to­tal re­call

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Nick hums a John Barry tune or two.

nick setch­field, fea­tures editor

Tragic con­fes­sion time: I can­not en­ter an air­port with­out cue­ing John Barry on my iPod. Sud­denly there’s an al­lur­ing contessa in ev­ery de­par­ture lounge, dou­ble agents in the Duty Free, in­ter­na­tional as­sas­sins spoon­ing noo­dles in Waga­mama. With a Barry sound­track any air­port be­comes a por­tal to peril, pos­si­bil­ity and in­trigue. Yes, even Lu­ton.

If John Barry’s mu­sic en­hances my world just imag­ine what it did for James Bond’s. It’s a sound em­bed­ded in 007’ s dou­ble he­lix, as es­sen­tial as Con­nery’s finely- tai­lored machismo or Ken Adam’s op­u­lent sets. Think of the ser­pen­tine men­ace of the Thun­der­ball score, the ur­gent pulse of On Her Majesty’s Se­cret Ser­vice, the zero grav­ity grandeur of Moon­raker’s “Flight Into Space”.

Barry dubbed it “Mil­lion- dol­lar Mickey Mouse mu­sic” but it’s so much more. Some­how it’s al­ways au­tumn in Barry’s world, and just on the edge of cool blue twi­light. Built from lush, aching strings and bom­bas­tic brass, his mu­sic has a sig­na­ture mix of ro­mance and malev­o­lence, im­preg­nable glam­our and rat­tlesnake shiver: the per­fect sound­scape for Ian Flem­ing’s su­per­spy.

In his ’ 60s prime Barry cut a fig­ure ev­ery inch as dash­ing as 007. There’s a starkly suave black- and- white shot of him with sec­ond wife Jane Birkin ( above). The pair look as un­touch­able as show­room- fresh E- type Jags. In ear­lier days he shared a bach­e­lor pad with Michael Caine – fu­ture ar­chae­ol­o­gists may con­clude that this was the very epi­cen­tre of Swing­ing Lon­don. Caine re­calls hear­ing his flat­mate fi­nally nail­ing “Goldfin­ger” at 4am, just as the sun rose: “I was the first per­son in the world ever to hear ‘ Goldfin­ger’, and I heard it all night…”

Barry was more than Bond, of course. The doomy, liquorice- dark mi­nor chords of The Per­suaders! were a brood­ing coun­ter­point to Roger Moore and Tony Curtis’ sunkissed hi- jinks on the French Riviera – a coun­ter­melody, al­most. Mean­while The Ipcress File was as seedy and haunted as a bed­sit voyeur, an an­ti­dote to Bond glam­our still stamped with Barry’s trade­mark cool.

But it’s Bond that makes Barry en­dure. A 1970 com­pi­la­tion al­bum was ti­tled “Ready When You Are, JB”. John Barry? Or James Bond? In the end they’re in­di­vis­i­ble.

John Barry with his then wife, ac­tress and singer Jane Birkin.

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