Monday, March 4, 2013

Bond ... James Bond

All over the rest of the country in 1965, Shirley Bassey was firmly planted in The Top Ten with her title theme from the new James Bond movie, "Goldfinger".  But here in Chicago, it was composer John Barry's version that "scored" the biggest hit, peaking at #4.  

Bassey's recording is a classic ... one of the most famous Bond themes ever committed to wax ... and it rose to #6 in Record World, #7 in Cash Box and #8 in Billboard.  (Here in Chicago, it stopped at #14.) 

John Barry was responsible for writing the musical scores for 13 of the first 16 James Bond flicks ... and his powerful instrumental track for "Goldfinger" was a #4 smash here in Chi-Town, despite petering out at #50 in Cash Box and #72 in Billboard. (Barry also arranged and produced "The James Bond Theme", featured in some format in every film since
the series began. Ironically, despite writing literally hundreds of musical fragments and title pieces over the years for use in the Bond films, John Barry did NOT write "The James Bond Theme" ... that distinction belongs to a guy by the name of Monty Norman, whose original two-minute composition has been woven in and out of EVERY BOND film since the series' inception back in 1962.)

"Goldfinger" remains one of the cult-favorite films of the
entire Bond series. A "tip of the hat" (as it were) must go, in
part, to Odd-Job, one of the greatest Bond villains of all time.  Likewise, the whole concept of spray-painting a woman gold, served up as an offering, freaked out more than a few young ladies at the time!

From the time I was very young, I have been fascinated with films and television. Although I watched the standard children's fare with mild interest, what really got me going were "grown-ups" movies. I remember my mother and aunt
sending us kiddos off to bed so that they could watch something I just knew was fabulous and here I was, missing it all because I was too young to watch. 

I finally got my mom to agree to let me watch Goldfinger. When the Shirley Bassey-sung theme song came on loud, and in that gruff voice of hers, I got goosebumps. I just KNEW this was gonna be goooood.
Shortly into the film, one of Bond's paramours was covered head to toe in gold paint and consequently died from
poisoning. I was horrified, disturbed, and asked my mom over and over to explain this result to me. I was truly flipped out by this method of death. (I believe they even stated in the movie that simply a quarter-sized unpainted area near her spine would have saved her from this horrific death.) 

I was just as put off (and intrigued) from watching a totally cheesy girls-in-prison film called The Green-Eyed Blonde, questioning over and over why a girl was screaming and bleeding everywhere while simply climbing a fence (the fact that it was razor wire fence did not register with me). Mom finally said that she was never again going to let me watch anything but Charlie Brown. 
Films have always had a certain impact on me, both as a child and as an adult. I have tended to over-analyze and pick things apart. In the last few years, I have relaxed my
film-watching processes and learned to enjoy it just for the entertainment value. It also helps to have a husband who loves films just as much as I do :)

I think a few girls were experimenting with the whole kinky gold-paint thing until word got out that the paint could actually seal your pores and once the metallic content got into your bloodstream, you actually COULD die from such
practice .... that pretty much put an end to that whole scene. (Of course, kids back then were also afraid to eat Red M&M's or drink CocaCola after eating Pop Rocks, too!!! I think that this is why cable TV and the Internet were invented ... to save us from ourselves!!!)

DIDJAKNOW?-1: The lyrics to "Goldfinger" were composed by British showstopper Anthony Newley, who also cut a version!!!

DIDJAKNOW?-2: Shirley Bassey was called back to sing two other James Bond Theme Songs ... her powerful vocals were featured on both "Diamonds Are Forever" and "Moonraker".  In addition, Shirley also recorded her own versions of "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" (featured yesterday by Dionne Warwick), "Thunderball" (the track that replaced it as the title theme), "You Only Live Twice" (a minor hit for Nancy SInatra, hot at the time thanks to "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'") and "A View To A Kill".

DIDJAKNOW?-3: The soundtrack album to "Goldfinger" topped Billboard's LP Chart for three weeks in the Spring of 1965. It was the only Bond Soundtrack to ever hit #1.

A FORGOTTEN HITS BONUS: One of the things that made
John Barry's musical scores so unique was his elaborate use of the electric guitar as a primary instrument set against a fully orchestrated background.  Our FH Buddy Vic Flick played guitar on a number of these tracks ... and was one of John Barry's "go to" guys when it came to laying down guitar tracks in the studio.

Meanwhile, one of the most successful session electric guitarists around here in The States in the early '60's was a guy by the name of Billy Strange.  (We lost Billy just a short time ago.)  In 1965, he, too, released a version of "Goldfinger" as a single. It peaked at #50 in Cash Box and #55 in Billboard.  (That's really not a bad showing ... it equaled the more popular and familiar John Barry instrumental version in Cash Box and actually bested Barry's Billboard ranking.) 

Here in Chicago (where Strange's version of "Goldfinger" failed to chart), Billy was no "stranger" to our local chart ... nor was his association with the James Bond franchise. In the Fall of 1964, the Billy Strange version of "The James Bond Theme" went all the way to #11 here in Chicago, but stopped at #58 and #62 on the Billboard and Cash Box Charts.