BOND: Live & Let Write (Music) - Sir Paul McCartney & George Martin - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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BOND: Live & Let Write (Music) - Sir Paul McCartney & George Martin

When Chris Morley was young he used to say live and let live...

1973 found the producers of the Bond films at a bit of a crossroads - how do you possibly solve a problem like John Barry being unavailable? The answer they arrived at for Live And Let Die having refused to give in and cry would surely in retrospect prove a more than acceptable compromise!

Called in to save the day were the pairing of Sir Paul McCartney on theme tune duty and former Beatles producer & indeed orchestrator George Martin to score the rest of the film.....

Live And Let Die was recorded with Martin during the sessions which would produce Paul McCartney & Wings' Red Rose Speedway in October of 1972, prior to that album's release in May of '73.

It would seem Paul immersed himself in the project, remembering that...
“I read the Live And Let Die book in one day, started writing it that evening and carried on the next day and finished it by the next evening … I sat down at the piano, worked something out and then got in touch with George Martin, who produced it with us. Linda wrote the middle reggae bit of the song. We rehearsed it as a band, recorded it and then left it up to him.”
Linda, of course being Paul's missus and by her own admission not much of a musician! Nevertheless the scene was set for the renewal of a partnership which could trace its roots back to the early days of the Beatles as McCartney reached out to George Martin for the first time since the release of Abbey Road had heralded the break-up o of the Fab Four.

The master had first begun to teach his famous student the basics of orchestration as far back as Yesterday.
“Writing a song out with George Martin was nearly always the same process. For Yesterday he had said, ‘Look, why don’t you come round to my house tomorrow? I’ve got a piano, and I’ve got the manuscript paper. We’ll sit down for an hour or so, and you can let me know what you’re looking for’…

He would say, ‘This is the way to do the harmony, technically.’ And I’d often try to go against that. I’d think, ‘Well, why should there be a proper way to do it?’

Yesterday was typical. I remember suggesting the 7th that appears on the cello. George said, ‘You definitely wouldn’t have that in there. That would be very un-string-quartet. I said, ‘Well? Whack it in, George. I’ve got to have it.’
All ideal training for tackling both a Barryless and, at that point in time, a very un-Bond-like Bond theme tune when the master and graduated student came together once more. George Martin wasting no time in getting straight down to business.
“I said, ‘This is the way we’ll do it — we’ll do it with Wings, and work on the session with just the group, and then in the evening, I’ll bring in the orchestra, but we’ll still keep Wings there, and try to do if live altogether, to try to get a live feeling to it,’ and that was what we did.”
As Rolling Stone recounted in tribute following his death, Martin was always keen to test the limits of what was possible.
“Unlike most producers of his era, his creative daring fostered an environment where it was acceptable to explore and expand the realm of the possible. He played with the Beatles, in every sense of the word — by picking up an instrument, or merely indulging their curiosity and translating their abstract musical fantasies into reality.”
The product of the renewed McCartney/Martin collaboration didn't initially gain favour with the Bond producers, with Harry Saltzman interested in having either Shirley Bassey or Thelma Houston perform it instead of Wings! However, McCartney would allow the song to be used in the movie only if Wings was able to perform the song in the opening credits. And so it was to be...

...But that didn't stop a second version of the song, more to the producers' liking, performed by American actress and stage singer B. J. Arnau, also appearing in the film...

Both McCartney's and Arnau's takes were released as singles in June 1973, with Arnau's failing to gain traction. McCartney's take, however, became the most successful Bond theme up to that point, reaching No. 1 on two of the three major US charts and No. 9 on the UK Singles Chart. It also became the first Bond theme song to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song, but ultimately lost the award to Barbra Streisand's "The Way We Were".

In perhaps a foresight into what would follow Live And Let Die cinematically, 1973 would also see Paul McCartney and Wings release Band On The Run,, featuring among its cover stars one Christopher Lee...

The famous cover was shot just 9 days before Lee commenced filming on The Man With The Golden Gun where he portrayed the three-nippled Scaramanga. John Barry returning on musical duties for that feature, with Scottish singer Lulu supplying her vocal talents to the theme. Although there was very nearly a different take, as we will explore next time...

Monty Norman
John Barry 

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