The Forgotten Side Of John Barry

The Arts

Since I got back I’ve been getting up far too early and listening to rare soundtrack albums. John Barry’s scores are always evocative and powerful, but did you know he also wrote musicals?

His track record wasn’t perfect, but some are as haunting as Bond scores. The only ones legally available are ‘The Passion Flower Hotel’ (poppy and bouncy), ‘Billy’ (based on Billy Liar, pleasant if unmemorable) and ‘Alice In Wonderland’ (average). There are three others – ‘The Little Prince & The Aviator’, which nobody seems to have heard, ‘Lolita My Love’, which I have a bootleg copy of and is terrific, and ‘Brighton Rock’, which I saw in London a couple of years back and thought was excellent.

The reason for the critical failure of this side of his career is pretty simple; Barry excelled at the melancholy slow numbers but struggled with typical upbeat ‘show’ songs. He didn’t give the coach parties what they wanted but remained true to the music he loved.

Someone should record these missing scores, though – there’s a ton of great material here and Barry collectors everywhere would buy them.