Arts, Culture & Media

Composer discusses surprising origin of James Bond theme song

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Monty Norman composed the theme song for the James Bond movie, Dr. No.

Last Friday was “Global Bond Day.”

Monty Norman is the man who composed the James Bond theme. We all think we know what the tune signifies -- edgy, classy, secret, dangerous even. But Norman composed it to suggest something very different.

Norman says the song came about from a stage musical that was abandoned. It was supposed to be the follow-up to Irma La Douce, which was a big big hit.

The song was then used for VS Naipaul’s “A House for Mr Biswas,” which was set in Trinidad.

Nearly all the characters in the novel are of South Asian descent and Norman and his librettist wrote the musical, but then, Norman says, they suddenly realized there was little or no chance of getting an all-West Indian Asian cast.

“That’s the end of the 50s beginning of the 60s, so we abandoned it. And there was one number in it that I liked very much that I put in my bottom drawer, and sort of didn’t think about it,” he said.

That was until Norman was commissioned to write a theme for the James Bond movie “Dr. No.”

Then it came back to him.

“Originally it had a very Asian quality. It started with 'I was born with this unlucky…' and you can hear that,” he said.

Then came the breakthrough.

Norman kept the melody but split the musical notes for a more staccato feel.

“And the moment I did Dum diddy dum dum dum, I thought my God that’s it,” Norman said.

The producers liked this new take on the tune. And so did Sean Connery.

“He seemed to like it very much, I mean, when you see the film and the camera pans up to Sean’s face and he says “Bond, James Bond” from that moment onwards, Sean Connery became a star," Norman said. "The James Bond theme which was behind him was imprinted on people’s minds and the whole James Bond franchise was up and running."