“Golden words he will pour in your ear
But his lies can’t disguise what you fear”
Welcome to week #6 of 00 Saturdays here on Film Seizure. Last week, I talked about the 1964 film that many will mark as the “best” Bond film, Goldfinger. This week, we’re going to look at the musical theme to the movie – that I think surpasses the film itself by miles.
John Barry returns for the score, and perhaps the most recognizable first three syllables in any theme song ever makes for a particularly memorable tune that would have a great deal of influence in future title songs as late as the 90s.
Let’s get right into that theme song, shall we? John Barry’s composition begins with blaring horns. While I might have had issues with the opening sequence being played more for laughs, the first notes of the title song revs up your excitement for the adventure ahead.
It was John Barry who would campaign for Shirley Bassey to sing the song. Bassey was an up and coming singer at the time. This would also be the first of three Bond themes Bassey would sing. However, while she would be fairly popular in England with several albums reaching the UK Top 15, and several moderate hits leading up to singing “Goldfinger”, this song would be her only top 40 hit in the United States. She is most notably a singer of bombastic jazzy and bluesy lounge songs. She was even on the BBC quite often for about 50 years. She even had a regular variety show that ran for a couple years as well.
The theme was produced by George Martin. You might remember that from two weeks ago when I mentioned he was Matt Monro’s producer as well. While John Barry wrote the composition for the music first, he did get help on the lyrics from Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse. In fact, the first demo recordings before Bassey would perform the final version was done by Newley. Interestingly, Harry Saltzman, co-producer of the early Bond films, is noted as being very harsh on the song. In fact, he hated the song because he thought it was too old fashioned for younger audiences. It was Albert Broccoli (the other Bond producer) that convinced him to keep it. I think it is pretty funny that for a movie I feel is antiquated due to a leading male who seems to be overtly chauvinistic in the movie, half of the producing duo wanted to have a song that was younger and fresher.
Either way, this is a classic of the series. While I do feel there are better songs, this is one that both set and broke the mold of the Bond theme song. There is no song more tightly entwined with its movie than “Goldfinger” is. If you only had a passing knowledge of the films in the series, hearing this song would probably give you an accurate feel for how the early Bond films played out and carried themselves.
John Barry would seem almost untethered in this film’s score. It’s often said this is where he perfectly managed to meld loud jazz brass with classic orchestral composition. Barry would state this was not only the first time he had complete and utter control over the entirety of the score, but one of his favorite scores in his entire career.
The score is usually described as ballsy and raunchy. It really is. There is a swagger to it that feels uniquely masculine while also a slinky flow that feels feminine. I think it is best described as two styles of music, classical and jazz, having a slow, seductive dance. It’s a sexy score. There is a variation to this idea that Barry will build from in future scores as well.
One final note, this was the first Bond soundtrack to land at #1 on the Billboard 200.
The Opening Title Sequence
So, hey! Remember last week when I talked about how the appeal to the opening title sequence for From Russia with Love was projecting the cast and crew onto belly dancer body parts? Well, why not do something similar again? This time, project moments from this movie and previous films in the series onto a bikini-clad golden girl?
While not exactly as tantalizing as “007” projected on shaking boobs, it is definitely cashing in on Shirley Eaton’s ultimate fate in the film. I do feel bad for the union people whose names are NOT being seen because I’m trying to see what all I can see of this golden lady.
It should also be mentioned that, like with the previous film, Binder didn’t do these titles. He still gets credit for the gun barrel sequence reused from the previous two films, but it is not his titles. Instead, they were designed by Robert Brownjohn. I don’t want to say they are necessarily “lesser,” but they don’t feel quite as imaginative as what Binder would do later. Still, it is consistent as what he did in the previous film. Instead of the actual credits, it’s parts from the films playing over the girl.
Take a look at the 1:57 mark and watch the golf ball get putted into the girl’s cleavage. That’s a blink and you’ll miss it kind of moment. Kudos to Brownjohn for getting that.
Join me next week for a look at the fourth Bond film, Thunderball.