Fifty Years of Bond

James Bond’s 50th Anniversary 007 Gallery

Why Men Bond with the 007 Theme

Maybe it's the stealthy bass line. Or the machine-gun guitar solo. Or the swaggering wail of the horns. Or maybe it's all three shaken together. Whatever the reasons (and there are many), the "James Bond Theme" still has a way of making guys feel, well, more guy-ly. 

Fifty years after appearing in "Dr. No"—the first James Bond film, which had its premiere in London on Oct. 5, 1962—the jaunty theme is back with a vengeance. At the Olympics' opening ceremony, the theme played as Britain's "queen" parachuted from a helicopter. On Oct. 5, Vic Flick, the theme's original guitarist, will perform his signature solo during "The Music of James Bond: The First 50 Years" at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. And it will be laced throughout the latest Bond film, "Skyfall," opening on Nov. 9.

For millions of baby-boomer males who saw their first car chase and sex scene in a Bond film in the '60s, the theme song stirs powerful psychological coals, flipping a primal switch as images of silencers, casinos, bikinis, gin and gadgets flood the male brain.
"With male identity, there's a biological aspect to how we see ourselves, and for many men, the song releases feelings of invincibility and attractiveness," said Eugene Beresin, professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School. "Men link the theme to strength, adulthood and virility. It's like the smell of a childhood baseball glove or a father's aftershave."

But what exactly happens to trigger the flashback? "Music travels to the auditory nerve, where it's evaluated by the cerebral networks that process our emotions—before we even identify what we're hearing," Dr. Beresin said. "In a split second, our brain scans its files for a match. If the music unlocks memories, you are likely to reexperience the same emotions you felt when you first heard it."
The Bond theme also has a paternal tie-in. Before the current movie-rating system was instituted in 1968, most theaters prohibited teens from seeing movies with a mature theme unless accompanied by an adult. "Which means most boys saw the film with their dads, who took them as a rite of passage," said Louann Brizendine, professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, and author of "The Male Brain." "The experience only strengthened the link between the song and coming of age."

The idea for a Bond theme began in late 1961, when "Dr. No" co-producer Albert Broccoli asked songwriter Monty Norman to compose music for the film, according to "The Music of James Bond" by Jon Burlingame. In early 1962, Mr. Norman traveled to the movie set in Jamaica, where he wrote the film's Caribbean-flavored songs before returning to London that spring. 
But time was running out for the theme. According to Mr. Norman's website, he reached into his bottom drawer for a song he had already written for an aborted musical called "A House For Mr. Biswas," based on the novel by V.S. Naipaul. It worked: The "Dr. No" producers liked the catchy melody on his "Bad Sign, Good Sign."

Next, Mr. Broccoli and co-producer Harry Saltzman turned to John Barry, a film composer who had seen some success with his John Barry Seven rock band. Mr. Barry added orchestration to Mr. Norman's melody line—but he felt his score still needed a dominant "voice" to symbolize Bond's masculinity. 
"John called me over to his apartment in June 1962," recalled Mr. Flick, who was the John Barry Seven's lead guitarist. "He showed me Monty Norman's music and asked how we could give it more power." Mr. Flick pecked out Mr. Norman's melody on his guitar, Morse-code style, and suggested dropping the key to E-minor from A-minor for a stronger statement. And the theme as we know it was born.
In the end, Mr. Norman retained the theme's sole composer credit. When Mr. Barry hinted that he deserved partial credit in a British magazine in 1997 and London's Sunday Times followed up with a nasty jab at Mr. Norman, the theme's composer sued the paper, and the jury decided in his favor.

Legal shark-tanks aside, why do men find the deep guitar notes and swinging horns so intriguing? "There's a feeling of action and rhythmic rocking that releases a burst of dopamine—telling men they have the world by the tail," said Dr. Brizendine. 
And women? "They're reminded," she said, "of an era of handsome, dashing men who they hoped would sweep them off their feet."
—Mr. Myers is the author of "Why Jazz Happened" (University of California Press), to be published in December.
A version of this article appeared September 29, 2012, on page C3 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Why Men Bond with the 007 Theme.

James Bond’s 50th Anniversary 007 Gallery




 From "Dr. No" through "Quantum of Solace," British mystery-man James Bond has entertained moviegoers around the world for 50 years. Take a look back at 007's bad guys, lady friends, weapons and wheels.







From "Dr. No" through "Quantum of Solace," British mystery-man James Bond has entertained moviegoers around the world for 50 years. Take a look back at 007's bad guys, lady friends, weapons and wheels.

Photos: Everett Collection
 via Wall Stret Journal

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