Friday Song: John Barry
Barry is back in action. Yes, there will be sporadic JB tributes running indefinitely here at TD; other worthy sites are putting up their own such as Living In Cinema, Lazy Thoughts From A Boomer, Some Came Running and so many more. But of course. Instead of throwing Bond out there to soundtrack this revolutionary weekend as I am wont, I decided to focus on my absolute beloved Barry tracks from less highlighted films. THE KNACK…AND HOW TO GET IT was Richard Lester’s 1965 follow-up to A HARD DAY’S NIGHT (1964), winning Best Picture at Cannes and some controversy due to the rape sub-text. Based on a play by Ann Jellicoe, adapted for the screen by Charles Wood, THE KNACK tells the tale of a simple, horny schoolteacher, Colin (Michael Crawford) and his attempts to woo innocent Nancy (Rita Tushingham) with the unsound advice of his minor pop star flatmate, Tolen (Ray Brooks). An interloper named Tom (Donal Donnelly) acts as moral muse to Colin as mirth and drama ensue, swinging sixties style. And this is certainly one of the films that made London look like the most happening place on Earth, what with the Beatles and Bond. Shot with Lester’s cool compositions and kinetic editing in glorious David Watkins-lensed black and white, THE KNACK plays uneven due to Lester’s inserted trademark gags, and Michael Crawford is a terrific actor who’s a bit too feeble here, yet Rita Tushingham is utterly lovable, funny as well, while Ray Brooks is awesome, a black-clad sexual monster who meets his match in Donal Donnelly (“You don’t impress me,” he tells Tolen). If you haven’t seen this era artifact, drop it pronto into your Netflix Instant Watch queue and then read Steven Soderbergh’s fascinating diary/interview book on Lester with greater detail on the production. What stands out most about THE KNACK, a pop cultural harbinger of the groundbreaking decade, is the sense of youthful, cinematic freedom that infuses the film — reflected in John Barry’s incredible jazzy score, with Alan Haven’s hip hip organ adding a unique layer to Barry’s usual melodic genius. All the tracks have a tres cool vibe, typified by a romantic longing and liberation, particularly “Three On A Bed,” which follows our characters as they roll through London on a wheeled bedframe. Outside of Bond, the first Barry music I recall responding to was his main title for THE KNACK…AND HOW TO GET IT on an amazing, unavailable on CD, two record set called TEN GOLDEN YEARS: 36 GREAT MOTION PICTURE THEMES that features an epic, wildly different version of the song. In lieu of that, here’s the supercool title tune that immediately lets you know, this is now, this is London…and this is John Barry at his very best.