Don collects his 1966 Academy Award for Born Free from Dean Martin
As quickly as he heard it, Harry stated: “I don’t like the tune and the words are filthy!” John’s famously quick fuse kicked in and he stated: “Well, what the f*** do you know about songs?” Thankfully, the opposite Bond producer, Cubby Broccoli, cherished it and so did our most popular singer Shirley Bassey. But it was contact and go for some time and I used to be relieved when Diamonds are Forever – my second 007 collaboration with John – ended up within the image.
Years later, after I met the movie director Steven Spielberg at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s New York condo on the 60th flooring of Trump Tower, he blurted out: “You’re not THE Don Black who wrote my favourite James Bond theme?” I used to be shocked he had even heard of me, however he advised me the wedding of Maurice Binder’s title sequence and the lyrics to Diamonds Are Forever was “perfect”.
The solely topic I used to be any good at in class was English. I might have been OK at comedy however they did not train that in Cassland Road School in Hackney, east London. I used to be glued to the BBC’s mild programme in these days and knew many of the routines of Frankie Howerd, Derek Roy, Al Read and the remaining.
Later on, I used to be fixated on American comics like Woody Allen, Milton Berle, Alan King and Don Rickles. I used to be at all times impressed by the good one-liner humorous males.
But way back to I can keep in mind I’ve been in love with songs. When most youngsters of my age had been gathering stamps or comedian books, I might be scribbling down a line or two from a music I heard on the BBC. One of life’s best pleasures is listening to a superbly crafted music.
I had a fantastically glad childhood, rising up in a council flat in Shore Place, south Hackney. I do know reminiscences are selective, however I am unable to consider one dangerous one. Being the youngest of 5, I used to be spoiled so much. Betsy, my mom hated to wake me as much as go to high school. She would say, “He’s having such a lovely sleep.”
She cherished music and would typically be heard singing songs with a gypsy flavour like Besame Mucho, Jealousy, and Jezebel. She was born within the Ukraine in a city known as Mariapole and my father got here from Kiev. They met in Sunderland, and whereas my dad Morris had a wierd accent, 1 / 4 Geordie, three-quarters Kiev, my mom had a soothing comforting Sunderland lilt.
With his greatest pal Matt Monro
We all preferred to carry out in entrance of our mother and father. I used to be often doing impressions of Jerry Lewis or Peter Lorre. My mom praised us all to the sky and, when it got here to awarding factors, she diplomatically gave us all 10 out of 10.
My father labored as an under-presser, which meant he ironed issues. He was an emotional man however hid it properly. He was robust and had some chest expanders that solely a muscleman may open.
He was additionally a serious smoker and he would not cease. He was advised that if he continued his legs must be amputated. He stated, “Take them off,” they usually did. He was as courageous as a lion and he used to say, “I never give way,” and he by no means did.
MY first job was as an workplace boy on the New Musical Express whose places of work had been in Denmark Street, which was recognized then as Tin Pan Alley and populated by music publishers promoting their songs.
This is the place I received to satisfy so many brilliantly gifted songwriters. I began as an workplace boy, then moved into circulation after which promoting. I actually needed to affix the editorial workers however, after 5 years, I moved throughout the road to the David Toff Music Publishing Company.
It was my job to plug the songs they revealed and we had a few large hits – ‘PERFECT’ SONG: Shirley’s Bond Don’t Laugh at Me by Norman Wisdom and Que Sera Sera by Doris Day.
I mingled with songwriters much more – Barry Mason (Delilah), Les Reed (It’s Not Unusual), Mitch Murray (How Do You Do It?). I nonetheless meet a few of these writers but it surely’s often in Harley Street relatively than Denmark Street nowadays!
Don’s mother and father Betsy and Morris
Sometimes, for those who’re fortunate, you meet somebody who makes you see life otherwise. My greatest good friend from the second we met within the Fifties to the day he died was Matt Monro. He had given up his job as a bus driver to attempt to make a residing as a singer. I used to be capable of rent him now and again to display new songs and pay him the princely sum of 5 kilos per music.
But I used to be getting a bit fed up plugging songs and toying with the concept of changing into a slapstick comedian. I did this professionally for a few years and performed a number of the most well-known music halls within the nation.
Coincidentally, all of them closed down afterwards. I blame myself for the dying of Variety.
By then, Matt Monro was changing into an enormous worldwide star, successful every kind of awards and gold information, and I turned his supervisor.
He inspired me to write down lyrics. He fell in love with an Austrian melody by Udo Jürgens hit known as Warum, nur Warum and I keep in mind him saying, “You’re always on about lyrics – if Lionel Bart can do it so can you”.
I known as the music Walk Away and it went to quantity two within the hit parade. I went on to write down about 30 songs for Matt, together with my Oscar-winner Born Free.
My burgeoning success as a author meant I had much less time for Matt and I used to be torn between my profession and Matt’s deeply felt friendship. Eventually we agreed another person ought to take over however we stayed shut till his dying in 1985 aged simply 54.
Not a day goes by I do not take into consideration this unusual man with a rare expertise. I nonetheless keep in mind his telephone numbers in Ewell and Ealing.
Shirley’s Bond hit
I first met composer John Barry in Denmark Street within the early Sixties. In these days John was good-looking, profitable and well-known, the good man on the planet. He drove a white Maserati, wore handmade fits and had a superb bachelor condo overlooking the Thames.
He would turn out to be one in all my closest collaborators. One miraculous day he requested me if I’d prefer to have a go at Thunderball, the brand new James Bond movie.
That was a very life-changing second. When I got here up with the primary line: “He always runs while others walk”, the remainder of the music got here rapidly. We at all times needed Tom Jones to sing it as a result of he had such a muscular voice. It has typically been stated Tom fainted when he sang the ultimate word and it is true. I at all times imagine a Bond music needs to be provocative, seductive and have the whiff of the boudoir about it.
There must also be the lure of the forbidden, a form of theatrical vulgarity as you’re drawn into Bond’s mysterious world.
I additionally assume Tom or Shirley Bassey ought to sing all of them! As Terry Wogan used to say, “They don’t sing songs, they bite lumps out of them.”
After Thunderball, I should have written greater than 100 songs with John and, I feel it is honest to say, I used to be his solely true good friend. He was a loner and an introvert and hated being with folks he thought of phoney or synthetic. He drank an excessive amount of and his Yorkshire bluntness got here bursting by.
Only one of the best was ok for John: Dom Perignon champagne, Stolichnaya vodka, Puligny-Montrachet wine, Delamain brandy then we would have lunch.
Writing songs with John was an absolute pleasure; he preferred uncomplicated, trustworthy lyrics – nothing fancy or intelligent. Our collaboration was extra like a wedding, and like an exquisite marriage it was too quick.
John Barry, Tom Jones and Don Black at work recording Thunderball
Born Free, for which we might win an Oscar, began out like some other music. John performed it relatively badly on a piano in my workplace. He stated the movie was “about a lion called Elsa who is tamed and at the end she is set free to go into the wild”.
We recorded the music with Matt Monro and the plan was that it might go on the finish of the image however the movie’s producer Carl Foreman thought the tune was too syrupy, and the phrases had been an excessive amount of of a social remark. So he took it off the soundtrack and it did not seem on the royal première of the movie. This was extremely embarrassing for Matt and his household as they advised everybody it was going to be featured. I regarded the entire episode as simply one other disappointment. But as luck would have it, a choir recording of the music shot up the American hit parade and Columbia footage realised it may very well be a contender for the 1966 Academy Awards.
To make it eligible, they recalled each single print of the film and added Matt’s vocal on the finish.We received the nomination, and everybody was in a state of euphoria,however the different nominees had been spectacular, together with Burt Bacharach and Hal David with Alfie and Jim Dale and Tom Springfield with Georgy Girl. Dean Martin learn the nominations and stated the phrases that modified all our lives: “The winner is John Barry and Don Black for Born Free.” At the after-show celebration, Carl Foreman got here as much as me and remarked: “Well, it does grow on you.” When we received again to our lodge on Sunset Boulevard the celebrities had been lined up and applauded as we entered. My sister Nita known as me to say that she noticed an Evening Standard placard that learn: “East End boy wins Oscar”. I used to be the primary British songwriter to win an Oscar they usually inform me that, at 27, I used to be the youngest. I’ll always remember these unbelievable days.
The Sanest Guy In The Room: A Life In Lyrics by Don Black (Constable, £20) is out. now. For free UK supply, name Express Bookshop on 01872 562310 or order by way of expressbookshop.co.uk