Tag Archives: John Barry



Dances with Wolves is 25 years old this year, 25 years, wow a quarter of a century. Seems unbelievable don’t it, and it was this movie that got John Barry back into the public gaze after being absent due to illness, but saying that I don’t think he was ever forgotten, how can you forget a man that had given us so much with his iconic and haunting themes for TV and Film, and his upbeat pop tunes of the 1960,s. We all knew he would return but were not sure when or with what masterpiece in tow. DANCES WITH WOLVES is for me personally one of the great westerns but a western with a difference, it has heart and so much soul and is saturated in emotive qualities, the acting and direction being superb and the story line riveting. Of course John Barry was no stranger to westerns having scored two in the 1970,s (THE WHITE BUFFALO and MONTE WALSH) he was also not unfamiliar with big screen blockbusters and adventures, but was also able to create intimate and small scale scores. DANCES WITH WOLVES proved to be a project that would require all of Barry’s experience and expertise. The movie and also the score proved to be a runaway success. There have been various releases of the soundtrack, I think three in all over the past 25 years the last being an expanded version of the score on Sony music soundtrax, that contained 24 cues and had a running time of 76 mins. As it is the 25th anniversary this year maybe we can expect version 4,with extra cues, but if not that’s ok with me I am more than happy with the most recent edition of the soundtrack. The wolf TWO SOCKS theme still gets to my emotions and makes the hairs on my arms stand on end, a gentle and soft theme filled with melancholy, tenderness and playfulness and one that underlines the friendship between man and a wild animal, and the animals undying loyalty and friendship till the end. (Maybe that’s why I seem to prefer animals to humans nowadays?).

John Barry’s score is epic in every sense of the word, filled with lush themes, dramatic passages and lilting but alluring tone poems that tinker with the heart strings and stir up every sentiment and emotion possible. Grand, imposing, romantic, wistful and sweeping, the score for DANCES WITH WOLVES is a classic. THE JOHN DUNBAR THEME for example is a flawless and lingering melody, in fact the entire score just oozes melody and rich thematic material, Barry’s unmistakable style being present throughout, the movies vast and expansive landscapes requiring a score that contained more than just one core theme but a multitude of themes to accompany each character and underline and support the many scenarios. Brass, strings, a fleeting use of harmonica, percussion, woodwind, piano and choir combine to create one of the composers longest scores and also probably his most emotive work. John Barry gave the western film a new musical style when he scored DANCES WITH WOLVES, he created something that was and remains special and dear to all who love movie music and the music of John Barry.



It seems an age since ALICES ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND was released, I am of course talking about the 1972 version which starred Fiona Fullerton as Alice and contained a charming score by John Barry with original lyrics by Don Black and also lyrics by the tales author Lewis Carroll. Originally released on the Warner Brothers label and presented in a gatefold album cover the score for me was an instant hit, the film however was not that well received, why? I don’t really know, I have always thought it was a fair re-telling of Alice’s adventures in a fantastical and somewhat madcap world. Fullerton who’s suitably childlike and innocent performance was supported by the cream of the British acting fraternity, with Peter Sellers, Michael Crawford, Ralph Richardson, Dudley Moore, Hywell Bennet, Michael Horden, Spike Milligan, Robert Helpman and Flora Robson among others adding their wealth of experience to the proceedings. The movie had in its cast what was effectively the who’s who of BRITISH ACTORS. Robert Helpman was superb as the Hatter, Michael Crawford turning in a convincing performance as the manic white rabbit and Flora Robson truly regal and pompous as the Queen of hearts. Barry’s score was in one word ENCHANTING his melodic and haunting themes accompanying perfectly the mad hatter, the white rabbit and of course the Cheshire cat and the Queen of hearts with her obsession for lopping off heads. It for me underlined the utter lunacy of what was going on plus it supported the dramatic and at times more serious pieces of the film and enhanced and accompanied the young girl Alice on her voyage of discovery in wonderland. There have indeed been other versions of the story most famous probably being the Disney animated movie and then numerous TV adaptations and more recently Tim Burtons take on the story, which was more outlandish, dark and curious than Curioser if you see what I mean. The soundtrack was thankfully released on compact disc a few years ago by Film Score monthly and also included Barry’s soundtrack for Richard Lester’s PETULIA. ALICE is a score that I return to regularly to bathe in the warmth, simplicity and light of Barry’s magnificently soothing and harmonious score. I suppose it takes me to my own wonderland for a few minutes at least. The lyrics by Don Black are too alluring and attractive and fitted perfectly in with the words of Lewis Carroll which were also set to music by Barry, carrying out a particularly fine job of underlining the DUM AND DEE sequence.


The highlight of the score however must be the two main songs which for me are CURIOSER AND CURIOSER and the beautiful THE ME I NEVER KNEW with I’VE NEVER BEEN THIS FAR BEFORE coming a very close third. It is the fragility and the delicate aura of all of these songs with Barry’s tantalising strings augmented by woodwind and underlined by a whimsical and childlike backing that seems to drift and rise creating a peaceful and carefree mood. Then there is comedic atmosphere created by THE PUN SONG, YOU’VE GOTTA KNOW WHEN, THE LAST WORD IS MINE and the complicated and at times confusing THE MORAL SONG. Yes this is a musical but it is also a John Barry score and one that if you have not heard it will be a surprise and a delight and if you already have it you obviously know what I am saying. Barry at his best.


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It is amazing to think that it iS FORTY five years ago that ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE was released and the new James Bond played by George Lazenby was introduced to cinema going audiences all over the world. Now Lazenby certainly had a job on his hands, firstly he had to portray the suave, sophisticated and jolly deadly quintessential spy James Bond and secondly he had to fill the shoes of an actor that everyone associated with the role Sean Connery.
After it was initially released OHMSS was deemed to be something of a flop at the box office compared with its predecessors
GOLDFINGER,THUNDERBALL and YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE and yes I suppose receipts, reviews and above all audience reaction must have been disappointing to the films producers, plus the fact that Lazenby had announced before the films release that he would not be returning as James Bond. The on and off screen relationship between Lazenby and Diana Rigg also proved to be rather rocky and Lazenby even dared to suggest that the soundtrack for this latest Bond outing should have pop music tracked onto it. But taking all this and more into account OHMSS is for me one of the best if not the finest movie in the 007 series and even stands up against the latest Daniel Craig interpretations. I love it because of Lazenby,s performance because I think he brought something to the character that showed Bond’s vulnerability and also showed a human side to 007 proving that he was just a mere mortal that had emotions. Still cant quite forgive him for suggesting a pop song score though. The movie was a real adventure tale, filled with thrills spills, turns, twists, romance and of course a number of gadgets, plus the villain was also portrayed wonderfully by Telly Savalas who’s performance as Blofeld was probably the best out of all that had proceeded and also all which would and will follow. The musical score by the Bond Maestro John Barry is simply the best Bond score ever written. There has been nothing to rival it since or before its conception. I thought it was an insult that the song WE HAVE ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD was not recognised by the Academy and was not given an Oscar nomination. The song and also the movie have since become icons in their respective worlds with the movie attaining a cult status and the song being adored by millions because of its various uses in adverts etc. I remember first buying the LP way back in 1969 around December if my memories serves me correctly, it was in the record department of Bellman of all places, a gatefold LP on UA records, with a fold out of Mr Lazenby complete with ski suit and skis gun in hand in 007 standard pose. 39 shillings and 6 pennies it was and worth every penny and an LP I still have to this day. In later years I also purchased the American import version and then the subsequent compact disc release which culminated in the purchase of the expanded release CD a few years back.
I was always contented with the music that was on the original albums and compact discs as I think at times an expanded release is not required, less being more if you know what I mean. But in the case of OHMSS it is a bonus in the true sense of the word, and a welcome addition to any collection of Bond music. The EMI disc contained the 11 original album tracks (some of which did contain previously unreleased music) plus a scintillating further 10 cues which included the haunting WHO WILL BUY MY YESTERDAYS which was presented as SIR HILARYS NIGHT OUT (track number 18). The score for OHMSS as I have already said is in my opinion the best Bond score written, it has to it all the elements a Bond score requires, plus it has not one but two songs the second being a charming little Christmas themed vocal by Nina of Nina and Frederick fame, DO YOU KNOW HOW CHRISTMAS TREES ARE GROWN. This was not as successful as WE HAVE ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD, but nevertheless was given air time on the BBC radio and also television at the time of the films release, Nina and a collection of angelic children making appearances here there and everywhere including THE MORECOMBE AND WISE CHRISTMAS SHOW. John Barry made effective use of the songs melody and gave it a somewhat sinister twist within track number 19 BLOFELD’S PLOT within his score. For OHMSS I also think that Barry created a more upbeat sounding support and utilised a number of electronic instrumentation as support to the more conventional orchestral sound that had become associated with Bond, the familiar strains of the JAMES BOND THEME for example was performed on electric piano/organ rather than the normal guitar rendition, there was still the bombastic sound present alongside the jazzy steamy passages and the exhilarating action cues that were complimented by laid back almost easy listening tracks, but there just seemed to be something else, its something I have not quite put my finger on even after all this time but the score for OHMSS was special and still remains so to this day as does the actual movie, I would rather sit down and watch OHMSS than any other Bond film and that too goes for the score, at the time Barry’s approach seemed fresh and bright certainly different from his previous Bond outings but still retaining the familiar musical aura that just oozed James Bond. It was also one of the very few Bond movies to roll the opening credits without a title song, instead Barry let fly with his fast paced and exciting OHMSS theme which became the foundation on which Barry constructed the remainder of his score, with this central theme and also the inclusion of various manifestations of WE HAVE ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD etc OHMSS is for my money the cream of Bond scores and the best Bond movie.

The compact disc is still available and along with all the other Bond soundtracks seems to get released every Christmas and also every time a new Bond is announced or released. If by any slim chance you have never heard ON HER MAJESTYS SECRET SERVICE or seen the movie, please please remedy this asap, an iconic score for an iconic movie in a series that are classics.


Nic Raine has conducted several orchestras in Europe including the English Chamber Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Academy of St. Martin’s in the Fields and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London, the Royal Scottish National and Ulster orchestras and the City of Prague Philharmonic, City of Granada Orchestra and Ljubljana Symphony Radio Orchestra elsewhere. He has worked as an arranger of film music with Elmer Bernstein, Maurice Jarre, Gabriel Yared, Michael Kamen, Georg Fenton, Mark Ayres, Stanislas Syrewicz and Stanley Myers on films like “A Passage to India”, Mad Max 3″, “Spies Like Us”, “Castaway”, “High Spirits”, “Top Secret” and “Madame Sousatzka”.

His work for television has included his orchestrations for the Wallace and Gromit animation films “The Wrong Trousers” and “A Close Shave” and the Channel 4 documentary “D W Griffith – Father of Film”.


Many collectors associate you with the conducting of film music, as opposed to being a composer, what musical education did you receive?

Academically my musical education was rather basic: I took lessons in Piano, Organ, Classical Guitar and Double Bass and achieved an A level in Music. The education that since stood me in good stead came from self studying and practical experience. I worked at Boosey and Hawkes as a copyist and had enough free time there to ‘borrow’ scores from the shop and study them. I learnt a lot about orchestration from pouring over Mahler and Strauss scores – I devoured anything I could find and listened to as many recordings as I could afford to buy.

Later I moved into music management and worked as a ‘Fixer’ for the London Symphony Orchestra. This was a wonderful opportunity; not only did I learn about how an orchestra functions on a daily basis but I quizzed musicians about their instruments and what they could play. Orchestration books only take you to a ‘safe’ level of performance possibilities, in reality today’s players have techniques far beyond the text books. Being with them every day during rehearsals and performances taught me about the ‘sound’ of an orchestra and how the sections function individually and as an ensemble.


Your name is always linked with the music of John Barry; you have conducted a great deal of his music, would you say that he has had a profound influence upon your career and inspired you?

I worked with John for about 14 years and have reconstructed and recorded many of his earlier scores. Of course I learned from him and there may well be some subliminal influences that I’ve absorbed. I admire the way he used melody as his primary composing tool rather than relying on effects or orchestration and had the courage to be simple rather than dazzle. His music is sincere and he was always true to himself.

You have conducted film music and also recorded many scores and re-recordings of scores in various countries, do you have any preferences when it comes to a studio, an orchestra or a concert venue?

Of course, because I am so familiar with them, I love recording in Prague with the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. I’ve often pondered on what a curious way to make a living conducting concerts is. One arrives in a strange city and has to stand in front of 70 – 80 strangers and wave one’s arms around, not knowing what the result will be. Sometimes it can be curiously detaching and, when everything comes together, completely involving. I love travelling and meeting new people and sharing musical experiences. I love pleasing an audience and spreading the Film Music news around the world. To directly answer your question, the orchestra and the venues I prefer are the ones at that particular moment.

DIE SPIONIN is a wonderful score, so lyrical and haunting, how did you become involved on the movie?

Thank you. I had worked with the director, Miguel Alexandre, previously on a German mini series called Der Mann mit dem Faggot and we hit it off. He says he only makes films so that he can have music written for them. He loves music and understands the power it has coupled to picture and he’s prepared to be adventurous and let his composers take him on a journey. He’s a joy to work for and I’m looking forward to more collaborations with him.
Was film music something that you always wanted to be involved in?

Music is something I always wanted to be involved in. Whilst studying I assumed that composers always orchestrated their own music, to me that’s a natural part of composition. I was unaware of the commercial music world until I began copying and realised that this wasn’t the case largely due to the time pressures that are put on composers. I love the ‘sound’ of an orchestra and orchestrating and composing lets me be with this sound.

When experimenting and trying out musical ideas   how do you work them out, in your head, or do you write rough ideas down on paper or do you use a keyboard, piano or maybe pc?

When a theme comes into my head I write it down on paper so as not to forget it, or, hum it into my i-Phone if paper is not available. When writing I go straight into full score directly out of my head. I find composing at the piano too restrictive –  I don’t have enough hands or technique to play everything I want to hear and I find that my imagination more creative without the constraints of a keyboard.

How much music did you compose for DIE SPIONIN, and were you involved with the sequencing and compiling of the soundtrack compact disc?

I think I wrote about 80 minutes although it wasn’t all used. In the dub it became apparent it was pretty much wall to wall and we decided to give the audience a rest in places! I let my friend and colleague James Fitzpatrick compile the soundtrack album. He has so much experience at doing that and, at that stage, I think the composer needs objectivity.

How much time did you have to write the score for DIE SPIONIN and did the director have specific ideas as to what type of music or what style of music his film needed?

I think I had about three weeks. I read the script and visited some shooting in Budapest and talked with the actors beforehand. Using this insight I wrote lullaby theme for the female spy and mother character and the intrigue/love theme. I played them to Miguel before we began spotting – he liked them and so, during the spotting session, we decided where we could use them, or variations thereof, during the film. A lot of it was shot in a kind of Film Noir style –  dark and shadowy –  so I veered in that direction too. With budgets being so tight nowadays I think it’s important to be resourceful with one’s orchestra. There’s no value in having a full symphony orchestra with a small string section so I try to create a ‘sound’ for the music by having a slightly unusual line up. Bernard Hermann was a master at this. If your budget only lets you have 20 players then why not use 10 basses and 10 flutes? It won’t sound budget, just different. Fortunately, I wasn’t that constrained but I wanted brass and low winds to feature and to adjust my string orchestra accordingly.

Is the temp track a useful or distracting tool?

I think it depends on the temp track. If it gives you an idea of the mood wanted then it’s useful. For Spionin they used some of my music from a previous film. That was a bit frustrating because I didn’t want to just write the same music again.

Where did you record the score for DIE SPIONIN, and what size orchestra did you have on the score?
We recorded in Prague and I had a Flute, Oboe, 2 Clarinets (both playing Bass Clarinet), 3 Horns and 3 Trombones, Percussion, Harp, Piano and Strings.

In your opinion what is the purpose of music in film?

To, in addition to the acting, filming and script, assist in telling the story. To add moods that cannot be conveyed by the aforementioned and, sometimes, conceal any weak moments.


I have already mentioned John Barry, what other artists or composers from film or classical worlds would you say have influenced you and do you have a favourite score or a particular piece of music that you are fond of?

I admire Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams. I like composers who can constantly re-invent themselves.

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Many composers find it better to have a conductor when scoring a movie so they can monitor proceedings from the booth, we all know you can conduct, but did you conduct the orchestra for DIE SPIONIN or did you opt to monitor from the booth ?

I conducted, it’s where I feel at home. I know how the music should sound in my head so I’m the best qualified to mould that in the room. Of course, that modus operandi only works well if you have people you can trust in the booth. In this case I was fortunate to have James Fitzpatrick and my assistant Rachel James producing for me.

How many times do you watch a movie before you are satisfied that you can start to write the score or decide where music is to be placed etc?

Well the spotting can take place on your first viewing if a temp track has already been laid. When I’m composing I’ll watch a scene a couple of times and then ideas will formulate in my mind and it’s straight into writing into score on the computer. I can then play back against the picture and fine-tune.

What are your earliest memories of any kind of music and were any of your family musically inclined?

My grandfather played violin, my grandmother piano and my father the organ. I wasn’t exposed to these influences at an early age though because I was brought up in Africa. My mother however is a great classical music fan and I remember the gramophone being played in the home. When we came back to England the ‘swinging sixties’ were just beginning so, like every other kid from that era, I was exposed to pop music.

What is your opinion on the state or condition of film music nowadays, and do you think the scores from today compare favourably with soundtracks from both the golden and silver age of film music?

No, I don’t think contemporary scores compare favourably at all. I’m not a ‘stick in the mud’ but film has changed and music along with it. I think Hollywood film music has become too generic and too influenced by what has been done before. This seems to make the talent of a composer judged by how well he can reproduce a sound rather than by any ability to innovate. European film music is different and it is still possible to be an individual here. I’m a huge fan of Bollywood film music, having worked on a few scores. They are so exuberant and willing to merge their musical culture with ours.

When you are working on a re-recording or reconstruction of a score, do you study the original manuscripts if they are available or listen to the music in the film or on a recording, ZULU for example, and do you try to remain faithful to the music in the movie or the music on the recording?


If the original scores are available then, of course, that’s what I’ll study. Often they’re not and the score has to be transcribed by ear which is painstaking work but it gets you right into every nuance of the music. We try to be faithful to the original and to be musical too. Different orchestras and recording environments will influence how the final sound is as well as advances in technology so one cannot, and should not, be slavish.

When scoring a picture do you have a set pattern of working, do you start at the main theme and work through to the end titles or do you come up with a central theme first and base the remainder of the score around this ?

I like to have a couple of themes approved and up my sleeve and  I like to work through the film chronologically so that the music can develop at the same pace as the story. Practically, I add up how much music I have to write, divide it by the working days available and try to stick to my schedule, 5 minutes per day or whatever it is.


Do you orchestrate your own music?

Yes, of course. The music I hear in my head is sounding orchestrated already. I was curious when working with Elmer Bernstein once. I was going through a sketch with him and asked him if he wanted a particular section on woodwinds or strings. He had no idea. That was an amazing insight, he was just writing, in this instance, music with no idea as to how it should sound.



When you start to listen to Guy Farley’s music for THE HOT POTATO, instantly you are taken back to the glory days of film scoring, when John Barry ruled supreme and Laurie Johnson and Edwin Ashley’s infectious and pulsating TV themes were resounding from every television set in the UK. Farley’s score for THE HOT POTATO I have to say is one of the most entertaining and listenable scores to be released thus far this year. The composer certainly has embarked on a labour of love here, I say that because it is such a mesmerising and engrossing work, which is carefully and meticulously woven together. It is filled to overflowing with references, nuances and trademarks that could as I have already stated belong to John Barry or Edwin Astley and Laurie Johnson, it has about it a presence a sound and a colourful and exciting attraction that I for one have not found in many film scores since the late 1960,s and early 1970,s. I love the way in which the composer utilizes harpsichord and also low woods and combines these with that pizzicato Barry-esque sound and further embellishes these with the use of strings and brass. Whilst listening to the score I found myself being reminded of such scores as THE KNACK, IPCRESS FILE, QUILLER MEMORANDUM and PETULIA, plus there are certain phrases and flourishes throughout the work that could be from either THE SAINT or RANDALL AND HOPKIRK (deceased) and also there is a big band sound that acts like a glue bringing everything together, which is very much in the style of  Laurie Johnson when he scored TV series such as THE AVENGERS. But I think more than anything it is the harpsichord and the use of at times cheeky but at the same time bold sounding brass stabs plus those low at times almost rough and smouldering sounding woods and the even more seedy jazz influenced sounding muted trumpet punctuated by bass and stroked percussion that holds the attraction for me. Of course in certain cues one can also here the influence of Barry’s 007 soundtracks, the composer re-creating the style which Barry employed in THUNDERBALL, which is ominous and tense but also hauntingly melodic. I recommend this soundtrack without any reservations whatsoever and whole heartedly, and I am just off to listen to it again…