After the huge commercial success of the first Bond film, Dr No, producers Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli could not wait to get back on location to start the filming of the second instalment.
Selecting Fleming’s fifth Bond novel, From Russia With Love (partly, it is said, as it was identified by President John F Kennedy as one of his top ten favourite books of all time), the duo were once again on the lookout for a talented writer to score the film soundtrack.
After consideration, two young composers were left in the reckoning. After his superb arrangement work on the James Bond Theme for Dr No, John Barry was the obvious choice to take the reins but the producers, and director Terence Young were worried about the composer’s lack of big-screen experience.
Saltzmann preferred the talents of Lionel Bart (who would later have great success with the film Oliver!) but, after some deliberation, Barry was chosen. In the meantime, Saltzman had committed himself to Bart and that is why the theme song From Russia With Love is a Lionel Bart composition.
The film From Russia With Love gave us many of the iconic Bond conventions that began to define the series. From a pre-credit sequence to the introduction of secret gadgetry and the Blofeld character, Bond 2, for the first time, also included a specific theme song with lyrics.
From Russia With Love (1963)
1. Opening Titles: James Bond Is Back/From Russia With Love/James Bond Theme
2. Tania Meets Klebb
3. Meeting In St.Sophia
4. The Golden Horn
5. Girl Trouble
6. Bond Meets Tania
8. Gypsy Camp
9. Death Of Grant
10. From Russia With Love
11. Spectre Island
12. Guitar Lament
13. Man Overboard – SMERSH In Action
14. James Bond With Bongos
16. Leila Dances
17. Death of Kerin
18. 007 Takes The Lektor
Whilst Matt Monro’s From Russia With Love theme did not accompany the opening credits (a great and classic opening sequence features a short Barry piece called James Bond Is Back and an instrumental version of Bart’s song segueing into Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme) it appears during the film (as music on a radio) and in full over the end titles.
From Russia With Love also sees Barry begin a theme of reworking the main title track as a love song. The instrumental Bond Meets Tania is a gentle orchestral version of Matt Monro’s theme tune and it is also included in the later song Death of Kerin.
As Barry still hadn’t written a definitive theme of his own the composer came up with the piece 007 as a more up-tempo, adventurous theme for Bond. The song features a series of seven note sequences and became a staple of several further Bond soundtracks, particularly in action sequences. The final song from this soundtrack is an alternative version of 007 entitled 007 Takes The Lektor which is featured in the film during the gunfight at the gypsy camp and also during Bond’s theft of the cryptograph machine.
The soundtrack album contains most of the important music from the film as well as a terrific track entitled The Golden Horn, which wasn’t used in the film. The highlights of the album included Girl Trouble, Leila Dances (though not the version heard in the film), 007 and Stalking. Many of these tracks feature superb guitar work from Vic Flick, previously the guitarist for Barry’s band The John Barry Seven.
In much the same way that Monty Norman had accompanied the production crew on location in Jamaica for the filming of Dr No, Barry joined Saltzman, Broccoli and the crew in Istanbul for much of the filming of From Russia With Love.
Interestingly, however, and in complete contrast to Norman’s very location-specific soundtrack, Barry could find little in Turkish music to inspire him. He felt that the local music had a comedic tone that did not fit with the dramatic soundtrack needed for the film and so it is only the inclusion of some minor local instruments (on, for example, Leila Dances) that give the music any sort of Turkish flavour.
From Russia With Love is a superb album from start to finish. After the eclectic mixture of ska and reggae featured in Dr No, From Russia With Love is instantly recognisable as a Bond soundtrack thanks to its stunning, dramatic orchestral arrangement. Whilst it doesn’t feel out of place, Lionel Bart’s main theme is arguably the weak point of the album and its incongruous lyrics resulted in Barry demanding complete artistic control over future Bond soundtracks in order to make the title songs more appropriate to the films.
John Barry’s stunning work essentially set the tone and standard for every Bond soundtrack that followed in the series and it is impossible to overestimate the impact that this soundtrack had on not only the Bond series but also on movie scores in general. It is a ‘must-have’ record for not only Bond fans but anyone with an interest in cinematic music. It really is that important.