After the success of James Bond’s twelfth adventure, For Your Eyes Only, Roger Moore and director John Glen were reunited in 1983 for Bond’s new adventure, Octopussy. And, for the first time since 1979’s Moonraker, legendary composer John Barry was able to rejoin the team to provide the score for the thirteenth 007 adventure.
1. All Time High
2. Bond Look Alike
3. 009 Gets The Knife And Gorbinda Attacks
4. That’s My Little Octopussy
5. Arrival At The Island Of Octopussy
6. Bond At The Monsoon Palace
7. Bond Meets Octopussy
8. Yo Yo Fight And Death Of Vijay
9. The Chase Bomb Theme
10. The Palace Fight
11. All Time High
After legal wrangling over the rights to the Bond stories had failed to produce a satisfactory outcome, Warner Brothers commenced the production of their own James Bond adventure, Never Say Never Again, in 1982. The film, starring Sean Connery as 007, was an “unofficial” Bond movie and was released just four months after Octopussy.
Legendary Bond composer John Barry had been invited by Warner Brothers to provide the soundtrack for their alternative 007 film. Having moved overseas to escape the UK’s punitive income taxes, Barry had been unable to work on EON’s The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only, and was only able to return for Moonraker thanks to it being filmed partly in France.
However, out of loyalty to the Bond franchise, Barry turned down the opportunity to score Never Say Never Again, choosing instead to return to the UK, buying a property in the same London square where he had written much of his early Bond music.
Knowing that there was a rival Bond film in production also informed much of Barry’s score for the thirteenth 007 adventure. The composer used the James Bond Theme much more liberally than he had in previous soundtracks with the intention of underlining that Octopussy was the “official” Bond film, and to differentiate it from the competition. It was used particularly strikingly in the pre-credit sequence where the track Bond Look-Alike underscores Bond destroying a military aircraft hangar.
The James Bond Theme was also used to comedic effect when Bond is greeted by Vijay in India. Posing as a snake charmer, the local agent plays the Bond theme to identify himself, promoting 007 to comment, “That’s a charming tune…..”
As ever, the title track was Barry’s main challenge. For the third time in the series, the title of the film did not lend itself lyrically to a song title, and so the filmmakers agreed to allow the composers to choose their own title.
Whilst Barry had collaborated with the likes of Leslie Bricusse and Don Black on previous Bond soundtracks, producer Cubby Broccoli invited the well-known lyricist Tim Rice to work with Barry on Octopussy.� Rice had made his name in stage musicals, collaborating with Andrew Lloyd-Webber on Evita, Joseph, and Jesus Christ Superstar and with the male members of Abba on Chess.
At Barry’s suggestion, the pair wrote six possible themes for Octopussy, with the production crew eventually choosing the lush ballad All Time High a phrase that was later used as the film’s advertising slogan.
Despite reports that British singer Mari Wilson and American superstar Laura Branigan were favourites to record the theme, American singer Rita Coolidge was eventually asked to record All Time High. As Coolidge told Country Music People magazine, Cubby Broccoli’s daughter was a fan and she wanted me to sing the theme song for Octopussy. She started playing my records around the house, and Cubby said one day, “Who is that? That’s the voice I want for the movie.”
Coolidge was seen as a surprise choice, considering her career had peaked in the late 1970’s. However, her easy-listening style and class were seen as perfect for this Bond ballad and the song spent a month on top of the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. However, the song was only a minor mainstream hit on both sides of the Atlantic. All Time High has since been covered by Pulp (on David Arnold’s Bond project Shaken and Stirred), Shirley Bassey and Kelly Llorena.
The orchestral theme of All Time High underscores the two main love scenes in the film. It can be heard during Bond’s tryst with Magda (That’s My Little Octopussy) and again with the eponymous villain in Bond Meets Octopussy.
For the action sequences, Barry composed a new piece of music which segued perfectly into the James Bond Theme. Punctuated by Barry’s traditional brass, the pulsating score can be heard on 009 Gets The Knife, Yo-Yo Fight and The Palace Fight.
Barry also composed a cue entitled The Chase Bomb Theme, played during the bomb’s journey into West Germany. Interestingly, later versions of the Octopussy soundtrack (including the 2003 remastered version) mistakenly title this piece The Chase Bond Theme.
Octopussy is one of the shortest Bond soundtracks, but Barry’s genius is once again in evidence. Featuring just eleven tracks, two of which are versions of the title theme All Time High the album is just thirty-six minutes long. This is partly due to the fact that Barry deliberately left many of the fight sequences unscored in attempt to make the scenes more realistic and partly due to the lack of remastered or additional material.
Whilst All Time High may not have been a huge worldwide hit, it is many people’s favourite Bond theme. And, coupled with the composer’s new 007 action sequence and the liberal and effective use of the James Bond Theme, Octopussy is one of Barry’s most accomplished Bond soundtracks.