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Last Updated: Monday, 5 December 2005, 14:19 GMT
Bond composer records theme song
By Vincent Dowd
BBC World Service arts reporter

Monty Norman
Norman said he knew immediately the Bond theme was 'special'
Monty Norman, composer of the original James Bond theme, has released a CD of his classic work which offers an insight into the genesis of the famous spy theme.

The showbiz awards and memorabilia on display in Monty Norman's London flat fall into two categories.

Unless you adore old British stage musicals you probably won't know much about his award-winning 1950s shows like Make Me An Offer or Expresso Bongo - or even later ones such as Songbook or Poppy.

They were hits, even if the earlier ones smack now of that long-lost Tin Pan Alley buried by the Beatles.

And, unlike his contemporary Lionel Bart, Norman never had that massive show which got revived year in, year out to keep his name in public view.

Look at the cinema posters on Norman's walls though and it's a different story.

His theme music has adorned every Bond from Dr No onwards - and will survive into the Daniel Craig era.


Norman, now in his mid-70s, penned possibly the best action theme ever heard in cinema - that powerful, unforgettable thing fans sometimes just call 'Dum Di-Di Dum Dum'.

And if over the years it occurred to you there's an odd Eastern element to the Bond music, Norman's new CD offers enlightenment: the tune was part of a planned stage musical which would have had a very Indian feel.

In 1961 Norman and his lyric-writing partner Julian More decided to write a musical based on the big middle-brow hit novel of the day: V.S. Naipaul's A House for Mr Biswas. Naipaul's story takes place among the Indian population of Trinidad.

Norman said: "Julian wrote the lyrics and I wrote the music for the first draft. Then came the awful realisation that it would be horribly expensive and also impossible to get an Asian-West Indian cast -- it would be different now of course.

"We abandoned it and I put the music away in my bottom drawer and hoped one day I'd use some of."

Soon, however, opportunity knocked.

Big money

Producer Cubby Broccoli, who had already lost money on a flop musical of Norman's, asked him to work on a new film he was producing with Harry Saltzman called Dr No.

They were after a big theme for a big hero. And they were paying big money: 500.

"Coming from the theatre I was looking for the character of James Bond. I suddenly remembered this little melody from 'A House for Mr Biswas' called 'Bad Sign, Good Sign'. So I dug it out and I started to sing it..."

On the new CD, Completing the Circle, we finally hear something like the original version.

Norman got in Mahboob Nadim on sitar and Pandit Dimesh on tabla to give the South Asian touch the number would have had on stage, had it ever reached one.

"When I sang it through again for the film I thought there was something there but that I could do more with it. I split the notes and immediately it became dum-di-di-dum-dum... and I realised this was probably something quite special."

Five years ago Norman successfully sued the Sunday Times when it claimed the five-times Oscar-winner John Barry, who orchestrated the theme, deserved the real credit for its success.

The case turned on how much of the music's longevity has been due to what Norman wrote and how much to the Barry orchestration, which Norman describes now as "superb" and "definitive".

With the court case behind him, Norman has decided he'd like the original Bad Sign, Good Sign finally to get an outing while he is still around to enjoy other people's fascination with all things Bond.

And even now, though the Bond theme has all the sweep and swagger of great cinema it somehow retains too all the character and quirkiness of the theatre.

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