After the introduction of George Lazenby as the new 007 in the terrific cat and mouse adventure, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, producers Harry Saltzmann and Cubby Broccoli decided to change direction for the seventh movie in the series, Diamonds Are Forever.
After Lazenby’s agent had questionably advised the actor not to reprise his role as 007, the producers managed to tempt Sean Connery back by agreeing to a then astronomical fee of £1.2million. Wanting to ‘reboot’ the series for an American audience, Broccoli and Saltzmann wanted to recreate the commercially successful aspects of Goldfinger and so began by hiring its director Guy Hamilton.
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
1. Diamonds Are Forever (Main Title)
2. Bond Meets Bambi And Thumper
3. Moon Buggy Ride
4. Circus, Circus
5. Death At The Whyte House
6. Diamonds Are Forever (Source Instrumental)
7. Diamonds Are Forever (Bond And Tiffany)
8. Bond Smells A Rat
9. Tiffany Case
10. 007 And Counting
11. Q’s Trick
12. To Hell With Blofeld
13. Gunbarrel And Manhunt
14. Mr Wint And Mr Kidd/Bond To Holland
15. Peter Franks
16. Airport Source/On The Road
17. Slumber, Inc.
18. The Whyte House
19. Plenty, Then Tiffany
20. Following The Diamonds
21. Additional And Alternate Cues
With Connery and Hamilton back in the saddle, the one missing ‘piece’ was to recreate the brass-laden soundtrack which had provided such a superb accompaniment to the earlier film. John Barry signed up for his sixth consecutive Bond movie and set about recreating the atmosphere of Goldfinger in his score.
The obvious first place to start was to re-hire the Welsh singer Shirley Bassey to perform the theme tune. Barry once again collaborated with Don Black, whose clever, witty lyrics were reportedly the cause of some consternation with Saltzmann. He disliked what he thought was strong sexual innuendo in the lyrics and, after the first play of the song in Barry’s apartment, insisted it be rewritten.
Barry recalls, “Cubby was very good about music, had a good ear, he knew when he heard a song or a melody, he always had very good instincts about that. Harry was absolutely tone deaf.” Despite Saltzmann’s objection, Broccoli loved the song and gave Barry the nod to include it. It has become a modern standard and one of the best known and loved Bond theme tunes.
Putter Smith, the American actor who played Mr Kidd in Diamonds Are Forever, was actually a well-respected bass guitarist when he was chosen to work on the film. Later in his career he recalls playing bass for Shirley Bassey when on tour at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. Bassey had no idea that Smith had starred in the film and the actor calls it his ‘humorous in-joke’ – playing bass for Bassey whilst she performed the theme to the Bond film in which he starred so memorably.
Bassey also re-recorded an Italian version of the theme entitled Una Cascata di Diamanti which was only released on 7” single in Italy.
As with many of Barry’s soundtracks, the initial keyboard motif from the title track and the theme itself are woven throughout the score. The repeating eight note sequence from Diamonds Are Forever crop up throughout, sparkling and twinkling like the gemstones they describe. It is used with particularly good effect on Death In The Whyte House, Peter Franks and Plenty, then Tiffany. The theme itself appears in a Bacharach-esque lounge style on the Source Instrumental and in a classic orchestration on Bond and Tiffany.
Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme is also incorporated in tracks such as To Hell With Blofeld and Mr Wint and Mr Kidd.
Diamonds are Forever is, in some ways, a backwards step in the chronology of Bond soundtracks. Reuniting director Hamilton, Bassey and Connery and making a film in the style of Goldfinger (from seven years earlier) changed the whole direction of the franchise. The momentum gathered by Barry’s stunning, dramatic score for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was lost as the composer returned to safer ground with Diamonds Are Forever. It is heavily brass-led, although the re-workings of both the Space March and 007 themes (used well on To Hell With Blofeld) underscore the action well.
With the film’s Las Vegas location this soundtrack also contains some grand ‘show’ tunes to accompany the glamorous casino setting. Q’s Trick is a particularly incongruous inclusion and would be more comfortable in a West End show than on a Bond soundtrack.
Where Diamonds Are Forever does work, however, is in the stunning title theme. Don Black’s lyrics are superb – indeed when Black met legendary director Steven Spielberg in later years the Oscar winning director revealed Diamonds Are Forever was his favourite film theme of all time. Bassey adds her distinctive vocals to the instantly recognisable and powerful track which was covered beautifully in 1997 by British vocalist David McAlmont. The theme lends itself well to both suspenseful and romantic orchestration throughout and, although I feel it was a retrograde step for Barry, it’s still a good, solid collection of classic Bond music.