A Life in Music, From Bond Films to 'Dances With Wolves'
Interview, published: September 24, 2000, New York Times, by Steve Matteo
article on the filming of Guy Hamilton's 'The Party's Over'
Peter Cowie, Films & Filming, December 1962
Scanned by Geoff Leonard, June 7, 2010
For Conservative Movie Lovers: Ian Fleming, Sean Connery, and ‘Goldfinger’
Article "For Conservative Movie Lovers: Ian Fleming, Sean Connery, and ‘Goldfinger’ Part 4". By Leo Grin.
Composer John Barry delights in all the movie music he makes
Article "Composer John Barry delights in all the movie music he makes". By Tom Soter, from Starlog, february 2004.
25 Greatest Christmas Films "The Gathering"
25 Greatest Christmas Films: #7 — ‘The Gathering’ (1977) by John Nolte
SPECIAL REPORT: CINEMA RETRO COVERS "MIDNIGHT COWBOY"
40TH ANNIVERSARY A.M.P.A.S EVENT
17 March 2009, Attendees were David Picker, producer Jerome Hellman, actress Sylvia Miles, cinematographer Adam Holender, costume designer Ann Roth and music supervisor John Barry.
The Man Who Knew the Score
interview with John Barry by Bruce Handy.
Interview with John Barry, vanityfair.com, WEB EXCLUSIVE January 8, 2009.
An Interview with John Barry by Daniel Mangodt
Originally published in Soundtrack Magazine Vol.15/No58, 1996. Text reproduced by kind permission of the editor, Luc Van de Ven
11 November 2008
Billion-Dollar Composer: John Barry (3) Variety
John Barry reflects on 10 of his scores
'Goldfinger' 'Midnight Cowboy' music reconsidered
By JON BURLINGAME
Billion-Dollar Composer: John Barry (2) Variety
John Barry invented the spy movie score
Unique arrangements ushered in a new genre of films
By JON BURLINGAME
Billion-Dollar Composer: John Barry (Variety)
Collaborators reflect on John Barry
Composer's scores continue to move filmmakers
By JON BURLINGAME
Billion-Dollar Composer: John Barry (Variety)
Barry succeeds in theater and TV
More obscure works attest to composer's ambition
By DAVID MERMELSTEIN
CINEMA RETRO'S JOHN EXSHAW ATTENDS JOHN BARRY CONCERT IN DUBLIN
- AND MEETS THE MAN HIMSELF
ALL TIME HIGH: BARRY STRIKES DUBLIN LIKE THUNDERBALL! RTÉ Summer Evening Concert Season: The Film Music of John Barry.
The National Concert Hall, Dublin, Friday 20 June, 2008
Link to BBC article
The real Bond - The Guardian interview
16 April 1999
The Gstaad Memorandum
Transcribed by Robert Hoshowsky
from FSM #75, November 1996
Here you will find details of all the articles, interviews and reviews about John Barry and his work we have been able to find. It is not a definitive list and we welcome further additions.
Why the new Bonds never struck a chord with John Barry
- CHRIS GOODMAN
24 September 2006
The Express on Sunday
(c) Copyright Express Newspapers 2006
Composer John Barry reminisces about the part he played in the swinging Sixties and tells CHRIS GOODMAN why he has little faith in the modern 007.
At his impressive house in Cadogan Square, Chelsea, 72-year-old John Barry still cuts a hip figure. "Stand straight," barks his American wife, Laurie, as her husband, some 20 years her senior, poses for our photographer with an easy air. Barry intermittently yells four-letter expletives at her while appearing charm personified to everyone else in the room.
Laurie glowers, half out of pride, half with anger, and Barry glances schoolboy looks at her to check that he has got away with his language.
The huge tapestry on one wall seems to waver, then settle as they flash smiles between each other. Older now, perhaps wiser, this is Barry's fourth and most successful marriage, 28 years strong.
Barry, one of Britain's finest composers and certainly its most iconic movie composer, was the archetypal Sixties swinger. It cost him three marriages but established his professional credentials.
When he married 19-year-old model and actress Jane Birkin in 1965, a Newsweek article dubbed him the man "with the E-type Jag and the E-type wife".
Barry is in London to prepare for a special concert at the Royal Albert Hall on September 28. He recently produced an album for the Ten Tenors, an Australian crossover opera troupe who recorded some of his finest film compositions. Barry will conduct two of the most famous - We Have All The Time In The World and Goldfinger - two classics from the period when he composed 12 scores for James Bond films.
Despite guiding Adam Faith's early career, composing soundtracks for Out Of Africa and Dances With Wolves and having five Oscars to his name, Barry will be forever linked with Bond. It was his scores that gave Bond its action, tension and glamour, inventing a Cold War identity for a Britain stripped of its empire and languishing behind the USA and the Soviet Union.
Tellingly, as the Bond franchise prepares to kick into gear for Daniel Craig's debut in the upcoming Casino Royale, he has little faith in the modern 007. "I haven't been a fan of Bond for a long time,” he says in a soft Yorkshire brogue.
"I gave up after The Living Daylights in 1987. I'd exhausted all my ideas, rung all the changes possible. It was a formula that had run its course. The best had been done as far as I was concerned."
Barry identifies co-producer Harry Saltzman's sale of his share of the franchise to United Artists in 1975 as the turning point. "There used to be one solid school of people.
When that broke down, I didn't know who was running the show any more. That's why, when you see them on television, you don't say: 'Oh no, it's an old Bond, 'you say: 'Wow, it's an old Bond, that's great.' "You see one of the newer films is on and you think: 'Forget it, I'll watch something else.'" He's still friends with Barbara Broccoli, current Bond producer and daughter of original Bond co-producer Cubby, but Barry will not be rushing out to see the new film.
Barry sees Bond soundtracks as a clumsy excuse to advertise pop songs, inserted into the action with little thought. As a result, he does not even visit cinemas any more, let alone work on soundtracks. "I see a film on television and I don't know where these people are coming from,” he says. "When this guy sat down to write this, what the hell was he thinking about?
"We very carefully planned these films. Everything was intertwined. The sound effects weren't running all over the music or vice versa. It was orchestrated in the real sense of the word. Now there doesn't seem to be a plan and it doesn't just go for music, it goes for the screenwriter and art director.
It's a different world - but I don't want to sound like an old fart."
Monty Norman penned The James Bond Theme but it was Barry who orchestrated the piece to such effect. From the second film, Goldfinger, Barry became the sole composer, writing the scores and the songs.
Barry maintains that he was brought in when Norman and Saltzman fell out, admitting to his own problems with the difficult producer.
Saltzman had told Barry that Goldfinger, sung by Shirley Bassey, was one of the worst songs he'd ever heard before it became a massive international hit. The song only made it into the film because it was too late to take it out.
One of Barry's fondest memories of the swinging Sixties is a lunch at his favourite haunt, the Pickwick Club. Barry's tenant, Michael Caine, was there with his girlfriend Edina Ronay, along with Terence Stamp and Jean Shrimpton.
"Goldfinger had just become a hit and Saltzman walks in and says hello to Michael and then turns to me and says, 'Thank you, John.'
"Terry Stamp shot up and shouted, 'You f****** a*******.' It was so theatrical, everyone was on the floor and Harry just continued walking out the door. I remember everything about that moment of triumph."
He remembers other moments less well - like his marriages. "My daughter from my first marriage to Barbara [Pickard] came by the other day and showed me some old photos.
I said, 'Who's that?' She said, 'It's Barb,' her mother. It sounds awful but I really couldn't remember what she looked like then."
This amnesia extends to the reasons for his marriage break-ups, perhaps even the reasons why he married. "I can't remember those kind of things, "he claims, "the emotional significance. I recall London then, going to see my friends in Denmark Street every day, the music, the coffee bars. I love my family life now but a little part of me would go back to all that in a second!"
He has four children; the youngest, Jon Patrick, is just 11.
The success of Bond in the Sixties, Barry argues, was a result of everyone working at the top of their game in a special period. It is difficult to imagine that anyone involved in Casino Royale will have such a unique set of influences to draw on as did Barry. Maybe the golden age of 007 really is over.
The interview is. "All right, I'm coming!" Barry shouts, as his wife announces that they are late for lunch.
A Chat with The Composer
BY ARTHUR KNIGHT
ca. April 1972
LONDON - The lights dimmed in the fashionable Leicester Square Odeon, and from behind the glowing orange stage curtains came a blast of thumping, amorphous sound that purported to be music. Soon it was joined by a thin, childlike voice that kept singing, "Curiouser and curiouser" . . . and some other words that got lost between the forced volume (obviously based on someone's notion that more is better) and the inadequacy of the theatre’s sound system to reproduce in the higher registers.
All this was the prelude to a midnight screening of excerpts from a forthcoming, multistarred production of Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, due here around Christmas. For a preview, as well as a glimpse of the actual shooting, American National, which opens the U.S. and Canadian rights to Alice, flew to London a planeload of about eighty prospective exhibitors, some sixty press and TV people, and perhaps thirty-five of its own key executives. The screening was intended to be the highlight of the trip.
Unfortunately, as was soon apparent, it was anything but. To be sure, one could recognize in the excerpts such luminaries as Sir Ralph Richardson as the Caterpillar, Peter Seller's as the March hare, Sir Robert Helpmann as the Mad Hatter, and, if one looked very closely beneath the make-up, Michael Crawford as the White Rabbit. The excerpts, however, were studded with printed slugs reading "Scene Missing," the editing was still rough, the colour and the sound unbalanced. The underscoring, so important to a film of this sort, had yet to be written and many in the audience stated that they found the songs themselves uninspired.
As it happened, I had purposely sought out John Barry, Alice's composer, during my visit to the rambling Shepperton studio the day before, mainly because his was one of the few behind-the-camera names with which I was familiar. Also, I have consistently admired his work, from the rock variations of The Knack to the medieval classicism of The Lion In Winter, and from the pungent guitar concerto that accompanied Boom! to the blaring, driving rhythms of the James Bond pictures. I was curious to discover the kind of man who composed so effectively in so many different idioms.
There is probably no more endearing introduction to an artist than a display of familiarity with his work. In any case, before the afternoon was over, Barry - a lean, tall fellow who looks at least a decade younger than his thirty-nine years - had auditioned the entire score for me on the superb stereo system installed in his sleek white Citroen '72. "Actually," he said, half-apologetically, "the sound here is far better than the studio's sound system, and the tracks for my cartridges are properly mixed, while the film tracks won't be finally mixed until September."
I found John Barry's music for Alice - all twenty-one numbers - utterly charming, ingeniously orchestrated, and wholly different from any of his scores that I was familiar with. For one thing, it was more tender, more romantic, much in the spirit of Prokofiev's nostalgic modernisms in the Romeo and Juliet or Cinderella ballets, although interspersed were Elgaresque fanfares, and a hilarious patter song between Sellers and Helpmann that owed more to the Twenties' music halls than to Gilbert and Sullivan. Somehow, Barry had managed to make an orchestra that never numbered more than fifty sound like twice that many. And the lyrics by Don Black - often witty, sometimes poetic - always seemed to ride effortlessly just above the surface of their accompaniment.
Next day, over a kipper mousse at Burke's Club, Barry somewhat diffidently began to talk about composing for films. Although he had a classical education in music, his entrance into the film field was through association with a rock group, the John Barry Seven, and a period as accompanist to a rock singer named Adam Faith (who seems to have been the British Elvis Presley). When Faith went into the movies, Barry went with him. The duo did not remain together very long. "We had different ideas about music," said Barry, succinctly.
"I've come to look on music as a voice, an attitude, that exists outside the film itself," he continued. "If the music is saying the very same thing as the pictures, then obviously it is being redundant. If you begin to notice the music as an intrusion, then it is bad. But if you become aware of the music emotionally and are responding to it along with the film itself, then it is a good score. I feel that the film composer should be, first, a good dramatist, and, second, a good composer. He should be able to expand, through his music, what the film is saying, not merely repeat or underline it."
Barry rejects emphatically the notion that movie music should be bland or neutral, or simply-as Aaron Copland once put it - "a small lamp placed beneath the screen to warm it." According to Barry, "If music doesn't sing, or dance, or have an interesting harmonic concept, then it shouldn't be there at all. A film score should burn with its own fire, not merely glow in the dark like a pretty charcoal." When he reads a new script, it is with an eye to what he can add to it - and also to what he is not going to do with it. "Choice is taste," is virtually his maxim, and it applies equally to his choice of scripts and his choice of the musical forms to accompany them.
What concerns him most is the quality (or lack of quality) in most theatre speaker systems. Barry became extra conscious of this at an early age, because his father was an exhibitor. "It's absolutely pointless to go for hi-fi sound in films when you know how it's going to sound for most audiences," he said. "When I record a score, I go for the highest quality that the studio can give me. But then I bring in standard speakers and re-record for these. Actually, it's a recording calculated to bring out the best in your average theatre installations." By all odds, he admitted, the sound on his numerous LPs and tapes was better than anything one might hear in the theatre, or, for that matter, in the Royal Albert Hall, where the Royal Philharmonic will perform an all-John Barry program on October 7 (including excerpts from his score for Goldfinger, which he calls "Mickey Mouse Wagner").
I looked around for John Barry at the Leicester Square Odeon on that last night in London, but failed to spot him. I hope he wasn't there. What with the curtains that muffled his sound, the unbalanced tracks, and the Odeon's tubby speakers, he would probably have been tearing great handfuls out of his long, but already thinning hair.
John Barry profile for Ritz magazine
"This feature appears courtesy of the RITZ magazine, London, published by INK www.electricink.net"
On this site May 9, 2003.
By Jon Burlingame
Oyster Bay, New York, 2002, is a long way away from London's Pickwick Club circa 1964. The man who composed "Goldfinger," "Born Free" and "Midnight Cowboy" amidst the tumult of England's Swinging Sixties now resides quietly some 45 miles from New York City, with his American wife and young son.
But John Barry, 69, is as busy as ever. He has a West End musical in the works, is headed back into the studio with an album of original songs for Decca, and is preparing to score his first animated film (for Walt Disney and Pixar, the computer-animation geniuses who gave us "Toy Story" and "A Bug's Life").
"I've got a nice variety of things," he says with obvious contentment in his elegantly appointed living room with a view of Long Island Sound. The Oyster Bay house, where he spends most of the year and does all of his writing, is located on four acres of land in a secluded spot off the northern shore.
He still maintains an apartment in Cadogan Square, Chelsea, that's "five minutes from The King's Road and ten minutes from the West End," he says. And he returns there often, these days collecting a seemingly endless series of honors commensurate not only with his fame but with his many contributions to the soundtrack of our lives.
In 1998, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and sold out the Royal Albert Hall in a matter of hours for his first concert appearance in 25 years. The following year, he received an OBE and the Music Industry Trust Award. In 2000, he was the subject of a BBC-TV documentary on his life. This year, he was declared an Honorary Freeman of the City of York, his hometown.
John Barry is, without question, England's single most successful composer of cinema music -- and the only Brit to have received five Academy Awards (two for "Born Free," for its title song and score, plus one each for the scores of "The Lion in Winter," "Out of Africa" and "Dances With Wolves"). But he's more than that. He has become an icon to generations of music fans as well as to modern rockers who record covers of his tunes, sample his originals and study his chord progressions to try and replicate his winning formula.
They can't, of course. Only John Barry writes like John Barry. The singular melodic sense, the unique harmonies, the specificity of his orchestrations: They infuse every memorable theme, from "The Ipcress File" to television's "The Persuaders," and even the obscure ones, like the haunting riff from his failed stage musical "Lolita, My Love" (penned with Alan Jay Lerner) or the enchanting "The Me I Never Knew" from the forgotten movie musical "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."
Barry is a very private man. For many years, he gave no interviews at all, preferring his music to speak for him. And why bother anyway? Writing film music is a complex process, requiring not only the obvious musical gifts but also a high level of technical expertise and something of the sensibility of a psychologist (trying to figure out what directors and producers want, never an easy task). Publicity serves no real purpose; it doesn't sell film scores and is usually just a distraction from the real work at hand.
These days, he grants just a few. A brush with death back in 1988 (his esophagus ruptured, nearly killing him) and the birth of his son in 1994 have literally given him a new lease on life. And as a revered composer of classic pop entering his sunset years, maybe he relishes -- just a little -- the adulation. I was at the Albert Hall the night that 5,000 fans cheered his long-overdue return to the concert hall. The Times reviewer called the three standing ovations "the most devoted clappings I've ever seen in my life," likened them to "the prayers of the faithful," and conceded that their actions were "entirely understandable."
Is he a dreamer, a poet? Certainly. And he likes the solitude. In Oyster Bay, he can walk along the beach, collect his thoughts and turn them into musical phrases before returning to his studio to jot them down on paper, the old-fashioned way (before music-writing software took the romance out of the composing business). To the casual observer, his quiet lifestyle may seem light-years removed from the fast life (including three short-lived marriages, one to actress Jane Birkin) of the '60s; to him, it's one long continuum of musical growth and development. He has become what few great songwriters ever have: An accomplished creator of symphonic music that is both contemporary and classic. While many of his colleagues were stuck in the banal 4/4 of rock, Barry was expanding his horizons by studying Sibelius, Mahler and Shostakovich.
No artist enjoys analyzing his own work. But, pressed to describe what links so many of his popular tunes, Barry replies: "I'm strongly attracted to subjects that deal with loss: `Out of Africa,' `Dances With Wolves,' `Somewhere in Time.' All these movies are about a sense of loss. I don't know whether that comes from the World War. It leaves its mark. I don't know how it couldn't."
Barry attended a Catholic convent school in York, which was bombed by the Nazis in early 1942. "Several of the nuns and many of the children were killed," he recalls. "And nobody explained it to us. They just came up and bombed the hell out of the place. I can remember my father coming back and taking me out into the street. We lived just outside the city, and the whole sky was red from the reflection of the city burning. And I remember him saying to me, `Just get this into your head. You're never going to forget this night.' I had a tough Irish father, and I'm glad he did that to me. Other fathers would have said, `I don't want you to see this.' He grabbed me out of the air-raid shelter and said, `I want you to see this. Remember it for the rest of your goddamn life.' Which I did."
In recent years, Barry has shifted his attention somewhat away from the movies, writing and recording instrumental albums that contain musical impressions of people and places from his past. "Dreams, memories and reflections" was how he described "The Beyondness of Things," a Decca CD that sold 100,000 units and was timed to coincide with the Royal Albert Hall concert. He followed that up last year with "Eternal Echoes," inspired in part by the musings of Irish philosopher John O'Donohue.
The mature, thoughtful, reflective Barry of today may seem a far cry from the brash, much-in-demand composer of all those James Bond scores and '60s movies that put him on the map: "Goldfinger," "Thunderball," "You Only Live Twice," "The Knack," "The Ipcress File" and so many others. The composer confesses: "When I look back on it, I think, how the hell did I do all this?"
He would hammer out an entire Bond score -- orchestrating every note himself, often totalling hundreds of pages of music -- in four or five weeks, working virtually nonstop. Longtime friend Michael Caine, who temporarily roomed with Barry at the time, remembers him playing variations on the same tune all night, working out the musical details of some new theme. It turned out to be "Goldfinger," later to be belted into a number-one spot on the charts by Shirley Bassey. Ultimately, he scored eleven of the 007 epics.
Then there was the legendary London nightlife of the young and beautiful, the rich and famous, the Pickwick Club where Barry hung out with Caine, Terence Stamp and other luminaries. "Let's not go into all that," Barry says with a laugh. "It was England in the '60s. Everything was happening. There was such a buzz, doing the Bond movies, doing the musicals (including "Passion Flower Hotel" and, later, "Billy"). It was extraordinary."
Barry moved to United States in 1975. He and wife Laurie have been married since 1978 and lived for most of that time in Oyster Bay (in the house next door to Lerner's, where they wrote "Lolita"). There, in relative isolation -- and, geographically speaking, midway between the show-biz madness of Los Angeles and the nostalgic pull of his beloved London -- he composed the grand-scale romantic scores for "Out of Africa" and "Dances With Wolves," which won him Oscars in 1986 and 1991 respectively.
And that's where he's writing the music for "Brighton Rock," a musical based on the Graham Greene novel about the race gangs of the 1930s. He's wanted to do it since the late '60s, when it was briefly headed for the West End before the deal fell apart. (It was producer Bill Kenwright, once a member of the chorus in "Passion Flower Hotel," who revived it.) At the same time, he's mulling ideas for that song album, and composing themes for "The Incredibles," the Disney-Pixar film that won't hit theaters until Christmas 2004.
Asked what makes him happiest today, Barry surprises by not mentioning his music. "If there is one thing that dominates my life," he notes with pride, "I would say my son." Jonpatrick, 8, "gives me more joy than you can imagine. He's crazy about movies, he loves music and he comes out with things that are frighteningly brilliant at times."
Sounds just like his old man.
"This feature appears courtesy of the RITZ magazine, London, published by INK www.electricink.net"
We would like to thank Jon Burlingame for his help in making this article available to us. Jon is a writer and broadcaster on film and TV music. Check out his excellent books, Sound and Vision: 60 Years of Motion Picture Soundtracks and Tv's Biggest Hits: The Story of Television Themes from "Dragnet" to "Friends", still available through www.amazon.co.uk, www.amazon.com and other on-line retailers and good bookshops everywhere!!
Music of the cinema
Interview with John Barry - 1992
Our guest today on music of the cinema has been the recipient of no more… none other... let me do it again.
Our guest today on music of the cinema has been the recipient of five academy awards: two academy awards for song and score for born free, academy award for best score the lion in winter, for best score out of Africa and for best score last year, Dances With Wolves. One writer/critic has said, 'his music is meant to be heard, not seen. His inventiveness or orchestral colours and infectious rhythms’...
One writer/critic has said of his music, his music is meant to be heard not seen. His inventiveness for orchestral colours and infectious rhythms his gift for melody majestically sweeping or deceptively simple his ability to paint indelible pictures conjure up images that run the gamut and above all he has complete mastery of the orchestra.
It gives me great pleasure to welcome to music of the cinema, John Barry.
Music of the cinema is privileged to have as our guest today John Barry who has been the recipient of five academy awards for Born Free, The Lion In Winter, Out Of Africa and Dances With Wolves. One writer/critic has deemed Mr. Barry’s music is meant to be heard and not seen. He’s also written his inventiveness for orchestral colours and infectious rhythms his gift for melody majestically sweeping or deceptively simple his ability to paint indelible pictures conjure up images that run the gamut and above all John Barry has complete mastery of the orchestra.
It's our privilege and pleasure on music of the cinema to welcome John Barry, welcome John.
Thank you, I’m very privileged to be here. Who wrote that, incidentally? I have to send him a bottle of champagne!
I’ll give you his name after taping. Secondly or again a congratulations for winning last year the Academy Award for Dances With Wolves, and I think you are the only, I’m not, I assume you’re still what we consider a British subject.
Yes, I am.
Under the crown you are the only British subject that has received five Academy Awards?
I believe that’s so, yes.
That’s very significant I’d like to ask you about Dances With Wolves - and it was your fifth Academy Award. You collaborated with Kevin Costner; and obviously that was a creative and commercial success and knowing how you are or how you feel seeing a movie before you commit to it, I’m jut curious in Dances With Wolves, where did you come on board with that project?
They, Jim Wilson, who co-produced it with Kevin, sent me a screenplay last January. I read the screenplay I liked it very much and I called Jim and told him that I did and then Kevin called me back and said well why not next week come out to Los Angeles and we’ll show you just some footage. We’ve just gotten back, we’re just starting cutting working on an assembly of all the material, but we can show you 20 minutes, half-an-hour of just assorted stuff. So I went to LA and they showed 20 minutes, half an hour, no particular sequence just little bits and pieces here and there. And I was very impressed by the visual look, by the performance level and the whole feel of the piece. And said yes I would like to be involved. Two weeks later they sent me four hours on video, I came back to New York, they sent me four hours of just totally an assembly of everything they’d shot.
So it wasn't necessarily in narrative sequence?
It pretty much was but it wasn't trimmed, it wasn't edited it was just everything they'd shot put together and that then gave me the opportunity to sit down and start to write thematic material. I knew even from the script that there was going to be a lot of music. I didn't know how much but I knew obviously from the script that it was going to be a large score.
The overriding theme throughout the movie has this almost reverential quality to it in the French horn melody.
Right. It’s, well, I mean people talk about it being a Western and strangely I never kind of thought of it as quote, a Western. I always thought of it as a story that took place in the West. And it was this story of this one man, a good man and an honourable man.
And that’s the way I went with it. Very much based on his character – the way he saw things, the way he reacted. I mean that must have been in that period of time almost like a moon landing. You know, getting on a horse and riding out on that to that terrain must have been one incredible adventure.
That was a very long score
It wound up an hour and thirty-five minutes
You use French horn a lot
Eight, eight of them.
And I’m glad to hear that. I have a partial, a partiality towards horn and I think it lends itself well to film music.
It’s on the nose if you like, I mean for the West it's on the nose.
Yeah, there's a spacious quality to it.
There’s majesty and magnificence to those eight guys playing and then sometimes of course when you mix them with four trombones as well to give it the core and certain lower ranges, it has a thrust and a force that's undeniable.
Another thing John, you have a great facility of mixing and using a lot of different kinds of percussive effects and we can get in a little later to when you feel that it's important to just have sound effects by music and I think its interesting you’re, you feel very obligated to do your own orchestrations and that is not always the case.
Well I do have, I do have, I do work with an orchestrator. But my, when I worked in England I never used an orchestrator for 95% of the time. Occasionally I’d use an orchestrator but in America it's the way you know and since I've been working in America I have used two orchestrators, Al Woodbury, who, unfortunately died a couple of years ago and then Greg McRitchie who re-orchestrated this for me. But it’s my, my scores totally, everything is indicated.
Do you use a 9 staff?
It depends on the cue, sometimes 24. I mean it depends on whatever I need to explain what I want. It’s there but I don’t have to go through the whole score for 120-piece orchestra and just for the sake of time, but in terms of details there isn’t a single instrument or note that isn’t indicated.
How much lead-time did you have with ‘Wolves’? Was this a collaborative effort with the producers?
Kevin and I got on very well. I think we had absolutely the same idea, the same response, as to what the score would be which would be big, romantic, dramatic, a traditional Western score of a different nature.
It's very expansive, the score had a, and I just I keep coming back to this, I think there was a reverence to the music apart 'from the fact that it had a majestic expansive feel but here, was, a real reverence to that theme
I think that the Indians, the Lakota Indians I mean they, their respect for land there, I respect for I mean did you know that the Lakota never had never used the word animal. There is not one word in their language to say, oh, that is an animal. We’re all the same you know. I mean, they didn't have that definition. And the way they conserve the land, the way they only kill to eat the necessary amount, they never overkill. I mean ecologically they were so far ahead of any group of people on the face of the earth. And the reverence even in the buffalo hunt, for instance – things which never came out in the movie, there were certain warriors were chosen to hunt to bring food back for the elderly, who could no longer hunt, and that was like the accolade of-the tribe to be chosen to be that group of warriors so there was, they in their own way, I think had, they were, there was a kind of religiosity of their way of life which I hope I captured because I certainly felt it the more I learned about them the more I talked to Michael Blake about the whole lot of back, back information as I say that never wound up in the film but wound up in a subtle way I guess in terms of...
The large cues were scored for how large of an orchestra? It sounds like a fairly large orchestra.
It’s about 95 and then in some cues we then added a 24 piece female choir. Twelve sopranos,
There are voices, I think, in the opening.
Yes, in the suicide cue and then ultimately in the buffalo hunt we added voices finally. It just added a strangeness that I liked. I love voices, I love the idea, what they do.
So then your association with that was a good one.
It was a very happy one. I wrote about twenty minutes of themes, just thematic material which I then recorded in NY here in the studio with just piano, multi-track piano, flute and percussion. Then I took those themes to Kevin and played them and he liked all of them except the original, actually, the original wolf theme that I wrote. He didn’t think it was appropriate so I wrote what we now have in the movie. But for the most part...
How often does that happen, John, where you write something and the producer or the director think, I know that for The Chase there was a couple versions of the theme the one that was used in the movie seemed to be a little more ominous and frightening and also used harmonica which you used very effectively but then the alternate version was a little more up tempo and had kind of a snare drum propulsion to it and I’m just as to what ….
Well, we'll never know.
Both versions are interesting and that's one of my favourite scores.
The version on the album was the first version that I wrote for the movie...
That ended up in the movie...
No, that did not end up in the movie. And that was the version that actually when the movie opened up in Washington that was still in the movie and then Kevin had this thing about the buffalo. He, something bugged so we went the other way and what wound up in the movie was a little of what we had and then some of what Kevin wanted. It was a kind of mix and there’s very mixed feelings. I truly by the end of the movie did not know which I liked better. I know Michael Blake liked the original one preferable to the latter one. Kevin liked the latter one. I think Jim Wilson, I don't know what side he came down on. But, he was, both worked and it just depends.
Sometimes you win. Totally, but it was...
It was the only thing that we had. It wasn't an argument it was just another point of view as to how he wanted it.
Richard Lester with The Knack. You scored the music for that and he was very opinionated and dead set on what he wanted, but you won to make along story short and then he liked it.
He said at the end that you’ve done everything that I wouldn’t have done, but it worked. So I took that as a compliment.
You, I suppose any film composer, has worked with producers and directors that he maybe would wish were a little more knowledgeable musically, but you were lucky enough to work with Bryan Forbes and Sam Spiegel and these guys were pretty on the mark about what they wanted.
Very much so. Bryan had a very sensitive ear to music. Sam had -great taste in just about everything he did. He was a rogue but he had great taste.
The problem people I’ve always found is... Dick Lester used to play clarinet I think he would had loved to have been… I think that was his first ambition and when you get a director who at one time wanted to be a musician, or wanted to be a composer that's when the light starts to flash for me, because they, always seem to think they know more than they do know, they always try' to get to deep and I just say look tell me about the drama of the picture just don't start telling me about the music, tell me what is the feel we want - that is what I am here to do.
Or they put music in until you arrive on the scene, and then say I want your music to sound like what I picked out of the library.
Yes and I mean I did Robin and Marian for Dick Lester. He had two scores previously, I won't mention the name of the composer, a very good composer and this composer had written two scores for the movie and both of them had been thrown out and then l came in and I was asked – it was like the quickest thing it was like, do it quick - we have three weeks. I wrote it in the Beverly Hills hotel without the aid of Mr. Lester. He was in London preparing another movie and Columbia, I played them some things and, they said that's it go ahead and do it and, I did it. And I couldn’t get anything out of Dick, any indication. I then had dinner with James Goldman who wrote the screenplay. And I told Dick and said it’s really helped me a lot and he was like Oh my God you talked to the writer that's the worst thing you could do and I said well I’m sorry Dick, but the pressure is on here I’ve got to do this whole thing quite literally from seeing the movie to going in to the studio in three weeks, and I hate that kind of non-time. But and I still don’t think, I quite frankly don’t think that Dick liked the score for Robin and Marian, quite frankly.
Well, speaking of non-time, you had a very quick introduction to film music with Dr. No in 1962, when somebody who you owe a large debt to at United Artists asked, I guess it was Cubby Broccoli and Saltzman, to consider you to do the main title. They had what is it, ‘Don’t Sit Under The Mango Tree’, or something by the original composer and they were very upset with that, said this will not do, and your name came into being. How quick did you have to come up with that theme – 72 hours or something?
It was no time at all. And I’d been, I’d had several successful instrumental records in England with my own group and orchestra.
The John Barry Seven, right. So this was the reason that Noel Rogers who was the head of United Artists music asked me to get involved and I received a phone call on a Friday evening from him and I was just getting started in film music so you know I was willing to write anything that moved on celluloid. I mean that was my frame of reference at that time. And so he said they made this movie Dr. No and its Ian Fleming’s James Bond and I didn't know anything about it really. So he said this other gentleman had been asked to write the score but it wasn't working out and they needed a main theme very quickly and he said can you meet us Saturday morning at out office and he'll play you what he's written. So I them met and I said to Noel, I said, I can't do anything with what he's written. So I said whether you just let me
Monty Norman, yes. So he said you go ahead and do something. Monty Norman’s...and I said well what about him what’s he going to feel as the composer and then Noel put it to him and he said, I remember his words, I’m not proud, he said. So I went home and I worked that weekend and booked the orchestra and we were in the studio on the Wednesday. And I never saw any film, the only think I knew about James Bond was a cartoon strip that had been in one of the English dailies, I think it was the Daily Mail or the Daily Express. And that's all I know I knew about it and I was given the timing by Maurice binder who designed the titles it was like 2 minutes 14 or whatever it was and I went away and wrote that, and recorded it. And I was looking to the record sales at that time. I was paid two hundred pounds for my work on that and then the movie opened at the pavilion at Piccadilly and I went to see it on Sunday afternoon and stood in line and the thing is all over the movie. So I then called Noel and he said I’ve been waiting for this phone call I knew this was going to happen. So he said look if this is a success they're going to be making more and you'll be involved in the others and I said OK fine and that was the introduction to the James Bond situation.
We mentioned the JB7 here.
1957, this was a great time John, this was a great time.
And actually maybe we should allude to some of that quickly I know that you had a lot of experience with various popular artists of that day. Adam Faith of course which we'll talk about in a moment, Bobby Shafto and I don't know if you were with Freddie Mercury or not was he?
No I don't remember that.
But they had wonderful names
Lance Fortune and of course Johnny Prendy none other than John Barry so that name is as good as those. The Soho time.
Yeah I had lived in a room above a restaurant called … Madame ran it but it’s not as half as seedy as it sounds. But 4 pound ten a week bed and breakfast and it was things were starting to happen. I had come out the army and I started doing big band arrangements for Ted Heath and that was a very slow process and the big band were dying you know it was like the end of that era. So I formed my own group with 3 gentleman I had been in the army with and 3 local musicians from up north and put together this group, and we had the first bass guitar ever in England, which was a German bass which I imported.
Was this Vic Flick?
No Vic Flick he wasn't the bass guitar he was the ordinary guitar. A guy named Fred Kirk actually played the bass guitar and we were the first kind of English amplified group.
You were the first fusion group.
Yeah, we played jazz, we played rhythm and blues, rock and roll whatever.
You were before your time.
We were trying to earn a living is what we were trying to do. We were trying to be professional musicians and we were from the North of England and it wasn’t until the Beatles when that happened that the whole thing spread out of London but prior to that it was totally London based, the music business was totally London-based. And so anybody coming from the North of England …. I mean it was only 200 miles away, my home town of York, but it was like a lifetime at that time in terms of where the centre of things was.
This was York
York, England where I was born and educated.
With a Francis
Francis Jackson who was master of music, who I studied with.
Your father had a chain of cinemas
At 14 we got disenchanted with school
Now what school, were you in public or private which is opposite
It’s opposite. I was in English public which is American private. It was St. Peters school, which is the oldest school in England. Guy Fawkes went there I mean it was really… I mean we went
They probably did not have a large love of cinema
They did not love. I took piano lessons there and it was frowned upon, cinema, concerts, music - it was not a place for the arts and they figured anyone who wanted to do that was slightly off key. But, and it was a strict, strict school when people talk about working hard I, used to go from 9 in the morning until 9 at night, seven days a week. Sunday was the only day I had off and the fact that I was a Catholic, I didn’t go on Sunday, but If I had been in the church of England I would have had to have gone to church there, chapel on Sunday morning. So that was the kind of discipline it was, so you can imagine, how glad I was to get out of that.
And so watched numerous movies
I watched movies from 5 years old. I mean, I was brought up watching movies.
And besides studying with Dr. Jackson, you also studied with Bill Russo, Stan Kenton which just had a reunion in California about 2 weeks ago.
The Stan Kenton group was all there.
Oh wonderful, was Bill there?
I am not sure
That was later when I went into the army. I was in the military band and I went to Egypt for a year and then we were shipped to Cypress and I had 16 months in Cypress and at that time, you couldn't get any, when you lived in England, you couldn't get any dollars, it was very tight banking situation and when, I was in Cypress I was stationed in a little town called Larnaca, and there was this guy who had one of these shops that sell ashtrays and things with maps on them.
Yes and he said, do you want any American dollars and I’d seen in Downbeat magazine that Bill had retired from the Kenton band and was living in Chicago and was giving lessons so I said yes so I used to go in once a week, with my army pay, buy the dollars, put the cash in an envelope and sent them to Bill in Chicago, and I studied for sixteen months with Bill Russo.
Did you consequently meet him anywhere?
Later on when I was in LA, much later on in the about
And he would call you his prize-winning student.
75-76 - that was the first time I ever met him.
It was funny yeah, and we both got terribly drunk for whatever reason.
Another one of your films John that interests me is from l966, Dutchman.
This was from a play by Leroy Jones and was directed by Stanley Kubrick’s film editor.
Right and it was a short film.
Right one hour, black and white
And it dealt with some racial tension and suppression and a little bit of psychotic behaviour but here was no music originally scored for it
He said I have done this movie and I don't want any music for it and I’d like you to take a look at it there something wrong somewhere I need something and I don't know what it is. I saw it and I said you need three pieces of music a beginning a middle and an end and it was the same piece of music actually there was no development it just this maniacal kind of percussive piece that I wrote for it.
It was more sound effect
Absolutely yes it was rhythmic sound effect textural strident piece, very strident piece
Lots of percussion and some xylophone.
And it just did the right thing on three occasions and a strange thing happened several years later when I was getting involved with doing a movie with Peter O'Toole which he was obligated to do for Joe Levine, it was originally called the Ski Bum.
They shot part of it upstate at the Concorde hotel.
I don't think this ever got shot. They were supposed to go on location in Switzerland and at the last minute Peter O'Toole said I hate this script this is the worst script I have ever read I don't want to do it. And Martin Poll, who was the producer, had optioned the right to Lion In Winter so he whipped out the Lion In Winter and said Peter how about this? Peter liked it and said I think its terrific why don’t we do this instead of doing the Ski Bum which is a slightly different choice and he said yes lets go to LA and talk to Katie Hepburn. And Marty Poll said to me, we don’t have a director and I said when you go to LA why don't you take in a movie called Dutchman? It’s got nothing to do with this at all except that it’s about aggression and it’s about two people goading each other. And I had read the script for Lion In Winter and I said I think Tony could do this terrifically. So off went Marty Poll and Peter O’Toole to LA to meet with Katie Hepburn and took a copy of Dutchman with them. And they showed Katie this director’s work and that was how Tony got the job on Lion In Winter.
That’s interesting. Now Lion In Winter is from 1968 and dimensionally it’s a very large score and you had some on that by Denis Stevens who was the artistic director of the Monte Verde... the voices of the Monte Verde Academy - very interesting.
Well he had, there was a gentleman who worked because he lived in NY at the time he was like the head of the organization but there was a gentleman called Edgar Fleet and I wanted texts. And so I went to Edgar and I said look this is what I want to say, I don't know the Latin texts but I know what I want the main title to say in Latin. I know what that day of darkness and all this kind of thing and I went through the main scenes where I wanted music and told him what I wanted those texts to be and he had this terrific knowledge of Latin texts, so he came to me one evening with yards and yards of the stuff, reading them and translating them and telling me what they meant and I selected the texts that I liked. I then set them rhythmically just to get the rhythm of the Latin text and he said yes you've got it, the ear is right for the Latin and then I went away and set it all to music.
The vocal portion of that score have been equated with Stravinsky’s symphony of songs and Oedipus Rex and I think could be equated with a little bit of Carmina Burama and...
That was the obvious, for the main title theme, the obvious inspiration Carmina Burama.
It is a beautiful score. It’s at one point or at once has a real medieval feeling but also at the same time had this kind of whole tone impressionistic structure and that's very interesting
It was a nice mix, I liked it. But what it was, the most important about the score for me was, the script touched on it briefly, the head of the English royal family was still the Pope. And I wanted that to be said musically because this is what was driving him nuts. It was subliminal but it had that catholic weight of those voices and those texts coming at you ongoing really created what if it had just been a normal kind of symphonic score that would not have been there. I love to try to and find something outside of the picture, almost, and try and find some way to bring some added element or emphasise an element that isn’t touched upon.
You just alluded to the fact that you are concerned sometimes with internal and subjective music that deals with the emotion of the characters rather than maybe a particular physical action and that’s very interesting because I think you have also previously professed a fondness for Alex North and his music and Alex does the same thing and there aren’t a lot of film composers who choose to go that route.
It’s the only way. Just harking back to ‘Dances’, for instance, just to write an hour and half of music, oh we've got a big scene here that's just doesn't work for me but to put myself in Dunbar’s saddle and to try and imagine what that must have been like for him that's the whole way I did the movie. Constantly put myself in his place what was it was like, what it must have been like to see that landscape, to find the skeletons and the arrowhead to see the buffalos for the first time that is all internally from him and the music totally sprang from that it wasn't oh we've got a big scene I am going to write big music I don’t know how to do that really unless it comes from some kind of soul of the man and his observation and his response to it. I don’t know how to do it otherwise.
In 1967 I think it was the fifth Bond film You Only Live Twice, part of that score was the Space March and here again this was a real effective use, I think, of repetition it very ominous almost like a dirge and it has this same 5 note theme constantly all the way through first with the strings and then you embellish it to 10 notes and its from trumpets passed onto the tubas and then it comes back to strings I think that's a real effective piece.
I love repetition, there is something about it that intrigues me.
Now that's in vogue, this was 20 years ago. Now we would call that minimalist
A picture that might have been a little out of character, I’m not sure, in 1979 was the Black Hole for Walt Disney. You, lo and behold, wrote a Star Warsian type of heroic march for that.
That was a difficult movie to become involved with...
I didn't warm to the cast. That's all I can really say. I found it really impersonal. That was probably the most physical score I ever wrote, actually looking at stuff and saying l have to write big stuff and not being able to find the soul in the people.
That wasn't a typical John Barry score and the movie flopped. It came off as a kind of scary black-hearted …
It didn’t find the right level, it was almost too serious and actually I think Charles Champion said the score was too serious for the picture, was one of the criticisms.
Well, the picture was pretty bleak.
It was a very confused picture
No one knew if it was a children's picture
Yeah I know you have these it didn't have a clean cut to it at all and characters didn't help either there was no one to latch on to, to say there is a point of view. It was not a satisfying piece for me to work on.
Now some movies that well another movie that you worked on that also was not a success but critically somewhat of a. success now I love the movie and its one of my favourite score. The chase. The Chase was from 1966 and that had very impressive credentials. We had …
Lilly Hellmann did the screenplay and Arthur Penn directed it, and it was from a play by Foote and we had these Jane Fonda, Robert Redford and Robert Duvall - all unknowns then and Marlon Brando and it was a very effective scores it one of my favourite scores...
A lot of people, a lot of Americans thought the move was I think the word Bill Russo said, he’d seen it and he said he liked the score, but he thought the movie was very mean spirited. And I heard that word more applied to that and it was strange it was one of the few movies that was actually shown in Russia to depict the American way of life. It was strange they enlightened on that.
That movie has stayed with me, all these years. I still have filmic memory images, memory of some images from that movie and you effectively used the harmonica in that and you use the harmonica a lot and I think here again that's an under-utilised instrument.
It’s a wonderful instrument. It’s very effective and it’s a very touching instrument if you get it right.
Now there were two versions of that opening theme. I know because I have both recorded versions. The one where the opening main title was a little up-tempo and it had the same snare drum underneath and the one that’s used in the movie that’s a little slower and a little more …
Yes, exactly. I was going to say dramatic.
I can’t remember the first one that you mentioned - I don’t know how that came about.
No harmonica, same theme a little more in tempo and underneath it was a driving snare drum.
And where did that appear.
I have that on a CD. One of these underground, no it’s a commercial CD, I’ll try to remember where it is where it’s from.
It’s from a Sony collection I think.
Out of Africa is from 1985, and here again we have this big expansive opening theme that certainly portrayed the landscape and the loneliness and the bucolic feeling.
Again it was her story, you see, it wasn't Africa. Sidney Pollack when I first me with him he said when I first got a rough cut of the film I laid in every score from every movie that had ever been made about Africa and none of it worked.
So these are metaphorically, they represent and I think Dances did too, isolation and loneliness and overcoming odds.
In a strange country in a strange landscape. Absolutely the same kind of problem.
And the music typifies that
And we only used one cue in the whole of Out Of Africa that had any drums in it and that was then the tribe of Messiah passed her. We kept it totally away from African music in terms of the score.
Lots of French horns
Lots of French horns, lots of strings, lots of voices.
That’s right and not a lot of woodwinds as I recall. You have some pastel things there by the woodwinds but they don’t predominate.
You are fond of this ninth chord?
Which one is that?
You used it in Out of Africa with a flatted or lowered sixth and you used it in Body Heat also. You see I teach music theory so I go to the piano and I figure out these things, now why does John like that 9th chord with the flatted 6th at that point?
Raised 5th actually
Raised 5th actually, right
But it’s a beautiful, score and you won an Oscar for it.
Let’s talk about Body Heat for a moment. That was 1981 - how was it working with Larry Kasden? I know he wrote the screenplay.
It was the first screenplay he wrote and the first movie he directed and I read the screenplay which I liked very much and again we were very in tune with what...it was like an old Warner Bros film noire and
They tried to get that... very visceral kind of score...
Right, its, I like that score a lot. I still like the movie a lot when I look at that I think it holds terribly strong.
Where was that recorded was that recorded in LA?
In LA yes, Ronny Lang was the alto sax player, we did it at the old CBS studio there, Dan Wallin was the engineer. Good sound in the studio.
Your scores have the ability to shift quickly from a jazz idiom to symphonic and it’s nice the way they can interplay and a solo instrument can weave through all that, in this case the alto sax.
The classic score in that area is, I think, Alex North's score, for A Streetcar Named Desire, just a wonderful vision, that's one of my favourite all time scores.
He actually, I think, if I can be so bold, maybe introduced the jazz idioms to film scores.
I don’t know that he actually did, but he did it in a way that to me was with a class and a style that no one had done previously.
It would be nice if they would re-release that on CD. I don’t think it is.
I think it is.
Oh is it?
I think it is, I might be wrong. I know they put it out as an album a few years ago.
It was an Angel album and it’s a great score
What do you considered after all of this, how many scores 64?
About 80 I guess
80 scores, my goodness, my goodness. After all these 80 scores in some
I was going to say 25, what do you consider, your breakthrough score now I am not talking about particularly where the audience recognized you as a household name but what did John Barry consider his breakthrough score where he know said to himself I think this is it as far as what I want to say as a film composer.
Whew, God, that's difficult, that's really difficult because every step of the way back I started off in the popular music vein doing like the Bond movies and then when Bryan Forbes asked me to do Séance On A Wet Afternoon, at that particular point in my career that legitimised me for want of a better word people said oh he can do a serious score that was the first serious score that l did and it was totally away from what I was known for. So in terms of the industry that was the 5th or 6th movie I did that though it was a small black and white movie, in terms of the industry that meant probably more to me than any other picture funny enough in terms of people saying he knows how to score a movie in a different way.
That was a wonderful very delicate movie and a fine film score but you had the ability to work on these
Oh well, then Zulu finally came through after that which was a big adventure score with Mike Caine and Stan Baker. And you know I had the good luck to be in England in the 60s when all these things were happening there, like Hollywood came to England in the 60s. Sam Spiegel was there, Carl Foreman was there, American money was there, all the James Bond movies were being financed by United Artists. So in England, instead of me having to go to Hollywood, which I always thought I would ultimately have to do, Hollywood came to London and I happened to be there at that time.
That was the beginning of the international consortium of picture making.
Yeah, because the thing that was attractive to producers was that here were tax allowances against productions that the government allowed that attracted American moviemakers.
I think it was in the early 70s, John, you were involved in a project called Billy Liar.
Well we did it in London, it was the first musical that Michael Crawford had ever done.
Who just wrapped up …
Phantom of the Opera and Mike and I have been close friends. I am godfather to one of his daughters. I bought the rights with another gentleman and Mike was dying to do it and so we did it and we ran for 2 1/2 years at the Drury Lane theatre, very successfully. It was never brought to America. I don’t know why. Goddard recorded the soundtrack album for us, he produced the soundtrack album for us
CBS, right and we are know doing it again we're doing a revival we start rehearsal on the 29th of July in London. We have new boy called Jonathan Morris who is just wonderful. It is a very difficult play to cast because you need a person on stage who looks 17, 18 years old, adolescent, who can sing and dance, has great comedic quality and can really act.. and be very touching. And those people don't grow on trees and he's on stage nearly 95% of the play. So we've been thinking of bringing it back but we could never find anybody who could measure up. We finally, the beginning of this year, we found this young English actor called Jonathan Morris who is just magnificent and I think we'll be hearing a lot and we also want next year to bring it to Broadway, that's the plan.
When was it running in the West End?
Late 73 and ….
Well, I wish you luck with that. We’ll look forward to seeing that on the great white way. What else can you tell us about on music of the cinema?
I have bought the rights to John Steinbeck's Travels with Charlie myself which I am doing as a movie. I am writing all the music first. It’s a strange kind of structure it’s episodic and there will be probably 16 episodes and all directed by a different director ad that's in the works at the moment.
In terms of an actual movie score I am going to do a movie called The Year Of The Comet which William Goldman is his first screenplay since Butch Cassidy and Peter Yates is directing and I’ll start work. They’re shooting at the moment in England, Scotland and the south of France and I'll start work in the beginning of October on that. It's a wonderful piece. Goldman has this wonderful way of injecting a freshness into a seemingly an old fashioned story but he gives a freshness.
Is Peter Yates Australian?
No he is English. I did The Deep for Peter, he’s English, but it’s a terrific romp it’s going to be fun to do.
Well we wish you every success and we thank you so much for coming by and sharing with us on music of the cinema.
I thank you very much, Glenn, baby.
We've been talking with John Barry I am your host Glenn Wooddell
Beat Girl was just released on CD. Its a great score, for those of us that know it can take you back real quickly into the late 50s and 60s and I can remember, I must have been a freshman or sophomore in High School and almost sneaking off to see the English films that epitomized teenage, decadent teenage life
English beatniks, they were the frustrated James Deans of England.
And this was a project with Adam Faith and lo and behold his career was kind of limping along, a song took off and he happened to be in the movie and they then had you compose all of the score – this was for 1959-60?
The first song was banned in America. It was, I took, it was called ‘Made You’ and in England, Made You doesn’t mean anything so you get these BBC announcers and now we have the Top Ten hit called ‘Made You’, and then Fabian recorded it in America and it was instantly banned. I was one of the first banned people – it was very funny!
It’s a very fresh album even today
It’s got a lot of vitality to it
Yes it does a lot of energy and there is so much today that's been refitted with sound of the 50s and 60s. It was great hearing it and I may have seen Beat Girl.
Well over here I think it’s called Living For Kicks, in America I think they changed the title, in America, Living for and I think Living For Kicks...
And you worked with Tommy Steele
Tommy Steele. I started with Tommy Steele my first professional job was at the Palace theatre Blackpool with Tommy Steele in the summer show, and then I worked on a couple of movies
And he was a big star?
Huge! I mean Tommy Steele in England he was bigger if not big as Elvis Presley in England and Europe and I toured Scandinavia with him and it was unbelievable.
Well when they do a retrospective of your work we know that Beat Girl will stand up in the forefront as an icon of the 50s and 60s.
by Andrew Billen
© Associated Newspapers Ltd., 21 April 1999
For some, getting an interview with John Barry would be like being granted an audience with God. When last year he conducted a sell-out concert at the Royal Albert Hall, Caitlin Moran, a young journalist from The Times, described the three standing ovations he received as looking, from where she sat, "like praying". Be sure to spot Jonathan Ross among the disciples for Barry's return to the RAH this Friday and Saturday. In his sleeve notes for Themeology, The Best of John Barry, he wrote: "The man's a god!"
John Barry is not God - and his record with women would suggest he is not even a saint - but he is Britain's greatest film music composer. He has scored a record 10 Bond movies and won five Oscars, the last, for Dances with Wolves in 1990, coming 25 years after his first, for Born Free. A further discography is almost superfluous. Two biographies have recently been published, one by the music journalist Eddi Fiegel, who discovered him in her teenage in the mid-Eighties after being poleaxed by his Persuaders and Goldfinger themes. Jarvis Cocker, Iggy Pop, Portishead, Paul Hartnoll of Orbital and Chrissie Hynde are all believers. (Pulp, Hynde and Iggy contributed to a tribute album last year). The classical music world is being converted. Classic FM has named him one of the 10 composers of the new millennium - which sounds a bit much until you get into last year's The Beyondness of Things, the soundtrack, as it were, of the unmade biopic of Barry's life, and ask yourself if it is more or less moving, richer or less rich, than Gorecki or Taverner.
Despite all this, my own image of Barry is not of a Messiah - not even of a composer of a Messiah. It is a confusion of James Bond and one of his loucher enemies, of Roger Moore in The Persuaders and Gene Barry in Burke's Law (although I accept this last association may be nominal confusion). And I am not lightly going to discard these preconceptions. Barry was a Sixties jet-setter, he did share a bachelor pad with Michael Caine, he was married to Jane Birkin and he is a multi-millionaire with places in Chelsea and Oyster Bay, Upstate New York.
We meet in the bar of what was once the Hyde Park Hotel where I am reassured to see he orders a rum and Coke. In no other respect, however, is he the sleazy-slick lounge lizard of my fantasy. Thin, white-haired, dressed in a collarless shirt and a tweed jacket, he looks almost ascetic. Only his deep voice is opulent: silky Yorkshire but guest-starring the odd Americanism, such as "gotten" for "got".
John Barry - his original surname, Prendergast, already jettisoned - arrived in Soho from Yorkshire in 1958, leader of his own rock and roll band. The John Barry Seven collaborated with Adam Faith on his first hit, What Do You Want, and in 1959 Barry got to write the score for Faith's movie Beat Girl. A few films later, he arranged Monty Norman's James Bond theme for Dr No and did so so successfully that he became a Bond fixture. The route from Faith to Connery plots the course of Britain from The Six-Five Special to the full horror of Swinging London. And he was just the epitome of that, wasn't he?
"God," he says, "I didn't think so at the time. We didn't even know it was the Sixties. I mean, Mike Caine and I can reflect on it now but at the time ... I suppose we knew something was happening, pre-Beatles: the movie industry was happening; the music industry was happening."
Barry was happening. He had married Barbara Pickard, an electrical store worker from Scarborough, in 1960. She bore him a daughter, Susie. In a sneak preview of social mores to come, he left her for the Swedish au pair. Ulla gave him a second daughter, Sian, and returned to her homeland. Fortunately, Barry's little black book contained numbers for Shirley Bassey, Britt Ekland and Charlotte Rampling. "Barry was a big ladies' man," Caine said, pot to kettle. By now, surely, Barry must have noticed things had changed a bit from the wartime York of his childhood?
"Oh, that was for sure. There was just a kind of new-found freedom. We were all earning. We were the new crew with money. We all had our independence. We were shopping at Turnbull and Asser. We had the sports cars."
And the E-type wife, I say, quoting Newsweek, which reported that after marrying Birkin in 1965, he "drove off in his E-type jag with his E-type wife". She was 17, young enough to climb on to the bonnet of the jag and mouth "I love you" through the windows. He was 31, old enough to know better. "I don't think Jane Birkin would like to be called an E-type wife," is his reply.
A third daughter - Kate - a second divorce. Nights with Ingrid Boulting, the "Biba girl". In 1969 he wed Jane Sidey. Fiegel calls the marriage short-lived (1), even by his standards, presumably. Did he mean his vows? "Of course. I came from a family where marriages lasted for ever. I've a brother and sister who are happily married, aunts and uncles, grandpas and grandmas going right back on both sides with a whole history of complete marital fidelity and longevity. But I went to a convent school and then to St Peter's, the oldest school in England and probably the strictest, and then I worked for my father for three years, which was strong discipline, then three years in the Army. I'd had all the discipline I needed in my life. By the time I came out of the Army and formed a group, I guess you could say I went happily mad ... I think it reads a lot worse than it was."
In 1978 he married his fourth wife, Laurie, 24 years his junior. Yet this marriage endured and four years ago they had a son together. He calls her the "glue" of the deal, "very strong and a fantastic mother".
But we have jumped forward, and I mean to loiter in his impossibly hectic heyday. "I remember," he says, "going to a restaurant in LA in the Seventies with Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement [writers of The Likely Lads] and we were talking about those times and Ian said, 'I can't think how the hell we did all the work we did.' I said, 'I know! One year I did eight movies and I still had a good time. I think it's called youth.'"
And self-discipline. Barry emphasises the rigour of his childhood at his two Catholic schools, the first run by nuns so sadistic that when the Luftwaffe bombed them he was thrilled. When I ask if he ever spoke to his parents about his unhappiness he laughs and says you didn't do that to parents in York in the Thirties and Forties. Jack Xavier Prendergast was a handshaking rather than a hugging father, but John noted his devotion to the cinema chain he owned and to his family, with whom he preferred to share his spare time. Later, during National Service, Barry too chose to work rather than socialise. In a storehouse in Cyprus, he taught himself to compose by correspondence course. Barry's libido ran loose in the Sixties but his work ethic was too well-trained to abscond with it. He would get up at eight and work till one, walk to the King's Road, take a long lunch, perhaps a siesta, and get back in front of the piano before the evening parties started. And it was drink rather than drugs? "Absolutely. Italian restaurants, Italian wine. It wasn't even as boozy as people pretend. We weren't hitting the whisky bottles."
It helped that he was quick. He wrote Born Free in 12 minutes and Midnight Cowboy in 20. Sometimes it took longer. In Caine's autobiography, he recalls being kept awake, off and on, till dawn one night. He found Barry slumped over the piano having just finished Goldfinger.
With the self-discipline came the self-confidence to endure criticism. Harry Saltzman, the Bond producer, hated the Goldfinger theme and much of the rest of what he came up with: "Harry would start with, 'This is crap!' And it went downhill from there." The knocks toughened him - although Caine, who met him on Zulu, says he was tough anyway. By Prince of Tides in 1991, when Barbra Streisand phoned to say she had been listening to his theme again and "was hearing something else", Barry could tell her this was one of the most joyless professional experiences of his life and quit.
His will is clearly flint but it is applied to a world he knows is just as hard. The innocence of his childhood ended, he says, with the bombing of his school and the news that his elder brother's best friend had been shot down over Germany. The puzzle is how this wartime Yorkshire dourness becomes transformed into the romantic melancholy of his work. The archetypal Barry melody is not a bumptious James Bond theme but The Ipcress File music played on a Hungarian dulcimer and interrupted by Harry Palmer's bachelor coffee grinder. The tune is called The Man Alone and it finally leads to that great tone poem to aloneness, The Beyondness of Things.
"I guess I'm attracted to those things," he says. "Somewhere in Time is about the sense of loss. Out of Africa was most certainly about loss. Dances with Wolves was."
And Born Free? "Well, that was really a parody." Otherwise it's sad music? "It comes out that way. Music comes out of the man. I don't know how you can separate yourself."
In America in 1988 Barry underwent surgery for a ruptured oesophagus. "I was given the last rites. When I came round after the first operation, there was this priest hovering over me. It was like a 13-hour operation, and then I had three more operations over a period of 18 months."
I ask if his slow recovery, which was followed by a renaissance in his career with the Oscar for Dances With Wolves and then the renewal of having a baby son, had brought him back to God. "I don't think I ever went away," he says. "I mean, once you are born a Catholic and you go to a convent, you don't. There was a time in my late teens prior to going in the Army, but once I went to Egypt, when the trouble [over Suez] started there, and then in Cyprus I came back."
At first this surprises me, for no traces of Catholic guilt attach to his regular visits to the register office. Then, however, I remember that his choice of book on Desert Island Discs was The Imitation of Christ by Thomas á Kempis; and this was in 1967. Barry has a new album out this week, a jazz score inspired by Chet Baker called Playing by Heart (Decca), the soundtrack to a movie of the same name. His next project, however, is inspired by a book on Celtic wisdom, Anam Cara, by Father John O'Donoghue.
So does he still go to church? "On my own. Not when services are on. In my own time, to Brompton Oratory or Farm Street. I get great solace in it. I maybe go three times a week, for half an hour. My son was christened at Farm Street and he's called Jonpatrick. It is just something I can't imagine being without. You say, 'Why do you go?' I can't imagine not going, especially after the illness ..."
It hits me that the link between the stubborn Yorkshire playboy and his yearning music must be the same Church that dominated, terrified but subliminally inspired his youth. One Sunday, he tells me, he got up early and heard the Pope's official photographer interviewed on television. "And the interviewer says, 'What's his Holiness's favourite piece of music?' And I'm expecting him to say Beethoven's Ninth or something and he says, 'The soundtrack from Dances with Wolves.' I just went crazy."
A spiritual discussion is not what I had prepared for when I knotted my flashiest tie to meet John Barry this morning. Getting his photograph taken, however, the world races back into focus. Did we catch that TV drama the other night? The theme? A straight steal from The Beyondness of Things. "I'm going to sue the bastards," he says. Exit á Kempis. Enter, to a bass line of wah-woahs, Goldfinger.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd., 21 April 1999
June, 2011: We have been contacted by John's third wife, Jane Sidey, who has informed us that contrary to the reference to a "short-lived marriage" in Andrew Billen's 1999 article "Dude Barry was a lady-killer", the couple were actually married from 1969 to 1978, making it his second-longest marriage. We are happy to put the record straight.
Most of the millions who have been escaping into the darkness of the cinema during the last decade will agree that films have gained enormously in size and impact in those years, but few perceive how much is due to the revolution in film scoring pioneered by the two men KING brings together this month.
Mancini takes justifiable pride in having freed the cinema from the 'Hungarian' school of composers. It is quite staggering to realise that only six years ago in the United States, where jazz in its various forms had developed an unprecedented musical power and worldwide acceptance, film music was still firmly rooted in Nineteenth Century Europe, engulfing audiences in endless classical strings and choirs. The pop explosion, which brought the modern jazz idiom into the commercial cinema, adding a new dimension of credibility and excitement to the actors and the action, derives almost entirely from the success of Mancini's approach to Peter Gunn, a break-away American television series of the early Sixties.
In his way, John Barry performed his own miracles in this country. Most of those who remember his name, know him as the leader of the John Barry Seven, Britain's prototype pop group. It would be easy to dismiss him as a likely young lad who rode to early riches on the pop bandwagon, thought of a good number for James Bond, and let the pop-conscious film producers do the rest.
This simple-minded myth takes no account of the great technical competence and originality with which he handles orchestras and arrangements and the many years of hard academic study before the Seven were even thought of the idea of a pop group in fact grew out of the decline of Britain's big bands in the Fifties. Barry had been a trumpeter in the Green Howards for three years, using the military band as a heaven-sent instrument for proving his ideas in composition and arrangement. He intended to carry on with band arrangements professionally after leaving the 'mob' and worked for both Dankworth and Ted Heath - but a chance meeting with Jack Parnell in Blackpool changed his course. Parnell, about to break up his own band, told Barry: "We're doomed." Work was too scarce to support the overheads of a big band organisation, and Barry realised the future might lie with a smaller group, travelling light. The Seven were a success, and there followed a profitable association with Adam Faith, but it was Barry himself who decided to change direction again, and he left the Seven for the film business. As Mancini says, it was Barry's achievement to set a style for British film music and open the doors of the big movie-making companies to British composers. Mancini's own story is best told by himself in this recorded meeting between the two men.
BARRY: How much does the finance and politics of a movie get in your way, Hank? I mean a movie is made by a team, and whenever you have more than one person able to pass an opinion, you get conflict. One never walks into a uniquely happy marriage. Although you might hit it off with a certain producer-director and have a very, very strong understanding, as I have with Forbes and which I think you have with Donen and Blake Edwards.
MANCINI: I tell you what. This is one of the fringe benefits of success. I think you, John, might find this too. When you have had a good success people are less apt to question you. I feel especially sorry for many excellent musicians I know, working in television, scoring all those 36 hours of TV film a week. Those composers - and some are pretty good names to have to put up with so much dirt from producers and directors of their little films. Whereas those very same producers - if I were to come in and do one of the segments - I wouldn't even have to talk to them if I didn't want to. And that's one of those benefits. It's like having the power locked up. It's great to have, and they don't question you. Of course, it puts it all on you, and you're on your own. But you know the kind of dirt I'm talking about, John.
BARRY: Oh they say "I don't like that tune" or "It's not the tune I want; I can't hum it" so then you say 'Well, hum me White Christmas' and they make these strange croaking sounds, and you say "Yeah, you've got a great ear". I mean this guy can't even whistle the simplest thing and yet he's going to criticise you after he's hired you.
MANCINI: More basic still - and I've seen it happen - you go in to record and you've lived with this scene and you've got what you think is the right dramatic approach but some producer or director will come up and try to lead the band. I've seen this happen. He'll come right up behind the writer and actually try to lead the band from behind the fellow who's leading it, trying to make a different tempo of something. And the poor guy's up there sweating and he doesn't even know what's going on.
But the big mistake these boys, my friends, make is turning around and asking "What do you think?" That's where the noose is. And that's what you have to learn. You see normally you'll find that a director or a producer is a very forward guy because he has to tell so many people what to do. And the accepted picture of a composer is the exact opposite, a man who can't articulate what he wants. Now producers and directors know this, and so that makes for a basic conflict. And producers and directors think they know an awful lot about music when it comes right down to it. There are some I won't work for. The things even name composers have to go through with these guys sometimes is - well, beyond belief. If I got a call from them, or my agent got a call, I'd say "Forget it." Even if it were to do another 'Gone With The Wind' I don't think I'd accept. I mean, they don't understand anything-not even actors. These are well-known people I'm talking about and actors go away from their films hating them. Well, if the guy you're paying a million dollars to act in your film doesn't like you, then what am I likely to think?
BARRY: One can also have a conflict between the director and the producer and his associate producer and so on, and all these people on their side of the fence often can't even agree on how the film should be made. That's what I encountered last year on 'Born Free'. The director, James Hill, thought it was an unsentimental picture. That was his brief to me for the score. "This," he said, "is not going to be a sentimental picture." Well, then I saw it and I told him "Look. If you had set out to make the great family picture bursting with sentiment, you couldn't have got closer". Well, Carl Foreman agreed with me in a way, but he was also trying to keep Jimmy Hill happy and then there were two other producers with their own views. Altogether, I had a hell of a time throughout the scoring of that picture. In fact, I did get my score through in the teeth of the opposition and I was pretty pleased afterwards that the music was so successful with the public and the critics. I think that proved to me finally that it's a terrible mistake to compromise over a basic matter like that. I did compromise once: that was another African film - it seems to be the African films that have the hang-ups. This one was a Frank Ross production with Robert Mitchum. The main character was a kind of spoof biblical figure in the eyes of the tribe, called Mr Moses, and my idea was to do a real satirical send-up of a biblical score, which I thought was the right way, I mean that's where the humour lay in the film script. But no, they didn't want that, they didn't want anything, and it turned out a really bad compromise score. But these are things you learn.
MANCINI: Yes, well I've had a few things like that. But I think producers and directors are really like a lot of women or wives. They need to be told. You have to come in with a strong point of view - after all, it's a highly specialised thing we do, it's not something you could pull someone in off the street for. In terms of importance it's within the top five most important jobs in a film. You have to be able to come in and articulate what you want to do. I've always been able to do this by talking. A lot of the fellows do it by playing their stuff - I don't know whether you do this, John - but I don't play so good. If I played well I wouldn't compose. I found that out a long time ago. That's why I turned to arranging, because I played so badly. On the other hand, a good piano player, he can fool them pretty good by putting all the runs and trills and everything in ....
BARRY: ... and if they ever got down the simple one-note idea behind it all they'd say "Well, what's that?"
MANCINI: You can always get a good idea across provided you find the right words to use. I find there are a few simple, key words. For example, a key word is wistful.
BARRY: Another problem is to translate the producer's thoughts, because what he says he wants is not really what he wants at all. I know a certain producer who, over a wild battle scene, said he wanted Gustav Mahler. Now he didn't want Gustav Mahler at all, but he was impressed by the great Teutonic power and weight of the name. You could tell by the way he said the name what he wanted.
MANCINI: If you'd played him Mahler he'd probably have said "That's not Mahler, that's not what I asked for." But what has changed everything has been the pop explosion in film scoring. In the old days, before the jazz or modern approach came in, every score had its roots in - well, we used to say "from Hungary." It was all the Middle and Eastern European classical tradition. Dimitri Tiomkin's music is a very good example of this. But listen to those old movies on TV and you see what I mean. In the heyday of the studios when I first started writing for movies in 1952, every studio had a staff orchestra which was under contract. Like our studio, which was not the biggest, but had 35 men, and every picture was done by the same 35 men. Well, naturally enough I suppose, the boys took it easy. They wouldn't practice; they'd work maybe three or four days a week and played golf the rest of the time. A great system from the union's standpoint but for a writer with ideas who really wanted to do something original, like for brass - well, he'd write it with all good intentions but the boys simply weren't up to it. They'd fall out and get tired after the first hour. I did an Orson Welles picture, 'A Touch of Evil,' and it was nearly all in the idiom of the day. Around 1956 there was a lot of rock and a lot of mambo that was popular then-and I managed to convince our department head that we couldn't do it with the boys, so we got Pete Candoli in, and Ray Lin and all these high-powered brass men and it came up great. Pete was trumpet player with Woody Herman, like Ray, and these were real blowers of the first calibre. Don't get me wrong, those 35 men in the orchestra could get a good sound too but only at a certain level and with a certain kind of music - it was either from Tchaikovsky or from Bartok.
BARRY: There are so many different attitudes to film music, even in the business. There's the whole question of whether one considers oneself to be a movie composer, or just a composer who happens to be living in 1966. Because for a composer living today movies are as natural an outlet as the orchestra was in previous centuries. Then there's the practical attitude to the job itself. Nobody, here or in America, starts with a big movie, that's for sure. You start usually - I know I did - on a B-type movie. But if your attitude as you write it is "Well, I'm only working on a B movie," then you'll always be writing for B movies, if you're writing at all. In all the first opportunities that you get to write, you hope to inject something that will make an A-type movie producer sit up and say "Yes, he's got something". Then maybe your opportunities can grow from there.
MANCINI: I know that when I did the thing that started me after six years at the studios - that was a TV series called 'Peter Gunn' - I was just about as anonymous as you can get. But because of Blake Edwards I got a chance. Now I could have done the job as it would have been done ordinarily, but this was an opportunity. Newness was on my side. I had a guy who said "Go ahead, do what you want" and this was what attracted an original approach to a very old subject. One thing you can't do is go into a score thinking this is going to be a great award-winning movie On the other hand take 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' - 'Moon River' was the most successful song by far ever to come out of one of my movies. It's really interesting to see how a song like this makes its success financially. At the last count, there were something like 500 separate recordings of the song, worldwide, which makes it one of the most recorded of all songs - getting into the 'White Christmas' class. Well, the royalties come in from that and from the songwriter royalties on the printed music, which is a tremendous business in the States. You don't have it here so much. In the States we have 35,000 marching bands and supplying them with printed music is a tremendous business. You see, each one of those bands has 75 to 100 kids, all blowing their heads off. And each one of those kids has to have a little book with music. And each one of these books, which is of course just the particular part for the instrument, costs between 75c. and a dollar. That's six to eight shillings. Well, you multiply that by a hundred and then by 35,000 and you begin to get an idea of where the big money is in a hit song. And then of course there are performances all over the world. The royalties on published music are about six cents-three cents to the composer, three to the lyricist - but that's if you don't publish it yourself. 'Moon River' was a very good thing for me in the sense that it enabled me, two or three movies later, to retain my own publication rights. Which just gives you the whole pie, in other words. Then on band arrangements you get ten per cent of the selling price, and then of course there are choruses-well, it gets ridiculous-every high school and college has a chorus, there might be say 20,000 choruses in the States. These range anywhere from 50 to 300 voices, and printed music is made up for these people too, to sing. Especially when you have a ballad which just goes on for ever. A big song is really unlimited. I mean, take recordings. The Andy Williams album of 'Moon River' on which 'Moon River' was the principal track, the last time I talked to him he said it had sold about two and a half million-which is the same for me as selling 2,500,000 singles, because the rate is the same. So when you add it all up 'Moon River' must have brought in say between three-quarters and a million dollars-and it's still going on. But those are the three categories of revenue-mechanicals, printed and performances.
BARRY: The Bond story is pretty much the same. Mostly printed music, but fortunately with the Bond music you've got something that snowballs because it's a series, and so you've got things like sound track albums, albums of music to read James Bond by, and artists doing their own entire albums of Bond music. Not only the songs, but they start taking music cues over a certain piece of action, like Count Basic has just done an album called 'Basie meets Bond.' And of course it's an international market, the same as Hank's. I don't think you can write locally at all. I'm sure, Hank, you don't sit down and aim at an American market.
MANCINI: And you didn't sit down to write British music either. That's just the way it comes out. It's a point of view, that's all. You have to have that to start with or you have nothing. That's what gives you your unique quality. Let me tell you how new ideas really hit the Hollywood music scene. All of a sudden there's a new box, and new category of music, and underneath it is the name Barry, and next to it is another one with the name Mancini. Now you take one of these producers we've been talking about. He can only work, in terms of music, from what's gone before, from his experience. So he suddenly turns round to his writers and says "What I want is this Barry sound" or it might be "this Mancini sound." He knows what that is - that's his fortress. Fellows come up to me and say "You sonofabitch - see what you've done to me. See what they've asked me to do" We become villains, in a kind of a way, because non-thinking producers are trying to get other fellows to imitate our achievements, saying "I want the music like it was in Thunderball," or "like it was in Hatari" because they happen to have an African movie, and that's what 'Hatari' was. And in the same way, all the Bond type pictures have taken their musical form from what John did.
BARRY: An awful lot is to do with getting a fresh, original approach. It's the same whether you're writing for a TV series or movies. If you get yourself into a movie-writing box, then that can be bad. It's all to do with the overall size of your approach to music and the writing of music.
MANCINI: That's why you're writing a stage musical now of 'Brighton Rock.' That's why I do a lot of concerts, about 35 concerts a year in America. It gets me out of my chair and on to my feet, to see what's going on.
BARRY: Of course, your way has to be different here. I mean, that's really how I came into the business, through concert performances and one-night stands with the Seven. Did you know you were going into movies?
MANCINI: Oh, I knew that all the time, even if no one else did. That was certainly my ambition, my goal, to write films. My mother and father came from Italy. He was the old school. He played flute but I started on piccolo because the flute was too big. I was in the Sons of Italy band in this small town in Pennsylvania. So I could do the whole repertoire of the Italian bands, which was the Rossini overtures, the Puccini overtures, all of this. I was brought up on that side with a very strict hand. What I'm doing today is directly related to that because it's a combination of the classical approach when needed, plus the excitement and the colour of the big bands of the Forties. They were very dramatic, those bands. But John let me tell you another way your success has changed things. It used to be that when an American producer came over here there was no question that there would be an American composer on the film too, come over to do the score. Now there's a beachhead of extremely competent British composers, and you have your own school of composing, so that's no longer the case. I'm one of the few Americans who do come over here and do films now.
BARRY: And of course in reverse, British composers are going to Hollywood.
MANCINI: Like John Addison. I saw him the other day, and he's going over.
BARRY: It's coming in through another musical door.
Interview conducted 21/10/97
@ Hyde Park Mandarin Hotel
Where are you right now on The Beyondness of Things?
We recorded the orchestra on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Then rhythms and voices on Saturday. Then mixed it Sunday and Monday. The London Chamber Orchestra is the basis, but we’ve augmented it to a 90-piece orchestra. We brought Tommy Morgan the Harmonica player over from LA who’s terrific, and an English Sax player called David White. I think it’s a very interesting album.
- But it’s not a soundtrack?
It’s a tone poem. But it’s not one piece - it’s 12 separate tracks. Individual pieces.
- Have you been thinking towards something like this for some time?
Yes I have. Chris Roberts at Polygram I met about a year ago & said he’d love me to join the label. So I have a contract with them for 3 albums – not including soundtracks which we call a ‘best endeavour situation’. A lot of companies have their own affiliations with record companies. Fortunately this company that made Swept From The Sea was linked to Decca.
- So it was a wonderful opportunity to squeeze something else in. Am I right in thinking The Americans was your last non-soundtrack album? In 70....
Early ‘70s. I remember early ‘50s, late ‘50s, early ‘60s etc. That’s how I block things out.
- It’s quite a gap then.
I really love doing films & they keep coming along. I was with Sony for a while & did the 2 Moviola albums. That came about since they’d picked up the rights to Dances With Wolves. But I must say I’m really happy with the whole Polygram family. I really get a feeling they understand what I’m doing & what I’m about. Not to knock them but I never got that feeling with Sony. I was in the same group that handle Michael Jackson & the whole pop area. That’s what they’re used to & then you come along with this big orchestra piece & they don’t get it - that’s not their fault. It’s just finding the right niche & I finally feel I’ve found it. So maybe that’s one of the reasons I haven’t bothered recording something like this because I’ve not felt all that happy with the recording situations I’ve had. This is an entirely new opportunity to set aside time & do something. Come up with an idea, present it to them & do something.
- What does The Beyondness of Things ...
Mean? I just thought it was a great title! I love titles. It’s very difficult really. You’ll see from the track listing. It’s a series of thoughts. There’s a quote from a short story by Nabakov which explains some of it "_________________". I thought he’d put his finger right on it. It’s just a lot of very personal thoughts put into a dramatic context. I could go through each one and explain what it is -- but I’m not going to! (laughs). Hopefully people will react to it.
- So Swept From the Sea is the same label?
Yes. It’s had marvellous reviews in the States & been very well received.
- I know that was adapted from a Conrad short, and seeing your use of a quote on Beyondness, do you feel the need to ‘bone up’ on a film’s literary original when it has one?
I’ll tell you what happened on this one. The head of the movie company called me about Amy Foster as it was then. He said he was in England with the director Beeban Kidron (CHECK). Now I’d never heard the name & didn’t know if it was a lady or a man! So over the phone I’m expecting a guy, then this very charming woman starts talking from whom I asked for a script. In America when you want something you get it Fed-exed overnight. Here you stick it in the post and hope. So there I was waiting very eagerly for the screenplay & it didn’t come. So what I did was to go down to a local bookshop in Oyster Bay in New York, and bought a collection of the Conrad short stories. Read it. Liked it very much & I wrote 2 themes without reading the script. There were 2 things that were very obviously going to be there. This young man making this great journey from the Ukraine - Yanko’s Theme which represents the heart of the Russian background. A folksy theme. Then the Love Theme. He’s shipwrecked off the coast of Cornwall & can’t speak a word of English. The locals think he’s a madman, & Amy Foster is the girl who meets and befriends him all without communication. The first scene where they’re alone is in a barn. She goes to feed and wash him. So there’s this whole 2 and a half minutes scene with absolutely no dialogue. He wakes up and is cleaned. So the whole theme is a searching question mark - not a profound Out of Africa statement of grandeur. All very hesitant and temporary. I wrote both and recorded on piano and synthesiser. Beeban loved them and she hadn’t even shot the scene! I finally got the script & met with her. When I played the piano theme to her she loved it. I usually get 2 or 3 guys together to demo my ideas. And it worked beautifully. That’s a rare thing. But if you have a piece of literature of that quality you just know what’s going to be needed. You know he has reminiscences about his homeland. There’s a dance sequence where we go back to his home. I used a cimbalom. They had to have that in front to playback, then that was what was used as Yanko’s Theme. It’s a great movie in the sense that there are scenes without dialogue allowing the music to breathe.
- Vincent Perez is the central character.
Yes and he’s very emotional and sensitive.
- Although what you’ve just described was a rare occurrence, what I’ve always felt is your approach to scoring a film is to look at the whole thing at once. Identify an overall message or emotion and score that.
You’re absolutely right. I always go for a melody first, because it’s the most direct form of communication dramatically. It has to be versatile though. In Swept From The Sea, the love theme is used about 4 times without much change. But Yanko’s Theme used a number of times. He leaves his homeland on the train from Russia through Germany. Then the authentic dance. Then his reminiscences. Again when he dances with a little boy. It’s that one theme being used in many different ways. I remember Shostakovich saying about music to "keep the emotion intact". Once you capture that essence everything else springs from that daddy, the master file. You grow with other harmonic material. Maybe take fractions of the melody. That starts to dictate the rest of the score for you. I do love having a theme that works throughout - it’s not possible on every film. Take Out Of Africa - there was the main theme and there was Karen’s Theme. The rest was what I call scene by scene. On Dances Kevin showed me about 20 minutes of the opening sequence. A little tease of everything. So I got a feeling of the texture of the movie. All these things are terribly important. Then I went away and wrote 20 minutes of themes, knowing there had to be a John Dunbar Theme, knowing there had to be a journey theme when he takes off across this scape. Recorded them all with about 4 musicians. Played them to Kevin and he loved them. I never viewed Dances as a western but a story of a man who went out to the west. I said this to Michael Blake who wrote the script. He agreed. It’s this very heroic story of a man getting on a horse and riding across America. Everything I wrote in that movie was through his eyes. I had to dramatically get inside him and put myself on that horse. I hate writing music where I’m outside like the camera. It’s my job to get inside the soul of the person & react the way he must have thought getting on that horse.
Then I was nominated for an Academy Award, & I remember meeting Elmer Bernstein & he said "good luck but don’t build your hopes too high. There’s been some wonderful western scores written: Big Country, The Magnificent Seven, How The West Was Won. But they have this thing about western scores." So I said that was fine since this isn’t one! Theoretically then it’s the first western to win an Oscar - & written by an Englishman. I love that score, and I thought it was very spiritual. When he sees the slaughter of the buffaloes it breaks your heart. Michael told me the Indians never had a word for animals. It was another beast. I’m a man, that’s a beast.
- So ‘tatanka’ was that word?
Yes. Their naming of things was a literal thing based on whatever they first saw something do. Hence Dances With Wolves. I found that very interesting. When the Indians hunted buffalo, they only killed what they had to eat to survive. It was a big honour to be picked to go and kill to feed your family. The spirit behind all that action was wonderful. I was very moved by the story. I was up early at home watching a show that was interviewing the Pope’s personal photographer and had just published A Portrait of the Pope. All the time he’d been at the Vatican he’d taken these wonderful shots the official office didn’t want used. So he went directly to the Pope and showed what he wanted to publish and was given a direct blessing to go ahead. The interviewer asked what the Pope reads, and then asked about music. I’m waiting for him to say Beethoven’s 9th or something like that. He said he listens incessantly to Dances. That killed me. I phoned the producer and Kevin, then called the TV station to get the tapes. I think that’s a hell of a compliment.
- Isn’t a shame that from the point in time we’re talking about there’s subsequently been a real decline in the quality on films and their scores.
Oh it really is.
- Picking up on that perspective you took to scoring Dances of getting inside the character, I honestly feel that’s something very few other composers do, and wonder if that contributes to this decline?
But it sure works!
- The end result seems to be that there may be great films with scores whose albums don’t make for overly wonderful listening. Or a great album from a film where the music was lost. But with yourself it’s nearly always a great marriage on film followed by a great stand alone.
In the past 20 years I think there’s only been 4 platinum soundtrack albums - & I’m talking about scores not song albums. I’ve written 3 of them. I think Swept From the Sea has all that space in the movie to follow suit. A lot of that’s down to Beeban who really knew her stuff. We had the best of times. It’s getting subject with characters you can get inside. Sometimes you get a film in and you think ‘I can’t get inside this guy’. This whole thing with record companies pushing their albums, and the whole use of loud synthesised music is in their artificial creation it all gets lost. You know they know create horses hooves synthetically on a soundtrack? So what happens is you get a mush from the synthesised FX and music - they bleed into one another. It’s very difficult to find a movie to give you that room to be heard. Very rare you pick up a script with these qualities.
- Do you have another to look forward to?
I’m going to be starting a movie in November called Mercury Rising. Harold Becker directs Bruce Willis and Alec Baldwin. When I heard about Bruce I had reservations. You see this Die Hard image. But they sent me script which has an action sequence at beginning and end, but the middle is this wonderfully drawn character with a little boy. An almost Hitchockian mystery. It’s not an action movie. The opening sets up this guy’s response to violence and the end is where the bad guy gets it! So that’s something I can get inside. You’re constantly looking for scripts where you can do that.
- So is that thin script pool largely responsible for the musical decline?
Well - what are the movies? When you look at the nature of these movies... These big blockbusters are for the kids.
- Hopefully the independents will get more and more popular.
Let’s hope. I’d rather not do a film unless I can enjoy it. It’s the way you move an audience and subconsciously they are communicated to. If I think back to something like Lion In Winter, I had that 120-piece orchestra and 40-piece choir. What that subconsciously did throughout was suggest how beholden the monarchy were to the Pope. There was this Roman Catholic presence in the score and felt the power of the Church. I met Jacqueline Kennedy at a party. She told me Jack and her loved the whole power struggle thing. That was the sort of opportunity you have to find. I don’t know what that movie would have been like if I hadn’t come up with that idea. Even Born Free in its Disneyesque way got across on that level. Thinking of songs, Midnight Cowboy is still shown at UCLA Film School as the best example of song in film. We didn’t go out and buy a bunch of songs. It was all written especially for the scenes. It was literally scoring with songs & took a lot of care with it. The scene where he steals bread & is spotted & is shamed just kills you. The loneliness of that song drifting down over it had such an atmosphere I couldn’t have got with a score. If it’s done right it can be terribly effective. That was John’s choice & I learned a lot from it. We spent 4 or 5 hours re-recording to film you know.
- What inspires you now.
I love to drive around New York. You see some amazing things. It’s full of all these oddities. I look at things and register them. You see something and think musically. I ride around with music on and look at things. Then for a moment you see things that coincide that can be really obscure. If you were looking at that in a movie you probably wouldn’t have played what you’re listening to. It’s quite a contrast that’s an education.
- I’ve recently befriended one of your biggest fans following in your footsteps - David Arnold. Have you heard Shaken and Stirred?
Absolutely. When I was at George Martin’s studio doing the demos for Swept From the Sea, George came in and asked if I knew David who was doing a Bond album. So we met and had lunch & he played me about 4 or 5 tracks which I thought were terrific. He’s kept the true Bond essence and given it a fresh twist. And cast it beautifully as well. It’s been a labour of love for him. I think it’ll do hugely well. The first single is already doing well.
- He refers to you in life and credits you on the album as ‘the guvnor’.
That’s very sweet of him. I’m looking forward to the song he’s co-written with Don Black for k d lang - she’s got a great voice. He’s doing a documentary they want to feature me in.
- Yes. In fact David’s wife asked me to recommend where the documentary directory could research your work. I recommended the redoubtable Geoff Leonard.
Yes he knows more about me than I know about myself!
- Do you know about the way David’s recording Tomorrow Never Dies? He gets about 20 minutes parcelled together a month to score.
(Sighs) It’s terrible. I had that situation. Goldfinger for instance. The Fort Knox raid we recorded on a Monday after getting the scene Friday. So I’ve had a few of those. In fact that’s what happened when I did King Kong for Dino De Laurentiis. There was this problem where there were 2 Kongs on the way simultaneously like a race. They’d shoot 2 or 3 reels, cut them and hand them to me. It’s not enough really. After shooting about 3 weeks, the other production gave up. So I suggested slowing up to Dino, but he says (mimics Dino perfectly) "No thees ees not the way wee do it John. I gotta get it out for Christmas." Anyway I ended up doing sessions all summer, and it went on and on. You don’t know where you’re leading - you should be able to look at the whole. You get forced into writing scene by scene which is a very unsatisfactory way to work.
- The result on TND is that the album’s cues need to be delivered before the whole score will be finished recording.
That happened to me once too on The Specialist. I did the score, then Gloria Estefan and her husband did all that Miami stuff and they wanted to bring out their song album way ahead. Yet in my contract I had 2 tracks on their album. I hadn’t written any music at that point. I was In London doing Moviola. I suggested writing 2 themes and recording with the Philharmonic at the same time. Fortunately he loved them. Then the instrumental album came out much later. It’s a very difficult thing, and producers don’t understand it. They come in and say ‘why can’t it be done?’ They don’t get it. The business has changed a lot you know.
>THE JOHN BARRY INTERVIEW - 1994
For John Barry, the 3rd November of 1994 proved to be much more than just another birthday for him. On that day, much to his obvious delight, his wife Laurie gave birth to a baby - Jonpatrick - their first child, and Barry's first son (he already has three grown-up daughters). Barry shows no sign of slowing down his heavy schedule and when we spoke in December, he was enthusiastically starting work on a project which involves 'Imax', a recently developed film technique, which uses 3-D and seventy-foot high screens. However, we began our conversation by talking about his latest film score, 'The Specialist', before turning to other recently completed and forthcoming projects.
John, The Specialist is quite different from the projects you've tackled recently, what particularly interested you about the film?
Well, Stallone usually concentrates on action type films. This film wasn't that, it was more of a movie film-noire style, and it was that which attracted me to it. Another thing I particularly liked was the fact that the Stallone character and the Sharon Stone character don't meet until about a third of the way through the movie. The fact that he stalks her, they have telephone contact, and he starts to fall in love with her just through this type of contact, I found really interesting. So the music has a major part to play, I felt, in getting that relationship going, because as they weren't actually physically together from the start, it helped set the mood between the two of them. I thought that was something I'd never had to do before in a movie.
The CD album is almost an hour long, does this reflect the fact there is plenty of music in the film?
Yes, there is a lot of music in the movie. I suppose there are only two really big action sequences, one at the beginning and one at the end, but what also interested me was that there wasn't the usual kind of car chase thing with lots of noise. The excitement in the movie was the build-up to the explosion each time. So although the audience know what's going to happen, I use a lot of red-herring cues, you build each time and then as the explosion happens the noise cuts off. So it wasn't a typical action film. You know, I get offered a lot of action scripts, and having done most of the Bond films, I really want to do something a little different. I also thought it would be good to do a big-audience picture, which it has proved to be. So, although I admit it's a very popular genre, it allowed me to do something different from the usual action score.
Who first approached you to do it, and did you then follow the usual pattern of reading the script and seeing the film, or some footage?
The producer, Jerry Weintraub, initially approached me and then I had a meeting with Luis Llosa, the director. The film was made completely on location in Miami, and although I don't normally go to locations, I wanted to see some footage and on this occasion they had everything based in the Fontainbleau Hotel there - all the cutting and editing rooms were actually in the Hotel. (Note: the pool scenes at the beginning of 'Goldfinger' were shot at this hotel.) So I went down there for a couple of days, saw them shooting some stuff, saw a lot of footage, and then came back here to await the fine cut.
How long did it take to write and record the score?
I got the main thematic material way ahead, in fact, when I knew I was going to be doing it. Then I recorded those two tracks in July in London, with the Royal Philharmonic, when I was doing my Moviola 2 album, for inclusion on the song album they've put out, which features Gloria Estefan with Emilio producing. I did those tracks at an early stage because if I'd waited until I scored the movie I knew I wouldn't have time to include them on the song-score album. Then we recorded all the music in Los Angeles in September, and I used an eighty-piece orchestra.
I notice you've used Ronnie Lang (alto-sax) and Michael Lang (piano) for solos on the album, both of whom have played for you before. Do you like to request individual musicians in this way?
Yes, and I consider they are both extraordinary musicians. Ronnie, of course, used to play for the Harry James band, and so he comes from that big-band era. His playing still has that wonderful edge, and he understands exactly what to do. When you talk to him it's like a director talking to an actor, make it lighter or heavier, or whatever - he just drops straight in there. Michael Lang is a wonderfully inventive pianist.
Would you do the same thing when you're recording in the UK, in asking for certain players, or do you leave it all to the judgement of the fixer?
Well in London I have a marvellous alto-sax player, David White, whom we used on the first Moviola album. He played solos on Body Heat and The Cotton Club and is a really wonderful musician.
I'm looking forward to seeing the film; certainly the score suggests a mood similar to some moments in Body Heat and Hammett, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Yes, I love that kind of genre, and the director, Luis Llosa, really captured the feel of it. The lighting, too, is very special. Luis is Peruvian, incidentally, and this is only the second film he's made in America - Sniper was the first.
The film didn't get brilliant reviews in America but still did well at the box-office. I imagine they must have great hopes for it when it opens in Britain.
It did huge business in America. I believe worldwide so far it's done 120 million dollars, which can't be bad! I think Warners knew it was the kind of film that wouldn't necessarily get good reviews. They didn't show it to the press beforehand, which always gets a back-lash, but instead they ran a big TV campaign just two weeks before it opened, with saturation coverage, and it achieved the biggest October opening, taking around 14 million dollars during the first weekend.
Returning to the album, the CD seems to run almost without noticeable gaps between tracks, giving the effect of a suite - was this a deliberate policy?
Right, I like doing that. I did that with my engineer, Shawn Murphy, and if you remember we achieved a similar effect on my Dances With Wolves album. I love making it fit together in that way, almost as one piece.
Now, you mentioned Moviola Two - can you tell me anything about that project?
Yes, I believe the album will be out in April, I'm in the process of getting the artwork together as we speak. All the music was recorded at George Martin's Air studio in Hampstead, London during July. There is a Bond suite that includes Goldfinger, The James Bond Theme, From Russia With Love, Thunderball, 007, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever, All Time High (Octopussy). Themes from Until September, King Kong, Zulu. Then we have an action suite from Dances With Wolves - Pawnee Attack, Kicking Bird's Gift, Journey To Fort Sedgewick, Two Socks - The Wolf Theme, Farewell and Finale (parts one and 2). Finally the two tracks from The Specialist we talked about earlier. I'm very excited about it, I think it makes a wonderful album.
Turning to your musical, Billy, I saw a piece in a local paper recently which quoted Jason Donovan as saying he was thinking over an offer to star in the title role. Is there anything in this?
Absolutely, we're definitely doing it again this year with Jason playing Billy. I believe we go into rehearsals in May and open in Manchester in early July, before hopefully moving into the West End.
That's excellent news, as it was a major disappointment a few years ago when a revival was cancelled at the last moment due to problems with the production company. Are you confident of no hitches on this occasion?
Yes, we've some excellent people involved this time, and I'm particularly pleased that Patrick Garland will be back directing.
I saw the show for the first time a few weeks ago in Bristol, through a performance by the junior section of the Bristol Amateur Operatic Society.
Oh really, what was it like?
Well, bearing in mind it was an amateur production, I thought they put a lot of hard work and energy into it. I heard and enjoyed the two new songs you wrote with Don Black, and was very impressed with the lad who played Billy. I hadn't realised quite what a demanding part it is.
Oh yes, he's on the go constantly - virtually on stage throughout - which is why it's been so difficult to cast.
Now, in the new year we shall see CD reissues of King Rat, The Wrong Box, The Lion in Winter, and a gold edition of Dances with Wolves. I once heard Jerry Goldsmith talking at a film music seminar when he said he didn't care for all these reissues, as he considered there was already far too much of his music available on CD. What is your reaction to these reissues?
No, I don't really go along with that. In fact, Dances with Wolves is going to be a very special kind of package, and I quite like these old scores coming out - they're being put together in an excellent fashion. There are one or two of my very old scores I could well do without being reissued (laughs).
Do you mean as with Four in the Morning?
Yes, exactly. That was a very sparse score. I mean, it worked perfectly for the movie, but it's not a piece you want to listen to away from the movie. It was a very dark picture with a very limited budget, like an oboe and four cellos or something - I don't really think the score is for record consumption. But I love my score for The Wrong Box and for King Rat which was my very first Hollywood score - Bryan Forbes took me over there for that one.
I'm sure you remember a film you scored early in the sixties - The Party's Over - directed by Guy Hamilton. EMI apparently have a recording of the theme which they might release on a third volume of their EMI Years series. Was this simply your arrangement of the standard song?
Well let me say straight away that The Party's Over was a very low budget black and white film. They said they were going to buy the rights to the song to be able to include it in the film, and I told them they wouldn't be able to afford it - the cost would exceed their total budget for the film. Which proved to be the case. So I wrote a song called 'Time Waits For No Man' for Annie Ross, but there was nothing called 'The Party's Over', so I don't know what this theme is they have.
I noticed 'Unchained Melody' is also listed.
Well, I didn't do that. In fact, there were one or two things on that second volume they did that I don't recall. I mean you always remember things like that. You might have forgotten you did it but as soon as you hear the first few notes you think, "Christ, yes I did do that!" When I look back, there was an amazing amount of stuff recorded in a very short period of time. It was as though we were in Abbey Road every week!
John, as you know the Louis Armstrong recording of 'We Have All The Time In The World' has recently been a huge hit in Britain having reached number 3 in the singles charts - you've told the story before about how it was originally only successful in Italy. Wasn't it a drunken DJ who played it all night?
I don't know whether he was drunk! Did I say he was drunk? No, it was this one guy in Rome who liked it and played it and as a result we had a number one hit for months. When On Her Majesty's Secret Service opened it was the only place in the world where we had any success with the song.
I suppose the song was rather hidden away in the film.
Yes, but also O.H.M.S.S. was the first of the Bond films not to make any real money.
I thought it was a fine film and maybe if Sean Connery had played Bond it could have been different.
Yes, I don't think George Lazenby ever really connected with the part. On the other hand, I thought the film had some of the best action sequences in the series, with excellent direction from Peter Hunt.
Now you wrote the song with Hal David, after previously working mainly with Leslie Bricusse orDon Black - how did this collaboration come about?
Well, I can't recall the circumstances exactly, but Hal was in London at the time which is how we met, and at that stage we already knew we weren't going to have a song called 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' - I mean, what can you do with a title like that! But, there was a line in the script, almost the last line - "We have all the time in the world", as his wife gets killed, which was also in Fleming's original novel, and I liked that as a title very much. Now I'd always liked Walter Huston singing 'September Song' in the film 'September Affair', where as an older character he sang about his life in a kind of reflective vein. So, I suggested to Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman that Louis Armstrong would be ideal to sing our song in this fashion.
So he was your suggestion?
Yes, and it was quite frightening really, because until then we'd gone for current pop stars of the day like Tom Jones and Nancy Sinatra. So this was quite a departure. Anyway, they both loved the idea, so we called his agent and Louis was still in hospital actually at that stage - he'd been there for about a year. But he said he'd love to do it. He came out of hospital and sadly it was the last song he ever recorded. We did it in New York, at the old A & R Studios, which have since been pulled down. The engineer on that session was Phil Ramone, who produces all the Sinatra sessions and all those wonderful Billy Joel songs. Although we recorded the song in New York, the rest of the score was done as usual at CTS in London.
Do you mind that the song has become a hit now in Britain probably only because of the success of the Guinness advert?
Absolutely not. I think Guinness is a hell of a drink! It's ironic in a way that somebody's selling ale and you get a hit out of it. But that's the way of the world. Actually, Hal David came to tea on Sunday and we discussed another song we wrote. You might remember Monte Walsh, my very first Western that starred Lee Marvin and Jack Palance. I thought it was a very interesting movie but it wasn't particularly successful. Anyway, we wrote a song for the movie called 'The Good Times Are Coming' which was sung by Mama Cass. I said to Hal that I didn't think I had a tape of it anywhere, but I'd love to get it released again, because I loved that song. It turned out to be one of Hal's favourites too, so we're going to see what we can do.
You decided not to do the Nicholas Cage film, It Could Happen To You, after problems with the producer. I saw the soundtrack recently which is now full of pop songs, and this also happened with The Bodyguard - a film that you also once considered scoring. Would you say producers are interfering more these days, and is this why you've left the occasional project?
Well that wasn't the reason I didn't do those films, it was something else. No, funnily enough, Emilio Estefan wrote many songs for The Specialist before I got involved and I think initially they thought it was going to be more of a song score. But you could tell from reading the script that it wouldn't work, because it was so specific in its action and its detail and its momentum that your instincts tell you that songs are not going to carry those moments. So I think some songs got rather short shrift in the movie - which I'm sad about, but it's one of those things - you can't have it all ways all of the time.
What about future projects, John, you've mentioned Billy, but is anything else on the horizon? Travels With Charlie, for example.
Yes, we've got a script going on that at the moment. I'm doing it with 'Tig Productions', which is Kevin Costner's company, and I'm co-producing with Jim Wilson. We're in the process of presenting it to various Television networks - it's always been designed for television. It'll probably be done in three two-hour segments, we've got a very good screenplay and I'm optimistic we can do a deal with one of the networks.
Something else we've just done, concerns Somewhere in time. I've always wanted someone to come up with a lyric for my main melody for that film, and although several people have tried, I've never been really happy with any of them. Now, B. A. Robertson has written a wonderful, wonderful lyric and Michael Crawford is opening in the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in a new show that starts on New Year's Eve and will feature it. He's also recorded it just last weekend with some other songs for a new album for Atlantic.
Many people would be delighted if you scored Goldeneye, the new Bond film - is there a chance of this?
I really don't know at this stage. We'll have to see. It's much too early to say.
So you haven't turned it down?
Well you know what they say - you never say never!
Does this also apply to concerts?
As far as concerts are concerned, we've been talking to the management of the Royal Philharmonic because having done the two albums they're familiar with the music and it would reduce the time needed for rehearsals. Because when you're going into a concert with an orchestra, the rehearsal time allocated is normally so short. I remember doing a concert at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and I literally had a three-hour rehearsal. And you can't do any more than a read through really, you can't get into any kind of fine tuning - I was a total nervous wreck before I went on. So unless you can have a finely-rehearsed orchestra, then I really don't want to know about it. But if something can be worked out with the Royal Philharmonic, either here in America or in England, I would be glad to do it, maybe a series of three or four concerts in London, Birmingham, Glasgow etc., I would like to do that - if we can bring our schedules together.
So as far as you're concerned, rehearsal time is critical?
Absolutely. But as I say, they know all the music, they've rehearsed and recorded it, so it would mean that if I could have one day's rehearsal with them, just to bring them up to scratch, it would be fine.
John, it's been an excellent year for you, we're looking forward to seeing The Specialist and to hearing Moviola 2 when it's released. Thanks very much for your time.
Thank you Geoff.