With the UK in the grip of Bondmania, indie record label Where It’s At Is Where You Are (wiaiwya) is set to release A Girl And A Gun – a new 34-track tribute album of 007 songs and soundtracks by artists including Darren Hayman, Robert Rotifer, Ralegh Long and Papernut Cambridge.
I spoke to wiaiwya’s founder, John Jervis, the mastermind behind this fiendish scheme, to find out more…
Just like a James Bond blockbuster, A Girl And A Gun – the new 007 tribute album from indie label wiaiwya – is exciting, exotic, weird and wonderful.
An eclectic array of artists have all come up with their own takes on songs and soundtracks from Bond’s cinematic legacy – both well-known and obscure.
Papernut Cambridge reinvent Lulu’s saucy The Man With The Golden Gun as a groovy,’60s-style garage-rock riot, while World of Fox’s version of All Time High (from Octopussy) is better than the original – they turn Rita Coolidge’s dreary MOR ballad into a hauntingly beautiful, twangy guitar instrumental.
Things get really strange when Picturebox make full use of Q Branch’s gadgets for their spooky Surrender (from Tomorrow Never Dies) – the vocals are sung through an electronic voice box.
I tracked down John Jervis, the head of the mysterious organisation known as wiaiwya, and asked him how he put his sinister plan into operation…
So what’s the story behind A Girl And A Gun? How did the project come about?
John Jervis: I’ve been doing a 7” singles club where people sign up and get seven 7” singles in the post over a 12-month period – one record comes out on every day of the week, and always on the 7th of the month. It has ended up being a bit of a numerical obsession really. I know – it’s tragic.
I’d been thinking of exclusive, seven-based extras to send out to subscribers – something a little special that you only get as a member of the club. You can tell where this is going, can’t you? The plan became getting seven bands to record seven 007 covers to send to subscribers.
Over the last few years I’ve released a few project records; a tribute to Springsteen for his 60th birthday, an Olympics LP for 2012, and a couple of Christmas albums. The core of each is a handful of incredibly talented, exciting artists who are always good to work with – a bit like a cast of returning characters that hold the whole thing together.
So, the bat signal went up, and seven said ‘yes’ – crucially not all of them were Bond fans. Some I suggested a theme to, while others I asked which themes they’d like to do, and they got working on it.
It then became a much bigger project, didn’t it?
JJ: As we all know, a Bond theme is not always the most understated recording, so friends were roped in to adorn the cover versions, and those friends soon realised that they too would love to have a stab at their favourite themes.
Well, I had to say yes, and the whole idea changed – this would no longer be a seven-track download, but a seven-month project, releasing a free cover every Friday from the release of the first Spectre trailer to the release of the film. Every Bond film – EON and non-EON – would be represented and, if possible, no song would be duplicated.
Chats were had at gigs and in pubs, songs were offered and claimed, and within a couple of months we had the full line-up – circumstances change, of course, so a few people dropped out and a few people stepped in, to bring something new to each incredibly well-known theme.
(Ralegh Long and Friends)
We now have a 34-track album, including two tunes from Dr No, The Man With The Golden Gun and Thunderball, and three from Tomorrow Never Dies (!), with a couple of other tracks promised, and the potential to add every future Bond theme!
Are you pleased with the record?
JJ: Overjoyed. Songs were recorded in Texan bedrooms, on Khao Phing Kan (James Bond Island in Thailand); in a Moscow airport, and outside Pinewood Studios – as well of plenty of more traditional studios – by people who have never seen a Bond film or read a Bond book, people that were members of the Bond fan club, people that despise the idea of Bond, John Barry fans, Paul McCartney fans, and a free jazz fan!
Some of the songs were played on church organs, lap steels and ukuleles. We had professional musicians who’ve been releasing records for two decades, as well as debut recordings from bands formed especially to record a Bond theme.
There were also tracks that arrived a couple of months after deadline, and one that was turned around in under 13 hours. There are covers of obscure unused themes, as well as the most recognisable piece of music in cinema, and we’ve even included a Bond film made by one of the acts when he was at school.
What are your favourite tracks on the album?
Now, that’s impossible to choose. Much like the original themes, my favourites change from day to day.
My favourite Bond cover version that’s not on the album is easy, though – Live And Let Die by Geri Halliwell. It’s immense and preposterous!
So, are you a Bond fan?
JJ: I’m a big fan of the music, and love the massive cultural event of a new film release. Although, I never enjoy a Bond film as much as the first time, when you see how all those well-loved components are dropped in – the quips, the locations, the cars, the gun barrel, Moneypenny, M, Q, the gadgets, the girls, the henchmen, the explosions, and of course the theme, oh, the theme. Through the cinema speakers, it always sounds amazing.
If we can momentarily step back to 1982, when I was given a Walkman – although it wasn’t an actual Walkman – for Christmas, along with some record tokens to buy tapes to play… After much pained deliberation in Boots, Woolworths, WH Smiths and Our Price – and with a sizeable amount of advice from my mum – I decided my life would be most improved with the soundtrack of Cats, The Kids from Fame, Complete Madness and James Bond’s Greatest Hits.
I played all of them to death, transcribed lyrics, and memorised sleeve notes. I was a fan of the music of 007 long before I saw any of the films.
Do you have a favourite Bond film?
It’s Live and Let Die. I also have a soft spot for Licence to Kill, and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Theme-wise, today, it’s For Your Eyes Only. Last week it was The Death of Fiona [from Thunderball] and the week before it was Adele’s Skyfall. Why? Because they’re Bond themes. Surely that’s enough!
Who’s your favourite actor to have played Bond?
JJ: It’s always the current one and I like a chat over a drink about who should be the next one.
You’re holding a gig to launch the album, aren’t you?
JJ: Yes. Daylight Music is an amazing, free Saturday afternoon residency, putting on three bands between midday and 2pm at the Union Chapel, in Highbury, London – they’ve put on over 200 shows so far. They have been kind enough to host the A Girl And A Gun launch party on the 007th November.
The plan is to get as many of the bands from the compilation to play their tunes, and there’ll be a few surprises – evening dress is requested too. I hope you can make it.
The album has been a blast to put together and it’s all here for everyone to download: https://wiaiwya.bandcamp.com/album/a-girl-and-a-gun
John Jervis will return…
A Girl And A Gun is officially released digitally on October 23 (wiaiwya).