Soundtrack Review: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Composed and COonducted by: John Barry

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is unique among James Bond movies for being the first one to try to give the character actual emotional depth. It also features the only appearance of George Lazenby (not very good as Bond) in the starring role and many awesome chase sequences in a winter resort. With a new Bond, John Barry tried some new things with this score, mainly in adding electronics. The James Bond theme itself gets an electronic do-over in “This Never Happened to the Other Feller”.

Aside from Dr. No and From Russia with Love, OHMSS is the only Bond movie to not have a song during the opening credits. Instead there is the exciting and famous “Main Theme-On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. This theme leads most of the action cues and receives a slower treatment in “Over and Out”. On a list of greatest Bond themes, this is definitely up there.

“We Have All the Time in the World” is the main love theme, and has its music written by John Barry. This is the film’s song, a peaceful love ballad sung by Louis Armstrong. In the film itself it plays over a montage that features such sappy moments as James Bond and main Bond girl Tracy going out for ice cream. Apparently, it was meant to play over the opening credits, which featured clocks and hourglasses because of “time”, but was moved possibly because it wasn’t energetic or loud enough. Its main instrumental performance is a lounge version in track 8. Part of it is reworked into a travel motif featured most prominently in “Journey to Blofeld’s Hideaway”.

A secondary song is included this time around, a cheerful holiday number called “Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown”. It’s a bit odd hearing children sing a goofy Christmas song on a James Bond album, but John Barry does use its main tune to eerie effect in “Blofeld’s Plot”.

Overall, between the eerie electronics and the peaceful romance, this is a very atmospheric soundtrack, especially when it comes to the cues from the movie’s middle section at the Piz Gloria. My personal favorite is “Bond Meets the Girls”, which starts with a saxophone motif and then after some relaxing string music brings in the electronics. On the suspense and action side is “Gumbold’s Safe”, a five-minute piece that utilizes an escalating motif and electronics that increase in speed. Then of course there are all the action cues that use the title theme. I can’t say which one I like the best.

Starting with OHMSS, Barry scaled back on using the James Bond theme, which featured quite heavily in the last several scores. It appears directly in just five of the tracks, along with little snippets in “Ski Chase” and “Battle at Piz Gloria”. Since Lazenby never returned, it’s not known if Barry would have used the more electronically charged version of the theme in more movies, though there is one similar cue in Diamonds are Forever.

This is one of John Barry’s most popular scores, and at the time of writing this my favorite (I’ve changed my mind on which Bond score is my favorite several times). It might seem a little slow on the first listen for action score aficionados, but further listens will show it to be a truly great masterpiece. It’s brimming with good romance, yet at the same time has one of the greatest action themes ever put to film. Unlike the underscore for the previous films, there’s little repetition. Almost every track has something different to offer. This really makes the original album, which could only fit less than forty minutes of material, underwhelming, because so much must-listen material is missing. So even though the movie itself is considered a bit of an oddity because of its one-time Bond actor, the score should definitely be checked out.

Rating: (score) 10/10 (original album) 7/10

Tracklisting

  1. We Have All the Time in the World (3:16)
  2. This Never Happened to the Other Fellow (5:06)
  3. Try (3:28)
  4. Ski Chase (2:55)
  5. Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown (3:21)
  6. Main Theme: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (2:35)
  7. Journey to Blofeld’s Hideaway (4:53)
  8. We Have all the Time in the World (3:00)
  9. Over and Out (3:12)
  10. Battle at Piz Gloria (4:03)
  11. We Have All the Time in the World/James Bond Theme (4:38)
  12. Journey to Draco’s Hideaway (3:41)
  13. Bond and Draco (4:34)
  14. Gumbold’s Safe (4:59)
  15. Bond Settles In (2:16)
  16. Bond Meets the Girls (3:27)
  17. Dusk at Piz Gloria (2:32)
  18. Sir Hilary’s Night Out (Who Will Buy My Yesterdays?) (4:49)
  19. Blofeld’s Plot (5:19)
  20. Escape from Piz Gloria (4:53)
  21. Bobsled Chase (2:03)
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