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THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS – John Barry

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Living Daylights is the fifteenth entry in the James Bond film series and the first to star Timothy Dalton as the British secret agent. Dalton took over the role from Roger Moore, who had retired from the part after A View to a Kill in 1985, but only after a long and protracted period of negotiations in which the original choice, Pierce Brosnan, was eventually blocked by producers of the American TV show Remington Steele. The film was intended to be a return to the grittier feel of Ian Fleming’s original novels after Moore’s previous few films were criticized for being too tongue-in-cheek and self-aware. The plot initially concerns the defection of KGB officer Georgi Koskov, which Bond helps facilitate, but quickly turns into an international conspiracy involving a beautiful Czech cellist named Kara Milovy, a megalomaniacal American arms dealer named Brad Whittaker, and an attempt to undermine the slowly thawing relationship between the Soviet Union and the West with nuclear weapons. Directed by John Glen, the film co-stars Maryam d’Abo, Joe Don Baker, Jeroen Krabbé, and Art Malik as an Afghan mujahedeen leader who helps Bond in his hour of need. The film was generally well-received, and I personally have always felt that Dalton was an underrated Bond, who successfully captured the darker, more dangerous side of Fleming’s character which had been missing from the franchise for too long.

The Living Daylights was also a watershed in terms of its music, as it marked the eleventh and final Bond soundtrack to be scored by the legendary English composer John Barry. Shortly after completing work on the film Barry would be diagnosed with a rare form of throat cancer which, a couple of minor projects notwithstanding, kept him out of the scoring business until 1990 and Dances With Wolves. This illness prevented him from scoring the next Bond film, Licence to Kill, in 1989, and then by the time Goldeneye rolled around in 1995 Barry was winding down his composing career and turned down producer Barbara Broccoli’s offer to score it. As such, The Living Daylights marks a bittersweet end to one of the most popular and successful musical contributions to cinema, one which spanned three decades and left an indelible mark on the medium.

As always with the Bond soundtracks, one must always start with the song. Unusually for a Bond film, there were actually three original songs written for the project: “The Living Daylights,” performed by Norwegian pop super-group A-Ha, and “Where Has Every Body Gone” and “If There Was a Man,” both performed by the Anglo-American rock group The Pretenders and their vocalist Chrissie Hynde. The decision to have A-Ha sing the title song was a direct attempt to repeat the success Duran Duran had with A View to a Kill in 1985; like Duran Duran, A-Ha were enormously popular, having had seven chart hits in the UK alone over the previous two years. Their song, which Barry co-wrote with the band’s lead guitarist Pål Waaktaar, is a fun, catchy 1980s synthpop effort, with an especially notable 5-note motif derived from the chorus (“the liv-ing day-lights”) that features strongly in the score, and an iconic falsetto-heavy vocal performance from lead singer Morten Harket.

While writing the rest of the score, Barry decided to turn both his main love theme for James and Kara, and the main motif for the lead villain Necros, into songs, and approached his old friend Hynde to contribute lyrics. The love theme eventually morphed into “If There Was a Man,” a gentle and romantic ballad again based around two recurring melodic motifs and featuring Hynde’s immediately recognizable post-punk inflected voice, while the theme for Necros became “Where Has Every Body Gone,” a much more sinister-sounding piece based around an aggressive descending 7-note motif and roaring, growling brass. “If There Was a Man” plays over the film’s end credits scroll, while “Where Has Every Body Gone,” amusingly, can be heard coming from Necros’s Walkman as he prepares himself prior to his assault on the English country house where KGB defector Koskov is being de-briefed. One hundred points if anyone under the age of 25 knows what a Walkman is!

The score itself features these three themes prominently, and also includes performances of both Monty Norman’s famous James Bond theme, as well as Barry’s own 007 theme. It’s largely an orchestral score, recorded in London, but to address the mid-1980s zeitgeist Barry incorporated a liberal amount of electronic and synthesized elements, many of which were produced by Paul O’Duffy, a Grammy-winning British expert in the medium who worked with pop artists ranging from KC and the Sunshine Band to Patti Labelle and Swing Out Sister during the period. The synths are fairly simple – usually nothing more than an underpinning drum loop rhythm, and an electronic bass – but it gives Barry’s music a lively quality that makes it stand out significantly from his other action efforts.

Action is actually the cornerstone of the score, with several excellent set pieces. “Necros Attack” is, for all intents and purposes, an instrumental performance of “Where Has Every Body Gone” dressed up as an action cue, with wonderfully throaty brass rasps, and the familiar precisely-based rhythmic center that Barry favored throughout his career, albeit spiced up with more of those contemporary electronic pulses. Later, “Ice Chase” underscores the action sequence where Bond and Kara desperately flee for the Czech-Austrian border using (among other things) Kara’s cello case as a toboggan; again, the orchestra is underpinned by electronic pulses and electric guitars, and there are several excellent statements of the James Bond theme, weaving around the 7-note Necros motif.

Beyond this cue, the legendary James Bond theme is actually used quite infrequently in the score, which may come as something as a surprise to those more used to hearing it more or less constantly throughout the films. It gets a sort of hesitant introduction in “Exercise at Gibraltar,” the film’s pre-title action sequence which cleverly introduces Dalton’s Bond character as he takes part in an MI6 training exercise off the Rock of Gibraltar. There are several flashes of the James Bond theme here, along with extended sequences of suspense for snare drums, strings, xylophones, and brooding orchestral textures. For the rest of the time, though, it only appears fleetingly; “Inflight Fight,” the action sequence for the fight on a cargo net hanging out of the back of a plane, high above the Afghan desert, features a clever juxtaposition of the Bond theme against the wicked brass of the Necros motif to illustrate the on-screen conflict, while “Final Confrontation” plays a slow, dramatic rendering of the Bond theme with vintage Goldfinger-style brass outbursts and moody cello chords.

Instead, the Necros motif and the main Living Daylights melody tend to take center stage. Both “Hercules Takes Off” and “Assassin and Drugged” contain brassy extended performances of the Living Daylights theme which highlight its versatility outside of the song setting, while “Murder at the Fair” contains a suspenseful statement of the Living Daylights theme for slow, careful orchestra, juxtaposed against the Necros theme, as the deadly assassin stalks his next victim through Vienna’s Prater Park. There are several other suspenseful sequences too – notably “The Sniper Was a Woman,” “Koskov Escapes,” “Airbase Jailbreak,” and “Air Bond” – and in these cues Barry’s music is occasionally reminiscent of that which he wrote for The Black Hole in 1980, with dark, churning cello writing, often offset with the snare drum riffs and precise staccato brass which was prototypical of Barry at that time, and conveys a sense of ominous intent

The relationship between Bond and the beautiful Czech cellist Kara Milovy is conveyed through several exquisite statements of the “If There Was a Man” love theme. “Kara Meets Bond” begins tensely, but eventually melts into a soft, pretty rendition for solo flute and orchestra that has a lot in common with the similar flute-based love theme from A View to a Kill. “Approaching Kara” revisits the love theme with a touch of suspense, as well as the clever use of a cimbalom to illustrate the eastern European setting, and maybe even pay homage to Anton Karas’s 1949 zither score for The Third Man, another spy thriller set in Vienna. “Into Vienna” offers a more pop-inflected performance of the love theme for piano, strings, and 1980s percussion which, by today’s standards, seems slightly cheesy. Finally, the “Alternate End Titles” contains a gorgeous, full orchestral statement of the love theme that will appeal greatly to fans of any of Barry’s sweeping romance scores.

If that was not enough, Barry also found time to include a little ode to Lawrence of Arabia by way of his theme for the Afghan mujahedeen leader Kamran Shah, and for the Afghan desert scenes in general. Both “Mujahadin and Opium” and “Afghanistan Plan” are unexpectedly majestic, with see-sawing strings and masculine brass that has a lot in common with the popular themes Barry wrote in the 1990s for scores like Dances With Wolves, The Scarlet Letter, Swept from the Sea, and others. The whole thing is indicative of sweeping desert landscapes; the rattling percussion ideas Barry uses add tension and a sense of exotic, and there is even a moody statement of the Necros motif on clarinet in “Afghanistan Plan,” showing that even taciturn assassins can appreciate majestic desert vistas.

Having originally been released on CD and vinyl LP by Warner Bros in 1987, the deluxe edition of the soundtrack released by Rykodisc in 1998 rather stupidly repeats the running order of the original LP, and then places all the additional expanded score cues at the end of the album as ‘bonus tracks’ rather than re-arranging the whole thing into a logical running order. This decision was illogically repeated on the 2003 EMI Capitol release too, so listeners wanting to hear the score at its best will want to re-arrange them into the following order: 13-1-3-6-2-7-14-5-8-4-15-16-17-10-18-9-11-19-20-12-21. Other than that, the Rykodisc package is actually a decent one, and is my recommendation for the best presentation of the score, as it comes with a fold out poster as part of the album art, and interesting liner notes from Barry experts Geoff Leonard and Pete Walker.

The Living Daylights was the first Bond movie I saw in a theater, aged 12, and as far as I can remember it was the only film I saw in a cinema with my grandfather prior to his death in 1989, so it holds a special place in my heart. Despite this, the score is often curiously overlooked by Bond music aficionados, who tend to go back to Sean Connery-era scores like Goldfinger and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service when compiling lists of the best 007 scores. I have been perhaps a little guilty of this myself too but, having been immersed in it for the last couple of days, I might actually be tempted to put The Living Daylights up there as one of the best. The themes are superb, the songs are good, and the action music displays an unexpected level of electro-acoustic sophistication that remains vital, and allowed Barry to leave the world of James Bond on a high.

Buy the Living Daylights soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • ORIGINAL 1987 WARNER BROS RELEASE
  • The Living Daylights (written by John Barry and Pål Waaktaar, performed by A-Ha) (4:16)
  • Necros Attack (2:04)
  • The Sniper was a Woman (2:30)
  • Ice Chase (4:05)
  • Kara Meets Bond (2:47)
  • Koskov Escapes (2:23)
  • Where Has Every Body Gone (written by John Barry and Chrissie Hynde, performed by The Pretenders) (3:37)
  • Into Vienna (2:50)
  • Hercules Takes Off (2:17)
  • Mujahadin and Opium (3:13)
  • Inflight Fight (3:12)
  • If There Was a Man (written by John Barry and Chrissie Hynde, performed by The Pretenders) (2:54)
  • EXPANDED 1998 RYKODISC/2003 EMI RELEASES
  • The Living Daylights (written by John Barry and Pål Waaktaar, performed by A-Ha) (4:16)
  • Necros Attack (2:04)
  • The Sniper was a Woman (2:30)
  • Ice Chase (4:05)
  • Kara Meets Bond (2:47)
  • Koskov Escapes (2:23)
  • Where Has Every Body Gone (written by John Barry and Chrissie Hynde, performed by The Pretenders) (3:37)
  • Into Vienna (2:50)
  • Hercules Takes Off (2:17)
  • Mujahadin and Opium (3:13)
  • Inflight Fight (3:12)
  • If There Was a Man (written by John Barry and Chrissie Hynde, performed by The Pretenders) (2:54)
  • Exercise at Gibraltar (6:22) – BONUS
  • Approaching Kara (2:21) – BONUS
  • Murder at the Fair (2:22) – BONUS
  • Assassin and Drugged (2:43) – BONUS
  • Airbase Jailbreak (4:37) – BONUS
  • Afghanistan Plan (3:34) – BONUS
  • Air Bond (1:46) – BONUS
  • Final Confrontation (1:58) – BONUS
  • Alternate End Titles (3:22) – BONUS

Running Time: 35 minutes 14 seconds (Original)
Running Time: 65 minutes 13 seconds (Expanded)

Warner Brothers 52616-2 (1987)
Rykodisc RCD-10725 (1987/1998)

Music composed and conducted by John Barry. Orchestrations by Nic Raine. James Bond theme by Monty Norman. Recorded and mixed by Dick Lewzey. Edited by Alan Killick. Score produced by John Barry. Expanded album produced by Ian Gilchrist and Lukas Kendall.

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