Winter certainly sounds like passages from Barry’s Bond scores, but cleverly adapts his “voice” as a composer to the setting and period of the film.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jde-NT7vfn0

And in Petulia, one of the best movies he scored, he created a subtle, restrained score that he described as “cold and icy” to match the mood of the picture.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCY5AyW97ck

Among his string-heavy, romantic scores, I’m particularly fond of his work on the 1974 thriller The Tamarind Seed by Blake Edwards. It’s a creepy-beautiful, doom-laden score (maybe a little bit of Prokofiev influence, but that can be said of hundreds of movie scores) that more than makes up for the fact that the Bond title designer, Maurice Binder, is also on this film and completely rehashing his old ideas.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsgMtNpQJgA




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Favourite John Barry Score?

  1. How do you—-can you—-pick a favorite John Barry composition. It is like trying to pick a favorite Beatles tune. You start out by saying, “Well, I just love such-and-such, but, then, there’s…….no, wait a minute, I think it might be…….hold it, I absolutely know it would be……no, it would have to be…….”

    All I can do is lump together all of “my favorites”, and leave out the rest (which would be the career-envy of any other second-string composer). They would be:

    1) ‘Somewhere in Time’. His incidental music, built around a known Rachmaninoff piece used frequently throughout the film, is perfect….and perfectly complementary. To a fan of ‘Somewhere’, the first four notes of this composition are as immediately evocative as the first four notes of “Goldfinger” is to the world at large.

    2) ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’. A Bond theme. Performed by Lulu, filled with such a brilliant ebullience that it rivals Shirley Bassey’s ‘Goldfinger’ as (to me anyway) the 2nd-greatest Bond them. Ever.

    3) ‘Born Free’. Even then (1966) it was mocked for its cheesiness and Vegas-style schmaltz. But the opening brass fanfare, coupled with the imagery of the wilds of Africa playing as the credits roll, sets the perfect mood and pace for what for me is a quaint and perfect nostalgia piece. As sweet and innocent family fare, they do not make ‘Born Free’s anymore. Nor do they write themes like this anymore.

    4) ‘The Ipcress File’. Could not be more antithetical in tone, mood or style to ‘Born Free’, yet written by Barry in the same year. The tense disquiet and twangy, lazy riff of those few guitar chords perfectly punctuate the moody ennui of the film and its new type of anti-hero, Harry Palmer (the brilliant Michael Caine, of course).

    5) ‘Midnight Cowboy’. And yet another completely new type of approach from Barry, this one coming one year after ‘Iprcress’ and ‘Born Free’. The melancholy of those distinctive 8 notes in the first two bars seems to sum up all of the abject despair and failed hope of the film’s two beaten-down protagonists. Unfortunately, the “Theme from Midnight Cowboy”, as it was known, was relegated to airplay on Beautiful Music radio, leaving it almost entirely unheard of by mainstream audiences outside seeing the film itself, while the more uptempo, pop-friendly “Everybody’s Talkin’” by Harry Niilson, featured at various points in the film, got fabulous airplay across several formats, and is better known today. Rent the movie—–listen to that theme. It will haunt you.

    6) Then there would be everything else.

    RIP John Barry.

  2. How do you—-can you—-pick a favorite John Barry composition. It is like trying to pick a favorite Beatles tune. You start out by saying, “Well, I just love such-and-such, but, then, there’s…….no, wait a minute, I think it might be…….hold it, I absolutely know it would be……no, it would have to be…….”

    All I can do is lump together all of “my favorites”, and leave out the rest (which would be the career-envy of any other second-string composer). They would be:

    1) ‘Somewhere in Time’. His incidental music, built around a known Rachmaninoff piece used frequently throughout the film, is perfect….and perfectly complementary. To a fan of ‘Somewhere’, the first four notes of this composition are as immediately evocative as the first four notes of “Goldfinger” is to the world at large.
    2) ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’. A Bond theme. Performed by Lulu, filled with such a brilliant ebullience that it rivals Shirley Bassey’s ‘Goldfinger’ as (to me anyway) the 2nd-greatest Bond them. Ever.
    3) ‘Born Free’. Even then (1966) it was mocked for its cheesiness and Vegas-style schmaltz. But the opening brass fanfare, coupled with the imagery of the wilds of Africa playing as the credits roll, sets the perfect mood and pace for what for me is a quaint and perfect nostalgia piece. As sweet and innocent family fare, they do not make ‘Born Free’s anymore. Nor do they write themes like this anymore.

    4) ‘The Ipcress File’. Could not be more antithetical in tone, mood or style to ‘Born Free’, yet written by Barry in the same year. The tense disquiet and twangy, lazy riff of those few guitar chords perfectly punctuate the moody ennui of the film and its new type of anti-hero, Harry Palmer (the brilliant Michael Caine, of course).

    5) ‘Midnight Cowboy’. And yet another completely new type of approach from Barry, this one coming one year after ‘Iprcress’ and ‘Born Free’. The melancholy of those distinctive 8 notes in the first two bars seems to sum up all of the abject despair and failed hope of the film’s two beaten-down protagonists. Unfortunately, the “Theme from Midnight Cowboy”, as it was known, was relegated to airplay on Beautiful Music radio, leaving it almost entirely unheard of by mainstream audiences outside seeing the film itself, while the more uptempo, pop-friendly “Everybody’s Talkin’” by Harry Niilson, featured at various points in the film, got fabulous airplay across several formats, and is better known today. Rent the movie—–listen to that theme. It will haunt you.

    6) Then there would be everything else.

    RIP John Barry.

  3. On Her Majesty's Secret Service is my personal favourite, but people should not neglect his soundtrack for The Black Hole. It was really creepy, and added a LOT to the sinister atmosphere of that movie, making it more of a thriller and less of a Star Wars rip-off.

    [youtube cxWCH7PfieM http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxWCH7PfieM youtube]

  4. On Her Majesty's Secret Service is my personal favourite, but people should not neglect his soundtrack for The Black Hole. It was really creepy, and added a LOT to the sinister atmosphere of that movie, making it more of a thriller and less of a Star Wars rip-off.

    [youtube cxWCH7PfieM http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxWCH7PfieM youtube]

  5. Agreed The Black Hole theme so often goes unmentioned.

    My favourite was the Dances With Wolves theme, I can't listen to it without getting a lump in my throat.

  6. Agreed The Black Hole theme so often goes unmentioned.

    My favourite was the Dances With Wolves theme, I can't listen to it without getting a lump in my throat.

  7. Dances With Wolves

  8. Dances With Wolves

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