Growing up in the 1960’s was a bit of a rollercoaster ride as far as music and fashion were concerned, it was in the so called swinging sixties that groups such as THE BEATLES and THE ROLLING STONES began to ply their trade and establish themselves as leaders in the world of pop and rock. It was also a time of so many types of music which all seemed to be competing for the admiration of the record buying public young and old. Carnaby street was the go to place if you were A DEDICATED FOLLOWER OF FASHION, James Bond began his run at the cinema and the spaghetti western began to raise its head rising like a Phoenix born out of the ashes of the Hollywood Biblical epic which lost favour with many Cinema goers as the 1950’s came to a close and the sixties commenced. It was also a time of a number of movies such as IF that were referred to as art house pictures and was a time when film directors such as Bryan Forbes made his mark with movies such as WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND, THE L SHAPED ROOM, KING RAT, SÉANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON and THE WHISPERERS. There was for me anyway a sense of adventure and discovery linked with the 1960’s and this is probably because I was at the time unearthing the talents of many film music composers, in fact I was discovering what film music was and enjoying it without really knowing what the logistics or purpose of it were.
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, ZULU, THE ALAMO, COMMANCHEROS and THE GREAT ESCAPE all wonderful movies that would influence me and draw even more into the wold of film and the fraternity of the film music collector. Its funny they do say that when you have been collecting as long as I and good few others have also, that you invariably always return to a certain composer or a particular movie, I suppose this is because one first encountered the composer or the movie at a time when things seemed really great in ones life I am not sure? For me the composer I always come back to is John Barry, why Barry? Well because it seemed that his music was everywhere in the 1960’s, of course 007 figured large with everyone, but there were too the lesser known works such as DUTCHMAN, DEADFALL, FOUR IN THE MORNING, THE CHASE etc, I say lesser known, but still major influences and flashes of innovative brilliance none the less. There were also albums such as STRINGBEAT and his score for the Adam Faith movie BEAT GIRL a film I have to admit I watched the other day and could not make it through to the end so went and listened to the soundtrack instead, even at this stage in Barry’s career one could hear the originality and the creative excellence shining through.
ZULU was my first Barry album on Ember records in Mono, and as the sixties marched onwards and upwards I also discovered THE KNACK AND HOW TO GET IT, THE IPCRESS FILE, THE WRONG BOX and even tracks such as THE SATURDAY NIGHT PHILOPHISER from THE CHASE a score I felt showcased the composers talented beautifully, with dramatic, atmospheric and pop flavours being purveyed. Its powerful opening theme being one of the composers most sinister sounding pieces and the pre-cursor for many scores that would follow. And whilst discovering the ample talents of John Barry the sixties op songs passed me by and I have to say I did not mind a bit. I was content with the artistry of Mr. Barry and looked forward to anything I could get hold of that had his name on it. The Bond films I have to say did not grip me like other people, why? I don’t actualy know the answer to that. I had FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, GOLDFINGER, THUNDERBALL and YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE Dr. NO came later, as I felt this was maybe not a true John Barry score. OF course other composers did try to take my affections away from Barry’s music, Maurice Jarre, Francis Lai, Elmer Bernstein, Ennio Morricone, Jerry Goldsmith, Jerry Fielding, Michel Legrand and even Quincy Jones, Mikis Theodorakis, Lalo Shcifrin and Ron Goodwin tempted me with all manor of thematic finery, but it was always Barry I returned to. THE LION IN WINTER blew me away, because it was such a different sound I was hearing from the composer.
THE QUILLER MEMORANDUM’S WEDNESDAYS CHILD also haunted me as did his theme for the TV series VENDETTA and that GIRL WITH THE SUN IN HER HAIR would not leave me alone, his music for MR.MOSES, MIDNIGHT COWBOY, THE APOINTMENT, PETULIA and a James Bond movie without Sean Connery, ON HER MAJESTIES SECRET SERVICE, which to this day I still maintain is the best score ever written and the movie is pretty high up in my opinion as well all were excellent alongside that sugary but addictive theme for BORN FREE. The 1960’s were coming to an end, things were changing again, and not necessarily for the better in the world of film and film scores, but Mr.Barry was still there, adding grand soundtracks to an even grander CV. THE LAST VALLEY, THE DOVE, THE BETSY, THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS, WALKABOUT, MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS, THE DEEP, ROBIN AND MARIAN, THE TAMARIND SEED, the list is actually endless and exquisite.
But there were some scores that even hardened fans of Barry frowned upon or at least were less enthusiastic about, yes, STARCRASH (what was he thinking) but there again the film did not actually have the quality or direction to inspire and MONTE WALSH for example came in for some criticism. But you cannot always get it just, so can you?
Forward to the 1980’s a great period for music so I am told, well I suppose if you liked DURAN DURAN, ADAM ANT, et all, it was. But, in film music it was pretty sparse in my opinion, with a few scores being relegated to just a couple of tracks on an album filled to overflowing with ill-fitting songs that were normally just tracked onto the film by someone who called themselves a music supervisor, when in fact that’s all they did was find songs that were cheap to buy the rights to and stick them in the movie in the hope that the songs would sell the soundtrack album. So composers would work hard to write a score that would underline and support the movie and even give it a greater depth and atmosphere, only to be overpowered by mediocre pop songs that were not meant specifically for purpose as in enhancing the film or a certain scene or to bring out the emotion etc. But Barry did become involved a few turkeys himself, or in one case a Duck, HOWARD THE DUCK to be precise. And of course, there was THE LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER which I thought was a good score, but the film let’s not even go there shall we. The eighties came and went the 1990’s dawned and Barry wrote one of his beautiful and haunting scores, DANCES WITH WOLVES,
What can one say about this film and its score, two peas in a pod, images and music as one, with the music giving the already affecting storyline and expansive cinematography more emotion, more poignancy in fact more of just about everything. The composer followed this Oscar winning score with memorable soundtracks for INDECENT PROPOSAL, CRY THE BELOVED COUNTRY, CHAPLIN, ACROSS THE SEA OF TIME, MY LIFE and THE SCARLET LETTER. It was also in the 1990’s that we would hear that Barry’s music had either been rejected or he had walked off the project in films such as THE YEAR OF THE COMET, GOODBYE LOVER and his score for the GOLDEN CHILD only being part utilised. But, maybe it was a case that the composer thought the movies were not that good, and he did not want to be associated with them? In 2001 he scored the WWll drama ENIGMA and within the score we could hear the familiar Barry sound, in 2004 his score for THE INCREDIBLES was rejected, and it was after this that John Barry seemed to fall silent, and in 2011 the composer passed away.
I recall hearing the announcement on the news on Classic FM , It was a shock, this man this great British composer was no more, and I have to admit I shed a few tears that day as the radio played out what they perceived to be his greatest compositions, but all the time I was thinking please play LION IN WINTER,THE LAST VALLEY, SOMEWHERE IN TIME, HOWARD THE DUCK even, but they did,nt. My film music idol was gone, but his memory lives on and will do forever, long after we are all gone, the name of JOHN BARRY will still be a familiar one, his music will never fade and memories of him will live on via his haunting themes, his dramatic and bombastic interludes and his innovative and beautiful music.
And it is being kept alive in other forms and being introduced to a new generation because artists of today are sampling his themes or fragments of them, artists that include, DR DRE and WU TANG CLAN, GANG STARR and probably most noticeably by FAT BOY SLIM in his hit ROCKAFELLA SKANK, when the DJ sampled Barry’s guitar riff from the opening of BEAT GIRL and Robbie Williams utilising the lush strings from the opening of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE in MILLENIUM. The man maybe no more, but we still hear him and celebrate his life because of the rich musical legacy he left for us and future generations.