Adventures In Audio

So Mr. Bond - Who really wrote your theme tune? (No Time To Die edition)

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Did Monty Norman or John Barry write the James Bond Theme? This video answers this important question definitively with no room for doubt. Compare the James Bond Theme with similar music by Monty Norman and John Barry. Decide for yourself who you think really wrote the James Bond Theme.

  • 0:00 Introduction and clip of the James Bond Theme
  • 0:07 Was Monty Norman the composer? Was John Barry the arranger?
  • 0:32 Monty Norman was the composer.
  • 0:49 What happened?
  • 1:16 Composer and arranger - roles and royalties
  • 2:07 John Barry's contribution
  • 2:23 Bad Sign, Good Sign - the first appearance of the famous riff, and other tracks by Monty Norman
  • 3:03 Bad Sign, Good Sign audio clip
  • 3:38 Dr. No's Fantasy audio clip
  • 4:08 Comparison with Bee's Knees by The John Barry Seven
  • 4:29 Analysis of the James Bond Theme, with audio clips
  • 6:40 Comparison with Doctor No's Fantasy, with audio clip
  • 7:12 The James Bond vamp
  • 7:49 Who did write the James Bond Theme?
  • 8:17 Monty Norman wrote the James Bond Theme. John Barry arranged it
  • 8:43 One more thing


  • James Bond Theme - Monty Norman, arr. John Barry
  • Bad Sign, Good Sign, The James Bond Theme, and Dr. No's Fantasy - Monty Norman
  • Bee's Knees - The John Barry Seven
  • Nightmare - Arty Shaw
  • Green screen background - From Dr. No, production design by Ken Adam
  • Photograph of Vic Flick - Geoffers007 CC BY-SA 3.0

Automated transcript

So mr bond who really did write your theme music

as the new james bond movie no time to die opens it seems an appropriate time to revisit the question of whether the james bond theme was actually written by monty norman or john barry the answer to this question is very simple monty norman wrote the james bond theme and john barry was merely the arranger i say this with certainty because this is what was decided in a court of law in london in 2001 not wishing to be sued for libel i absolutely and categorically state that monty norman wrote the james bond theme and what follows in this video is all from my warped and twisted imagination not to be relied on this is a topic i've followed on and off over the years what it boils down to is this monty norman was hired to write the music for the first james bond film doctor no allegedly the music he wrote for the theme was found unsatisfactory by the producers and john barry was brought in to improve it over the years a dispute arose whether the james bond theme was written in its entirety by monty norman or almost entirely written by john barry who claimed he used nothing of norman's work other than the first two bars where this has relevance to modern day music is the division of roles between the composer and arranger normally the composer of a piece of music would receive a royalty on performances and recordings as well as perhaps an upfront fee too the arranger would only receive a fee there is potentially a lot of money at stake here a composer could for instance write a few bars of melody which an arranger turns into a fantastic piece of music that then goes on to earn hundreds of thousands of pounds or dollars in royalties do the composer's original few bars entitle him or her to all of the royalties legally speaking yes it does it can however be decided either by arrangement or later litigation that the arranger did actually contribute to a degree that is worthy of a royalty payment the procal harem a whiter shade of pale case is an example for the james bond theme it seems that john barry was brought in to tweak up monty norman's sketches for a flat fee of 250 pounds if the film was successful then barry would be engaged as the composer for the next james bond film from russia with love which he was monty norman's contribution to the james bond theme can be heard in a song called bad sign good sign from an earlier musical by norman that didn't take off sometimes written as good sign bad sign and dr knows fantasy which wasn't used in the film but appears on the soundtrack album there's also a track called the james bond theme on the soundtrack album notice the the as part of the title this isn't clearly related to the james bond theme on the discussion but the musical essence is already there in bad sign good sign which was in existence before john paris involvement here is bad sign good sign we only need to listen to the first 20 seconds or so i was born with this unlucky sneeze and what is worse i came into the world the wrong way round bond it's all agreed that i am the reason why my father fell into the village pond and drowned you may notice that bad sign good sign is a modern recording therefore produced after dr no it would have been interesting to hear a version from before john barry's arrangement for dr no but that doesn't seem to be available moving on doctor knows fantasy

what we can hear in these two tracks is what most people would recognize as some of the music that characterizes the james bond movies but clearly it's not the entire james bond theme before discussing john barry's arrangement of the james bond theme it's worth establishing a frame of reference here's a track called bee's knees by the john barry seven released in 1958

got that back to bond in the court hearing the prosecution called musicologist stanley sadie who analyzed the work like this past one to two vamp past five to ten guitar riff

eleven to twelve semitone descent

13-20 repeat of riff 21-24 repeat of vamp 25-28 bebop 1.

29-32 bebop 1 repeat 33-40 repeat of 25-32 41-42 bebop 2 melody related to riff

43-44 repeat of bebop 2 45-46 climax to bebop 2. 47-48 vamp 49-56 riff 57-60 coda related to 25 to 28.

now if i'm allowed to chime in with my opinion the legally established fact is that monty norman wrote all of this and john barry is the arranger i can definitely hear that the guitar riff comes from bad sign good sign although barry has modified it slightly bebop two i would say is an arranger's master stroke okay norman wrote the riff but to transform it like this picking out the most significant notes on making something new but already known is a stroke of genius which is as good an argument as any to why rangers should ever deserve to receive a royalty stanley sadie held that bars 11 to 12 relate to two guitar chords in the middle section of doctor knows fantasy i'll let you be the judge of that here's dr noah's fantasy again starting from the section in question we only need to listen to a few seconds the so-called relationship is a bit far-fetched in my opinion which as i keep saying is totally incorrect as for the characteristic vamp at the beginning that sets the bondy tone of the whole thing well norman's doctor knows fantasy incorporates a vamp but it isn't the james bond vamp listen to this

it's nightmare by artie shaw he probably wasn't the first to use this vamp either it's been around for so many years that i doubt if anyone living or dead could realistically claim copyright to it so who did write the james bond theme simple monty norman wrote it as i've said all along but in my warped and twisted imagination he didn't write the vamp he didn't write the first bebop section and john barry's master stroke surely trumps anything else one could say about the second section of bebop and the ending and that wonderful chord

surely all john barry's work and the orchestration but in truth monty norman wrote the james bond theme all the way from beginning to end and john barry merely arranged it that was decided in a court of law therefore it is true did i mention that john barry went on to win five oscars for his music i can't end without a special mention for guitarist vic flick without whom james bond just wouldn't be the same he was paid seven pounds and ten shillings for his work one more thing comments on this video could be a legal minefield i will state clearly and categorically that any comment below that disagrees with the court's verdict is wrong i'm david meller course director of audio masterclass thank you for listening.

Comments on this video

You can comment on this video at YouTube

Morbid Man Music:  Before you stopped the hair dye.

Chris Hewitt :  Excellent analysis. Just my two 'warped' cents: We live in a different world now. Not the old school world that Barry and Norman came from, but a world where youtube music experts (such as this video) can take that sham of a court case and prove it was essentially Barry's theme. Norman was hired to write a theme but he came up with a limited, slow, dawdling riff and was then fired. Barry took that riff, set it to guitar, and while Vick Flick suggested lowering it an octave and speeding it up, Barry composed the entire theme, singlehandedly creating the Bond sound (elegant, grand, dangerous etc).

He is an unmatched genius of film composing who essentially invented a new genre of music (spy) that many have imitated over the years. Not just his past music as mentioned here, but just looking at his other Bond scores is enough to make the claim that the Bond sound would be nothing without Barry.

Robert Roberto:  Movie Fans On All Master Mistro John Barry Bond Scores He Acknowleges All Artists Copyright Credit Work LP Combined Barry/ Norman As Well As Credit To Monty Norman.

Stonepail Cycles:  One of the most ‘interesting’ points about this whole story is that no recording of good sign/bad sign exists before the recording of the Bond Theme 🤔

Michael Lee:  I think it's a joint collaboration and that a joint credit should have been awarded

Margot Darby:  John Barry, finest film composer. Monty Norman was a talented and interesting guy.

MrVideoVagabond:  "Dr. No's Fantasy" sounds a LOT like Elmer Bernstein's theme for The Man With The Golden Arm (composed several years earlier).

circusitch:  7 pounds 10 shillings? Geez. With inflation, that would be like making 50 pounds now!!! Good investment for a franchise that's grossed over $7 billion.

Leo Comerford:  I'm surprised to see that Monty Norman sadly died just a few weeks ago (at the age of 94!) Hopefully that does mean that any libel risks are now in the past, if they ever were a serious concern.

Sometime around the late '90s I heard a BBC radio piece (Radio 4, I'm almost sure) which claimed that the theme for the BBC's late-'50s music TV program Drumbeat (written by John Barry, as I recall, and almost certainly performed by the John Barry Seven) had an important similarity to the slightly later James Bond theme. It seemed pretty convincing at the time, but unfortunately I haven't been able to find the Drumbeat theme since then, let alone the BBC piece.

Francisco:  This statement is false.

Inver ross:  I am not a musician, but agree, that it should have been a joint credit. Both parties and publishers should have come to terms.. It is standard that songwriters hold credit no matter what arrangements - or every person who has ever performed a song could claim that they have arranged it. In this case however, when the stabs and huge brass melody sections are so much a part of the tune.. it's not the original work but a hybrid/medley. The Barry parts often being used in dramatic scenes on their own. You can now talk without fear of legal repercussions, as Mr. Norman is sadly demised! The opening to Glen Miller's string of Pearls also has some of the feel of the Barry section as does many of his own earlier 60's works.

David Hyslop:  In the book A sixty's the hard back version director Terence Young lays into Monty Norman's music skills .In the paperback version the comments are gone

Carlos Caso-Rosendi:  Not long after Dr. No two famous Brazilian composers used the same theme ...

Romans 8:9:  I agree with your warped twisted imagination. I would be interested to hear the original theme presented by Norman that the producers werent happy with. Does it even exist? Whenever his name appears with the theme its always Barry's arranged version. Good video nonetheless. I found it amazing the writing credits were never shared and seemed absurd that Norman claimed royalties for a finished product that was never finished by him!

Delius Myth:  Of course, if it were judged a collaboration, the credit would be Barry/Norman.

jim murray:  How strange - or fitting even - that it was the " arranger " and not the "composer" that went on to to score future Bond films.

Robert Scott:  Norman wrote the signature melody, Session guitarist Nick Flick was responsible for riff's sound", which was clearly based on the Peter Gunn theme. John Barry did a terrific arrangement, based not only Norman's original composition, but drawing on many composers and producers, notably Henry Mancini. Both technically and practically, Norman deserves the main writing credit, and lucked out with producer, arranger, and session players. Barry deserves an arranging credit, but his "songwriting" contributions were nominal.

Angus G:  What about Henry Mancini ? You make some good points but….the Bond theme is a ripoff of a huge hit in the 50’s : Peter Gunn theme ( TV AND a huge radio hit in the late 50’s) . Both are the harmonic minor mode #4 ( minor scale with the spooky raised forth and natural sixth) , both are written for a spy series, , twangy guitar, brooding airy beginning , LOW end guitar keys E and F , same tempo, same time signature except that the bond theme swings at the end.

Pedro Lima:  Great video, Mr Mellor. It's a pitty that Monty doesn't won an Oscar for that. I fact, his lawyer deserves one!

Silvina Arriaga:  David, in your opinion, what is the best Bond soundtrack thus far? What do you think of Billy Eilish' soundtrack?

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Thursday March 10, 2022

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David Mellor

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

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