3:34am

Wed October 3, 2012
James Bond At 50

The Sound Of James Bond: Vic Flick's Surf Guitar

Originally published on Thu October 4, 2012 1:36 pm

The 007 theme is one of the most famous themes in movie history. The infamous guitar riff that gives the theme its secret agent feel was performed by Vic Flick, who spoke to Morning Edition about the day he played it, 50 years ago.

In 1962, Flick was a 25-year-old studio guitarist who was asked to help give the James Bond theme more of a punch. Composer Monty Norman, who wrote the theme, was scrambling to complete the score for the first Bond movie, Dr. No. He'd scratched out a rough draft of the theme, but Flick says it fell a little flat.

Then the Bond producers heard the soundtrack to the 1960 teenage "angst" movie Beat Girl, and it was just sound they were looking for. The Beat Girl theme was written by composer John Barry and features Flick on guitar. The Bond producers hired Barry to arrange 007's theme, and he asked Flick to help.

"When we got it, we looked at it and added to it, changed it," Flick says. "The combination of his writing for brass and my guitar playing kind of brought the thing to a conclusion, and everybody seemed to be quite happy. It's followed me now for 50 years, so it couldn't have been too bad."

To get just the right sound, Flick says, he had to really "dig in" to his guitar. "To give it some urgency and dynamicism or whatever the word is," Flick says.

He says he reckons John Barry and composer Monty Norman made a fortune off the Bond theme. As for him — "I got $15 for recording it," he says with a laugh.

Flick is not bitter. He did start getting some royalty checks in the mid-1990s, and Friday, he'll perform his famous guitar riff in Los Angeles at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And we're marking the 50th anniversary of the first James Bond film. All week long we've been looking at what makes Bond so Bond.

(SOUNDBITE OF THEME MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: Ah yes, the music. This is one of the most famous themes in movie history. And here's the part that gives it that secret agent feel.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUITAR RIFF)

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

That guitar riff was performed by Vic Flick. In 1962, Mr. Flick was a 25-year-old studio guitarist who was asked to help give the Bond theme more punch. The composer Monty Norman was scrambling to complete the score for first Bond movie, "Dr. No." He'd scratched out a rough draft but Flick says it felt a little flat.

VIC FLICK: What Monty had written was like duh, duh, duh, dee, dah, dee dee. So we - and, as you know the Bond theme, but nothing sort of dynamic.

MONTAGNE: Then the Bond producers heard the soundtrack to the 1960 teenage angst movie, "Beat Girl" and it was just sound they were looking for.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: Sound familiar? This theme was written by composer John Barry. That's Flick on guitar. The Bond producers hired Barry to arrange 007's theme and he, in turn, asked Flick to help.

FLICK: When we got it, we looked at it and added to it and changed it. So, you know, the combination of his writing for brass and my guitar playing, it kind of brought the thing to a conclusion and everybody seemed to be quite happy. And it's followed me down for 50 years, so it couldn't have been too bad.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUITAR RIFF)

INSKEEP: To get just the right sound Flick says he had to really dig in to his guitar.

FLICK: To play it normally, suppose it was just a tune, you go...

(SOUNDBITE OF GUITAR RIFF)

FLICK: But to give it some urgency and dynamicism(ph) - or whatever the word is - you know, I just do...

(SOUNDBITE OF GUITAR RIFF)

FLICK: Did you notice the difference?

MONTAGNE: Flick is now 75. He says he reckons John Barry and composer Monty Norman made a fortune off the Bond theme. As for him...

FLICK: I got $15 for recording it.

(LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: But Flick's says he's not bitter. He did start getting some royalty checks in the mid 1990s. And on Friday, he will perform his famous guitar riff in Los Angeles at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

MONTAGNE: You can hear Vic Flick's theme, and sing along while playing air guitar, at NPRMusic.org.

INSKEEP: Tomorrow, Bond Week continues as our own David Greene asks astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson about 007's hi-tech gadgets.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

But wait. Are you - is this a - you're talking science here but you're making it sound like we might be close to having an invisible car.

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: Oh, yeah. Well, invisibility, yeah. Yeah, oh yeah. We got people working on this.

(SOUNDBITE OF JAMES BOND THEME MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

INSKEEP: And I'm Steve Inskeep.

(SOUNDBITE OF JAMES BOND THEME MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

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