John Barry is forever

The composer John Barry died yesterday. He was one of my favourite film composers, close behind Lalo Schifrin at number one. Barry’s music, especially between the mid 60s to early 70s, was exceptional; some of the soundtrack albums, for example Goldfinger, stand on their own merit as “concept” albums, and can exist independently of the original movie.

It is the Duane Eddy-style twang guitar riff that will be most associated with John Barry, recurring in the opening theme of every James Bond movie. Long-time band member Vic Flick was responsible for the unique guitar sound, although it was Barry who built the creeping orchestral theme around the guitar. (Actually, the ownership of the “James Bond theme” goes to Monty Norman … how complicated!)

Barry’s Bond work would have been enough to ensure his place in the pantheon of 20th century composers, but there are other tracks that are worthy of mention, my own favourite being the theme tune to that lame TV series with proto-Bondman, Roger Moore and Tony Curtis: The Persuaders.

In its report on Barry’s death today, the BBC mentioned only Robbie William’s recycling of You only live twice , but in my opinion, the best homages to Barry were by Fatboy Slim and Sneaker Pimps.

The complete list of samplers testifies to the strength of Barry’s legacy, although I feel that nothing, not even Dr D., can replace the original opening theme to The Persuaders.

The later years, replete with Oscars for Born Free, Dancing with Wolves and Out of Africa, leave no impression on me (I’ve never been interested in even seeing the movies)  — the lush strings wiped out the earlier innovations of cimbalom and the plunky Fender VI bass. Too bad.

Let’s enjoy the best of what he had to offer: