Friday, 29 May 2015


Baby, You're the Best – James Bond is Forever
by Kelly Snape @lostinindiepop

Bonds always have and always will be Sunday afternoons. My first, glimpsed through a fug of cigarette smoke from amassed relatives in my Nana's front room, was almost certainly Moonraker. Richard Kiel's Jaws, rather than Moore's Bond leaving a lasting impression on me as a kid, as he did for many of my generation. But if you come to love Bond, like I love Bond, those Sunday afternoons – like, I imagine Saturday afternoons at the football, if you're so inclined – have a way of permeating into the other days, weeks, months, years and decades of your existence.

My (now ex-) husband, a talented engineer, had an odd job ('scuse the pun) that combined practical scientific knowledge with jumping out of helicopters for a living. He'd nearly, very nearly, worked somewhere else. But we don't like to talk about that. We lived, for a while, in the picturesque riverside village where Richard Chopping (who drew the original covers to the Fleming novels) had lived. As spouses we had little in common but what we did share was a love of all things Bond.

At some point we progressed from just being armchair Bond fans and for a while, all the day trips and weekends away I planned seemed to have some sort of Bond connection. The Ian Fleming Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum (I had to be forcibly removed from DC's bloodstained shirt).....Bonds on the big screen in the Barbican on our anniversary weekend (Connery on the big screen makes so much more sense)....the Sunday lunch hotel pianist, who when I requested a Bond theme played us a medley of every single one and some rejected Bond themes to boot....three days in an obscure part of Austria just so we could visit the opera set from the Quantum of Solace on the way home...a trip to BAFTA to watch Guy Hamilton talk about Goldfinger....Vesper Martinis in a fancy hotel bar in Brighton...three nights in Monaco for my 30th including a trip to the Casino de Monte Carlo, where I asked him to order me a Vodka Martini (it tasted like meths...not that I've tasted meths but you get the idea). My then husband's Dad was unemployed, his Mum was a cleaner, my Dad left school at 16 with no qualifications. There were times in our new life where we had to pinch each other.

And yet...all was not well. Or at least I wasn't. In 2006, I was diagnosed with depression. It was a feeling of heaviness within my soul that never really went away. But I distinctly remember the first time that feeling left me, just for a few hours. It was somewhere between the word “considerably” in the pre-title sequence and the last shot of the opening titles of Casino Royale. It was like someone had given me a shot of adrenaline: my brain had crisp, clear thoughts again and I remembered there was Bond before I was born, Bond in the now and Bond in the life yet to come. Thank god there was Bond in the life yet to come. And no, it wasn't just the homage to Ursula Andress. Let's address this right now. Daniel Craig's biceps are eleven kinds of awesome, but I couldn't understand why everyone was raving about his exit from the sea and not how masterfully he was wrestling around on the floor with Solange...An adrenaline shot indeed. It was normally a short 15 minute walk back from the cinema to home. That night we got a taxi.

Adrenaline shots (unlike diamonds) don't last forever and a few years later cosy Sunday afternoons curled up in front of Bond were replaced with stony silences and marriage guidance counselling. Unlike, say, The Simpsons, which I couldn't watch for years, Bond didn't feel like he belonged to “us”, he was most definitely mine. He was mine as I bought in New Year's Eve alone watching Casino Royale on a laptop in what had been our and was now my bedroom, until a few weeks later when I was forced to start a new uncertain life, alone and soon-to-be unemployed in a grotty flat. He was mine as my friend Lynne kept me from despair, showing me Roger's worst hits on what otherwise would have been lonely, rainy Sundays. And thankfully he was still mine as, years later, over a hundred miles away, I sat watching Skyfall in Sheffield's Odeon. I'd say I was watching it alone but you never feel alone amongst other fans. A packed house at 5pm in the evening. A Mum with her eight year old to my right, an eightysomething four rows behind me, all waiting for our hero to return.

When we got married, I'd wanted Nobody Does it Better as our first dance but this was swiftly vetoed by my fiance. Knowing what I know I now, nearly four years after our divorce, I suspect he feared living up to the title. I couldn't possibly comment. Despite some rocky years, I'm still a romantic at heart, which is why my favourite piece of Bond music isn't a theme song but instead is City of Lovers, David Arnold's refashioning of his earlier Vesper theme from Casino Royale. It accompanies, what is to my mind, five of the most romantic minutes of cinema ever, running from the scene where Bond throws Vesper onto his hospital bed, then through the section as they sail into Venice and ends as they leave their hotel room, Vesper putting her arm across Bond's chest, the absolutely picture of romantic, filthy, gorgeous love. Until a few minutes later, when she disappears off with the treasury's money and meets a grim, watery end, the way that Bond girls so often do. David Arnold, the heir to John Barry, just gets it, so, so right. Every soaring delicious romantic string. Heavenly. I've played this three minutes of soundtrack on my mp3 player whilst travelling on buses, trains and even walking around my local Asda. It never fails to lift the mundanity of life into a glorious adventure.

A penchant for fancy hotels, a fascination with a certain type of ego, a place where brutality meets seduction; three decades of Sunday afternoons in the presence of arguably the most famous fictional character on the planet can't help but weave a thread through your life. Bond got me through the bleakest of times and he's still here in the glorious now, as I knew he would be, and will be in the life yet to come. Some people have football, or Doctor Who or an allotment. I have an alcoholic, womanising hitman with a penchant for sadism and serious commitment issues. And, in his current guise, utterly delicious biceps. Nobody does it better, makes me feel sad for the rest. I love you, 007. Baby, you're the best.

Kelly Snape

and as a bonus, here's Monty Norman talking us through writing the Bond Theme

Friday, 22 May 2015


Dr. No and the Three Blind Mice

Emma Winston: synth, vocals
Mixed by Darren Hayman

Until this month, I had never seen a James Bond film in full, and had never released any of my own music.

I suppose you could say that I fell into this project. I am at home playing other people's music (you can also hear me, specialising in Wurlitzer and swooning, on Darren Hayman's version of 'Goldfinger'); I am less at home left to my own devices to come up with a cover of a cover of one of the most ubiquitous tunes in history (the earliest appearance of 'Three Blind Mice' in print, if you were wondering, was in 1609. 1609!). Whatever I did, I said to John, it was bound to be ridiculous, and that was precisely the reason I wanted to do it; it left me with nothing to be afraid of, and no excuses to abandon the song before it was completed. And complete it I did.

It seemed only fair, then, that I watched Dr. No, beyond the opening sequence I had pored over to extract any musical motifs and lyrical fragments I thought I could poach for my own version. Bond, it has to be said, is not really my thing; I find the bravado and the violence and the opulence all at once hard to get my head around. The soundtracks are another matter entirely, and the theme is iconic for a reason, moody, urgent and superbly orchestrated, a punch in the musical gut from the second the opening credits roll. Dr. No's soundtrack, as far as I can make out, seems unique amongst the series in that the film is shot through – pun unintended -- with calypso music.

Much has been written about the sometimes stereotypical treatment of non-white characters in the Bond franchise (Daniel McClure's chapter in James Bond in World and Popular Culture is a good, if dense, example and can be previewed at Google Books) and Dr. No, product of the sixties, is certainly no exception (The Complainist's entertaining blow-by-blow review comes highly recommended if you're interested in picking this apart a little more). 'Three Blind Mice', however, along with a few other tracks, seems (at least as far as I've been able to dig up) to have been contributed by still-active Jamaican band Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, placing it in authentic contrast to Monty Norman's pastiche 'Underneath The Mango Tree' which also appears in the film.

I am very aware that, in covering a calypso version in straight four-to-the-floor style, however many layers of my beloved synths I add, I'm erasing a lot of what makes the original uniquely interesting. Love it as I do, the indiepop scene, not unlike Bond himself, remains extremely white, and my debut on this blog is no exception. Listen, make of it what you will, then check out the Dragonaires' original version, and perhaps fall down the rabbit hole of their (still-growing!) ska, calypso and soca discography if you like what you hear.

I have a hunch that Dr. No might remain the first and last Bond film I make it all the way through. I do hope, however, that 'Three Blind Mice' won't be the last you hear from me.

Friday, 15 May 2015


I’m pretty sure The Spy Who Loved Me was my first Bond film, on the telly one Christmas or Easter before 1983 (when i saw Octopussy at the ABC in Maidenhead, followed by a trip to the Berni Inn  for a treat (and yeah - i saw Morons From Outer Space there too))

Maidenhead cinema 8th April 85.

I already had the Lotus Esprit with the missiles and the pop-out fins (it replaced a wind up swimming frog and an empty Matey bottle as my go-to bath toy) and the smaller Corgi Juniors one too, which was stuck in submarine mode (it was the same size as my other cars and made more sense to me despite doing less cool stuff)... I even had Stromberg's helicopter, so it was nice to finally give them some context.

It is, of course, the best Bond film (ignore anyone who says Goldfinger is - they think that an ejector seat and a changeable number plate are cooler than turning into a submarine... an ACTUAL SUBMARINE)...

Of course you know it's a great big romp with a woman-eating shark, the pyramids, a microfilm, a beautiful Russian agent, a fight on a train, an underwater lair, explosions, one-liners and the foiled destruction-of-the- human-race-by-an-unscrupulous-villain, but the Spy Who Loved Me also has a Hammer Horror henchman (sharing a name with the then highest-grossing film), a fantastic car chase ("four different types of enemy, multiple weaponry, a leap from land to sea and Bond’s car turning into a submarine halfway through"), a submarine eating tanker, a classic catchphrase ("good evening Mr Bond, I've been expecting you") and THE GREATEST BOND PRE-TITLE SEQUENCE EVER.

Every moment from the missing submarines, to the Dymo digital watch, past "something came up" and "so does England", into the disco ski chase down the Austrian mountain (actually a Canadian glacier), off the edge, through 20 seconds of breath holding silence (longer than Rick Sylvester intended) and THAT parachute to Nobody Does It Better, is sheer JOY...

... in fact, i'm going to watch it again right NOW

Friday, 8 May 2015


and we have a double header of Goldfinger below too - 

Balfron Tower by Darren Hayman

2 Willow Road by Tim Hopkins

No-one, or at least no-one you can turn up with a lazy google, seems to know for sure why Ian Fleming hated Ernö Goldfinger so much. As a kid I was told that it was because Fleming hated the Balfron (in Poplar, as beautifully illustrated by Darren Hayman here) and the Trellick (in North Kensington): two big concrete housing blocks which stand to the East and West of Central London. I can’t find any evidence to back this up; it was probably just my big brother telling me lies.

Better-informed opinion seems to suggest that Fleming objected to the demolition of some picturesque cottages on Willow Road in Hampstead, to make space for a terrace of three Goldfinger houses just before the second world war. If that’s right, it was a real lapse of taste on Fleming’s part. Those houses (although ten or fifteen years ahead of time) seem to me the epitome of the understated mid-century cool that runs through the best of Bond.

The Goldfinger family moved into number 2 Willow Road, the middle of the terrace. Some of them still live there, though the house has now been partitioned and (I’m delighted to say) the upper portion is open to visitors. It’s a wonderful thing (baby). It’s been a year or two since I last went, but here is a top five of the things which have stuck in my mind:

1) the way the office and the studio on the first floor are one light, airy space but made distinct by one being raised by 18 inches or so, and those 18 inches being beautiful storage
2) the best and simplest bookshelves I’ve ever seen, made from planks, poles and dowling
3) the rooms being put together to allow privacy in rather a small space, but (I think as a result of clever use of light from outside) never feeling cramped or poky
4) TWO small stairwells which meant that people could move about the largely open plan house without disturbing each other
5) the Goldfingers’ art collection, which includes a delightful print but the under-appreciated genius Stanley William Hayter, something which makes me feel especially good because theres one of those hanging behind me in our front room right now.

Go and take a look for yourself, I promise you a treat.

Apparently there’s a third school of thought: that Fleming used the name because he played golf with Ernö's wife’s cousin, a fellow who hated Goldfinger. Haters, eh?

One more slight teaser from the back of my mind: the three buildings mentioned stand north, east and west of central London; Goldfinger's other most famous London building stands South at Elephant and Castle. Now a fancy housing complex called Metro Heights, it was built in the early '60s as NHS office space and bore the name Fleming. Not a tribute to the Bond author, though: the building was named after biologist / pharmacologist Alexander Fleming. I sometimes wonder whether Ernö decided to join in the naming game, but subtly suggest that the penicillin is mightier than the pen...

Friday, 1 May 2015


the new album from the Sly and Unseen is available here

Bond In Motion

a trip to the Bond in Motion exhibition today where i mostly saw exciting Bond moments reflected in shonky models of the classic vehicles, also enjoyed that Steed was in A View To A Kill,  Catherine Gale was in Goldfinger and Mrs Peel was in OHMSS

so, statistically, Bond sleeps with more women in A View To a Kill than in any other Bond film (Four - Mary Stavin, Grace Jones, Fiona Fullerton and Tanya Roberts) and, in terms of charts and sales, it has the most successful theme (there has yet to be a number one Bond single!)

happy May Day, by the way

A View To A Kill
You Only Live Twice