By the time the production started on the third James Bond film, the 007 character was a box office sensation. Dr No and From Russia With Love had catapulted the secret agent to the top of the box office charts the world over, the movie going public expectantly awaited the release of the third film in the series.
Harry Saltzmann and Cubby Broccoli chose Ian Fleming’s seventh novel, Goldfinger, as the third instalment. Sean Connery returned as Bond with German actor Gert Fröbe cast as the eponymous villain Auric Goldfinger and Honor Blackman as Bond girl Pussy Galore.
Having been handed the reins on From Russia With Love, John Barry was once again invited to score the film. Having yet to record the ‘theme’ for either of the previous Bond films (Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme and Lionel Bart’s From Russia With Love accompanied Bonds 1 and 2), Barry demanded complete control of the soundtrack for Goldfinger. The freedom to allow Barry to write the title song for the film as well as the soundtrack worked well, as it gave the talented composer the licence to create a coherent, dramatic score that Barry himself considers one of his finest.
1. Main Title – Goldfinger
2. Into Miami
3. Alpine Drive – Auric’s Factory
4. Oddjob’s Pressing Engagement
5. Bond Back In Action Again
6. Teasing The Korean
7. Gassing The Gangsters
8. Goldfinger (Instrumental Version)
9. Dawn Raid On Fort Knox
10. The Arrival Of The Bomb And Count Down
11. The End Of Goldfinger – End Titles
12. Golden Girl
13. Death of Tilley
14. The Laser Beam
15. Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus
The centrepiece of the soundtrack is, of course, the instantly recognisable Goldfinger theme song. After From Russia With Love, featuring lyrics with no relevance to the film itself, Barry felt that the theme song should have some relevance to the action of the movie. He therefore teamed up with popular lyricists Anthony Newley and partner Leslie Bricusse to write the theme for Goldfinger. It is said that when Newley and Bricusse were asked to assist Barry with the song, they both looked at each other and spontaneously sang ‘Goldfinger…wider than a mile’ reprising the successful Breakfast at Tiffany’s theme, Moon River.
Newley actually recorded the first version of Goldfinger on May 14th 1964 and the jazzy interpretation of the theme has been included on some limited edition Bond compilation CDs. Quite why this version was not used in the film is open to speculation, although the version eventually included was recorded some months later by Shirley Bassey with Beatles producer George Martin.
Bassey’s show-stopping, dramatic style was perfect for the song and she became a regular contributor to Bond soundtrack albums, recording the two further themes Diamonds Are Forever and Moonraker. Barry acknowledged that Bassey was perfect casting, bringing ‘conviction’ to the recording.
Interestingly, the 1989 Bond theme Licence to Kill was felt to include so many aspects of Goldfinger that, after its release, Barry, Bricusse and Newley were added to the writing credits for all subsequent releases of the Gladys Knight hit.
Whilst From Russia With Love featured a wonderfully understated and orchestrated soundtrack, Goldfinger is much more dramatic and bombastic with a heavy use of brass. The two huge opening notes of the Bassey theme song very much gives you a flavour of the big-band, climactic nature of the rest of the soundtrack. Barry used a lot of metallic chimes and brass throughout, particularly featuring scenes with Goldfinger or his Korean henchman, Oddjob. The additional track Golden Girl (restored for the 2003 reissue of Goldfinger) also features dramatic brass to highlight Bond’s shock at discovering Jill Masterson’s gold painted body.
Barry manages to convey a huge amount of dramatic tension right through the Goldfinger soundtrack. His clever use of percussion, such as the timpani on The Arrival Of The Bomb and Count Down – where Bond attempts to disarm Goldfinger’s atomic device inside Fort Knox – underpin the film’s various climaxes. Similarly, the snare drum on the superb Dawn Raid On Fort Knox builds up tension to a giant brass explosion as Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus launches their attack on the gold depository.
I also like the gentle orchestration of The Laser Beam, which again builds into an explosive brass climax. It is, of course, largely lost in the film behind one of the most memorable exchanges of dialogue in the series as Bond enquires of Goldfinger “Do you expect me to talk?” whilst the villain replies “No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die!”
Barry’s Goldfinger soundtrack was a huge commercial success. It gave Bassey her biggest hit in America where the song reached number eight on the Billboard chart. It was also a top Thirty hit in the UK. The album soundtrack was also a hit, dislodging the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night from the US number One spot where it was also awarded gold status.
Famously, of course, Harry Saltzman despised Goldfinger when he first heard it. Thanks, however, to the persuasion of legendary producer Cubby Broccoli it was included and they were rewarded with probably the most instantly recognisable Bond theme song of them all.
Free monthly newsletter
Get the latest on Bond 26 and other James Bond news by email.
No thanks, I'm not interested in news about 007