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David Arnold: The Perfect Replacement for John Barry

By Adam Farrington-Williams (FelixLeiter)
December 23, 2004


David's Work

David Arnold plays his 007 guitar from The World is Not Enough
British composer David Arnold owns the mantle of current James Bond composer, replacing his long-time idol John Barry. Arnold’s first Bond film score was the music accompanying Pierce Brosnan’s second outing as James Bond; Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997. The score was a huge success amongst Bond fans and music fans alike. Following his first score was the techno-based The World Is Not Enough and most recently the dark, but at times upbeat, Die Another Day. All three have been a success, at various levels and with various Bond fans.

Arnold incorporates the perfect mixture of brass, strings, woodwind, percussion and catchy techno cues that make for an intriguing entrance into the Bond music world. Some say Arnold’s work is basically Barry techno-style and to prove this, many fans of Barry’s soon warmed to his successors work. But the question still remains on the lips of some Bond fans, “Is David Arnold the perfect replacement for Barry?” Does Arnold have the credentials and talent needed to rival Barry and his work? His work speaks for itself! Clearly, his work thus far has matched it with some of Barry’s work and Arnold’s performance meets Barry’s, on various dexterous levels.

The GoldenEye Debacle

David Arnold publicity shot
The year 1995 brought about a new era of Bond. The producers recognized that a new lead actor required a new musical direction. With the forthcoming release of GoldenEye, Bond producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli went in search of a musical composer that could “bring Bond into the 90s.” They needed someone who was the opposite of what Barry had brought to the series. Eventually, they found and hired Eric Serra, the French television and film composer who had previously scored music for such shows as La Femme Nikita and The Profes,sional. Unfortunately for Serra, his score was received harshly by Bond fans and film critics. Subsequently this drove him out of a potential job in the following Bond adventure, Tomorrow Never Dies.

The producers, as a result, were forced to look elsewhere for their next musical score and eventually conceded they would return to Bondian-basics and ask Barry to make his return to the series. But after a dispute regarding salary, Barry walked and once again the search was on to find a new film composer.

Finally: A Successor to John Barry
In due course, EON employed the services of the young British film composer David Arnold and, from this point in time through the present, the Arnold/Bond romance continues to prosper. Arnold had gained his reputation from his already impressive résumé which included two Oscars, one being for the award-winning, 1996 film Independence Day. He had also worked successfully on the television drama Stargate SG-1.

John Barry, David Arnold and Raymond Benson in 2002.
Click to Enlarge

From the very first electric gun-barrel cue in Tomorrow Never Dies, to the very sexy “Going Down Together” track in Die Another Day, Bond music-lovers could tell this young composer had something special to offer the series’, already celebrated music style. That first gun-barrel cue closely rivals the Barry gun-barrels of The Man With The Golden Gun, Moonraker, Octopussy, A View To A Kill and finally, The Living Daylights.

Arnold’s ability to vary the style of his work from one action film, to the next action film is a credit to his talent and marks clear comparisons with that of his idol John Barry, whose equal capability to vary his style was first rate.

Like Barry, Arnold continues to win awards for his musical scores and although he hasn’t quite reached the twelfth-Oscar status his idol has reached, he is well on the way. John Barry created the Bond sound that “signature sound,” as Arnold calls it, but the current Bond composer says as long as he is doing the job, the Bond sound will stay Barrysque and we say Arnold is the best man for the job.

Article written by Adam Farrington-Williams (FelixLeiter)

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