Monday, September 23, 2013

Parrot Records: Thunderball

I hadn’t originally planned the theme from “Thunderball” to be the Tom Jones song I would feature this week, but two recent events inspired me to choose it instead of my original selection, “Detroit City.” About three weeks ago, I watched the movie on one of the cable networks during their Bond weekend. I hadn’t seen the movie in years and remembered seeing it on the big screen in 1965.

The other reason is that last week, I found out that I am not too distantly related to Anthony Dawson who played the body (but not the voice) of Ernst Stravo Blofeld in “From Russia with Love” and “Thunderball.” His face is never seen in these two films as he strokes his white angora cat. Dawson actually had a much larger role in “Dr. No” as Professor Dent. He appeared in numerous movies and TV shows during his long illustrious career from 1940 to 1991.

But I digress; let’s talk about Tom Jones’ illustrious career on Parrot Records. Jones had 10 Top 20 hits on Parrot between 1965 and 1971; he recorded for the label from 1965 to 1975. “Thunderball” was not one of them, as it peaked at 25 on the Hot 100. Fortunately, it did better on the Adult Contemporary chart where it reached #5. John Barry and Don Black wrote the theme song; however, its appearance in the film was not without incident.

Barry originally composed a theme song titled “Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” based on a statement made by an Italian journalist. Shirley Bassey, who sang the “Goldfinger” theme, initially recorded the song. Barry apparently was not satisfied with Bassey’s performance and asked Dionne Warwick to also record the tune. Two events nixed the song from the film – Bassey sued when she heard that Warwick’s version was planned to be used and not her treatment.

In addition, EON Productions wanted a song that featured “Thunderball” in the title and lyrics. Barry and Black quickly wrote a new piece and enlisted Tom Jones to sing the theme. His voice is perfect for this tune; however, singing it was stressful on Jones. He passed out after holding the high note at the end of the recording – now that’s an artist putting his all into the song.

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