Thursday, November 8, 2012

7 Days 'Til 007: "On Her Majesty's Secret Service"

The opening titles of On Her Majesty's Secret Service should sue the pants off the opening titles of Cinemax's Hunted because it totally copped the hourglass motif.
A spectacular week that saw huge victories for the first African American president, several female Democratic Senate candidates (including the first Asian American woman elected to the Senate and a Missouri Senate candidate who actually understands female anatomy) and the movements to legalize weed and same-sex marriage concludes with something equally eagerly awaited, this time from the world of entertainment. It's the arrival of the well-received new 007 film Skyfall, which drops in the States tomorrow. This is the penultimate post in a seven-part series about standout vocal themes or instrumental pieces from the official 007 films.

It's hard to listen to John Barry's rousing instrumental opening title theme from On Her Majesty's Secret Service without going up to a mirror and pretending to aim a gun while kneeling, just like OHMSS star George Lazenby did in the film's gunbarrel sequence (the only Bond who kneeled in his gunbarrel). It's also hard to add lyrics to it that don't suck ass.

Try making up your own lyrics to the OHMSS main title theme sometime. Of course you're going to include the movie's cumbersome title in your made-up lyrics, but it won't sound right, even when you prolong the "Maj" in "Majesty's" to get the title to match Barry's nine-note brass melody. Just give up like Barry and his songwriter most likely did.

The theme was originally supposed to contain lyrics, but I guess Barry and the songwriter couldn't come up with anything that worked or would have been up to par with the chart hit Barry and his crew made out of "Goldfinger" and the solid Bond songs they crafted with "Thunderball" and "You Only Live Twice." So OHMSS became the first Bond movie since From Russia with Love to kick off with an instrumental during the opening titles (it remains the only post-From Russia with Love installment to do so). I like how the film opens that way. It adds to the whole "this isn't a typical Bond film" vibe of OHMSS, the last Bond film that treated the audience like grown-ups (until the series went back to basics in For Your Eyes Only after years of cartoonishness and juvenile antics).

The switch from Sean Connery to Lazenby must have inspired Barry to change up the Bond sound and use synths for the first time in the series. "That [synthy sound] and the single-mindedness of Barry's instrumental main title makes it one of the most revered of all the 007 scores among Bond aficionados," wrote Jeff Bond (no relation) in the liner notes for the 2002 expanded reissue of the OHMSS score.

Sixteen years after OHMSS, Barry made an interesting musical choice when he resurrected the OHMSS main title theme's synth riffs in his View to a Kill score, perhaps as both a shout-out to the OHMSS ski chase sequences that featured his main title theme (A View to a Kill was the first Bond film with a skiing sequence that Barry scored since OHMSS) and a nod to the 1985 film's Silicon Valley-related plot. The OHMSS and View to a Kill scores are two of my favorite scores in the series, and that's mostly due to the presence of this excellent OHMSS theme, the tune that can't be lyricized, no matter how hard you try.

1 comment:

  1. 7 Days 'Til 007: "On Her Majesty's Secret Service Watch now On Her Majesty's Secret Service -- In the directorial debut of Taiwanese 007 is sent to stop a diabolically brilliant heroin magnate armed with a
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