The idea for a Bond theme began in late 1961, when Dr. No co-producer Albert Broccoli asked songwriter Monty Norman to compose music for the film:
In early 1962, Mr. Norman traveled to the movie set in Jamaica, where he wrote the film’s Caribbean-flavored songs before returning to London that spring.
But time was running out for the theme. According to Mr. Norman’s website, he reached into his bottom drawer for a song he had already written for an aborted musical called “A House For Mr. Biswas,” based on the novel by V.S. Naipaul. It worked: The “Dr. No” producers liked the catchy melody on his “Bad Sign, Good Sign.”
Next, Mr. Broccoli and co-producer Harry Saltzman turned to John Barry, a film composer who had seen some success with his John Barry Seven rock band. Mr. Barry added orchestration to Mr. Norman’s melody line—but he felt his score still needed a dominant “voice” to symbolize Bond’s masculinity.
“John called me over to his apartment in June 1962,” recalled Mr. Flick, who was the John Barry Seven’s lead guitarist. “He showed me Monty Norman’s music and asked how we could give it more power.” Mr. Flick pecked out Mr. Norman’s melody on his guitar, Morse-code style, and suggested dropping the key to E-minor from A-minor for a stronger statement. And the theme as we know it was born.
In the end, Mr. Norman retained the theme’s sole composer credit. When Mr. Barry hinted that he deserved partial credit in a British magazine in 1997 and London’s Sunday Times followed up with a nasty jab at Mr. Norman, the theme’s composer sued the paper, and the jury decided in his favor.
Best. Theme song. Evar.