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Keeping The Record Straight...

The True Story Behind “Live and Let Die”

It was recently announced that Paul McCartney had been presented with a Million-Air Award to celebrate over 4 million broadcast performances of 'Live and Let Die' in the USA from global music rights organisation Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI).  The song written for the 1973 James Bond film, has long been a McCartney Live Show standard, fan favorite, and was recognized at the recent 2012 BMI London Awards.

The true story behind this incredible song dates way back to 1970.  At that time, Allen Klein and his henchmen were busy dismantling Apple Records. Klein had long been trying to get rid of Tony Bramwell. The only thing that blocked him was The Beatles, John, Paul, George and Ringo. They united against Klein, and Tony was virtually untouchable, and could not be dismissed.  However, the atmosphere in Apple was dismal to say the least.

Tony went to the U.S. to run Apple Films and Apple Records, which kept him busy between New York and Los Angeles. He returned to London for Christmas 1970 and it was at a New Year’s eve cocktail party where former Apple President, Ron Kass bumped into Tony Bramwell.  Kass, was part of the first wave of those fired by Klein. Upon leaving Apple, Ron went to Warner Bros. but he had recently left there and married Joan Collins and moved back to England and was working for Harry Saltzman who had just started a company withAlbert "Cubby" Broccoli to produce the future James Bond movies. 

Ron had introduced Tony to Saltzman, who straight away asked Tony to come to work for them. The story immediately hit the press that these three record industry giants, Bramwell, Kass, & Saltzman, were forming a brand new record company. Reading this set Klein off and like a raging maniac he approached Tony to see if there was any truth to the story, and Tony said “yes, you creep” it’s true and resigned on the spot. Klein being enraged bellowed “Your Fired!” Obviously, he forgot that he didn’t have the authority to dismiss Tony.

Tony left Apple and immediately and formed Hilary Music with Harry Saltzman and Ron Kass.  The idea behind the company was to be a publishing company for great movie soundtracks.

The first film that Tony commissioned the soundtrack for was the new James Bond film, “Live and Let Die.” The film at the time was nearing completion and Saltzman and Broccoli had intended on pursuing the usual route with John Barry for the films soundtrack. Tony suggested the notion of doing something completely different. Tony had suggested that Paul McCartney be asked to do the music. Tony had known that Paul would like the idea, he always wanted to take a crack at mainstream film music anyway. This idea was brilliant and everyone was very excited to have a big name like “Paul McCartney” doing the films music.

When Tony drove out to Paul’s house to ask him, the mood was not exactly what Tony expected. Tony had expected as he put it “He was supposed to bite my arm off!” To the contrary, Paul was not so enthusiastic. His concerns were firt off, he never written music, as he put it “to order.” Paul realized that the upfront music for all Bond movies was very specific. Paul was also concerned “how it would look” in the opening sequence. After discussing the films music with Paul at great length, Tony went away to have Maurice Binder, the fellow who did all of the graphics for the James Bond opening sequences, to prepare a mock-up show reel for McCartney. Maurice delivered with a reel complete with opening credits, gun firing, and all of the naked woman, a James Bond trademark.

Tony rented  out a viewing theatre for he and Paul to see Binder’s opening sequence. After watching the reel a few times, Paul had agreed to do the music. Paul and Binder worked together on the films opening sequence making sure the right visual matched with the audio. The sequence evolved into being a tight little movie within the film itself.

Tony himself, went down to George Martin’s AIR Studio on Oxford Street where Paul McCartney and Wings were busing recording the title song “Love and Let Die.”  The song was recorded during the sessions that produced Paul’s next studio Lp. “Red Rose Speedway.” However, neither “Live and Let Die” or the singles B-side, “I Lie Around” made it on the Lp. Wings laid down the basic track and George Martin went and did the rest, including all of the special effects.  

Tony brought the track back for Saltzman and everyone involved with the film too hear the title song and everyone was literally floored. This was the most powerful piece of music ever presented for a Bond film as well as being a huge piece of music for Wings. Paul McCartney was already an accomplished composer and brilliant musician, but the experience of overcoming his own objections, showed how brilliant he was and gave him the confidence to explore areas of music that he hadn’t done yet.

George Martin did the score for the remainder of “Live and Let Die,” which by the way was Roger Moore’s first Bond movie. In his arrangement the James Bond theme  can be heard throughout the soundtrack in it’s blaring and celebrated form, in addition to the many styles.

“Live and Let Die” is credited to both Paul and Linda McCartney and was a featured segment in Paul’s first television variety show titled “James Paul McCartney.” The show first aired in April 1973. The single was released on June 1, 1973 and was certified gold two months later. "Live and Let Die" was the first James Bond theme song to be nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Original Song” at the US Academy Awards in 1974, as well as receiving the title of “Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture” at the Grammy Awards.

Rolling Stone Magazine wrote: “Paul McCartney reunited with Beatles producer George Martin to record the title song for Live and Let Die, and wound up scoring one of his biggest post-Fab smashes.


“Sir Paul McCartney’s recognition emphasises BMI’s commitment to celebrating and bringing value to music,” said BMI President & CEO Del Bryant. “‘Live and Let Die’ shows the incredible magnitude and cultural impact of a single song, both as a musical composition and an integral piece of cinematic history.”

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