MUSIC MONDAY Barry, Beatles, Billie: 60 years of Bond tunes 


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Barry, Beatles, Billie: 60 years of Bond tunes

<img class=”i-amphtml-intrinsic-sizer” role=”presentation” src=”data:;base64,” alt=”” aria-hidden=”true” />Barry, Beatles, Billie: 60 years of Bond tunes


British actor Daniel Craig poses during a photocall to promote the 24th James Bond film ‘Spectre’ on February 18, 2015 at Rome’s city hall. AFP PHOTO / TIZIANA FABI (Photo by VINCENZO PINTO and TIZIANA FABI / AFP)

Paris, France — Ever since the twanging guitar of John Barry’s theme song first appeared in “Dr No” in 1962, music has been crucial to the James Bond phenomenon.

The songs written for each title sequence have become a way of marking out the evolution of pop music through the past 60 years, from the classics of Shirley Bassey and Paul McCartney to Adele and Billie Eilish.

Nobody remembers Monty

Many assume the original theme was written by John Barry, in part because he became so closely associated with the Bond franchise, composing the soundtrack for 11 of the films.


In fact, Barry only arranged and performed the theme tune.

The famous dung-digger-dung-dung line was actually written by theater composer Monty Norman, developed from an unused Indian-themed score he had written for an adaptation of VS Naipaul’s “A House for Mr Biswas.”

It was Barry’s job to jazz it up, adding the blaring horns that made it so dramatic.

While Norman was given a one-off payment of just £250, Barry built a Hollywood career that has included five Oscars and classic soundtracks to “Midnight Cowboy,” “Out of Africa,” and many more.

Golden girl Shirley Bassey

Bassey became almost as closely linked to Bond as Barry — the only singer to deliver three title tracks: “Goldfinger” (1964), “Diamonds are Forever” (1971), and “Moonraker” (1979).

The first two are considered the most memorable in Bond history, the latter less so — Bassey later admitted she hated the “Moonraker” song and only did it as a favor to Barry.

“Goldfinger” made her a star, but the recording sessions were grueling, with Barry insisting that Bassey, then 27, hold the last belting note for seven full seconds.

“I was holding it and holding it — I was looking at John Barry and I was going blue in the face and he’s going — hold it just one more second. When it finished, I nearly passed out,” she later recalled.

 A new Beatles beginning

The first Bond film without Barry on the baton was “Live and Let Die” in 1973.

For this, the producers turned to another famous “B” The Beatles.

The group’s producer George Martin took over composing duties and brought in Paul McCartney and his band Wings for the theme song.

It became another classic and spawned a famous cover by Guns’N’Roses in later years.

From this point on, the Bond title song became its own mini-industry, without the involvement of the composer.

Big pop tie-ins followed, ranging from the not-so-successful (Lulu’s “The Man with the Golden Gun”) to classics like Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does it Better” and Duran Duran’s “A View to a Kill.”

<img class=”i-amphtml-intrinsic-sizer” role=”presentation” src=”data:;base64,” alt=”” aria-hidden=”true” />Barry, Beatles, Billie: 60 years of Bond tunes

FILE PHOTO: Auctioneer specialists hold a rare intact James Bond ‘Thunderball’ (1965) film poster (estimate £8,000-£12,000), featuring two panels of poster illustrations on the left by Frank McCarthy and two on the right by Robert McGinnis, at Ewbank’s Auctioneers, ahead of an upcoming sale, in Woking, Britain, April 7, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah McKay


The next generation

After a few desultory outings during the Pierce Brosnan years, the Bond genre got a shot of adrenaline with Adele’s “Skyfall” in 2012, which was the first to win an Oscar for best song.

<img class=”i-amphtml-intrinsic-sizer” role=”presentation” src=”data:;base64,” alt=”” aria-hidden=”true” />Barry, Beatles, Billie: 60 years of Bond tunes


Image: Twitter/@007

The following year’s “Writing’s on the Wall” by Sam Smith also won an Oscar, though it got a more mixed critical reception.

The latest incarnation is pop princess Billie Eilish with “No Time to Die,” which she co-wrote with her brother Finneas.

It already has a thumbs-up from the doyenne of the Bond theme world, with Bassey telling The Big Issue: “She did a good job.”

Golden girl Shirley Bassey Bassey became almost as closely linked to Bond as Barry -- the only singer to deliver three title tracks: "Goldfinger" (1964), "Diamonds are Forever" (1971), and "Moonraker" (1979).  The first two are considered the most memorable in Bond history, the latter less so -- Bassey later admitted she hated the "Moonraker" song and only did it as a favor to Barry.

The latest James Bond movie “Skyfall” stars Daniel Craig. 007 boozed so much that in all reality he would have had the tremulous hands of a chronic alcoholic, according to an offbeat study published by the British Medical Journal. PHOTO FROM FACEBOOK.COM/JAMESBONDOO7

Live And Let Die Theme Song – James Bond

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Paul McCartney Uncle Albert Rare Studio Demo

Paul McCartney; Uncle AlbertAdmiral Halsey. (RAM 1971)

Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”
Single by Paul and Linda McCartney
from the album Ram
B-side Too Many People
Released 2 August 1971 (US only)
Format 7″
Recorded 6 November 1970
Length 4:49
Label Apple
Writer(s) Paul and Linda McCartney
Producer(s) Paul and Linda McCartney
Paul and Linda McCartney singles chronology
Another Day
Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey
The Back Seat of My Car
Ram track listing

Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” is a song by Paul and Linda McCartney from the album Ram. Released in the United States as a single on 2 August 1971,[1] but premiering on WLS the previous week (as a “Hit Parade Bound” (HPB)),[2] it reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on 4 September 1971,[3][4] making it the first of a string of post-Beatles, McCartney-penned singles to top the US pop chart during the 1970s and 1980s. Billboard ranked it number 22 on its Top Pop Singles of 1971 year-end chart.[5]

Elements and interpretation[edit]
“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” is composed of several unfinished song fragments that McCartney stitched together similar to the medleys from the Beatles‘ album Abbey Road.[6] The song is noted for its sound effects, including the sounds of a thunderstorm, with rain, heard between the first and second stanza, the sound of a telephone ringing, and a message machine, heard after the second stanza, and a sound of chirping sea birds and wind by the seashore. Linda’s voice is heard in the harmonies as well as the bridge section of the “Admiral Halsey” portion of the song.

McCartney said “Uncle Albert” was based on his uncle. “He’s someone I recall fondly, and when the song was coming it was like a nostalgia thing.”[7] McCartney also said, “As for Admiral Halsey, he’s one of yours, an American admiral”, referring to Fleet Admiral William “Bull” Halsey (1882–1959).[7] McCartney has described the “Uncle Albert” section of the song as an apology from his generation to the older generation, and Admiral Halsey as an authoritarian figure who ought to be ignored.[8]

Despite the disparate elements that make up the song, author Andrew Grant Jackson discerns a coherent narrative to the lyrics, related to McCartney’s emotions in the aftermath of the Beatles’ breakup.[9] In this interpretation, the song begins with McCartney apologizing to his uncle for getting nothing done, and being easily distracted and perhaps depressed in the lethargic “Uncle Albert” section.[9] Then, after some sound effects reminiscent of “Yellow Submarine,” Admiral Halsey appears to him calling him to action, although McCartney remains more interested in “tea and butter pie.” McCartney stated that he put the butter in the pie so that it would not melt at all.[9] Jackson sees a possible sinister allusion in the use of Admiral Halsey as a character in the song, since Halsey was famous for fighting the Japanese in World War II and claiming that “after the war, the Japanese language will be spoken only in hell,” and McCartney’s ex-Beatle partner John Lennon had recently married a Japanese woman, Yoko Ono.[9] The “hands across the water” section which follows could be taken as evocative of the command “All hands on deck!”, rousing McCartney to action, perhaps to compete with Lennon.[9] The song then ends with the “gypsy” section, in which McCartney resolves to get back on the road and perform his music, now that he was on his own without his former bandmates who no longer wanted to tour.[9]


Paul McCartney won the Grammy Award for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists in 1971 for the song.[10][11] The single was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for sales of over one million copies.[12]

According to Allmusic critic Stewart Mason, fans of Paul McCartney’s music are divided in their opinions of this song.[13] Although some fans praise it as “one of his most playful and inventive songs” others criticize it for being “exactly the kind of cute self-indulgence that they find so annoying about his post-Beatles career.”[13] Mason himself considers it “churlish” to be annoyed by the song, given that song isn’t intended to be completely serious, and praises the “Hands across the water” section as being “lovably giddy.”[13]

On the US charts, the song set a songwriting milestone as the all-time songwriting record (at the time) for the most consecutive calendar years to write a #1 song. This gave McCartney eight consecutive years (starting with “I Want to Hold Your Hand“), leaving behind Lennon with only seven years.

Later release[edit]

“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” also appears on Wings Greatest from 1978, even though Ram was not a Wings album, and again on the US version of McCartney’s 1987 compilation, All the Best!, as well as the 2001 compilation Wingspan: Hits and History.


Song uses[edit]


Peak positions[edit]

Chart (1971) Position
Australian Kent Music Report[14] 5
Canadian RPM Top 100 Singles[15] 1
Mexican Singles Chart[16] 3
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[4] 1
West German Media Control Singles Chart[17] 30

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1971) Position
Canadian RPM Singles Chart[18] 14
U.S. Billboard Top Pop Singles[16] 22


Region Certification
United States (RIAA)[19] Gold


  1. Jump up^ McGee 2003, p. 195.
  2. Jump up^ “89WLS Hit Parade”. 1971-08-02. Retrieved 2013-12-21.
  3. Jump up^ Billboard.
  4. ^ Jump up to:a b “Allmusic: Paul McCartney: Charts & Awards”. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  5. Jump up^ “Top Pop 100 Singles” Billboard December 25, 1971: TA-36
  6. Jump up^ Blaney, J. (2007). Lennon and McCartney: together alone: a critical discography of their solo work. Jawbone Press. pp. 46, 50. ISBN 978-1-906002-02-2.
  7. ^ Jump up to:a b McGee 2003, p. 196.
  8. Jump up^ Benitez, V.P. (2010). The Words and Music of Paul McCartney: The Solo Years. Praeger. pp. 30–31. ISBN 978-0-313-34969-0.
  9. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e f Jackson, A.G. (2012). Still the Greatest: The Essential Songs of The Beatles’ Solo Careers. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0810882225.
  10. Jump up^ “Past Winners Search”. National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  11. Jump up^ “1971 Grammy Awards”.
  12. Jump up^
  13. ^ Jump up to:a b c Mason, S. “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”. Allmusic. Retrieved 2013-12-25.
  14. Jump up^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  15. Jump up^ “Top Singles – Volume 16, No. 5”. RPM. 18 September 1971. Retrieved 5 May 2013.
  16. ^ Jump up to:a b Nielsen Business Media, Inc (25 December 1971). Billboard – Talent in Action 1971. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  17. Jump up^ “Single Search: Paul and Linda McCartney – “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”” (in German). Media Control. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
  18. Jump up^ “RPM 100 Top Singles of 1971”. RPM. 8 January 1972. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
  19. Jump up^ “American single certifications – Paul Mc Cartney – Uncle Albert”. Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH


Preceded by
How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” by Bee Gees
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
4 September 1971 (one week)
Succeeded by
Go Away Little Girl” by Donny Osmond
Preceded by
Sweet Hitch-Hiker” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Canadian “RPM” Singles Chart number-one single
18 September 1971 – 2 October 1971 (three weeks)
Succeeded by
Maggie May” by Rod Stewart

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