From cover with love…

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I love James Bond and I love indie-pop, so when I was sent a copy of the new compilation album Songs, Bond Songs – a 26-track collection of Bond songs covered by contemporary US indie-pop acts, I had a licence to be thrilled…

The brainchild of criminal mastermind and executive producer, Andrew Curry, it’s an exciting journey into the world of soundtrack songs from both official and unofficial 007 films.

Things get off to an explosive start with Lannie Flowers’ rip-roaring, ’60s-style garage rock-style version of the James Bond Theme; there’s an outrageous pop-punk take on Thunderball by Jaret Reddick; a gorgeous acoustic rendition of For Your Eyes Only by Freedy Johnston that’s better than Sheena Easton’s version; a funky, yacht rock Never Say Never Again by Minky Starshine and a cool, loungey The World Is Not Enough by Fountains of Wayne side-project Look Park.

I tracked down Andrew Curry to his secret underground lair and got the intel on his latest devious plan for world domination…

Q & A

How did the project come about? Why did you decide to put together a Bond songs tribute album?

Andrew Curry: I had done two compilations prior to Songs, Bond Songs. The first one – Drink A Toast To Innocence: A Tribute To Lite Rock – paid tribute to the soft hits that were so prominent on America’s AM radio stations in the late ‘70s.

The second – Here Comes The Reign Again: The Second British Invasion – focused on the early years of MTV, specifically the British bands that came to dominate the American charts for the first few years of the ‘80s.

For this compilation, I wanted to expand things a bit. Rather than focus on a brief period of pop music history, I thought it would be interesting to see if I could find a concept that could cover a much wider time period. And so Bond music seemed to fit the bill perfectly. I can look at five or six decades of music rather than five or six years.

Are you a huge Bond fan? Which are your favourite Bond films and songs? And which are you least favourites?

AC: I am a Bond fan, though perhaps not quite as enthusiastic about it as I was in my youth. I grew up with Roger Moore as my Bond, and while I know it’s far cooler to choose the movies of Connery or Craig as one’s favourites, I’ve always had a soft spot for the Moore era. Not to mention that I think the songs from the Moore years are, as a group, the best of the franchise.

So while I’ll concede that some of Moore’s films haven’t aged well, I’ll sit down and watch Moonraker or For Your Eyes Only any time they come on. But as it happens, my least favourite Bond film also stars Roger Moore. In A View To A Kill, he just seems so completely disinterested.

As for the music, I’ve been so inundated with it while working on this project that I’m not sure I can pick favourites anymore. But as I said, the Moore years were formative for me, so songs like Live and Let Die, Nobody Does It Better, and For Your Eyes Only were biggies for me growing up. Of the more recent songs, I think Adele did a nice job recalling the Shirley Bassey era with Skyfall. My least favourites? Well, the less said about Madonna’s Die Another Day, the better.

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Andrew Curry

‘My least favourite Bond song? Well, the less said about Madonna’s Die Another Day, the better’

How did you choose which acts to work with and how did you get them involved?

AC: As with my previous projects, I made a list of musicians I wanted to work with, and went about contacting them. Social media makes things far easier than it might have been a decade or so ago.

As for the song assignments, I went to some musicians with definite ideas for which track I wanted them to do.

My wife insisted to me that Freedy Johnston had to do For Your Eyes Only. I loved the idea of hearing Jaret Reddick take a stab at Tom Jones. Having Lisa Mychols do a Lulu song seemed too perfect to pass up. But for the most part, once the musicians had signed on, I’d give them a list of available songs, and let them choose the ones they wanted. People who chose early got a far longer list of songs to choose from!

Do you have a favourite song on the album?

AC: I know I’ll sound dodgy saying this, but I really do like all the songs on the record. But I will say that there were songs that I wondered about when the assignments were being carried out.

Could someone take a song that I didn’t have much use for and turn it into something interesting? And I’m delighted to say that the answer is a resounding yes. A few examples (among many) –  the original Moonraker is the least of Shirley Bassey’s three Bond songs, but Gary Frenay has turned it into a terrific Travelling Wilburys-esque number, complete with Orbison-styled vocals.

I’ve already mentioned that Die Another Day, with its lame overuse of Auto-Tune, is my least favourite Bond song, but in the hands of Big-Box Store (aka Joe Seiders of The New Pornographers), it’s terrific.

Some of the acts have been pretty faithful to the original versions, but there are also some very different interpretations, aren’t there? It’s a very varied album….

AC: It is, and that’s always what I strive for. People ask how much input I have in the direction a musician takes with a song. I’m always emphatic that once musicians sign on, how they approach their songs is entirely up to them. And almost without fail, that has meant that I’ll get a handful of songs that stick closely to the original and another handful that completely re-invent the source material.

I prefer the Freedy Johnston acoustic version of For Your Eyes Only and Zach Jones’ dramatic take on All Time High to the original versions by Sheena Easton and Rita Coolidge. Do you agree? I think they’ve managed to reinvent some dull, MOR ballads into something that’s much more interesting…

AC: I really love those two versions. And you’re right about the originals. They were released at a time when softer ballads were more in fashion. Freedy’s For Your Eyes Only is stripped-down, just an acoustic guitar and his vocals, and the world-weary way he approaches the song just works. It sounds like a track that would fit comfortably on some of Freedy’s early records. Zach went in a different direction than Freedy, in that his version has a full band. He hasn’t really altered the melody all that much, but he’s given it a soulful quality that Rita Coolidge’s original version couldn’t possibly approach.

I think that in recent years, the quality of Bond songwriting has gone downhill. As the films have improved, the theme songs have got worse. Would you agree?

AC: I think some of the recent songs are decent. I already mentioned Adele’s Skyfall as one example. I always thought of that song as a conscious effort to return to the lush, orchestral Bond songs of the Connery years.

I will say that I was pretty surprised that Sam Smith’s Writing’s On The Wall from Spectre actually won an Oscar. But I’ll also concede that nostalgia will always play a role in which tracks are my favourites. So it’s unlikely that any of the newer ones will ever hold the same place in my mind as, say, Live and Let Die. But if my kids decide to make the follow up to this record 30 years from now, they might just say, “You know, these new songs can’t hold a candle to Sam Smith.”

‘I was pretty surprised that Sam Smith’s Writing’s On The Wall from Spectre actually won an Oscar’

Any plans to do a live show with some of the acts doing the Bond songs?

AC: It’s a far-flung group, so there are no plans at the moment. It would be terrific fun, though.

James_Bond_(Roger_Moore)_-_ProfileWith the recent death of Roger Moore, it’s rather timely – and poignant – to be talking about Bond….

AC: Moore was always my Bond, and he’s who I always think of when I picture the character. He added a bit of camp to the part, which I know some people can’t stand, but which I always appreciated. The opening helicopter sequence in For Your Eyes Only has always been a favourite. It’s silly and over the top, but also completely entertaining. Just like Roger Moore.

Which contemporary artist – UK or US – do you think should write and record the next official Bond song?

AC: This is always a fun game to play. I have a dear friend who is a bigger Bond fan than I am – he even designed the album art.

As I started putting this together, we talked about all the musicians we were surprised never did a Bond song. Sade seems like she was built in a lab with the express purpose of recording a James Bond theme song. Seal had to have written Kiss From A Rose with hopes that it would be in a Bond film, don’t you think? It’s all I hear when I listen to that song.

‘Does Harry Styles have the gravitas to pull off a Bond song? Doubtful’

As for contemporary musicians, I’m pretty ignorant of the most popular acts these days, but I hope they’ll stay away from guys like Ed Sheeran. Does Harry Styles have the gravitas to pull it off? Doubtful. It’s a shame we’ll never hear what Amy Winehouse might have done with a Bond song. Good or bad, it probably would have been pretty interesting.

Any plans for another project? 

AC: I’m in the very early stages of planning for the next one. It’s merely a concept at the moment. I can’t reveal it here just yet, but I will say that it won’t be nearly as many songs as my previous compilations, each of which had more than two dozen songs. A nice album of 10-12 tracks sounds like heaven right about now.

Andrew Curry will return…  

To stream, download and buy Songs, Bond Songs, please visit https://currycuts.bandcamp.com/ .

Best Albums of 2015

 

minesweeping

As we approach the end of the year and overindulge in festive celebrations, hangovers are a daily occurrence.

They also played a major part in the making of Say It With Garage Flowers’ favourite album of 2015 – Minesweeping by O’Connell & Love.

One of the most eclectic and richly rewarding albums of recent times, it’s a collaboration between Larry Love, the lead singer of South London country-blues-gospel-electronica outlaws Alabama 3 and songwriting partner Brendan O’Connell.

As Larry told me when I interviewed him about the making of the record: “What was interesting with Minesweeping was the use of hangovers in the recording process. Brendan was financing the project and, basically, at the end of the night, we’d chuck some drunken ideas down, but the most important stuff was done in the morning after. I knew that unless I did some songs in the morning, Brendan wouldn’t buy me a pint in the afternoon.”

Reviewing it earlier this year, I described it as, ‘a hung-over road trip through the badlands, stopping to pick up some hitchhikers on the way – namely guest vocalists Rumer, Buffy Sainte-Marie, June Miles-Kingston, Tenor Fly and Pete Doherty.’

The record opens with the moody, Cash-like, acoustic death row ballad, Like A Wave Breaks On A Rock, visits Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood territory for the drunken, playful duet Hangover Me (feat. Rumer), travels across Europe for the sublime, blissed-out, Stonesy country-soul of  It Was The Sweetest Thing,hangs out by the riverside for the gorgeous pastoral folk of Shake Off Your Shoes (feat.Rumer) and heads out to the ocean for the Celtic sea shanty-inspired Where Silence Meets The Sea.

Larry Love and Brendan O’Connell

It’s an album that wears its influences on the sleeve of its beer-stained shirt – it’s like rifling through a record collection of classic rock and roll, folk, blues, country and soul.

There are nods to late ‘70s Dylan (The Man Inside The Mask), Motown (Love Is Like A Rolling Stone – feat.Tenor Fly ), Leonard Cohen (Come On, Boy – feat. Junes Miles-Kingston) and The Band (If It’s Not Broken).

I’m really looking forward to seeing O’Connell & Love play this record live in 2016 – according to Larry, there are plans for a UK tour.

In the meantime, I’m going to pour myself a large glass of something dark and strong and lose myself in Minesweeping.

One for the road, anyone?

As albums of the year go, singer-songwriters, alt.country, power-pop and Americana dominate my list.

Richard Hawley turned in a classic with Hollow Meadows, which was less psychedelic than its predecessor, Standing At The Sky’s Edge, and largely rooted in country, folk and the lush, late-night, ‘50s-tinged melancholy ballads that dominated his earlier albums. Although there was still room for some bluesy-garage rock (Which Way) and anthemic, widescreen guitar pop (Heart of Oak).

I was lucky enough to meet Richard after one of his gigs this year and when I told him that I preferred his new album to the one before, he simply said, ‘Well – you can’t please everyone, Sean…’

Other singer-songwriters who released great albums this year included Manchester’s Nev Cottee – Strange News From The Sun sounded like Lee Hazlewood on a spacewalk – and Vinny Peculiar, whose Down The Bright Stream was a witty, funny and moving collection of brilliantly observed pop songs, steeped in childhood nostalgia, teenage memories and wry social commentary.

Nev Cottee

Nev Cottee

John Howard’s new project – John Howard & The Night Mail – was a wonderful record, full of quirky, witty, intelligent, theatrical and nostalgic songs, from Zombies-like psych-pop to slinky retro mod-soul, glam-rock and observational Ray Davies-style tales of people’s everyday lives.

Detroit’s Nick Piunti – a Say It With Garage Flowers favourite – returned in a blaze of glory with Beyond The Static, which was the follow-up to his critically acclaimed power-pop record 13 In My Head, while Dublin-born singer-songwriter Marc Carroll’s latest album, Love Is All or Love Is Not At All, was his most political record yet.

Dead Flowers – who topped Say It With Garage Flowers’ album of the year list back in 2013 with their debut, Midnight At The Wheel Club, didn’t disappoint with their new record – Minor & Grand, which was often louder and much more electrified than their first album.

Manchester band Last Harbour made Caul – a brooding, cinematic masterpiece that recalled Bowie’s Berlin period, the industrial, electronic atmosphere of Joy Division and the gothic splendour of Scott Walker and Nick Cave.

Steelism

Instrumental duo Steelism, with their spy film guitar licks and surf-rock riffs, came up with a record (615 To FAME) that harked back to the glory days of ’60s instrumental rock & roll, but also threw in country, soul and blues – and even a touch of krautrock – to create their own dramatic soundtracks.

UK Americana label Clubhouse Records had a great year in 2015, releasing superb albums by alt.country band Case Hardin (Colours Simple), whose singer-songwriter Pete Gow played a solo show that I promoted back in October, and The Dreaming Spires (Searching For The Supertruth)– Oxford’s prime exponents of ‘60s-style jangle-pop.

I must declare a vested interest in one of my favourite records of 2015 – The Other Half, a collaboration between top UK crime writer Mark Billingham and country duo My Darling Clementine.

Mark discovered My Darling Clementine by first reading about them on my blog, so, I’d like to think that I set the wheels in motion that led them to record their story of love, loss and murder that’s told in words and music and set in a rundown Memphis bar.

Sadly, not everyone who released superb albums in 2015 lived to tell the tale. Gifted, but troubled, singer-songwriter Gavin Clark (Sunhouse, Clayhill) died in February, but he left behind Evangelist – a project that was completed by James Griffith and Pablo Clements, members of UNKLE/Toydrum and the owners of the Toy Room Studios in Brighton.

Loosely based on Gavin’s life, it was a dark, edgy, atmospheric and psychedelic-tinged trip that made for uneasy – yet essential – listening.

And finally, here are some nods to acts who didn’t release studio albums this year, but put out some records that I loved.

I’m not normally a huge fan of live albums, but Johnny Marr’s Adrenalin Baby was brilliant and really captured the feel and atmosphere of his gigs – it’s worth it just to hear his outstanding, europhic version of Electronic’s Getting Away With It.

And talking of live shows, UK folk duo The Rails gave away a seven-track acoustic EP called Australia at their gigs this year.

It served as a good stopgap until their next album and featured a killer, stripped-down cover of Edwyn Collins’ Low Expectations.

Liverpudlian singer-songwriter Steve Roberts followed up his 2013 concept record Cold Wars Part 1 EP with the five-track sequel – What Would You Die For? [Cold Wars Part Two].

The standout track This Is A Cold War was a stately, Beatlesesque piano-led ballad. Lennon and McCarthy?

And while we’re on the subject of spies, being a huge James Bond fan, I really enjoyed A Girl And A Guna 34-track tribute album of 007 songs and soundtracks by artists including Darren Hayman, Robert Rotifer, Ralegh Long and Papernut Cambridge.

Say It With Garage Flowers will return in 2016…

Here’s a list of my favourite albums of 2015 and a Spotify playlist to accompany it:

  1. O’Connell & Love – Minesweeping
  2. Richard Hawley – Hollow Meadows
  3. Vinny Peculiar – Down The Bright Stream
  4. John Howard & The Night Mail – John Howard & The Night Mail
  5. Nev Cottee – Strange News From The Sun
  6. The Dreaming Spires – Searching For The Supertruth
  7. Dead Flowers – Minor & Grand
  8. Evangelist [Gavin Clark & Toydrum] – Evangelist
  9. Duke Garwood – Heavy Love
  10. Mark Billingham & My Darling Clementine – The Other Half
  11. Nick Piunti – Beyond The Static
  12. Case Hardin – Colours Simple
  13. Last Harbour – Caul
  14. Steelism – 615 To FAME
  15. Bob Dylan – Shadows In The Night
  16. Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free
  17. Marc Carroll – Love Is All or Not At All
  18. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
  19. Gaz Coombes – Matador
  20. Wilco – Star Wars
  21. The Sopranistas – Cutting Down The Bird Hotel
  22. Dave Gahan & Soulsavers – Angels & Ghosts
  23. New Order – Music Complete
  24. GospelBeacH – Pacific Surf Line
  25. Sarah Cracknell – Red Kite
  26. Kontiki Suite – The Greatest Show On Earth
  27. Ryley Walker – Primrose Green
  28. Hurricane #1 – Find What You Love And Let It Kill You
  29. Jacob Golden – The Invisible Record
  30. Ian Webber – Year of the Horse
  31. Bill Fay – Who Is The Sender?

‘I don’t even know if I’ve seen any of the Bond films all the way through’

With the new Bond blockbuster Spectre around the corner, indie label Where It’s At Is Where You Are (wiaiwya) is releasing a James Bond tribute album called A Girl And A Gun, featuring covers of 007 songs and soundtracks by contemporary acts including Papernut Cambridge, Darren Hayman, Robert Rotifer and Ralegh Long. 

I asked Ian Button from Papernut Cambridge about his groovy garage-rock take on Lulu’s The Man With The Golden Gun…

Ian Button

How did you get involved with the A Girl And A Gun project?

Ian Button: I can’t quite remember when I first heard Jerv (wiaiwya) mention the idea – I think it might have been when we were all at The Union Chapel when Papernut Cambridge played a Daylight Music show at the end of 2014.

I probably muscled in just as much as I was invited. The idea fitted in really well with our ‘lost year of cover versions’ – the Nutlets album and our soon to be released EP of John Sullivan theme songs – so I just said yes without thinking.

Jerv is a great friend, and was also a great advisor to us when we started the Gare Du Nord label – the links between all the bands and players on the labels in our little circle are too complex to go into – but suffice to say I’m involved on a couple of other tracks on the album too – drumming, recording etc on Ralegh’s and Darren’s tracks…..and the Papernuts are going to be a sort of ‘house band’ for some of the show on November 7th at The Union Chapel.

(Papernut Cambridge)

Why did you choose to cover The Man With The Golden Gun? What were you trying to achieve with your version?

IB: I went for it because I thought I knew no one else would. It’s one of the real underdog themes. But of course Mark Williamson (Crock Oss) went and chose it as well, and did a brilliant electronic/location recordings version of it too. At the show on Nov 7th we’re going to do a kind of amalgamation of both our versions, which is going to be great fun.

(Crock Oss)

I remember Lulu doing The Man Who Sold The World and being in a sort of Bowie phase in the early/mid ’70s, and The Man With The Golden Gun was definitely the same kind of thing/look/era.

When I got to grips with the music I realised how cool it is – not really any chords, just dark monophonic lines and dischords etc…it took me a while to work out those really Bond machine gun cluster notes at the start. They are very clever!

Like all our covers, I wanted to try and make it sound sort of like the original – not an oblique post-ironic re-work – but I also liked the idea of a bloke singing it instead of Lulu.

It was recorded the way pretty much all of the Papernut Cambridge tracks are formed – I start at home with a basic structure, in this case a sort of synth bass line, a couple of guitar lines and a drum machine.

I used Mellotron sounds (M-Tron Pro) to layer up the brass/strings/harp etc. Then I went to a little rehearsal room to do the vocals and real drums. The drums were recorded with just one mic, but there are three takes all playing at once.

The next step normally is to send the track to the rest of the Nuts so they can add bits – but in this case it didn’t quite happen as usual.

Robert Halcrow was the only one who sent anything back by Jerv’s deadline (bass, real horns, and backing vocals) – everyone else just said they couldn’t add anything – even though I meant for them to replace the programmed parts with real guitars/keys etc. So it’s really ended up just me and Rob Halcrow on this one. But Ralegh Long came up with something maybe better than any music – the video, which is taken from a spoof Bond movie that he and his mates made when they were at school – Blackeye. It’s genius.

Are you a Bond fan?

IB: Not really, I must confess. I kind of liked the ‘60s and ‘70s ones because they were a bit light hearted. Christmas afternoon fodder.

I haven’t seen the Daniel Craig films, but I hear about torture scenes and I kind of don’t really like the idea of them being dark or too scary.

What’s your favourite Bond film and song – and why?

IB: I couldn’t name a movie that’s my favourite, unfortunately. I actually don’t even know if I’ve seen any all the way through – but my favourite song is You Only Live Twice. That strings riff is the cold suburban sunshine of the 1960s, bottled. I also especially like the reggae bit in Live and Let Die.

Who is your favourite actor to have played Bond?

IB: Roger Moore – not least because he and Dorothy Squires used to live near me in Bexley…

What do you think of Sam Smith’s song for Spectre – Writing’s On The Wall?

IB:I had a listen and it didn’t really grab me. But then neither did the Spectres one [Bristol band] that got a lot of attention in that stupid mix up of reviews. I usually don’t like music that tries to be all dramatic, minor key and portentous, although I do make exceptions!

I’m going to use Sam Smith’s lyrics in a university lecture next week, to see if people recognise them by reading a verse in isolation. They sort of don’t say anything about the movie really do they? Not like Lulu, who actually said what’s in the film, totally!

A Girl And A Gun is released digitally on October 23 (wiaiwya).

https://wiaiwya.bandcamp.com/album/a-girl-and-a-gun

http://www.wiaiwya.com

For more on A Girl And A Gun, read my interviews with wiawya founder John Jervis  and musician Robert Rotifer

 

‘There’s too much fighting and shooting and not enough casino scenes’

Indie label Where It’s At Is Where You Are (wiaiwya) is releasing a new James Bond tribute album called A Girl And A Gun, featuring covers of 007 songs and soundtracks by contemporary acts including Papernut Cambridge, Darren Hayman and Ralegh Long.

I asked Robert Rotifer, whose version of Goldeneye is on the record, how he tackled Tina Turner’s Bond belter…

(pic by Pam Berry)

(pic by Pam Berry)

How did you get involved with the A Girl And A Gun project?

Robert Rotifer: John Jervis [who runs wiaiwya] asked, and I would never say no to him, because he is generally speaking one of the best people on the planet.

I think he was already quite far down the list, but at some point the idea came up – it may have been Darren Hayman’s – that all core members of Papernut Cambridge should do a song.

I seem to remember that they all had to have “gold” in the title as part of the concept as well.

Why did you choose to cover Goldeneye?

Well, I didn’t choose it – the choice was made for me. But I was happy to do it because it’s not one of the dauntingly cool John Barry ones, but U2 writing for an ageing Tina Turner, and it has dodgy 1990s production all over it (sorry Nellee Hooper) – so I didn’t feel too worried about ruining a classic.

Actually, I feel a bit of a fraud, Sean, because you are a real Bond connoisseur and I’m just a Bond tourist.

I didn’t even watch that film [Goldeneye] at the time, mostly because I disapproved of the BMW Z3 roadster. Where I’m from, in Austria, driving that car is akin to a public diagnosis of erectile dysfunction. Not a good look for Bond.

What were you trying to achieve with your version? Can you talk us through how you went about approaching the song and recording it?

I wanted it to have a dusty home studio vibe, but in a thoughtfully arranged way. As I was working out the chords, I found myself retracing the steps of Bono and The Edge, trying to go by the Bond handbook and be original at the same time.

That classic rising and falling chromatic sequence was there, but hidden deep down in Hooper’s arrangement. And then there’s a ludicrously anti-climactic, incongruous key change into the chorus that surely would never have happened to John Barry.

Bono and The Edge don’t do key changes, but they probably wanted to show a bit of sophistication there. Imagine those two in a tux, and that’s exactly what it sounds like. You can hear Tina Turner wonder where the hell this thing is going every time that change comes around because it’s just so unmusical. But then I tried to make it work by introducing a melancholy harmony part, and all of a sudden I started to really enjoy it.

By that time I had decided to replace Nellee Hooper’s quasi-trip hop beat with one of the beats on my old seventies Elgam Carousel groove box, embellished with some tambourine and egg shaker. I recorded the bassline next with my Höfner violin bass, then some double-tracked acoustic fingerpicking, at which point the chords started to sound quite beautiful.

Then I added some swells on the Telecaster with my volume pedal, some almost inaudible organ pads and some “harpsichord” using my Clavinova run through a Vox amp and one of Ian Button’s self-made spring reverbs.

Obviously, putting on the lead guitar part was the most fun. There’s this bit at the end, which offered itself for a solo, and I had a great time channelling Marc Ribot through Vic Flick. That was the idea at least.

The biggest problem was the main vocal, because Tina Turner is such a belter, so at first I was going for the opposite approach, really soft and quiet, but that was rubbish. I played it to my wife and the kids as we were about to go out for lunch, and they told me as much.

So I said “Five minutes!”, quickly ran up to the bedroom, perched the laptop on the dresser, put in some crappy earphones and sang it right into my little Zoom recorder without thinking. That was the best I could do to keep myself from getting too self-conscious.

Are you a Bond fan?

RR: That’s a very difficult question. The little boy in me was a huge Bond fan. I coveted that Aston Martin Corgi car with the ejector seat and changeable number plates so badly. Friends of mine had it – it was one of the best toys ever produced. Then when I got into the Mod thing as a teenager, I rediscovered Bond as part of the subculture and the influence he had on Jamaican Rude Boys. Desmond Dekker’s 007 Shanty Town alone justifies the existence of Bond in my book.

I really like the idea of loucheness among the civil service – the glamour, good shoes and well-cut suits, even though it’s always two- or one- rather than three-button jackets, which I still prefer.

But there’s never quite enough of that in the films for my liking. There’s too much fighting and shooting and not enough casino scenes. And I’m not even going to mention misogyny or casual racism here – that’s just too much of an open goal.

But then I’m speaking to a proper Bond fan here, so I’m way out of my depth.

What’s your favourite Bond film and song – and why?

RR: It has to be On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and We Have All The Time In The World – a clean two in one.

The film because, while still being a cartoon figure (a good thing), Bond is just that little bit more fallible and credible in this one, and it’s actually emotionally engaging.

The song because the writing is just fantastic. Musically, it’s John Barry at his relaxed best. That’s what chord and key changes should be like. And the arrangement is brilliantly restrained, the acoustic guitar is gorgeous, the strings just the right side of dramatic, that beat is funky in an ever so subtle way, the bass keeps pushing it forward all the time, and then there’s Louis Armstrong’s wonderful stoner’s voice on top of it all that sounds aloof and will still bring a tear to your eye.

He already knew he was going to die, so he makes Hal David’s lyrics sound both consoling and existentially meaningful.

“Nothing more / Nothing less / Only love.” You have to be very confident to write that for a Bond song. It was 1969 after all, so people were expected to take chances.

Who is your favourite actor to have played Bond?

RR: George Lazenby – not because I’m an indie snob or trying to be contrarian, but because he was in the best film with the best song.

He was very good looking, too. I read he was a car salesman before he started modelling and acting. That’s exactly the sort of person who should play Bond.

What do you think of Sam Smith’s song for Spectre – Writing’s On The Wall?

RR:I think it’s very good. I just wish he didn’t do that self-pitying, tore-my-skinny-jeans falsetto. Transpose it down and sing it with your proper voice, and it would be a fine tune.

Arrangement-wise, I like the way it never really gets going and resists the temptation to drift into rock territory. I suppose that’s brave in a way.

 

A Girl And A Gun is released digitally on October 23 (wiaiwya).

https://wiaiwya.bandcamp.com/album/a-girl-and-a-gun

http://www.wiaiwya.com

For more on A Girl And A Gun, click here and here

007 inch

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…

girl and gun

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!

(Ms Goodnight)

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).

http://www.wiaiwya.com

For more on A Girl And A Gun, read my interviews with Robert Rotifer  & Ian Button.