Monday, January 31, 2011

John Barry

So John Barry's died suddenly from a heart attack. He of such famous scores as James Bond's, Born Free, Midnight Cowboy, Out of Africa. Think of a substantial emotive score indelible from your brain's melodic archive and there's a good chance he was behind it. The man was absurdly prolific, and incredibly talented at hermetically blending compositions to the tone and pace of a movie, in such a way that they effortlessly carried you through as you watched whilst at the same time making a subliminal impression. When you heard the music in isolation its origin was unmistakeable yet it was wonderfully stirring in its own right. Not many scores can do that.

There used to be (c. 1986) a sweet little restaurant called The Petit Prince in Camden, North London. Cosy and condlelit, the walls were decorated with scenes from the famous Saint-Exupery novella, and they would serve hearty chickpea and vegetable stews, fat chips with sour cream, which we'd wash down with BYO wine.

The music they played in this little eaterie was always instrumental John Barry, in the main James Bond themes. It would wierdly complement the little prince perfectly as he flew around the walls. But it also animated any dinner party injecting energy into the wine-supping, stew-slurping young arty crowd that would regularly frequent the place. With a mixture of nostalgia, sexiness, and power of association, Barry's tunes would always get blood moving through your veins and the party going.

He leant respectability and stature to anything, and anyone he accompanied. Who knows what role a film's score plays in its ultimate success, but pretty sure Broccoli had a lot to thank John Barry for. Involuntarily humming a classic Bond riff right now, I find myself instantly transported to an open-top Merc, chiffon scarf billowing as I zip along a precipitous Italian mountain highway, the riviera sun beating down. Hang on a second, there's a delicious-looking gentleman fast approaching in my rear-view... Ooh ah. I clearly need to look up my John Barry compilation and do this more often.

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