Contributed by: The James Bond Movie Encyclopedia by Steven Jay Rubin

Although it is officially credited to Dr. No composer Monty Norman, the true creator of arguably the most famous theme in motion picture history was John Barry, who joined the creative team on the first James Bond movie quite late in the game after producers rejected the original theme tune composed by Norman. Writing in his incredibly detailed book The Music of James Bond, author and music historian Jon Burlingame explained the theme’s musical origins:

Although Barry cited “Bees Knees,” a 1958 John Barry Seven recording that was guitar-driven with a similarly dark tone, it was really his theme for the film Beat Girl to which the “James Bond Theme” owes the biggest debt: low, sinister twangy guitar, insistent beat and high, blaring brass—an early and surprising combination of jazz and rock elements for a film about juvenile delinquents in London. Issued as a soundtrack album in 1960. Barry’s catchy, hip Beat Girl music became England’s first long-playing record devoted to a single movie score.[1]

The James Bond theme has been recorded over five hundred times and has sold over twenty million records over the years, and was given a special Ivor Novello Award. Of the various orchestrations of the signature 007 theme throughout the years, I have always been partial to the one used in the opening of From Russia with Love, which represents John Barry at his most dramatic.

[1] Jon Burlingame, The Music of James Bond (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 15.


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