Posts tagged ‘John Barry’


My 10 favourite Don Black lyrics

21.05.2021

I’ve bought Don Black’s The Sanest Guy in the Room, which is a great read—you know that it’s piqued your interest if you can do 110 pages in a single sitting. There’s more to go, and it’s entertaining learning a bit about the backgrounds to his songs, ‘Born Free’ arguably his best known. (I do know there are insurance commercials with the song, so I hope he, and the families of John Barry and Matt Monro are getting decent royalties from them—though it’s pretty bad I have no idea which company it’s for. I assume it’s a successor firm to AA Mutual.)
   Don has been very humble in this book and in one part, excerpts his favourite lyrics that others have written. In my mind, however, Don is the top man in his business, and it seems right that I highlight a few of my favourites out of his extensive repertoire and honour him. These come to mind, in no particular order. Many show a good use of rhyme, and all evoke imagery. The repetition of a root word is also clever. And they’re “singable”. As someone who works with the English language professionally they appeal to me for their ingenuity and, in some cases, brevity. Surprisingly, by the time I chose 10, I realized I had not included any of his James Bond lyrics.
   Any errors are mine as I recall the songs in my head.

But how do you thank someone
Who has taken you from crayons to perfume?
(‘To Sir with Love’, from To Sir with Love)

You’ve been dancing round my mind
Like a bright carousel.
(‘If There Ever Is a Next Time’, from Hoffman)

While your eyes played games with mine
(‘On Days Like These’, from The Italian Job)

This way Mary, come Mary,
While the sun is high,
Make this summer the summer that refused to die
(‘This Way Mary’, from Mary, Queen of Scots)

Walkabout,
And as you wander on
Reflect and ponder on
The dreams today forgot to bring.
(‘Walkabout’, from Walkabout)

The me I never knew
Began to stir some time this morning.
The me I never knew
Arrived without a word of warning.
You smiled and you uncovered
What I had not discovered.
(‘The Me I Never Knew’, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)

Most people stay and battle on with their boredom
But what’s the sense in dreaming dreams if you hoard ’em?
(‘I Belong to the Stars’, from Billy)

Love has no season,
There are no rules.
Those who stop dreaming are fools.
(‘Our Time Is Now’, from the Shirley Bassey album The Performance)

Main attraction, couldn’t buy a seat
The celebrity celebrities would die to meet
(‘If I Never Sing Another Song’, as originally performed by Matt Monro)

There’s so much more for me to find,
I’m glad I’ve left behind behind.
(‘I’ve Never Been This Far Before’, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)

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May 2021 gallery

01.05.2021

Here are May 2021’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.

Sources
Viki Odintcova, via Instagram.
   Alexa Breit, photographed by Weniamin Schmidt, via Instagram.
   Vickery Electrical advertisement: something I asked my Dad to photocopy for me in the 1980s. Briefly we had one of those Apple II portables, on loan from a colleague of Dad. I can’t recall if it had one disk drive or two, but it was a fun little unit to have in my bedroom for that period. Dad was prepared to buy it if I wanted to keep it, but I didn’t have much software to run, plus I already had the Commodore 64 for schoolwork.
   Lucire issue 43 cover, photographed by Damien Carney, creative direction and fashion styling by Nikko Kefalas, make-up by Joanne Gair, hair by Kirsten Brooke Anderson, and assisted by Rachel Bell, and modelled by Elena Sartison. Find out more here.
   Drew Barrymore quotation from Elephant Journal on Twitter.
   I still have plenty of old stamps, which I tend to save for family (though I’m less discerning about those discounted Christmas ones, which I always used to buy in bulk). This is going to my cousin’s daughter and her husband, and their family.
   Comments after an article on Buzzfeed News. Business as usual for Facebook.
   Happy birthday to our niece Esme!
   Tania Dawson promotes Rabbit Borrows, from Instagram.
   Bizarre that the only car with a manual transmission on sale at Archibalds is from the 1950s. I’m sure New Zealand was majority-manual into the first decade of this century.
   More on the 1982–94 Chevrolet Cavalier at Autocade.
   Citroën C5 X, as covered in Lucire.
   Amira Aly (Mrs Oliver Pocher) photographed by Christoph Gellert, reposted from Instagram.
   Gaza statistics, sourced from Twitter.
   Even after 44½ years of living in the occident, I find certain western customs very strange. From Twitter.
   Number crunching from Private Eye, reposted from Twitter.
   Evaporated milk, reposted from Twitter.
   Triumph Herald advertisement from the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   Cadillac tailfins, reposted from Tumblr.
   This photo of Sophia Loren was captioned ‘© David Hurn | Sophia Loren, Inglaterra, 1965’ on Tumblr. I wonder if she is on the set of Stanley Donen’s Arabesque. Reposted from Tumblr.
   I had the pleasure of watching Peggy Sue Got Married again a few weeks ago. This was a nice scene at the end, that seemed to suggest that Peggy Sue had travelled back in time. John Barry’s score is sublime.
   The Murdoch method: reposted from my old NewTumbl account.
   Alexa Breit photographed by Sagaj, reposted from Instagram.

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I can finally identify with the main character in a New Zealand TV show

31.03.2021

While I care much more about when John Simm will grace our screens again (pun intended), it was hard to avoid the reality TV that gets beamed into our living rooms during prime-time. There is the disgusting Married at First Sight Australia, where I am speechless with shock that fellow Scots alumnus John Aiken appears to dispense mansplaining without conscience, but, on the other channel, the far more pleasant The Bachelor New Zealand, where, finally, for the first time on our airwaves, I see a Kiwi male that I can identify with. Apart from the times when I appeared on telly (I realize that this sentence sounds wanky, but if you can’t identify with yourself, then there’s something wrong).
   While Zac the lifeguard from a few years ago seemed like a lovely chap, he was in many ways the usual stereotype: sporty, unfazed, carefree, white, with a great smile. Moses Mackay is cultured, worldly, considered, respectful, humble, well dressed, and, surprisingly for this show, wasn’t quick to snog every contestant. It was also nice to see a bachelor who’s a person of colour on our screens for a change. He grew up poor and that’s not an unfamiliar story to many of us. He’s comfortable talking about his relationship with God. Heck, he even croons for a living.
   I’m no Matt Monro but I’ve serenaded my partner—just get us at the James Cook when the elderly gent is banging out tunes by Michel Legrand, or, as I call him, Big Mike, on the lobby piano. And yes, for some of us, this is perfectly normal. Just ask Moses.
   For all of us fellas who wanted to see an example of a cultured Kiwi gentleman on our screens—and as the fêted star, not the comic relief—our wishes were finally granted.
   I’ve no idea whom he picked, although I knew one of the contestants who didn’t make it—New Zealand is that small. I could say the same about Zac’s season as well. I’m sure not knowing the outcome also puts me in a minority. But I wish him well.

I’m reminded of my friend Frankie Stevens, since I mentioned Matt Monro above. I once did the same to Frankie and he said something along the lines of, ‘I was touring with Matt. We were in Spain, and he’d come in the morning with a glass of whisky.’ Another time I mentioned John Barry. ‘I worked with Johnny and Don Black. On The Dove. I sang the theme tune but Gregory Peck wanted someone else.’
   For my overseas readers: you don’t usually have these conversations in Aotearoa with a guy who’s not only met your musical heroes, but worked with them. All I could do was show I had the theme on my phone.
   With apologies to Lyn Paul, but Frankie would have been great (and indeed better) singing the theme to The Dove.

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My John Barry top 10: ready when you are, J. B.

01.02.2011

What are my top 10 John Barry picks? The man had done such a variety of compositions that it’s hard to pick them out without qualifying a top 10 with genres. But for me, these stick in my mind as being the most significant, often because they are tied to important moments in my life.

Somewhere in TimeTheme from Somewhere in Time
This moved me so much that I played it at my Mum’s funeral. I wrote lyrics to it before the Michael Crawford version emerged. Barry said he received more mail about his work on Somewhere in Time than anything else. It’s not hard to see why. It was tied to the passing of his parents and the theme remains the most haunting and emotional tune he wrote in his career.

The PersuadersTheme from The Persuaders
You can’t divorce the feeling of running around the Riviera from the hipness of Barry’s theme—I used to bomb along the Moyenne Corniche with the theme going, reliving Danny and Brett’s adventures.

Annie Ross‘A Lot of Living to Do’
Not a Barry composition, but he produced an album for Annie Ross at Ember. It’s the arrangement and Johnny Spence’s orchestra’s performance that lifted this song for me, and it never fails to get me in a good mood.

OHMSSOn Her Majesty’s Secret Service
While many 007 aficionados point to Goldfinger, for me, it was the lush orchestral arrangements in OHMSS that stand out to make it John Barry’s finest James Bond score. The theme is more Bondian than anything else he did, in my opinion, and lent the film more richness than its lead actor, a young George Lazenby, was then able to convey. ‘We Have All the Time in the World’ nearly deserves its own entry, especially the string-heavy instrumental version played after the death of Tracy in the film, but much of the incidental music just has vistas of Swiss mountains somehow built in. You can’t help but see those images in your head when tracks such as ‘Journey to Blofeld’s Hideaway’ and ‘Attack on Piz Gloria’ are played.

ChaplinChaplin
The 1990s were the last active decade for Barry, if you don’t count Playing by Heart and Enigma at the turn of the century, and with Chaplin, his last collaboration with director Richard Attenborough, a mature Barry is able to reflect on the passing of time as well as that of Charlie’s life. The score is moving, more so in my opinion than his Oscar-winning Out of Africa or Dances with Wolves (the latter, I thought, was overrated) as it takes the action from London slums to Charlie receiving an Academy Award in 1972.

Theme from Eleanor and Franklin
This was a TV-movie about the First Family, but its theme still has a sense of occasion and “American-ness” to it. I always thought if I ever chose to get married, it would be a lovely theme to use. Unlike many of Barry’s grand themes, Eleanor and Franklin doesn’t have a sense of sorrow or melancholy to it, yet it gives any occasion a feeling of dignity.

Born FreeBorn Free
Deserves inclusion here, not because it was one of Barry’s greatest works (he wrote it as a Disney pastiche), but because there’s no way you can be my age and not know it. It’s a song from childhood; my late mother was called Elsa (sharing her name with the lioness); and it’s incredibly singable. Like a pastiche of a Disney song.

From Russia with LoveFrom Russia with Love
Another non-Barry theme song, but tied to Barry because of his long involvement in the James Bond films. He arranged and conducted the theme for the movie, and the Matt Monro vocal version remains one of my favourite Bond songs.

MoonrakerMoonraker
Bond purists hated Moonraker because it was the furthest Eon Productions took things from the novels of Ian Fleming, but it was blessed with a lush orchestral score from Barry. The Bonds, by this time, didn’t need to have a cutting-edge sound, and Barry himself, maturing as a musician, took a classical route toward the end of the 1970s. The theme was sung by Shirley Bassey and, in my opinion, remains one of the better ones; and Barry proved that you didn’t need heavy drumbeats, rapid rhythms, or Bee Gees-style synthesizers (cf. The Spy Who Loved Me) to make a Bond score work in 1979. The theme was rumoured to have originally been destined for Frank Sinatra to perform, but, according to Barry, ‘it just didn’t work out.’ The master tapes aren’t around, but good quality recordings of the full score exist, though nothing has come of them. Because of the low opinion many Bondophiles have of the movie, it’s unlikely to be re-recorded any time soon—though with Barry’s passing, it may finally be rediscovered as the gem that it is.

Moviola‘Moviola’, or ‘Flight over New York’ from Across the Sea of Time
A strange entry. It was understood that ‘Moviola’, which appeared in the album of the same name, was in fact Barry’s unused theme for Barbra Streisand’s The Prince of Tides. Why let it go to waste? Perhaps such a great composition deserved a cinematic airing, and Barry incorporated it into his score for the IMAX film Across the Sea of Time. I never saw the film, but it is a classic, sweeping Barry composition that us fans love, though it would be an exception in being a number that was not written for the film it appeared in. (There were elements of Zulu in Cry, the Beloved Country, but Barry defended this by saying it was based on an actual Zulu song.)

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The music of goodbye: farewell John Barry

31.01.2011

It was with great sadness that I wrote an obit about my favourite composer, John Barry, today, and published it on the Lucire website.
   While Barry didn’t have to do with fashion per se, his music was often fitting themes to each era. Who can write a complete history of 1960s’ music without some of its anthems: Barry’s Goldfinger and Born Free themes must rank highly (the Academy thought so with the latter; ironic considering Born Free’s producer did not), and the haunting ‘We Have All the Time in the World’? Barry fans like me will point to even his 1970s’ output as brilliant, regardless of the merit of the film: Murphy’s War, King Kong and The Deep work as stand-alone works as far as I am concerned. This blog itself is named for a TV series for which Barry wrote the theme, The Persuaders. Somewhere in Time remains as haunting now as it did then; Barry’s contribution to Out of Africa made the film seem larger than it really was. John Barry had style—and style is the currency my magazines deal in.
   It’s easy to point to Barry’s major works, as the obits have done, but as I type, I can think of The Glass Menagerie, Across the Sea of Time, Masquerade and Swept from the Sea as excellent scores, too.
   Barry once said that he was very visual. It’s an odd comment from a composer, but what he probably meant was that he could find music to complement scenes that he saw. For someone who wanted to be a film composer since childhood, and taking every opportunity to get there, his is a career that many of us would rightfully envy. He loved what he did, was acclaimed for it, and managed to live his daily life in reasonable privacy.
   I understood the visual comment but it was hammered home best when, driving around Oriental Bay, I saw one of the ferries go out. At the same time, Barry’s Raise the Titanic theme came on my tape deck (this was a while ago).
   Now, a Wellington–Picton ferry is not the Titanic, but I was amazed at how well the theme complemented the sight of a ship in the harbour. It was then I realized just how hard it would be for a musician to convey images, and just what Barry meant. I defy anyone listening to the Raise the Titanic theme (presuming you can find it—mine was not conducted by Barry) to not get nautical images in your head when it’s played and your eyes are shut. That’s how good Barry was.
   I always knew at some point I would write John Barry’s obit. I didn’t expect it so soon, but then, I imagine, no one did. He’s the only celeb whose obit-writing caused me to tear up; when composer David Arnold Tweeted that he felt that ‘Mary’s Theme’ from Mary, Queen of Scots was fitting, I teared up a little more.
   For me, John Barry’s music is the music of my teenage years and my 20s. So much of what I did, I did to a Barry soundtrack. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’s CD accompanied me into my first trip to Switzerland—like the experience with the ferry, it went with the snowy landscapes. As I bombed around Monaco and the South of France, it was The Persuaders’ theme (which I even referred to when I wrote a story about the experience). It was a further bond with my good friend, Richard Searle—when he got me out of some legal issues many years ago, a Barry biography was my gift to him; when I met Donna Loveday, the curator, Barry came up again—she even used one of his compositions at her wedding.
   It’s like a little bit of myself died today—that’s the feeling I get from the news. I never met John Barry nor did I meet anyone who knew him. The closest I got was Richard telling me he had been to a Barry concert, of which I was very jealous.
   But I am a fan, and will remain so till my days end. He was the only musician whose career I can say I followed for a majority of my lifetime. So this is how it feels to lose a celebrity whose work you truly admired.

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How MG Rover mirrored the developments at Lada

02.11.2010

I still have Adam Curtis’s The Mayfair Set, a TV series charting the decline of British power and the rise of the technocracy, recorded on video cassette somewhere. I consider him someone who can see through the emperor having no clothes, and in The Mayfair Set, he certainly saw through the Empire having no clothes.
   As I type this, John Barry’s ‘Vendetta’ is going through my head as an earworm: the series used this piece as its theme tune.
   On my friend Keith Adams’s Facebook page was a link to Curtis’s blog at the BBC website, titled with a reference to another song, this time from Maurice Jarre’s Doctor Zhivago score. Curtis begins by saying that he uncovered a 1977 film about two British Leyland workers heading to Togliattigrad, where the Жигули (Zhiguli, or Lada to those of us outside the Soviet Bloc) was built.
ВАЗ-2101   At Togliattigrad, the managers used the chaos that was allowed to prevail to set up their alternative economic structures to line their own pockets—and corruption was rife.
   He writes, ‘What then happened is murky, but it is alleged that the managers in effect looted their own factory.’
   So far, so good. It read as a story about the bad old days of communism—till Curtis draws the clear parallels between Togliattigrad and what happened in the last days of the remnants of British Leyland. The Phoenix Four used money meant for the plant for themselves.
   Curtis again: ‘The Phoenix directors systematically restructured the business. They did it in a way that ensured that many economic benefits flowed not to MG Rover and the thousands of workers, but to the directors themselves and the man they appointed chief executive of MG Rover.
   ‘The [government] report [into the collapse of MG Rover] is over 800 pages—and it is a fascinating snapshot of our time. It lists all sorts of schemes with names like “Project Slag”, “Project Platinum” and “Project Aircraft”—all of them designed to try and bring profits not into MG Rover but into the holding company set up by the Phoenix consortium.’
   No more western superiority here: chaos—whether in the political, social, cultural or commercial realms—breeds opportunity for many. The trick is always to ensure that the opportunists are those who can put things right, rather than selfishly benefit themselves.
Beyond Branding cover   Some might see Curtis’s blog entry as a criticism of the monetarist, technocratic system—as was The Mayfair Set.
   But it is equally a story about how the absence of transparency breeds systems that benefit the few—regardless of whether the background is communism or capitalism.
   These are themes that we at the Medinge Group explored as early as 2003 in Beyond Branding, written in the wake of the Enron collapse. We’ve partly stayed on the same theme over the last eight years, because history shows us that transparency is often the enemy of inequity and unfairness. And even the technocracy.

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