Okay, here’s my reasoning behind this week’s FSotW…. Live & Let Die is a James Bond movie, with the score composed not by John Barry, but by none other than the legendary Beatles’ producer, George Martin. Its music was thus included in an entire Bond soundtrack “re-imagining” on an album called Shaken And Stirred, featuring several pop stars working under the watchful eye of a British composer: David Arnold.
Now, the London 2012 Olympics are currently in full swing. David Arnold was Danny Boyle’s right-hand man for the opening ceremony, writing and directing the music we heard during Friday’s extravaganza. Who else did we see on Friday? Paul McCartney, of course, former Beatle, world’s most successful musician, and the writer/performer of the theme tune to a James Bond movie….. Live & Let Die. So, this is a slightly Olympic-y celebration of British talent and a chance for me to dive into the soundtrack of Bond’s funkiest film.
The theme song is just brilliant. Everybody knows it, yet it doesn’t get old (unlike the aptly-named Diamonds Are Forever). Paul & Linda delivered what was probably their best song outside of Wings; an emotionally charged pop ballad with a seventies funk bridge, made ‘Bond-like’ by its orchestrally-infused, explosive interludes, which we can thank George Martin for.
Forget the Yellow Submarine incidental music, pieces like ‘Underground Lair’ and ‘Trespassers Will Be Eaten’ are easily Martin’s best work. They fit perfectly alongside this film’s action sequences with their moody sense of self-applied style, diverse orchestration, relentless pulse and, most enjoyably, continued reference’s to Paul’s theme song. They also blend together with ease the independent musical requirements, sounding ‘Hollywood film score’ enough to please hardcore John Barry fans, groovy enough to keep the black American audience happy, and also wearing the tribal, world influences on their sleeve.
The other uniquely brilliant aspect of this soundtrack is the funk and soul cuts that make it seem more like a Blaxploitation movie than a spy thriller. How can anybody not enjoy this? It might be extremely unsuited to Roger Moore’s version of Bond, but Live & Let Die was never really about him anyway. The other characters carry the story along, the much cooler characters.
It’s a similar story with the whole score, and just when things start to get samey, Martin slips in a reference or two to the original James Bond theme tune to spice things up. It’s actually so listenable that I find it hard to concentrate on the plot. The way the black, white and red elements fuse together is pure genius, and even in 2012 it sounds like a summary of how film music in general is composed. I couldn’t help but hear the influence of it on David Arnold’s Olympic music last week. But that’s fine. There’s no better time for Britain to celebrate its two greatest exports, James Bond and The Beatles.