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The Sound Of James Bond: Vic Flick's Surf Guitar

by NPR Staff
Oct 3, 2012 (Morning Edition)

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The 007 theme is one of the most famous themes in movie history. The infamous guitar riff that gives the theme its secret agent feel was performed by Vic Flick, who spoke to Morning Edition about the day he played it, 50 years ago.

In 1962, Flick was a 25-year-old studio guitarist who was asked to help give the James Bond theme more of a punch. Composer Monty Norman, who wrote the theme, was scrambling to complete the score for the first Bond movie, Dr. No. He'd scratched out a rough draft of the theme, but Flick says it fell a little flat.

Then the Bond producers heard the soundtrack to the 1960 teenage "angst" movie Beat Girl, and it was just sound they were looking for. The Beat Girl theme was written by composer John Barry and features Flick on guitar. The Bond producers hired Barry to arrange 007's theme, and he asked Flick to help.

"When we got it, we looked at it and added to it, changed it," Flick says. "The combination of his writing for brass and my guitar playing kind of brought the thing to a conclusion, and everybody seemed to be quite happy. It's followed me now for 50 years, so it couldn't have been too bad."

To get just the right sound, Flick says, he had to really "dig in" to his guitar. "To give it some urgency and dynamicism or whatever the word is," Flick says.

He says he reckons John Barry and composer Monty Norman made a fortune off the Bond theme. As for him — "I got $15 for recording it," he says with a laugh.

Flick is not bitter. He did start getting some royalty checks in the mid-1990s, and Friday, he'll perform his famous guitar riff in Los Angeles at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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Hear The Music

Listen to 25 songs from the James Bond movies in this Spotify playlist — from Shirley Bassey's "Diamonds Are Forever" to John Barry's "007" to Alicia Keys and Jack White's "Another Way to Die." If you don't have Spotify, sign up for the free service.

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