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Movie critic David Edelstein

Movie critic David Edelstein has seen all 20 James Bond films. Now he reviews the new one, Die Another Day, starring Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry.

05:45

Other segments from the episode on November 22, 2002

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, November 22, 2002: Interview with John Barry; Interview with Steven Bernstein; Review of the film "Die another day."

Transcript

DATE November 22, 2002 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Composer John Barry discusses his work on the James
Bond movie themes
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli sitting in for Terry Gross.

(Soundbite from James Bond movie)

Unidentified Woman: Who are you?

Mr. SEAN CONNERY: (As James Bond) Bond, James Bond.

(Soundbite of music and people at the pool)

BIANCULLI: That was Sean Connery, the first James Bond, in a series of movies
that began 40 years ago and is still going strong. Pierce Brosnan is the
current incarnation of 007, and his latest Bond film, "Die Another Day," opens
today. From the start, James Bond's image as the ultracool spy was enhanced
by the theme music that was always playing behind him. Much of the time, the
music was as bold and brassy as Bond himself. Composer John Barry wrote the
Bond theme, the scores for 11 of the films, and such memorable Bond theme
songs as "Goldfinger" and "Thunderball." Barry has scored about a hundred
films. He won Oscars for his music for "The Lion In Winter," "Born Free,"
"Out of Africa" and "Dances With Wolves." In the Bond films, Barry's classic
arrangements mixed rock electric guitar with big brassy horns. It's an
interest he developed naturally. Barry studied with Bill Russo, who was Stan
Kenton's composer and arranger. Terry spoke with John Barry in 1999.

Mr. JOHN BARRY (Composer): The James Bond theme is a peculiar mixture of that
low rock guitar figure, if you like, and the brass sound is like the Kenton
band. And then the bridge, that du, di, dah, du, di, duli, de, dah. It's
almost like a Dizzy Gillespie be-bop phrase, you know? So it was this kind of
hybrid of all these kind of things that I was involved with at the time, and I
must say I didn't give it too much thought. I didn't have too much time to
give it a lot of thought, and it just came out like it did, you know? I
didn't sit down and intellectualize about it and I've never read a James Bond
book. I'd only seen, like, a cartoon strip that they used to have in The
Daily Mail in England. So I knew it was about a spy. I knew roughly what the
essence was, but I never saw the movie. I just wrote the damn thing, you
know?

TERRY GROSS reporting:

Well, I love this music. So we have to right now hear the James Bond theme.
This is the John Barry Orchestra.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: I love it. It's an odd chord at the end, isn't it, that chord that
hangs suspended there?

Mr. BARRY: Yeah. Well, it was laid on fourth and then that--yeah. Yeah.
Yeah. I mean, it's such a concoction. It's like when you start making a
soup and you don't know really where you're going, but you make it and in the
end it kind of tastes OK, you know?

GROSS: Now straighten me out here.

Mr. BARRY: Yes.

GROSS: The official composer listed on the credits is...

Mr. BARRY: Yes...

GROSS: ...Monty Morman.

Mr. BARRY: ...my God.

GROSS: And so what's the short version of the story?

Mr. BARRY: I'll answer the question by asking a question...

GROSS: Yes.

Mr. BARRY: ...which is: If I didn't write it, why did they employ me for the
next 11 movies?

GROSS: Right.

Mr. BARRY: No more to be said.

GROSS: I used to love seeing the openings of the movies, you know, in the
Sean Connery days when the series was new, and, you know, the music would
start and then Sean Connery would walk on to the screen and then, you know,
turn around and pull out his gun as the music swelled behind him.

Mr. BARRY: Right.

GROSS: That was so exciting.

Mr. BARRY: Right.

GROSS: What did you think the first time you saw the music, you know, with
the whole Sean Connery thing in it?

Mr. BARRY: Well, when I wrote the theme, I was given the timing. I wasn't
given any action sequence. I didn't know what they looked like or whatever.
So I then--and it was like the movie was in release in three weeks' time. It
was what we call a wet print when it went into the theaters because it was so
behind. And then it opened at The Pavillion in Piccadilly in London and I
went on a Sunday afternoon and saw it. And that was the first time I'd ever
seen "Dr. No." And I understood it that I was just writing the main title
theme, but then every time he says, `I'm Bond, James Bond,' and dah, dah, and
it laid it all over the damn place. And it worked, you know? I mean, with
film, there's no middle ground, you know? It either works or it doesn't, you
know? There's no, `Well, it works a little.' I mean, a good score is a score
that really works 100 percent where you just hit all the buttons.

GROSS: Now you not only did the scores for, you know, 11 James Bond films,
you wrote the title songs for the films. I want to play one of those title
songs. This is "Goldfinger" sung by Shirley Bassey.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. SHIRLEY BASSEY: (Singing) Goldfinger, he's the man, the man with the
Midas touch. A spider's touch. Such a cold finger beckons you to enter his
web of sin, but don't go in.

Golden words he will pour in your ear, but his lies can't disguise what you
fear, for a golden girl knows when he's kissed her. It's the kiss of death
from Mr. Goldfinger.

GROSS: That's Shirley Bassey singing the them from "Goldfinger." The song
and the score written by my guest John Barry.

What were you told that the theme songs should convey?

Mr. BARRY: Well, nobody told me anything. "Goldfinger" was after "Dr. No."
On "From Russia with Love"--Lionel Bart wrote the song "From Russia with Love"
because he'd...

GROSS: He's most famous for "Fly Me to The Moon" and...

Mr. BARRY: No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

GROSS: No, no. I'm sorry. The score from "Oliver!" then.

Mr. BARRY: The score from "Oliver!"

GROSS: Yeah. OK.

Mr. BARRY: And "Oliver!" had just opened in--yeah. You're thinking of...

GROSS: Bart Howard.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah, Bart Howard, right. So he had just finished "Oliver!" and
he was, like, riding the top, and rightly so. And I hadn't--though I had had
instrumental hits, I hadn't had a song hit. So they said, `We want Lionel
Bart.' I said, `Absolutely fine.' So I orchestrated all the stuff for the
song with Matt Monroe, etc., and used the theme throughout the movie. But
"Goldfinger" was the first time they gave me the full shot at the whole damn
thing.

GROSS: Were you told, `Make this theme sexually insinuating'?

Mr. BARRY: No, they really left you alone. They really just--they said, `Go
away and write it.' So I never discussed with the director or the
producers--I discussed it with myself, and I thought, `Well, what is this
about? It's a song about a villain.' And then I started to reflect
historically, `There's no songs about villains.' You know, people don't sit
down and write songs about villains. They write love songs, they write sad
songs, they write torch songs, whatever. But songs about villains are very
rare. And then I thought of Kurt Ballard's "Mack the Knife," which is the
definitive song about a villain. So then I got my head on right and I
thought, `That's the definitive song. He managed to bring off the most
extraordinary song about a villain.'

And so I sat down and wrote this rather strange melody just based on the word
Goldfinger as the opening line, and then I thought, `Well, who can write the
lyric to this?' So Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse had also just got a
huge theatrical success in England called "Stop the World, I Want to Get Off."
And I knew Tony very well. I phoned him and I said, `Look, I've written this
song. I've written the melody, but I haven't got the song. I'd like to meet
with you.' I went out to his home in Hampstead, played him it and he said,
`Well, what the hell is it all about?' And I said, `It's "Mack the Knife."
It's a song about the villain.' And he said, `Got it.'

Then I'd worked with Shirley in concerts. I'd done concert tours with her.
And she was very big in England at that time. And Shirley has this one thing.
She has such conviction about what she does. So I played her the song and she
said, `Well, what the hell is this about?' I said, `It's about a villain,
Shirley.' I says, `Don't think too much about it, Shirley. Just go into the
studio and convince the world that you know what you're doing, and you can do
that, because I've worked with you in the theater and you do this better than
anybody else I know.' We then went and recorded it. And originally it just
started off with a chorus, `de dum,' and there was no `ba ya-ya-ya-ya.' That
wasn't there then. And we had a break. They went out for their 10-minute tea
break, and in the tea break, I just found that what we were playing was empty,
so I sat down at the piano and I came up with a `da ya-na-na-na' and did it on
wah wah trumpets, and we put that in, which just kind of brought it to life.
And then we repeated it down the line.

When Harry Saltzman heard it, I cannot...

GROSS: He was one of the producers.

Mr. BARRY: He was one of the producers. Harry--I can't tell you what he
said.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BARRY: OK? I...

GROSS: He hated it, huh?

Mr. BARRY: He said, `That is the worst mm-mm song I have ever heard in my
mm-mm life. But we're stuck with it because we don't have any time and the
movie's coming out.' And Guy Hamilton, who was the director, was--you know,
he was in the air force. He was one of the few who fought the Battle of
Britain and he's very proper and a very splendid man. He said, `Well, I don't
know whether it's going to be a hit or not, Harry, but I know dramatically it
works for the movie.' And Cubby Broccoli said, `I like it. I like it. Let's
do it. Let's do it.'

BIANCULLI: Composer John Barry talking with Terry Gross, recorded in 1999.
Barry wrote the scores for 11 James Bond films and about 90 other films,
including "Midnight Cowboy," "Dances With Wolves" and "Out of Africa." More
after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: Back with composer John Barry. He wrote the scores for about a
hundred films, including 11 James Bond movies.

GROSS: Now you mentioned that Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley wrote the
lyric for "Goldfinger." There's actually a terrific Anthony Newley recording
that was released a few years ago on a...

Mr. BARRY: Yeah. What we--sorry. I mean--sorry, go on.

GROSS: Well, I want to play this in a second. It wasn't released till a few
years ago on a kind of reissue compilation.

Mr. BARRY: No, because I--when we'd done the record, they said, you know,
`How do we demonstrate it to them?' So I went in the studio with Tony and a
bass and a bongo. I think that was the full orchestration. And I love Tony's
recording, and I'd have loved that to have been in the movie, and that's maybe
why didn't get the drift of it, the initial thing, you know. But...

GROSS: I think--yeah.

Mr. BARRY: ...I love Tony's recording.

GROSS: I think this version is a little more orchestrated than bass and
bongo. And this is a much more kind of sneaky vocal version...

Mr. BARRY: Right.

GROSS: ...than the really brassy Shirley Bassey one.

Mr. BARRY: That's right, exactly.

GROSS: So here's Anthony Newley.

(Soundbite of "Goldfinger" theme)

Mr. ANTHONY NEWLEY: (Singing) Goldfinger. He's the man, the man with the
Midas touch, a spider's touch. Such a cold finger beckons you to enter his
web of sin. But don't go in. Golden words he will pour in your ear, but his
lies can't disguise what you fear. For a golden girl knows when he's kissed
her. It's the kiss of death from Mr. Goldfinger.

GROSS: Ah, that is really great.

Mr. BARRY: Oh, I love Tony. I mean, God, does he know how to point a lyric
out. I mean, I just love him.

GROSS: So it's too bad, though, it wasn't released at the time. I think it
could have done well.

Mr. BARRY: I would have thought so.

GROSS: That wasn't you playing trumpet on there, was it?

Mr. BARRY: No, no, no, no. No, it wasn't. And it was just a guitar and then
a little--you know what? I think we did it twice. I think that's when we
went back in. We did it just first with bongos and bass, which obviously
somebody has that recording somewhere, I think. And then we went back in and
just made it slightly more substantial.

GROSS: Did the success of "Goldfinger" make it obligatory to have a theme
with lyrics for each of the subsequent James Bond films?

Mr. BARRY: Well, why I always demanded writing the music first was that when
you see the whole of the movie in "Goldfinger," the theme runs throughout the
movie, even the whole Ft. Knox sequence at the end, the main `da ya da'--I
mean, so I don't like a song stuck on the beginning of a movie because it's
just a song, and then it has nothing to do with the rest of the movie, which
is what happens today. All the Bond songs I integrated completely into the
score from "You Only Live Twice," "Thunderball," "Diamonds Are Forever." They
were the main title song, but they were also the genesis of the rest of the
score.

GROSS: There's something about your "Goldfinger" songs that remind me a
little bit of the Frankie Laine movie themes, those big western anthems that
he used to sing.

Mr. BARRY: Well, it's kind of--you know, I did one or two interviews with the
English press at the time, and they said, `What is it?' And I said, `It's
million-dollar Mickey Mouse music,' because--and it's Wagnerian. I mean, the
whole opening of "Goldfinger" is like this very pretentious (imitates music).
You know, I mean, it's--but that was the fun of it. You know, and as Fred
Astaire said, give it size, give it style and give it class. And that's like
an incredible bible to follow. And hopefully that's what we did. We just
made everything larger than life and we made it a lot of fun. So everybody
went in--they knew it was going to be--he got the broad, he killed the
villain, he'd be happy, and that was the formula, and we enjoyed it on that
level.

GROSS: And we've been focusing on the theme songs, but, of course, you did,
you know, the scores for the whole movies and underscoring for action scenes
and scenes where Bond is being, you know, tied up or about to be lasered to
death or...

Mr. BARRY: Right.

GROSS: ...there's a snake or a poisonous spider in his bed...

Mr. BARRY: Right.

GROSS: ...or he's about to be executed or whatever. So do you have a
favorite scene and how it works with the music that you did for that, where
something terrible was about to happen to James Bond?

Mr. BARRY: Oh, God, there are so many. I used to put myself--like, when I
used to go into my father's cinema and sit in the front row on a Saturday
afternoon and get absolutely thrilled by what was going on. I tried to put
myself into that area, and I guess in "Goldfinger" where he's laid down on the
laser thing and the laser's going up between his legs--that's kind of a
worrying thought...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BARRY: And I guess that was, like, the epitome of `Oh, my God,' you know?
I mean, that was pretty special stuff.

GROSS: Let's hear the actual scene from the movie.

(Soundbite of "Goldfinger")

Mr. GERT FROBE: This is gold, Mr. Bond. All my life I've been in love with
its color, brilliance, its divine heaviness. I welcome any enterprise that
will increase my stock, which is considerable.

Mr. SEAN CONNERY: I think you've made your point, Goldfinger. Thank you for
the demonstration.

Mr. FROBE: Choose your next witticism carefully, Mr. Bond. It may be your
last.

(Soundbite of laser)

Mr. FROBE: The purpose of our two previous encounters is now very clear to
me. I do not intend to be distracted by another. Goodbye, Mr. Bond.

(Soundbite of laser)

Mr. CONNERY: Do you expect me to talk?

Mr. FROBE: No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die. There is nothing...

BIANCULLI: A scene from "Goldfinger." Composer John Barry is talking with
Terry Gross. More of their interview in the second half of the show. I'm
David Bianculli and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of "Goldfinger" theme)

Ms. BASSEY: (Singing) ...finger. Pretty girl, beware of this heart of gold.
This heart is cold. Golden words he will pour in your ear. But his lies
can't disguise what you fear. For a golden girl knows when he's kissed her.
It's the kiss of death from Mr. Goldfinger. Pretty girl, beware of this heart
of gold. This heart is cold. He loves only gold. Only gold. He loves gold.
He loves only gold. Only gold. He loves gold.

(Announcements)

BIANCULLI: Coming up, Tom Jones does "Thunderball." We continue our
conversation with composer John Barry. And we hear some fun improvisations on
the Bond themes and talk with musician Steve Bernstein of the Sex Mob. Also,
David Edelstein reviews "Die Another Day."

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, sitting in for Terry
Gross.

We continue now with more of Terry's conversation from 1999 with composer John
Barry. Barry wrote the original theme to James Bond, the brassy, sassy music
that's as much a part of the character as a shaken martini and a tightly
tailored tuxedo. Barry also wrote "Goldfinger," still one of the most
memorable title songs in movie history, and has won several Oscars for his
scores for other films.

GROSS: There's one more James Bond song that I have to get in here and that's
"Thunderball," the theme from "Thunderball," sung by Tom Jones. I think this
is just a particularly fun one also.

Mr. BARRY: Well, there's a kind of fascinating story behind that, because
that is probably the worst title for a song you could imagine.

GROSS: Oh, exactly.

Mr. BARRY: I mean, you know. And I spoke to Tony Newley about it, actually,
and he says, `What do we do?' (Singing) `Thunderball, marvelous you should
care for me. Thunderball'--so he said, `That's not going to work. The
symphony already did that.' So it was such an abstract title, so they were
shooting down in Nassau--not Nassau County, you know, the island. They were
doing all that stuff down there. And I flew down there, and on the way down,
I was reading a magazine and it said that the Italians had a name for James
Bond now, which was Mr. Kiss-Kiss-Bang-Bang, which I thought was really
terrific. So I thought, instead of using the word thunderball, why don't we
write a song called "Mr. Kiss-Kiss-Bang-Bang." Cubby absolutely loved it.
Harry loved it. Everybody fell in love with it so I recorded. I recorded
with Dionne Warwick. We recorded it with Shirley.

And then the powers that be at United Artists in New York, literally two weeks
before the movie opened, phoned and said, `You know, we need that "Goldfinger"
thing. We need that title over the radio and "Mr. Kiss-Kiss-Bang-Bang" isn't
doing it. We need "Thunderball."' So I called up Don Black and I said,
`Look. We've got to do this in like no time whatsoever.' So I said, `What
does it mean?' And he said, `I don't know what the hell it means. I really
don't know what it means.' So I wrote the theme that facilitated the word and
Don then wrote the lyric. He then called Tom Jones.

And now the whole Bond thing was being a big success. You know, you could
have called anybody. You know? Everybody now wanted to do Bond songs because
of the success that Shirley had had and the whole aura that was hanging around
the movies. So Tom came in and he said the first thing, when he heard it, he
said, `What the hell is it about,' in his Welsh accent. `What the hell is it
about?' I said, `Tom, don't ask. Just take a leaf out of Shirley's book, get
in the studio, sing the hell out of it and leave. Please, don't get into it.
Just do that.' He said, `All right. OK. I'll do it.'

So he goes (sings) `Thunderball,' and then it was the same mood. Just
convince everybody. And so he was so convincing, I don't think anybody really
analyzed what the hell he was singing about. And I still don't know what the
song is about to this day. But we were given that problem and we had to live
with it.

GROSS: Well, the lyricist came up with good ideas for "Thunderball." `They
call him the winner who takes all and he strikes like thunderball.'

Mr. BARRY: Yes, Don did. Absolutely.

GROSS: A decent solution to the problem.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, he did, actually, in the nick of time come out
with that line which made it slightly credible, you know.

GROSS: I love these lyrics. They're so funny. `His days of asking are all
gone. His fight goes on and on and on.'

Mr. BARRY: Right. Right. Right.

GROSS: So you must have had fun doing this. I mean, this is just
really--it's very silly and very fun.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah. Talk about a license to kill. It's a license to write
silly and just have great fun, you know. I mean, that was the whole joy of
these movies, that this was not "Citizen Kane," you know. It was just this
fun comic strip, so you could get away with murder.

GROSS: Well, it's time to hear "Thunderball."

Mr. BARRY: All right.

GROSS: Sung by Tom Jones, music by my guest, John Barry.

(Soundbite of "Thunderball")

Mr. TOM JONES: (Singing) He always runs while others walk, he acts while
other men just talk, he looks at this world and wants it all, so he strikes
like thunderball. He knows the meaning of success. His needs are more so he
gives less. They call him the winner who takes all and he strikes like
thunderball.

GROSS: Talk about big arrangements. That is really great. I like the way
you managed to work in the James Bond theme underneath that. It's very nice.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah. Every trick in the book we used, believe me. We didn't
leave anything out. Actually, you didn't play the best part of the song,
actually, the bridge, da, da, de, da, da, da, da, dum, da, da, de, dum, da,
da. The bridge actually makes that song work.

GROSS: OK, cue it up to the bridge. Bob Herdich(ph), our engineer, please
cue it up to the bridge.

Mr. BARRY: It's--the bridge is--the most important part of any song, Gershwin
said, is the bridge. It's the release. It's how you get from--it's the old
1930s patent of 32-bar songs, 8 bars, 8 bars, bridge and end. And it's so
important how you get that release.

(Soundbite of "Thunderball")

Mr. JONES: (Singing) Any woman he wants, he'll get. He will break any heart
without regret. His days of asking are all gone...

GROSS: I interrupted your thought about the bridge.

Mr. BARRY: You know, 'cause it sets up getting back to--it goes into another
area, but it also sets up getting back into the main theme, which is not as
simple as it sounds.

BIANCULLI: Composer John Barry from a 1999 interview with Terry Gross.

Coming up, improvising on the 007 themes. This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Steven Bernstein discusses his band Sex Mob, his
unique style of music and his life
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

With "Die Another Day" opening today in theaters and James Bond celebrating
his 40th year as a movie icon, we're moving from an interview with someone who
wrote much of the Bond music to an interview with someone who enjoys it.
Steve Bernstein, a film composer and leader of the band Sex Mob, loves the
Bond music so much that he and his band recorded an entire tribute CD called
"Sex Mob Does Bond." The first cut on the CD, inspired by music from the film
series, is a typically eccentric number called "Dr. Yes."

(Soundbite of "Dr. Yes")

BIANCULLI: That's "Dr. Yes," composed by trumpet player Steven Bernstein,
leader of the band Sex Mob. Bernstein is a longtime member and musical
director of John Lurie's Lounge Lizards. He orchestrated, arranged and
conducted such film scores as "Get Shorty," "Kansas City" and "Clay Pigeons."
A review in Spin Magazine said, `Sex Mob is all the fun that jazz, and lately
rock, has forgotten to have.' Terry spoke with Bernstein last year.

(Soundbite of 2001 interview)

TERRY GROSS, host:

(Soundbite of "Dr. Yes")

Unidentified Chorus: (Singing) Yes! Yes! Yes, yes, Dr. Yes. Yes, yes, Dr.
Yes. Yes, yes, Dr. Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes...

GROSS: I love the James Bond music. So...

Mr. STEVEN BERNSTEIN (Musician): I do, too.

GROSS: It's got, like, big drama in it and these, like, sexy tango rhythms
and stuff. What gets you about the music?

Mr. BERNSTEIN: Well, it's that. It's all that. It's exotic. You know,
it's great when music can take you to another place. And I think one of the
greatest things is that you can actually listen to these records and kind of
imagine in your head a James Bond--just that whole larger concept of Bond.

And you listen to these records, and John Barry's scores are just--I mean,
they're melodically really strong, but there's also a bit--I mean, John
Barry's a very interesting musician. He was one of the first musicians--he
was a trumpet player, and he was one of the early composers that could
successfully mix jazz music, classical music and what was the beginning at the
time of rock 'n' roll, or pop music. He had a combo that had two guitars in
it, but they read music as opposed to--usually when you hear electric guitars
in music, they're improvising, they're playing rhythms part in those. And
his music always had written electric guitar parts, which is a very specific
sound of a certain era, which I happen to love. And, you know, whenever you
hear that--(hums guitar sequence for the James Bond theme song)--really low in
the guitar register that's a real John Barry trademark.

GROSS: Which Bond movies have you gone to where the music was most
noticeable? Or do you love the music more from sitting home listening to your
recordings from your soundtracks?

Mr. BERNSTEIN: That is, actually--I got to say, that's how I've learned to
love the music most, because it's interesting--I just watched "Goldfinger"
with my son, and a lot of this music is from "Goldfinger." And it's
interesting how much of it gets ducked. See, when you actually--when you
score a film, they end up ducking a lot of the music either for dialogue or
for explosions and car crashes.

GROSS: By `ducking' you mean fading it out or covering it up.

Mr. BERNSTEIN: Yeah, right. They actually have to bring the music down and
then bring up the special effects at the end. See, that's the last part of
making a film, is they bring it all together on a soundstage and they take the
music and they bring it up and down according to, like, what else is
happening. So if there's dialogue, they bring the music down. And, again,
especially in action films, there's a lot of car crashes, there's a lot of
explosions, helicopter sounds, train sounds--all those things makes the music
come down.

But when you actually listen to--you know, like I said, I had these score
records on vinyl. You actually get to hear the entire piece, and you realize
they're really beautiful pieces of music, too.

GROSS: Each of the tracks have titles that relate to the part of the plot the
music is being played in. So I thought we'd play a track that's called
"Oddjob's Pressing Engagement."

Mr. BERNSTEIN: Can I just tell you? I just found out what that was because I
just saw "Goldfinger."

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. BERNSTEIN: That's the scene where they've killed a guy and they've put
him in the back of a car, and then the car gets compacted in one of those huge
compactors. And picked...

GROSS: Oh, pressing engagement. I get it.

Mr. BERNSTEIN: Pressing engagement. Yeah.

GROSS: OK. So obviously, this is from "Goldfinger," and you hear the
"Goldfinger" theme and the 007 theme weaving in and out of it. Tell me why
you choose this track to do on your CD.

Mr. BERNSTEIN: Every track I chose because I felt the melodies stood strong
enough to be played in the individual manner. Pieces I felt could withstand
what I call the `Sex Mob treatment,' which is that these melodies are going to
be played literally, but they're also going to be stretched to their limits,
and, you know, they'll be able to hold on and, you know, withstand the
treatment.

GROSS: OK. So let's hear the treatment of...

Mr. BERNSTEIN: OK.

GROSS: ..."Oddjob's Pressing Engagement" from the James Bond film
"Goldfinger." And this is music from the CD "Sex Mob Does Bond."

(Soundbite of "Oddjob's Pressing Engagement")

GROSS: Music from the CD "Sex Mob Does Bond," and my guest, Steven Bernstein,
is the founder of Sex Mob.

Steven, talk a little bit more about the Sex Mob treatment when you choose a
song to do.

Mr. BERNSTEIN: Well, Sex Mob's--and we've been together about six years--and
now many people know us as a cover band, because when you come to hear Sex
Mob, you probably hear songs by Abba, James Brown, Prince, The Grateful Dead,
Duke Ellington, The Rolling Stones, etc., etc.--what I call the 20th century
songbook. It didn't start this way.

It started off as, like, most bands in New York--you know, some extension of a
person's ego when you have your music and your idea of what you want to do.
And unlike most bands, we never rehearsed. We only played gigs. We started
off having a weekly gig. And what I would do is I would show up kind of with
a chart every week, or a couple of charts, and we'd just played live. You
know, we were playing at the Knitting Factory tap bar very late at night, from
11 to 2 in the morning every Thursday.

And I had just started listening to Bond vinyl. I mean, it's kind of all
goes--it's a circular thing here. And I had made a chart of this song called
"Bond with Bongos." And we started playing it, and it starts off with a long
vamp. I originally used it because I thought it'd be a good vehicle for a
drum solo at the end of the piece. And then we started off with a kind of
introduction and let the bass play a little bit. And we hit the James Bond
theme, and suddenly this whole bar just erupts in, like, screaming and the
applause and this kind of general feeling of happiness. And I went, `Wow,
this is great. I mean, here we are playing this totally unconventional style
of music and everybody just reacted in this great way.'

And I realized that if you play themes that people know, it doesn't matter how
you play them, because they can connect with them, even if you're, like,
approaching them from a very, you know, unorthodox approach to playing music.
And so I started searching for themes that were really strong and we could
play in any way we wanted in the--we tend to play songs different every time
we play--that people would still recognize.

GROSS: You know, you had mentioned that at the Knitting Factory bar when you
were playing the James Bond theme, that people went nuts.

Mr. BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

GROSS: Now you do that on the new CD in the track that you were mentioning,
the "Bond with Bongos"...

Mr. BERNSTEIN: Right.

GROSS: ...and it's almost like a can-can version of the Bond theme. Let me
just play that.

Mr. BERNSTEIN: OK.

(Soundbite of "Bond with Bongos")

GROSS: Now why did you do the Bond theme in that manner?

Mr. BERNSTEIN: I wish I could tell you there's an answer for this stuff, but
it's just the way it happened.

GROSS: You're very intuitive, obviously.

Mr. BERNSTEIN: Yeah. I mean--yeah, the thing is this is a working band.
This band has worked for six years. This music is unrehearsed. I mean, it's
all written. These are all charts, but I don't believe in rehearsing things.
Well, I can't afford to. And it's allowed me to create a philosophy of not
believing in rehearsing.

And the beauty of that is what you get when you listen to one of my CDs is you
get the first take of something. And I kind of feel there are so many CDs
that come out now that it's--you want to have something special on your CD,
and I think one of the great things I try to capture on tape is a feeling of
something actually happening, that is musicians reacting to each other for the
first time.

Now musicians tend to be very smart people. And, obviously, if we're making
CDs, we've been doing what we've been doing for a long time. So once you
rehearse something once, then the musician starts thinking with the other side
of their brain. They go like, `You know what? When we get to this part, I'm
going to do this.' They're already thinking ahead. But if you get that first
take, where they're not even sure what the other musicians are playing and
they're constantly reacting and maybe even making tiny mistakes and then
creating something new out of that, that's what you get on these CDs.

And so like I said, I can't really tell you why I chose that rhythm, or why
we did it that way, but basically, I probably just said, `Listen, we're going
to start with a bass solo, you know, we're going to hit this theme and then
we're going to end with a drum solo, and let's hit it,' and counted it off.
And that's what happened.

BIANCULLI: Composer Steve Bernstein of the Sex Mob, recorded last year.
Their CD is "Sex Mob Does Bond." Sex Mob plays this weekend at Sweet Rhythm
in New York City.

So how does the new James Bond film measure up? Coming up, a review of "Die
Another Day." This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: Film "Die Another Day" another good Bond movie
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

Just in case you think we haven't `Bonded' enough on today's show, here's a
little more. Film critic David Edelstein has seen all 20 Bond films and has a
review of the newest one, "Die Another Day," with Pierce Brosnan in his fourth
turn as 007 and Halle Berry as the first Oscar-winning Bond girl.

DAVID EDELSTEIN reporting:

I've never been able to resist the James Bond pictures, not even the really
lame ones, when Roger Moore got so thick that the switch to a wiry stuntman in
mid-chase made you choke on your popcorn. When 007, whoever he's played by,
strolls in his tuxedo into the roving bullet's sight and crouches and fires
into the camera and the blood runs down the screen, I'm like a Pavlov dog.
I'm drooling at that mixture of brutality and Old World English elegance.

So "Die Another Day," well, it's three quarters of a very lively movie, even
if you don't grade on my Pavlovian curve. It's directed by the New Zealander
Lee Tamahori, who made a devastating portrait of working-class Maori spousal
abuse called "Once Were Warriors." And it has a dash more realism than usual
and you don't want in a Bond picture more than a dash. You're supposed to be
in and out of them, laughing at their flagrant megabudget excesses.

You know this Bond picture will be different, though, from its title sequence,
which leaves you shaken, not stirred. It's not the usual leggy silhouettes
straddling long gun barrels, it's a torture montage after Bond has been
captured by the North Koreans, our friends from the axis of evil. The
wriggling silhouettes are of women but also of scorpions, and Madonna's voice
on the disco-ey title track has been made to sound robotic. So for a change,
she's expressively inexpressive, with an eerie lack of pity.

When Judi Dench's M shows up, after Bond's 18-month imprisonment, she doesn't
exactly shower him with kisses. She seems a bit irritated he survived.

(Soundbite of "Die Another Day")

Mr. PIERCE BROSNAN ("James Bond"): Gene therapy. New identity's courtesy of
DNA transplants.

Ms. JUDI DENCH ("M"): So-called beauty parlor. We heard rumors of such a
place. I didn't think it really existed.

Mr. BROSNAN: It doesn't anymore. Zao got away but he left these behind, all
from Gustav Graves' mine. I think it's a front for laundering African
conflict diamonds.

Ms. DENCH: We need to tread carefully. Graves is politically connected.

Mr. BROSNAN: Lucky I'm on the outside then.

Mr. DENCH: Well, it seems you've become useful again.

Mr. BROSNAN: Then maybe it's time you let me get on with my job.

EDELSTEIN: Pretty cold, that exchange. And that coldness gives the movie
some unexpected bite. It only goes wrong in the last half-hour with some
campy FX and a noisy car chase through a giant ice palace. And the great
secondary villain, played by Rick Yune, with a face embedded with diamonds,
doesn't get the grand comeuppance he deserves. But even if the end flat lines
a bit, "Die Another Day" is still a resurrection, the best Bond movie since
"The Spy Who Loved Me."

Pierce Brosnan is really growing on me. No, he's not Sean Connery, but it was
only Connery's singular combination of working-class ruggedness and snobbery
that made us think 007 a more interesting character than he is. Brosnan
brings the right steely sense of entitlement to Bond. He makes you believe
that Bond's absurd feats are the plausible upshot of his refusal to be bested
by a social or sexual inferior. The actor is still sleek, but the touch of
crepe paper around his face has eliminated the department store mannequin look
that the TV show "Remington Steele" exploited so shrewdly. He's vulnerable
now and so are we.

Bond comes out of torture into what M says is a changed world. He missed 9/11
and the snooty supervillain, played by Toby Stephens, has some Noam
Chomskyesque lines about having studied Western hypocrisy at Oxford and
Harvard. He makes fun of the British for believing they still have the right
to police the world and `We can't let them get away with that, can we?'

Amid all this white male sense of entitlement is the first major
African-American Bond girl, Jinx, played by Halle Berry, whose Ursula Andress
entrance out of the surf caused the preview audience to erupt in cheers. This
is not Bond's first interracial romance and I don't think you can call the
movie progressive, since the big climax is two gorgeous women in very tight
tank tops having at each other with swords and martial arts. And I don't even
think Halle Berry is compelling as an actress here. She's something to see
but her voice is dead. But she has her Oscar now and the studio is talking
about a Jinx spinoff. And it's hard to imagine we'll ever be quite as
complaisant again with a Bond girl who doesn't get to kill a lot of people,
too.

BIANCULLI: David Edelstein is film critic for online magazine Slate.

(Credits)

BIANCULLI: For Terry Gross, I'm Bianculli, David Bianculli.

(Soundbite of "Dr. Yes")

Unidentified Chorus: (Singing) Yes! Yes! Yes, yes, Dr. Yes. Yes, yes, Dr.
Yes. Yes, yes, Dr. Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes...
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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