In 1961, Monty Norman composed the music for a stage play.
The play was “A House For Mr Biswas” by V. S. Naipaul.
Monty Norman’s favourite tune was called “Bad Sign, Good Sign”.
The lyrics went as follows:
“I was born with this unlucky sneeze, and what is worse
I came into the world the wrong way round.
Pundits all agree that I am the reason why
My father fell into the village pond and drowned.”
Monty Norman didn’t write the lyrics, he didn’t even like them.
But he loved the tune.
It was a story about a boy born into an Asian family in Trinidad.
So Monty Norman had written the tune using both influences.
The long bendy notes of Asian music, and the choppy beat of Caribbean reggae.
In the event, the musical didn’t happen, so the tune didn’t happen.
But Monty Norman knew it was a good tune, and he thought one day I’ll use that.
A year later, an American producer asked him to write the music for a spy film he was making.
The action took place in the Caribbean, and the villain was Asian.
What were the odds on that?
Monty Norman had an Asian/Caribbean tune ready to go.
But because it was a spy movie, the melody couldn’t be so lyrical.
So he kept the notes, but broke them apart.
What had been a leisurely “Dumiddy dadum dadum” became a more choppy “Dum diddy da dum da dum”.
The producers got a man who did spy music, John Barry, to rearrange it.
John Barry gave it all the obvious sonic clues.
He used a deep, slow, electric bass to play the main notes.
That sound said violent and dangerous straight away.
Then he used muted trumpets for the background, to give it an exotic feel.
It was the same tune, but now it was sinister and threatening.
The tune ran on the spy film and it was an immediate success.
In fact the film and the music became a blockbuster.
So much so that they quickly made another spy film, and then another, and another.
And the tune became not just the theme for the Asian/Caribbean film.
It became the theme for the entire series.
Twenty-six films spanning fifty years.
The most successful film series of all time, making the equivalent of $14 billion at the box office.
The tune was of course the James Bond theme.
Monty Norman made over half a million pounds from that rejected tune.
All because he didn’t throw it away.
When the original stage musical failed, he kept the tune.
He loved it, he knew it was good.
He knew he’d use it for something one day.
When the opportunity came up, he changed the tune to fit.
It’s worth remembering that.
If we’ve got an idea we love, but it’s been rejected, don’t throw it away.
If we’ve got a solution, hold onto it and wait for the right problem to crop up.