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A Whole Series of Musical Events

Cut-rate James Bond themes - Judith Finell Part 2

Judith Finell – Judith Finell, Music Service
Season 2/ Episode 8

You probably didn’t watch, but on a Saturday night in April of 1983, “The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.: The Fifteen Years Later Affair,” aired on NBC. Trust me on this; it was a classic of 1980s television – paunchy middle-aged heroes, central casting villains, backlot sets, stock footage explosions – The 12-year-old me could not get enough.

Our intrepid heroes even cross paths with a fellow spy – a suave Brit, wearing a dashing tux, driving an Aston Martin (complete with the license plate, “JB”). His car featured cool gadgets, he had a starlet on his arm, and there was that memorable James Bond theme.

“James Bond!!! They got James Bond – Cool” The 12 year old me was – again – thrilled out of his mind.

The thing is, “they” didn’t, “get” James Bond. They got an actor (admittedly, the actor happened to be George Lazenby, reprising his role as James Bond, so there wasn’t much question), they got an Aston Martin, they even got the James Bond theme (sort of). All the clues were there, I was supposed to think it was James Bond, but they never once uttered the words, “James” or “Bond.”

The music was the giveaway, it sounded “Bondian,” it was almost the famous Monty Norman theme from the 1960s, but it just wasn’t. The ersatz, “NBC Saturday Night Movie” music came right up to the edge of being James Bond but was afraid to jump.

That’s the subject of this podcast. A few weeks back we pushed our podcast with Judith Finell, Judith was the lead musicologist in the “Blurred Lines” case involving Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and the Marvin Gaye State Estate. This episode is part of 2 of that interview.

When we finished discussing the subtler points of copyright and plagiarism we ended delving into another area of Judith’s expertise. “Sound-Alikes.” Frankly, since that Saturday Night in 1983, I’ve always been fascinated by these, “almost” songs. TV throughout the 1980s and 1990s were full of them. Songs where it was clear the producers wanted a top 10 hit but also apparently didn’t want to pay top ten prices.

So what does it take to come right up to the edge in music? How can you evoke the James Bond theme, without paying James Bond Prices?

We also discuss Stairway to Heaven, the sound the Transporter makes in Star Trek, the Mission Impossible theme, and a little 45 record McDonald’s gave away in the 1990s.