Sheer Magnetism – Sir George Martin & Live & Let Die (Interview)

Sir George Martin


In 1973 James Bond was about to change. Long gone where the Martinis, the Walther PPK and the Scottish accent. Bond was now English, drinking bourbon whiskey, smoking cigars and carrying a Magnum. Though none of these changes stuck with the Bond films that followed, they are part of what makes Live and Let Die a Bond film distinctly different from those that preceded it. Another major factor is the incredible score.

Other composers have stood in for John Barry before, some very well (Marvin Hamlisch), some not so well (Eric Serra, Bill Conti). There is no doubt, however, that when George Martin stood in for John Barry for Live and Let Die, he delivered a unique and brilliant score that drives the film along with a menacing stamp of cool authority. It has its roots in Blacksploitation and makes no effort to hide this, however it also manages to straddle a difficult line and offer that same John Barry-esque bombastic eloquence that we have become so used to.


Much like the film itself, the score is effortlessly cool as it strides from scene to scene, while at the same time feeling mildly out of place in the Bond canon. Gone are the sweeping strings, and in are the wah-wah pedal, deep bass riffs and pure funk.  This is James Bond for the 1970s, can you dig it?

I had the honour of catching up with Sir George Martin via email and was able to ask him some questions about the scoring of Live and Let Die:

Just how did you become involved with Live and Let Die?

I already knew the producers because I had recorded Shirley Bassey singing Goldfinger and Matt Munro singing From Russia With Love for them. I knew they were looking for another good song and they asked Paul McCartney if he had something. Paul in turn wanted to make a demo of what he’d written so he asked me to orchestrate it in a very dramatic/Bond way – you don’t usually get to make a demo with a full orchestra, but that’s what we did. Harry Saltzman (Bond producer) invited me to come out to Jamaica where they were shooting the film. We had lunch the day after I arrived and the first thing he said was, “Great score you did there George. Now who do you think we’re going to get to sing it? Aretha Franklin?” I then realised I had to diplomatically tell him that if he didn’t use Paul’s version then he wouldn’t get the song. During that trip to Jamaica, he made it obvious that he was expecting me to write the rest of the music for the film too.

The score is one of the best and very “funky” (for want of a better word). What were your influences/inspirations at the time?

Thank you. As far as style goes, it’s what the film needed at the time and film music always needs to be descriptive – with those voodoo sequences, you had to be funky!

How was it working with Guy Hamilton? Rumour has it he had quite strong ideas about how the score should sound?

I’ve scored a number of movies and getting the right sound is all about working with the director and understanding his vision. Guy was a delight. He was one of those directors who said from the outset that he didn’t know anything about music, but he knew what he wanted. Out of all the cues we did, we only remade one, so I guess you can say we worked well together.

Was the core band from the soundtrack made up of musicians you’d worked with before?

Yes. They were musicians that I regularly booked for this kind of work. The best in the world.

Would you have been interested in scoring any further Bond films?

Yes absolutely, but I didn’t get the chance. John (Barry) was doing such a good job and he was an old friend of mine anyway, so I wasn’t about to push him out of the way.

And here is that demo with the full orchestra that Sir George Martin was referring to:

Originally posted 2013-02-25 20:54:21. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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