Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


JOHN BARRY: A Life In Music By Geoff Leonard, Pete Walker, & Gareth Bramley   Sansom & Company ISBN 1 900178 86 9   £24.99  



There’s quite a history to the production of this book. It came so close so many times. It is a testament to how worthy an end result it must be for the authors to have kept working at it for so many years. OK so they are fans, but as soon as you hold the thing in your hands you just know it has to be a pretty definitive piece.

It can be broken down as a non-personal biographical account of Mr Prendergast’s musical career. There is a large leaning toward his film work (including a fascinating chapter devoted to the Bond years), but initially we take a stroll through the hits and misses he experienced in the ‘50s and 60s. It makes for humbling reading, since it’s all too easy to place someone of such notoriety on an unfailing pedestal. The simple truth is that he worked damn hard to make it into film, and we follow each important step carefully enough to understand both the time in which they happened and why they led onto the next.

One of the major attractions of the book to fans will be the huge number of photographs.

Many have never been seen before, and it’s always worth having a giggle at someone trying a beard out (circa 1976 for The Deep). There are snapshots of backstage functions alongside record company publicity shots, concert performances, and record sleeves too. The feature that will cross the fan / student line is the all-inclusive discography at the back of the book. This is 19 pages all by itself !

The actual text makes for absorbing reading. Only very occasionally do you detect a shift between one writer and another, but obviously one pool of knowledge is making way for someone else’s. The most respectable aspect of the book is that it never delves into the man’s private life. There is Eddi Fiegel’s A Sixties Theme if you want to get into family and the army, but while it details motivation, it neglects the music itself all too often. Which is never the case here. The music is the sole focus of he book and all it wants to do is impress upon you how much of an influence it has had along the way.

If there is one thing against the book, it is in having to taper the information from padding out to unwieldy lengths. Moving closer to present day, the wrap up on films is tighter and tighter to the point it’s noticeable that something like Dances With Wolves should have warranted a couple of pages to itself. This is simple economics however. So pray for the "Editor’s Cut" in the future.

Actually, there is another niggle. With so many terrific pictures throughout, surely there could have been at least one of the heroic authors themselves ? Where are the square-jawed triumvirate ? Perhaps so much effort left them un-photogenic at the appropriate time. So take heart, and go purchase this magnificent doorstop.


Paul Tonks

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