Anyone could do great set pieces like Ken Adam did (actually, Peter Lamont did a great job in OHMSS), anyone could do great and iconic set pieces like Ken Adam.
But no one could do the same quality of scores like John Barry did, it’s obvious to those who tried to replace him at the time (not even George Martin, not even Martin Hamlisch, and not even Bill Conti or Michael Kamen), just no one could have that same quality of scores that Barry produced, the man’s different, even David Arnold’s scores comes off as poor imitation of John Barry’s (I still liked Arnold, but his work just weren’t on par with Barry).
Let me start by saying that both men are legendary and highly responsible for James Bond’s cinema success in their respective fields. Ken Adam is the creator of Bond’s visual world and set the template for all production designers to come. John Barry, meanwhile, while not the original 007 composer, nevertheless similarly set the template for the sound of 007. Both men are vital in their own way and I wouldn’t want to lose either one.
But if I HAVE to choose to lose one of these irreplaceable men, I will go with Adam–and for one exact reason. While Barry did not come up with the basis for the James Bond Theme (thank you Monty Norman), he certainly fine tuned it and enhanced it and made it was it is today–a stylish, kick-ass theme song. Without Barry, we likely do not get the pitch perfect version of the James Bond Theme we all know and love, which is also THE MOST iconic and recognizable character theme in film history. Therefore, losing the man who had such a huge hand in shaping this fantastic theme would have too dramatic and far reaching reverberations throughout the rest of the series. So, with that in mind, I would keep the incomparable maestro JB.
Adam and Barry together were the dream team. Both are Bond legends that stand as permanent pillars of excellence, but if I had a PPK to my head I’m voting Ken Adam in this poll. I can’t imagine the movies being anywhere near the same if Barry didn’t lay the musical groundwork during FRWL. Bond Theme excluded, compare his ambience to what we received overall in Dr. No, which probably sounded dated even in 1962. Barry’s contribution greatly elevated the movies into the special genre they are.
I think it has to be Barry who survives. And as SAF says, maybe that’s as much down to the medium that he represents and how that lives on in our minds more so than what Adam does.
Others have followed Adam and have done a passable enough tribute to his work. But I’m unconvinced that anyone (even Hamlisch doing a “non-Bond” Bond score) has lived up to Barry. To the extent that Hamlisch, Conte, the GE-dude, veered away from Barry, almost in the hope of escaping comparison.
This one is just evil. Adam’s creativity was chiefly responsible for elevating the look of DN beyond its B-movie roots and gave us the iconic “golden cathedral” look of Fort Knox in GF. With due respect to “Autopilot Connery,” Adam’s volcano set was the real star of YOLT and his Liparus interiors and Drax’s Amazonian HQ are still astonishing. Without his contributions, much of the grandeur and majesty of the Bond films would be lost.
But…in many cases, his work was aided by Barry’s lush scores. I’ve often felt that for all the technical brilliance of Derek Meddings’ miniatures and Adam’s sets, what really sold us on the notion that Bond could actually go to space in MR was Barry’s magnificent score: none of what Meddings or Adam did there would have gone over nearly as well with the likes of Eric Serra or Michael Kamen scoring.
Ultimately we have several examples of films that ranked from fine to wonderful where Barry worked without Adam: FRWL, OHMSS, OP, AVTAK, TLD (TMWTGG wasn’t Barry’s finest moment, IMO, but I’m sure that wasn’t the fault of the sets). On the other hand, the only example of Adam without Barry is TSWLM, and while that looked great, I’ll always wonder how much more awesome it all would have been with a Barry score.
I also have to agree that when people think of Bond and form a mental picture of a guy in a tux, or the gunbarrel sequence, or a gadget-laden car or whatever, the mental soundtrack that goes with those images was written and conducted by John Barry. Others have at least approximated the heights of Adam’s sets, but no Bond composer is serious competition for Barry.
So in this Sophie’s Choice-style exercise in mental cruelty, I too opt to spare John Barry at the expense of poor Ken. But just for the record, I think the films in this theoretical universe will be much the poorer for his absence.
Oh God! This is the death match equivalent of choosing death by groin laser or by man eating shark! Both men were a once in a generation talent in their respective fields. Adam brought the grandeur and Barry made it luscious. Both have had homages come close (NTTD Safin lair and David Arnold’s TND score and end theme) but even these never quite hit the spot like the originals. The Bond theme is the more iconic contribution… but, then again… that volcano… which even made it into the Simpsons! Oh I just can’t decide on impact, so I’m just going to make it personal and say that the thing that boggled my mind as a 7 year old watching Moonraker were the other worldly sets that, to me, defined what Bond was and were lacking in the 80’s era. There, I’ve done it… I’ve just jettisoned John Barry!
This is an impossible question. I just can’t decide…
But if I have to…
One could say that Barry didn’t compose the JB theme and even didn’t compose the FRWL theme from the next movie and I realy like the scores from LALD, TSWLM and FYEO… and I don’t realy miss him watching those movies…
Adam is somekind of hero for me, he’s the man! What he did for Dr. No: he made that movie look very expensive with his fantastic set pieces. His work for Goldfinger, Thunderball, YOLT, DAF, SPY and Moonraker is the best we ever had if you talk about set designs for a Bond movie. Every now and then you hear with a new Bond movie people say the sets are Ken Adam like, but they never realy are. No, also not the lair with the Garden of Death in NTTD, it comes not even close.
Also I was crazy enough to buy the Ken Adam book from Taschen from my vacationmoney, I have to defend that. somehow!
Just wanted to make a very general (and wholly obvious) comment on the Adam v Barry face-off…
The cinematic Bond franchise is the result of singular, alchemic reaction - a moment in time where so many different people came together to make something that has truly lasted the test of time. Barry, Adam, Maibaum, Young, Connery, Hunt, and Broccoli and Saltzman all combining to create something that continues to outlast and outshine all the competitors (apologies for anyone that I missed).
Remove any single one of the above and I am convinced that the whole thing would never have made if off the ground. Cinema is full of imitators and imposters, all of whom have a fraction of the shelf life.
Film is a visual medium for me before it is an aural one.
Ken Adam gave viewers the look of Bond’s world, which persists in some form to the present day. John Barry provided some nice music to accompany it, which is still quoted on occasion, but is not as ingrained in Bond’s world as Adam’s design aesthetic is.
I’m really enjoying this discussion as, whoever you jettison, the overall conclusion is that the genesis of Bond is akin to a cinematic Big Bang: something that, according to the laws of probability, had no right to happen, but nonetheless did and resulted in something that has become more than a simple series of films, but modern mythology with iconography that is ingrained in the public consciousness. We are indeed very lucky!