From Silents to Satellite was a small independent publication that many film and TV music fans looked upon as essential during the 1990’s the editor and publisher John Williams who also founded the original Music From The Movies magazine, was it seemed always at the forefront of anything to do with movie and TV music at this time, and published at fairly regular intervals informative and well written publications, these were because of hardly any sponsorship all printed in black and white, but it was not really about the way the publication looked, it was always first and foremost about the content. John Williams was aided and abetted by Peter Kent and Alexander Gleason who acted as contributing and associate editors respectively. Sadly, Peter has passed away recently which was a blow to all who knew him. I am unfortunately not in contact with Alexander, but I know he kept busy writing liner notes etc. Both Peter and Alexander were always lovely, and Pete was a man that I knew more as a friend, he would always share his wealth of knowledge with you which was eye opening at times. His taste in film and other genres of music was impeccable and he was also a man who I think was most certainly in love with the music from the movies and television, he had this passion and this enthusiasm which was infectious. John Williams is still active in the collecting of film music and from time to time you will see he does contribute to Movie Music International (see the John Williams files). Recently John and I have been speaking about the possibility of including articles and interviews from various Silents to Satellite publications into the archives of MMI, this is something that I am very keen to do and have already begun the job of transcribing interviews so that we can publish them into the archive. Many of the interviews are with composers, songwriters and directors that are now no longer with us, so they are a valuable source of what has gone before and in effect historical and important documentation about the development of music in film. John Williams published various special books under the Silents umbrella, dedicated to the likes of Ron Goodwin, John Barry, and Henry Mancini, which we will at some point be featuring within this archive.
Welcome to the From Silents to Satellite files. We begin with this interview with Leslie Bricusse, which was advertised as a curtain raiser to a more extensive look at the lyricist’s career, in which John Williams asks Bricusse about his collaborations with John Barry.
Leslie Briccusse on John Barry.
By John Williams. (c) 1992.
(Transcribed and edited for MMI by John Mansell © 2021)
(First published in November 1992 issue number. 15/16 of From Silents to Satellites.). © John Williams).
Any attempt to categorize the multi-faceted career of Leslie Bricusse would prove difficult. Best known as a supreme lyricist who has collaborated with some of film music’s finest composers. It must also be remembered that he penned the music and the lyrics for three major musicals during the mid to late 1960’s. These were Goodbye Mr Chips, Doctor Doolittle (for which he also wrote the screenplay) and the Christmas favourite Scrooge which starred Albert Finney in the title role.
In 1971 he and Anthony Newley also wrote the music and lyrics for the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It’s a sad fact that a planned musical Sherlock Holmes which was to star Rex Harrison was cancelled due to disappointing box office returns on Goodbye Mr Chips, which is such an underrated movie and in recent times has gained the recognition it so richly deserves.
John Williams. © 1992/2021.
When did you first meet John?
There’s a whole gang of us who were friends in England right back to the beginnings of the sixties. So, John I kind of knew personally before I knew him professionally. The days of the John Barry Seven do you remember them?
Oh yes very much so.
Ok, so we go back to that period and then we started doing the Bond films. We were good mates, and I owned a restaurant in London called the Pickwick Club and we all used to have lunch there every Friday. There was John, Tony Newley, Terry Stamp, and a guy who lived in Terry’s spare room an unknown actor called Michael Caine and me. Lionel Bart had done the first Bond movie to have a title song which was the second in the series From Russia With Love. Then came Goldfinger. Tony and I had written Stop the World I want to Get Off, at that time and we were also writing our second show. I suppose that would have been about 1963 that we wrote Goldfinger, and the film did not come out till 1964, so by the time it came out Tony and I were away in Italy Tony was at that time married to Joan Collins and I was with Evie. We went from Italy to America not having any idea at all how successful the movie had been. So when we got to New York we got a message from United Artists asking us to go and see them because they had gold records for us. When the next Bond movie was being made Tony was in America, so John and I started to write Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which is what the studio wanted to have as the title song to Thunderball. Because the films had been a great success in Japan and that is what they called James Bond there.
I don’t know if you heard the new double CD that they have just released, as there are some interesting things on it, there is a Tony Newley demo for Goldfinger, and then there’s Shirley Bassey’s version of Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which did’nt sound quite right it was something to do with the vowel sounds, I think? I remember hearing it all those years ago, and then I listened to it the other day. So, what they did right the way through the Bond films as you will probably realise, is they took the current pop star who was having success, or the biggest hit and they would ask them to perform the title song. Dione Warwick who had just started her association with Burt Bacharach and Hal David had a big hit with “Anyone who had a Heart”, so John went to see her and asked her to record Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. I then went to America to work on a film and at the last minute the studio decided not to use my song, but wanted something called Thunderball, as I was in America John collaborated with Don Black on that and Tom Jones sang it. Next, I did You Only Live Twice with John, the first version on that is also on the double CD, it was kind of a strange song. And neither of us really liked it, the melody didn’t feel as good as the others we had done.
But I did the lyric, and a lady did the demo, anyway we then did the version that is in the film with Nancy Sinatra doing the vocal, interesting thing on this was that John didn’t want her, he wanted to have another black singer but both Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman said no, because Nancy had a big hit at the time with “These Boots are made for Walking”. So, Nancy did the song, the young black singer was Aretha Franklin, who would have her first hit later that year. Which was a number one for her as were many of her other records, we often wondered what would have happened if she had sung on the movie, but I think she would have made a pretty good record. After this Sean left the films and they then had that strange episode with George Lazenby, I don’t think anyone really wanted to write a song called On Her Majesties secret Service, although I did have rather clever idea, and I think it would have worked. After that when Sean came back it was Diamonds are Forever, which was John and Don Black again, then when Roger Moore took over the role of Bond, they went for Paul McCartney, for Live and Let Die, and so on. They used pop singers and whoever was at the top then and this continued throughout the 1970’s. So, that’s my James Bond story.
Did you write a song for The Ipcress File?
Yes, there is a song, although we did not use it in the film. There were two maybe three things done around that time. John did a lot of Bond songs; he is one of the very few composers in the film world that can write a song as opposed to writing beautiful themes and it’s a pity that he hasn’t done more musicals or things outside of film scores.
Have you ever thought or doing something together for the stage?
No not really, by that time I started working with other people, in America, John at the time lived in Spain, he had built this monster house which is another story. He was dividing his time between there and the UK. So, our paths sort of drifted apart, though we do bump into each other now and again.
What comes first the music or the lyric?
Music first, almost always. Well, that’s in the case of the film people I have worked with, its almost without exception that the music is written first. With John it does at least, also with Henry Mancini it does, but occasionally the lyric does come first, but more often than not it is the theme for the movie that sets the mood and then I work to that.
What about Goldfinger, did two lyricists pose a problem?
Tony (Newley) and I were writing together we’ve always written together music and lyrics, so it was never a problem.
You mentioned Henry Mancini, who is the subject of a special for us next year, (The Magic of Mancini-Melody Movement and Mayhem- ISBN 0 9521182 0 3) are there any differences between John and Hank in your working relationship?
They are both marvelous people to work with, sensational people. Hank is very laid back, easy going and very easy to work with. John has a much more precise professorial attention to detail but for some reason the end result comes out the same. They are both wonderful accommodating and good people to work with. So, I was very lucky to have been able to work with them.
John Williams was talking to Leslie Bricusse in 1992.
Leslie Bricusse OBE. January 29th 1931- October 19th 2021.
CREDITS (c) IMDB.
2001Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical (TV Movie) (book)
1996Stop the World, I Want to Get Off (TV Movie)
1990Bullseye! (screenplay) / (story)
1980Sunday Lovers (segment “An Englishman’s Home”)
1979Sammy Stops the World (writer)
1967Doctor Dolittle (screenplay)
1966Stoppt die Welt – Ich möchte aussteigen (TV Movie) (play)
1966Stop the World: I Want to Get Off (book of musical play by)
1966Stop de wereld (TV Movie) (play “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off”)
1965Three Hats for Lisa (original story) / (screenplay)
1963The Very Edge (original material)
1963The Swingin’ Maiden (screenplay)
Make Mine Music (TV Series) (dialogue by – 6 episodes, 1961) (material by – 2 episodes, 1958)
– Episode #5.6 (1961) … (dialogue by)
– Episode #5.5 (1961) … (dialogue by)
– Episode #5.4 (1961) … (dialogue by)
– Episode #5.3 (1961) … (dialogue by)
– Episode #5.2 (1961) … (dialogue by)
1958Bachelor of Hearts (writer)
1956Charley Moon (screenplay)
Hide Music department (19 credits)
2001Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (lyrics by)
1998Biography (TV Series documentary) (music from “Dr. Dolittle” courtesy of – 1 episode)
– Rex Harrison: The Man Who Would Be King (1998) … (music from “Dr. Dolittle” courtesy of)
1996The Land Before Time IV: Journey Through the Mists (Video) (songs: music and lyrics by)
1995Victor/Victoria (TV Movie) (lyrics)
1992Tom and Jerry: The Movie (songs by)
1986Babes in Toyland (TV Movie) (additional lyrics)
1982Victor Victoria (lyricist)
It’s a Living (TV Series) (lyricist – 2 episodes, 1980 – 1981) (lyrics – 1 episode, 1981)
– All My Son (1981) … (lyrics: theme music)
– Making the Grade (1981) … (lyricist: theme music)
– Pilot (1980) … (lyricist: theme music)
1980Song by Song (TV Series) (lyrics – 1 episode)
– By British Lyricists (1980) … (lyrics)
1977Let’s Make a Musical (TV Series) (lyrics – 1 episode)
– Pickwick (1977) … (lyrics: Pickwick)
1976Peter Pan (TV Movie) (composer and lyricist: songs)
1971Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (lyrics and music by)
1970Doctor Dolittle (TV Series) (composer – 1 episode)
– The Grasshoppers Are Coming, Hooray, Hooray! (1970) … (composer: theme “Talk to the Animals”)
1969Pickwick (TV Movie) (lyrics)
1968Die Pickwickier (TV Movie) (lyricist)
1967Doctor Dolittle (lyricist)
1967You Only Live Twice (lyrics: title song)
1965Three Hats for Lisa (music and lyrics by)