The Music of Bond: An Interview with Jeff Bond

Interview by Jack Lugo

His name is Bond, JEFF BOND.  Although he shares his last name with the hero of our franchise, Jeff Bond is neither related to the fictional hero nor to the ornithologist whose name was famously appropriated by Ian Fleming.  Jeff Bond is the writer and editor who worked on the liner notes to the 2003 James Bond soundtracks.  Many questions have come up in recent podcasts concerning the Bond Soundtracks, and since these cds with their expanded tracks remain the most current official commercial release of the soundtracks, I thought it might be a good idea to ask Jeff a few questions regarding his work on them as well as find out his own insights into the music of Bond. 

Jeff Bond’s sign off for most of his Bond liner notes

JL:  How did you come to do the liner notes for the 2003 remasters of the
Bond soundtracks? Was this a project that you pursued or did MGM-Capitol
Records find you?

JB: At the time I was working for Lukas Kendall and Film Score Monthly magazine which had its own record label–Lukas was hired to produce the 2003 Bond remasters and he hired me to do the notes since I had been doing liner notes work for him for several years.

Thunderball Soundtrack

JL: Did you have an appreciation for the music of Bond prior to taking on this project and did working on the liner notes help you develop any further appreciation for the music contained on these soundtracks?

JB: I did grow up watching the Bond movies and collecting the James Bond soundtracks. As I recall, I had worked with Lukas on an expansion of the Barry score for The Living Daylights in 1998 and that was a factor in eventually doing the 2003 Bond releases. I had also loved the expansion of the Thunderball music that had been put out  in the 30th Anniversary compilation by Capitol Records in 1993. I think all of the LP releases of the Bond scores had been frustrating because they often left out key musical cues and particularly in the case of Diamonds Are Forever, focused on source music that didn’t reflect the whole spy music aesthetic that Barry created. The Living Daylights I think was a hugely underrated by Barry at the time of its release, so working on that expansion really moved that one into the realm of one of my favorite Barry scores. I had always loved Thunderball and You Only Live Twice, and I remember actually recording those scores off our television speakers as a kid so that I could hear the music not included on the albums, so I was familiar with a lot of the missing material on those scores. I’d have to say that of all the scores we worked on, the real revelation to me was Diamonds Are Forever, because that original LP had been so dominated by source music, and the full Barry score was so rich, particularly with the amazing fight music heard in the elevator and Bambi/Thumper fight scenes, the music for Bond climbing into Blofeld’s Vegas penthouse, and Bond’s arrival at Blofeld’s oil rig base, plus all the amazing integrations of Barry’s “diamond luster” orchestration in the score and the beauty of the recording–all thatreally pushed it up into the top rank of Bond scores for me even though the movie has never been considered one of the better Bonds. I also actually quite like George Martin’s Live and Let Die Score–it’s not a classic Bond score by any means but I appreciate the production and just the fact that Martin took on the challenge of stepping into Barry’s shoes and creating the feel of the Bond franchise on his own.

John Barry

JL: Can you describe the process of putting the liner notes together.  How much research did you have to do and did you have a chance to interview anyone attached to the making of these films? If so what was that like? Did you have a chance to talk to John Barry or any of the other composers?

JB: Well this is a situation where you run into the realities of doing this kind of work. I’m very well aware of the fact that there are plenty of people out there who didn’t feel that the notes for the 2003 releases went far enough in terms of detail and who would have preferred that they feature John Barry interview material, etc. The reality was that we had a limited window to get this work done and I had to crank out the notes for all the releases in one stretch, and we were also limited in terms of space, so ultimately the approach I took was to write the notes more for a general audience that might buy these things than for a collector’s mentality where people would go in already knowing just about everything about the Bond scores and they would count on me to reveal never-before-seen secrets. I would have loved to have been able to spend more time working on these releases and I would have loved to have been able to talk to John Barry about every Bond score. It’s always a question when doing a soundtrack release as to whether or not you’re going to get the composer involved. This seems like a no-brainer because of course you would want the composer’s insights and recollections about each project, but composers have their own interests and we did not know for example whether Barry would like the idea of expanding the Bond scores. If you take a composer like Jerry Goldsmith for instance, he often did not like the idea of releasing every note of music from his scores and there’s a famous example where he told a record producer that he didn’t want the main title of a particular score put on the soundtrack album. Because the window to produce the 2003 albums was so short, we did not want to take the risk of reaching out to anyone who might come in and slow down or derail the process so we didn’t get Barry involved, although I did wind up speaking with Barry a few years later about some other projects, and my understanding is he was pleased with the 2003 remasters

 
JL: Do you have an overall favorite Bond soundtrack?
JB: I’d have to say Diamonds Are Forever is at the top of my list, but I think my favorite element of the Bond scores has always been Barry’s 007 action theme, so I love the fact that Thunderball features that music so heavily, and I love the exotic beauty of You Only Live Twice too. All the Barry Bond scores are wonderful.
JL: Prior to the 2003 release, previous releases of some of the soundtracks were missing key musical pieces. Notably the US and UK releases of Goldfinger each excluded tracks that the other release contained. The UK edition excluded the instrumental version of the Goldfinger theme while the US edition didn’t feature 4 instrumental tracks including the musical cues for when Bond discovers Jill Masterson as well as the music played during the iconic laser beam sequence. Why do you think such omissions were made?
 
 
JB: Lukas Kendall might know more about that–sometimes cues are omitted because of expense because the label may have to pay certain fees per cue and it’s possible those fees did not have to be paid by the UK label at the time.
JL: There are many in the Bond fan community who want to see a future release of the soundtracks featuring unreleased music cues that were not included in the 2003 releases.  In addition many fans often cite how they wish the tracks on the 2003 releases would chronologically follow their corresponding films.  Do you think it may be possible for a future release to feature all the musical cues for each film in chronological order?  What (if any) are the obstacles?
JB: That’s another question for Lukas Kendall–Bond is a huge intellectual property that is often divided up by many different companies, and I think because of the history of the franchise even certain films have different ownership rights connected to them–some or all of that may have been ironed out over the years but my suspicion is that it would not be easy to just put out every Bond score complete or it would have been done for the 50th anniversary of the franchise.
JL:  The 2001 litigation involving the James Bond theme was quite recent when you worked on these liner notes. Monty Norman maintains the sole writing credit for composing the iconic franchise theme, however, it was John Barry’s arrangement that propelled it to epic stature. Do you think Barry’s role as an arranger deserves more credit than it has been officially granted?  Do you think there is any blurring of the lines between composer and musical arranger?
 
JB: Well, I think the whole working out of that issue was very strange. If you boil the James Bond theme down to a series of notes, then yes, it’s apparently taken from some musical that Monty Norman wrote, but if Norman had done his own arrangement I can’t imagine it would have come out sounding anything like what we think of as the Bond theme today. In reading about the trial, it sounds like Barry just wasn’t a very good witness for his own interests and maybe was just not a very good record keeper, while Monty Norman was a superb musical businessman who had the paper trail he needed to back up his claim. I would guess that Barry wrote his “007” theme as a way of reclaiming an iconic James Bond theme that he could use that wouldn’t have to be credited to Norman. Clearly if you listen to Norman’s underscore for Dr. No, it’s night and day in terms of the effectiveness of what Barry did with From Russia With Love, the next film–Barry had a totally unique, modern sound that was perfect for Bond, while Norman’s score music seemed dated and just didn’t have the punch and cool factor that Barry’s had. Barry was a superb composer AND arranger.
JL: A lot has changed in the Bond universe since 2003, what do you think of Daniel Craig’s tenure as Bond?
JB: I actually love Craig’s Bond although I’m not crazy about all the Craig Bond films. Craig seems actually closest to me to Fleming’s Bond although Connery will probably always be my favorite. The funny thing is the first James Bond movie I ever saw was Live and Let Die so Roger Moore was my first James Bond and I enjoyed his Bond back then, and now I can’t even watch the Moore Bond movies because I just can’t take him seriously as 007. I think Timothy Dalton’s Bond is quite underrated too, and he’s the only Bond actor I’ve ever talked to so he gets bonus points in my book.

Spectre soundtrack

 

JL: Since your work on the 2003 liner notes, we’ve had David Arnold’s work on Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace and Thomas Newman’s scores for Skyfall and Spectre.  Do you have any thoughts or insights into these soundtracks that you’d like to share?

JB: I’m a little strange in that the Barry scores will always be my favorites and they do define the Bond sound, but I appreciate the different approaches taken by other composers and find them interesting. David Arnold really immersed himself in the Bond aesthetic, he came up with a new Bond theme that fits in perfectly with Barry’s and works great on its own–my only criticism of his Bond scores, and I think it’s really a criticism of the approach to action film music at the time more than a criticism of Arnold, but Arnold’s action music was always to me too frenetic and panicky for Bond–what was brilliant about Barry was that he approached action from the elegance and grace of Bond, who was always in control and cool under fire, while the Arnold action made it seem like Bond might be about to lose it. But that was reflective of the more emotional approach to movie action at the time. I think Newman’s scores are fascinating within the context of the films–they don’t jump out as something that I want to collect but I collect much less contemporary film music in general–for me all the great movie music was written before 1991.
JL: Who would you choose as the composer for the next Bond film?
JB: I think Michael Giacchino has proved that he can reflect the classic approach to just about any genre franchise–he’s done almost every major franchise except for the Bond films so I feel it’s somehow inevitable that he’ll do a Bond film someday, and his score to The Incredibles is certainly a great Bond pastiche.
JL: One final thing.  I came across your liner notes for A View to A Kill and had a bit of a chuckle when I read:
 
“After the largely self-reliant heroines of The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, and Octopussy, Tanya Roberts’s Stacey Sutton was a helpless damsel in distress.  More convincing was actor Patrick Macnee . . .”
 After 14 years, do you have anything complimentary to say about Tanya Roberts or her character Stacey Sutton?
 
JB: After 14 years I’m still pretty critical of A View To A Kill. Watching it today, it seems like they had to cut to a stunt man any time Roger Moore had to take more than two steps forward in a scene–he was just too old for the role at that point!