Saturday, May 30, 2015

Live and Let Die (1973) | Music

When it came time to score Live and Let Die, John Barry was apparently working on a musical and not available. His replacement came on board in kind of a backwards way. Saltzman and Broccoli had hired Paul McCartney to write the theme song and McCartney brought in Beatles producer George Martin to record it. Saltzman and Broccoli were so impressed with Martin's arrangement of the song that they asked him to score the film, too.

"Live and Let Die" is one of the most popular Bond theme songs and it's easy to see why. Bond themes are usually soulful ballads, so it and the few other rock themes stand out. And if your tastes run towards classic rock, it's your only option. Even for those of us who aren't classic rock fans, it's a great song.

This might get me into trouble, but I have a lot of problems with most of McCartney's Wings-era stuff. I'm not familiar with that many of his songs, but that's because the few I've heard have turned me off enough that I don't want more. I find the melodies repetitive and dull, and though they often change up in the middle of the song (an idea I like), the new melody usually isn't any more interesting than the one it's replacing.

Having said all that, "Live and Let Die" is easily my favorite of his. It might be because of the Bond connection - it probably is - but I genuinely like it. I like how the break in the middle is reggae-influenced, tying into the movie's Caribbean setting. And I like how the lyrics accurately express the sentiment - expressed by Bond in the novel - that gives Live and Let Die its name. Whether or not I love the song aesthetically, I admire the crap out of its construction.

For the title sequence, Maurice Binder supports the movie with a lot of voodoo imagery: flames and skulls and body paint. That makes it cool and kind of scary, but there's this one bit about a minute-and-a-half in where it gets silly. A silhouetted woman is just waving her hands around - looking like she's frantically trying to clean an invisible house with invisible rags - against some kind of weird, swaying, fiberoptic lighting or something? I don't know what that's about.

Martin uses the Bond Theme a few times - much as Barry did in Diamonds Are Forever - to highlight important moments in Bond's mission. It appears when Bond is tailing Whisper in New York, which is the point where he actively begins his investigation. It plays again when he encounters Solitaire and Tee Hee, his introduction to Kananga's inner circle. A third time is a snippet we hear after he hang-glides to Kananga's estate and is getting ready to infiltrate it. And finally, it plays again as he and Solitaire "follow the scarecrows" to discover Kananga's poppy fields.

Top Ten Theme Songs

1. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
2. Diamonds Are Forever
3. You Only Live Twice
4. From Russia With Love (John Barry instrumental version)
5. Live and Let Die
6. Dr No
7. Thunderball
8. Goldfinger
9. From Russia With Love (Matt Monro vocal version)
10. TBD

Top Ten Title Sequences

1. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
2. Dr No
3. Thunderball
4. Goldfinger
5. From Russia With Love
6. Diamonds Are Forever
7. Live and Let Die
8. You Only Live Twice
9. TBD
10. TBD

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