Friday, 5 October 2012
James Bond 50th anniversary: The French (music) connection
With the 50th anniversary of the James Bond films, October 5 1962 being the release date for the film Dr.No, I thought I'd have a quick look at how French music has played a (small) part in the most British of film legends.
French locations feature in many of the films, as do French actors, and the series is as hugely popular in France as it is elsewhere.
A number of composers are familiar names associated with the James Bond franchise. The James Bond Theme which has appeared in all the Eon Productions films since 1962 being composed by Monty Norman and arranged by John Barry.
John Barry is probably the composer most associated with the film series, Barry being a familiar name to French music fans as the former husband of singer Jane Birkin. Barry composed 11 Bond scores.
Of the others, the one with the strongest French connection was 1995's GoldenEye, which was scored by Éric Serra, an artist who has regularly worked with Luc Besson since his first film Le Dernier Combat in 1983. Serra also played bass for Jacques Higelin in the 80s.
Serra collaborated with Besson on hit films like Nikita, Subway, Léon, The Fifth Element and more recent work like The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec.
His work on GoldenEye gave the film an edgy modern feel, although some were unhappy with the departure from what had become traditional Bond music.
French film music legend Michel Legrand, whose career in film music has seen him composed for over 200 films, including iconic French works like Les Parapluies de Cherbourg and widely-known The Thomas Crown Affair, also contributed to the series, although in the non-Eon productions Sean Connery Bond film from 1983 Never Say Never Again
Of course, the title songs for James Bond films have become as well known as the films themselves, songs like Goldfinger and From Russia with Love giving Shirley Bassey and Mat Munro probably their best known songs, more recent songs being a good measure of the popularity of an artist, whether Tina Turner or Adele.
There is an obvious lack of French singers performing the title songs, but a close place for Mirwais and his co-writing or Die Another Day with Madonna for the 2002 film. Mirwais was a member of 80s French group Taxi Girl, and established himself as a pioneer of electronic dance music in the 90s, signing to Madonna's label Maverick records. He would go on to collaborate with Madonna on a number of her albums including Music, American Life and Confessions on a Dance Floor.
There are other songs that have been associated with Bond films, with many Bond films have had equally memorable 'supporting' songs. It's hard to believe that Louis Armstrong's We Have All The Time in the World was originally a song from the closing sequence of a James Bond film, given that it has become such a standard.
In this category, at some distance, we find the 1983 non Eon Bond film Never Say Never Again featuring the song Une Chanson d'Amour by Michel Legrand sung by Sophie Della.
Meanwhile, there is another category of Bond songs, where foreign language versions of the films re-recorded versions of the songs. This was done with From Russia with Love, On Her Majesty's Secret Service and Diamonds Are Forever
Here we find the French version of From Russia With Love, entitles Bons Baisers de Russie by Bob Asklöf, a Swedish actor and singer who made his career in France.
An interesting French footnote to the musical legacy of one of cinema's most iconic creations.