An agent’s silhouette slithers into a gun barrel. He quick draws one shot causing a red filter to drip like blood. Bombastic horns blare out, cuing the introduction of the world’s greatest spy. The iconic opening montage of Dr. No and subsequent James Bond films would not work if the background track was not as suave and seductive as its protagonist. The original song carried a license to kill, but in a far less sexy way.
The theme music was initially used for a musical adaptation of VS Naipaul’s novel A House For Mr. Biswas. One of the songs Monty Norman composed, “Bad Sign, Good Sign” details Mr. Biswas plight. Because he was bound to the story’s plot, the original lyrics were:
I was born with this unlucky sneeze
And what is worse I came into the world the wrong way round
Pundits all agree I am the reason why
My father fell into the village pond and drowned.
When the play failed, Norman stored the song for later use. Film scorer John Barry suggested Norman give his piece a jazzy arrangement and drop the lines about fatal boogers.