Friday, 14 February 2014

Crime and Romance - Melodies for Valentine's Day

Forgotten Books will be back next week, but I thought it would be fun to mark Valentine's Day with a few words about some of the finest romantic songs that have been written for..crime and thriller movies. This idea came to me the other day when I was watching a televised concert of James Bond music, conducted by Carl Davis. One of the singers, Mary Carewe, gave an excellent performance of what is possibly the most under-rated of all Bond themes, Moonraker.was at one time going to be sung by either Frank Sinatra or Johnny Mathis but at the last minute Shirley Bassey was brought in to record it. I felt Mary Carewe's version was actually better than Bassey's. (My plan, by the way, was to link to Youtube versions of the songs in question, but here, I'm afraid my techno-incompetence has let me down - for reasons that escape me, none of the links seem to work. Perhaps those who are wiser than me can advise what I'm doing wrong, please? Anyway, all the songs are easy to find on Youtube, and are well worth it.)

The same concert included a much more famous song, performed by Lance Ellington, the classic from On Her Majesty's Secret Service that was originally recorded by Louis Armstrong, shortly before he died. This is We Have all the Time in the World, one of the very best love songs ever written. The music for both those Bond songs was composed by the great John Barry. His many brilliant soundtracks included a notable score for Deadfall, and the striking (if little known) song sung by Shirley Bassey over the credits. This is the memorable My Love Has Two Faces, a song that has grown on me the more I've listened to it..

Returning to Bond, some of the other great songs from the series include The Spy Who Loved Me and Skyfall, but even better is the soundtrack from the spoof movie Casino Royale, and the highlight is Dusty Springfield's The Look of Love. The lyric was written by the late, great Hal David, who also wrote Moonraker and We Have All the Time in the World, and whose gift for expressing romance in a lyric was matchless.

David also collaborated briefly with Michel Legrand, but Legrand's best songs mostly had lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. The finest, perhaps, is the original version of The Windmills of Your Mind by Noel Harrison, who died not long ago. It appeared in The Thomas Crown Affair, an enjoyable film full of Sixties touches and starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. And finally, memories of a brilliant comedy thriller, The Italian Job, with a great song that opened the film,,;On Days Like These, by Quincy Jones and Don Black. The romantic words and melody contrast very cleverly with the murderous finale to that opening scene..





8 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - What a good idea for a Valentine's Day post! There really has been some wonderful romantic music written for crime/thriller movies hasn't there. And it's all the more powerful because of the 'crime' aspect. Thanks

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Margot. I'm very keen on crime show and film themes, too, e.g. the soundtracks to The Long Good Friday and Body Heat.

Christine said...

I wondered if you'd mention 'Windmills of my Mind' and you did! 'Days Like these' is wonderful at the beginning of The Italian Job and so well sung by Matt Munro.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Chrissie. Yes, there are some stunning songs there. I'm surprised On Days Like These isn't better known. Mind you, We Have All the Time in the World did not become a mega-hit until it featured in a TV commercial...

John said...

Somehow all your links begin with www.blogger.com. Just go to the Eidt feature of this post, click the HTML tab (not the Compose tab) and delete the "www.blogger.com/" portion of every link.

I always embed the video itself which paradoxically I think is easier to do than cutting and pasting links.

Martin Edwards said...

John, that's very helpful - thank you. Blogger is misbehaving with me generally at present, but I'll give this a go. A naive question, no doubt, but can I ask how you go about embedding a video?

Anonymous said...

What an interesting post. I find the Bond songs are usually much underrated. Poetry in minimalism and great psychology too, never mind being such hut numbers.

A recent TV show of a tribute concert to that great lyricist Don Black featured an amazing 'unplugged' style downbeat performance of 'Diamonds Are Forever' by Katie Melua that not only showed the strength of the lyrics, but what a tough sensitive song this really is. A great and sensitive performance from Katie Melua, which can also be found on YouTube. Find it and enjoy. Liz Gilbey

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Liz. I woke up recently to the Chris Evans show, on which Katie Melua sang that excellent version of Diamonds are Forever. And as you say, Don Black has a tremendous talent.