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.

No comments:

Post a Comment