Monty Norman RIP: 5 Things You Didn't Know About the James Bond Theme Song
Now, pay attention, 007.
The composer of the most famous piece of action-movie music has passed away. Monty Norman, the composer of the iconic“The James Bond Theme,” was 94. Norman wrote the songs for several musical stage plays in his lifetime, including staged-musical versions of Pinocchio and Stand and Deliver. But, despite a huge body of work, Monty, undoubtedly, was forever associated with that "Dum di-di dum dum” guitar riff for the James Bond film series, starting in 1962 in Dr. No.
In honor of Norman’s passing, and in celebration of this utterly world-changing piece of movie music, here are five things you probably don’t know about the theme music for James Bond. Pay attention 007!
5. “The James Bond Theme” Doubled as the Title Song for Dr. No
Although all subsequent James Bond films sport a particular title song, sung by a guest musician (I.E. Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die,” or Billie Eilish’s “No Time To Die) the very first Sean Connery James Bond movie, Dr. No, did not. Instead, the Monty Norman “James Bond Theme” serves as the primary “song” for the movie. However, bizarrely, two other songs do feature prominently in the movie; both of which are decidedly kinda un-James Bond. A version of the nursery rhyme “Three Blind Mice,” is prominent in the opening of the film, while the song "Under the Mango Tree," is a big deal in the movie. The version “Underneath the Mango Tree,” on the film’s soundtrack was sung by Monty Norman’s then-wife, Diana Coupland. In the movie, Sean Connery even sings “Underneath the Mango Tree,” something that James Bond never does with his own theme song.
4. Monty Norman Only Scored ONE James Bond Movie
Despite the fact that Monty Norman’s “James Bond Theme” appears in all 25 “official” James Bond movies, he only wrote the score for Dr. No. The more famous old-school James Bond composer is John Barry; who worked on arranging the music for Dr. No, and fully took over musical scoring duties completely starting with the second James Bond movie, From Russia With Love in 1963. Because John Barry arranged Monty Norman’s Bond theme for Dr. No, he actually claimed partial authorship of the song many times. This led to several lawsuits.
3. There’s Actually ANOTHER James Bond Theme Song
Although less famous than Norman’s “James Bond Theme,” John Barry wrote and arranged another piece of theme music, just called “007.” This bombastic, and suspenseful piece of music made its debut in From Russia With Love but is probably most memorable during the fight scenes in Thunderball (1965). To date, this theme song last appeared in Moonraker (1979) and has not reappeared since.
2. James Bond Knows His Own Song
In the Roger Moore Bond movie, Octopussy (1983) one of James Bond’s allies — disguised as a freaking snake charmer — plays “The James Bond Theme,” to alert 007 that he’s made contact. This is a rare instance of music from a James Bond movie also existing as diegetic music within the story. Another similar example occurs in the first Roger Moore outing, Live and Let Die (1973) in which a lounge singer actually belts out a version of “Live and Let Die,” while Bond listens.
1. Daniel Craig Broke a “James Bond Theme” Tradition
Prior to 2006, at the start of the Daniel Craig era, every EON-produced James Bond film began with some version — sometimes very abbreviated — of Monty Norman’s “James Bond Theme.” However, in Casino Royale, this didn’t happen at all. In fact, it’s the first time the James Bond theme didn’t play in a James Bond movie until the very end of the film. Subsequent Daniel Craig movies would continue to play fast-and-loose with how much the famous theme music is actually used. In fact, in No Time To Die — the final Daniel Craig 007 movie — the Monty Norman theme is only very briefly used. Once at the beginning of the film, and again, partially, when James Bond drives his ‘80s BMW back to MI6 in the Hans Zimmer-composed track, appropriately titled “Back to MI6.”
Grab the original Monty Norman James Bond theme, and all the other themes, on vinyl, right here.