Friday, 5 June 2015


Mark is also a part of Saturday's School of Noise at the Union Chapel

The Man with the Golden Gun by Crock Oss

It’s all my wife’s fault. Since we met ten years ago she had been telling me how we must go to Thailand, about what an amazing place it was. Whilst I had little doubt this was true I was put off by the thought of spending a day or so travelling to get to a place where it would often be too hot to do anything except sit around on a beach. Well last year I finally broke. I agreed we would spend the Easter holidays in Thailand, provided Becca did all the organising.

I worried about flying via Moscow with Aeroflot. I worried about bags going missing in transit. I worried I wouldn’t be able to find any food that I liked. I worried that I was going to be bored.

I had a vague recollection that there was a James Bond film that had been shot on location in Thailand somewhere. When we arrived it became apparent that we weren’t too far from the location, which seemed to be universally referred to as ‘James Bond Island’. All the local tour companies advertised day trips which included the island, usually in combination with seemingly unlikely companions such as canoeing, ‘floating Muslim village’ and ‘Buddha cave temple’.

A little research revealed that the island location had been used for the hideout of the villain Scaramanga, played by Christopher Lee, in the 1974 Roger Moore Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun. Many of the reviews of the film were less that favourable and I tried to recall if it was one I had seen.

I grew up in the 1980s, when Roger Moore’s Bond was a staple of Bank Holiday Sunday afternoons. As a child I don’t think I saw beyond the car chases and pretty girls but with the benefit of hindsight some of Moore’s films are, well, not very good. The Man with the Golden Gun, is a case in point. A reclusive assassin decides, for some reason, that taking out contracts for ‘a million a shot’ isn’t good enough and he decides to corner the World’s market in renewable energy. By stealing and murdering. This won’t do of course, so Bond is dispatched to sort it out. His stunt man does some kung fu. A naked girl called ‘Chu Me’ (really) swims for no reason. Some school girls do kung fu. He has a chase accompanied by a really annoying ‘comedy’ American sheriff. The best stunt in movie history is ruined by a swanee whistle. He is supposed to be helped by Britt Eckland, but she’s useless. Bond kills the baddies and then makes a ‘coming’ joke. MI6 have Scaramanga’s had phone number all along. The End.

I remembered seeing on Twitter than wiaiwya were doing this blog/album so, half joking, I sent a tweet offering to ‘sing into my phone’ on the beach. The reply told me to go for it. The Man with the Golden Gun is John Barry’s least favourite Bond soundtrack (he had two weeks to write the complete score) and the theme song, sung by Lulu, is great big messy single entendre. But that was what it had to be.

We booked a trip to James Bond Island and, after an hour and half in a beautifully air conditioned mini bus and twenty minutes on a long tail boat we arrived at the island. Khao Phing Kan and Ko Tapu, known collectively to tourists and locals alike as James Bond Island, are instantly recognisable. The 20 metre tall islet of Ko Tapu is ingrained in the subconscious of anyone who’s seen even bits of The Man with the Golden Gun. The islands look the same, the beaches look the same. However, where once were the funky seventies entrances to Scaramanga’s lair are now a collection of gift shops selling tat. And of course the island is no longer the home to just a triple-nippled assassin, his midget butler and beefy mute technician. It is now crawling with tourists recreating Bond and Scaramanga’s dual, videoing the ‘turn to the camera’ gun aiming move (we did both) and trying to spot which parts of the island doubled for which part of the lair.

You only get half an hour so on the island so I quickly set up the iPad, recorded the sound of the sea and the tourists and whispered the vocal into my phone (unused it the end, although a similar vocal recorded in Bangkok survives, almost imperceptivity). Photos taken, we re-boarded our boat and at this point it became apparent what an impact the film has had on the area. Prior to 1974 the islands were little visited, now thousands a day disembark to explore. Not only that, the majority are then taken to one of a number of river cruisers, moored permanently in a channel off the main bay. Here they are loaded onto canoes and paddled around the sea caves by a local oarsman. Next the boats set off for the village of Koh Panyee. When the village’s original Muslim inhabitants arrived from Indonesia, it was prohibited for non-Thai nationals to own land. Thus the fishing village was built on stilts. Much of the income of the village still comes from fishing, but in the dry season a series of huge waterfront restaurants serve a simple lunch to the James Bond Island tourists and a market behind sells souvenirs and local produce.

I found it remarkable that a few short scenes in a, pretty bad, 1974 film have led to the creation of an entire regional tourist industry. Hundreds of people’s livelihoods depend, if not fully, then partially on the existence of two tiny islands where Roger Moore and Christopher Lee once stood back to back against the stunning tower karst seascape.

Returning to the song, having programmed a basic version of music for the Island recordings, I worked on them further at out hotels in Railay and Bangkok. As we were flying home via Moscow it seemed that I must record something there, so I dictaphoned an announcement on the aircraft and did some more work on the track in an airport coffee shop. When we finally got home I added a few more bits, mixed it all together and then, finally, took a drive to Pinewood Studios. If this was to have proper James Bond location credits then those credits had to end with ‘and at Pinewood Studios, London, England’.

Mark Williamson records iPhone pop as Crock Oss and works with field recordings and found sounds as Spaceship.

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