What does it take to make a great Bond song? Whatever it is Terry Parsons aka Matt Monro most certainly had it. He was the archetypal crooner, a working class London boy that finally found his way to the big time via jobs on the buses and singing jingles. His climb to the top came with the unlikely help of one of the fifties biggest acts, Winifred Atwell, a Trinidadian Ragtime/Boogie Woogie pianist. She renamed him and helped get him signed to Decca records after hearing a demo but this initial boost in his career led him back to obscurity by the beginning of the Sixties. Then there was George Martin – he had Monro sing on Peter Sellers’ parody album, Songs For Swinging Sellers appearing as Fred Flange sending up Frank Sinatra – this led to Monro being signed to Parlophone under the guidance of George Martin for years to come.
Monro might be best known for Born Free composed by John Barry, lyrics by Don Black, an Oscar winning song from the movie of the same name. His Sinatraesque tones and soft middle of the road honeyed pipes had him taking over at Capitol Records after the death of Nat King Cole and the loss of Sinatra to start his own label Reprise. You might call Matt Monro the straight man’s Scott Walker, or rather Scott Walker would be the alternative Matt Monro.
Monro died in 1985 at the age of 54 of cancer, a life long drinker and smoker it never seemed to bother his voice. He never changed his style as his heyday passed and is little remembered by anyone under fifty years old even though he was a huge success throughout the world selling over 25 million records. If you feel like a mellow evening of crooning but need to give Frank a rest then Matt Monro might be your next choice. His phrasing and ability to hold a note were unbeatable – the couch and dim lights were invented to listen to him.
From Russia With Love was the second Bond film released in 1963 starring Sean Connery and Daniela Bianchi. Bianchi who was runner up in Miss Universe in 1960 hardly spoke English and had to have her lines overdubbed by another actress as she could only learn them phonetically. The song, From Russia With Love was composed by John Barry (again) with lyrics by Lionel Bart.
From Russia with love I fly to you
Much wiser since my good-bye to you
I’ve traveled the world to learn
I must return from Russia with love
I’ve seen places, faces and smiled for a moment
But oh, you haunted me so
Still my tongue tied young pride
Let not let my love for you show in case you’d say no
To Russia I flew but there and then
I suddenly knew you’d care again
My running around is through
I fly to you from Russia with love