John Barry and Monty Norman and the James Bond theme (Dr. No)


On a recent flight home from Boston, I found myself listening to the soundtrack to Dr. No, the original James Bond film, composed by Monty Norman.

B’jebus! It is terrible.

I’m no fan of calypso and Carribean music in general, so the record starts at a deficit. And from there, it doesn’t make any headway. How many versions of that mango tree song do we really need to hear? Honestly, this soundtrack is about as far from “James Bond” as you can get without it being performed by a midget barbershop quartet (though, unlike this soundtrack, I might actually pay to hear that).

This album has so little to do with the musical legacy of the franchise, that it’s a freakin’ tragedy that Norman gets sole writer’s credit (and the ensuing royalties) for that iconic theme.

In my opinion, for whatever it is worth, John Barry deserves at least a co-writers credit on the theme. The fact that Norman’s Dr. No soundtrack has a separate track called The James Bond Theme which sounds nothing like the famous one should be a testament to Barry’s contribution to the theme. Norman claims that it was the record company’s fault for mislabeling the tracks on the records. Even IF that were the case, the contrast in style is so vast that one can’t help but call into question the events that led to the theme’s creation.

Even though the British courts sided with Norman, anyone who gives this record even a passing listen should be able to clearly hear the difference between Norman’s style and that of Barry, the architect of the James Bond sound.


Update Feb 25, 2007: Despite legal setbacks, Barry is still defending himself as the author of “the song.” In a candid radio interview on BBC Radio 2 in September 2006, Barry explains how he came to be involved with the James Bond franchise as Dr. No was finishing production, after Norman had been signed to it. Thus, the controversy begins anew. Go on, read the whole thing.