Trevelyan's Mainframe / FILE: Score, Film [Twenty-five years removed]
Thought I had forgotten you, hm? Well, it seems I couldn't be so lucky. Nevertheless, here we are! The motherboards have been properly dusted and all plugs wiped clean. The mainframe is back online and I am here to pick through its contents with you. And to welcome us back? We shall run the film score file. It was the least I could do, for a friend
Your new access codes are in working order and I may grant you the ability to explore this file further. Now, here's what we have on your subject, twenty-five years removed.
- Transmission begin, Trevelyan
Yes, I understand the irony in that.
Yet, this is a serious matter all the same. Throughout Bond history, movie scores have matter just as much (if not sometimes more) than the actual script lines, plot threads, and characters themselves. Rightly, the score itself becomes the movie. It is the signature we recognize, without even having to see the same scene it is laid over. In many ways, the score of a film takes on the life of a central nervous system to the saga's body.
When it comes to this, one must take surgeons (or in this case composers) very, very seriously.
This time around, for 1995's GOLDENEYE, it was French composer Éric Serra's time to try his hand at the knife that is a Bond score.
Now, if I had to hazard a guess, I'd say you needed a review of Mr. Serra's dossier. Luckily, I have the time and patience to oblige you. Don't take it for granted, old boy.
According to our records, Serra was born to father Claude, a famous French musician and songwriter. Details on Serra's mother are sparse, she is reported to have passed during before her son's formative years. By the 1980s, Éric met Luc Besson. Besson, French film director of such titles as LA FEMME NAKITA (1990), LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL (1994), and THE FIFTH ELEMENT (1997), befriended Serra and asked him to score his first film, LE DERNIER COMBAT (1983). Besson and Serra stuck together to work on several films throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s as their work styles meshed so well. Both have been quoted to rely on human emotion to move their work forward, helping Serra's sounds blend with Besson's images.
Along the way, following his 1994 work with Besson, Éric Serra was approached to score the next James Bond adventure scheduled to be released during the holiday season of 1995.
Taking inspiration from his work with Besson, Serra approached the 17th James Bond film much like the film producers did, "out with the old, in with the new". Taking the groundwork laid by Monty Norman and John Barry and spinning it on its head was the approach Serra took. In place of large orchestral pieces, stood the harsh, dirty, cold sounds of the post-Soviet era film. Serra's signature synthesized sound permeated nearly every scene of Pierce Brosnan's first Bond outing and truly set the standard for the Brosnan Era of Bond moving forward. This was the Bond of the coming millennium, and the sounds had to match.
With that noted, I suppose I'd be remiss to skip perhaps the only bit of classic vibe still intact for GOLDENEYE. The film's title song was written by Irish singer-songwriter and U2 lead, Bono, alongside his bandmate (and fellow Irishman), the Edge. Most importantly, it was performed by American singer and actress Tina Turner.
Why so important?
Because many consider, according to our records, Turner's rendition to be one of best entires of the series. Mix a similar feel and class of a Dame Shirley Bassey Bond theme with the cutting lyrics of Bono & the Edge and powerful delivery of Tina Turner and you have the recipe for a smash hit.
With all credit due, GOLDENEYE's title song was released November 7th, 1995 and went on to reach #22 in the US Top Charts, #3 in the European Top 100, and jumped to the Top 10 in countries around the world including (but not limited to) the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Norway, Sweden, etc.
But, it wasn't always to be this way. Allow me.
Originally, the then widely popular Swedish Pop band, Ace of Base, was to perform their own version of the title song. Sharing only the same name as Turner's version, Ace of Base's was something quite different. The lyrics, tone, and the song's overall feel were much more dark and melancholy, penned and performed solely by the band.
Interested to hear what the Ace of Base entry sounded like? I thought you might be.
Ultimately, the bombastic and classically bold Tina Turner version was sought out and chosen, leaving Ace of Base with the need to turn its GOLDENEYE song into "The Juvenile" and later release it on their 2002 album entitled DA CAPO.
This isn't to say some fans in 2020 aren't more prithy to the version above. No doubt the lyrics and tone fit the film. "Tomorrow's foe is now a friend" indeed. Yet, the rebirth of a franchise needed something... Bigger. This was Turner's version. Loud, sexy, and truly Bond through and through. I say the right choice was made, a closed matter.
This wouldn't be the only revision made on the GOLDENEYE soundtrack, however... In fact, very infamously, Éric Serra's work would meddled with a bit for the theatrical release of the film.
Marching quickly toward the climax of the film is the T-55 tank chase through St. Petersburg (specifically within the Sennaya neighborhood and along the banks of Moyka Canal). Originally, Serra's "A Pleasant Drive in St. Petersburg" took its place here.
Unsatisfied with the naturally Bondian moment of this concept matched with an un-Bondian tune was enough for producers to act quickly during the editing process. English composer John Altman would be brought on to rescore the tank chase scene with a most classic Bond moment spin. In hindsight, this was done in complete contrast to the rest of GOLDENEYE's sound. A brave move indeed. Yet the action carries the music quite well, and the rest (as they say), is history.
Funny little note here about the John Altman fellow; Our mainframe suggests that he was also responsible for arranging and producing the Academy Award-nominated period music for 1997's TITANIC. Ever heard of it?
Don't believe I caught that one showing in Our Theatre of Smolensk at the time...
Beside the signature sounds that make up all that is GOLDENEYE's soundtrack, Serra decided to include his very own ode to romance in the ending credits song of "The Experience of Love". In my mind, it is the perfect way to end off what would be the beginning of a new era of films.
If I'm forced to be honest, the shot of the helicopters leaving the Cuban jungle while the credits creep onto the screen and this song begins is one of my favorite parts of the film as a whole. Does it ooze 90s and age the film? Absolutely. But, does it perfectly encapsulate the relationship that develops between an isolated Severnaya scientist and a globetrotting superspy, yes! At least, in my estimation. Ahem, let's move on.
Still with me? Good. We're coming to the end of the file.
Many die-hard fans of this film credit the score to be one of their favorite and most unique parts of it as a whole. Though, it isn't without its own controversy. Some of the series' more traditional Bond fans find GOLDENEYE towards the bottom of their lists, strictly due to the soundtrack and how far it deviates from the norm set by previous entries. Is it far and away a much different sounding film than that of say, a master work of ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE (1969)?
But, if it's all the same to you, I say that's because it needed it be.
This mainframe suggest that the work Éric Serra, Tina Turner, Bono & the Edge, (and John Altman) helped move the series forward after a six-year hiatus. Nearly a death for the franchise. To return in such a fresh, brave new way was the exact visualization director Martin Campbell and Bond producers were looking for. Not only was there a new Bond with new challenges, there was a new sound to boot. All the while, a new and emerging generation of Bond fans found their place. And when it comes to the reinvention of the James Bond series for 1995 and beyond, I daresay...
Were you expecting any less?
- End Transmission, Trevelyan