Sean Connery, 007

As if 2020 hasn’t been bad enough, the world received news that legendary Scottish actor Sir Thomas Sean Connery died in Nassau on Halloween. Though he played many iconic characters during the course of his lengthy career, such as the father of Indiana Jones in the Last Crusade, William of Baskerville in The Name of the Rose (one of my favorite movies, though the Umberto Eco book is better), Ramirez in Highlander, and dozens of others, it was the first role he played for which he is most well known. Sean Connery is James Bond. His first professional acting role was as 007, and the first 007 film was Dr. No. Sean Connery made this franchise a success, but we ska fans like to think that Jamaican had a little hand in boosting that success.

To celebrate the life of Sean Connery in my own little way, I offer below a sample chapter from my book Operation Jump Up: Jamaica’s Campaign for a National Sound. This chapter is titled “007 Is Here Sir.” Enjoy!

And to order a signed copy of this book for only $15 plus $2 shipping within the U.S., please instant message me on Facebook or email me at haugustyn@yahoo.com.

Daily Gleaner, September 17, 1963

Chapter Two: 007 Is Here Sir

by Heather Augustyn

“Underneath the mango tree,” sings Honey Ryder as she emerges like a siren from the waters of the Caribbean Sea in Crab Key, Ocho Rios. She not only lured James Bond with her iconic white bikini, but she also lured tourists to Jamaica, as did writer Ian Fleming through his books and his first James Bond film, Dr. No, filmed in Jamaica. “This film put the spotlight on Jamaican culture,” says Jamaica Observer reporter Howard Campbell when looking back on the 55th anniversary of the film. Crates of Red Stripe beer, plane landings amid tropical palm trees at Palisadoes Airport, and crowds of clubgoers with their hands above their heads singing along to the band, “Jump up jump up!” helped to popularize Jamaica to the world in 1962, further preparing musical emissaries in the years to follow.

Ian Fleming adopted Jamaica as his home in the mid-1940s. The British aristocrat explored and experienced life on the island with a profound love for its waterfalls, caves, beaches, fish, and flowers. He bought property in 1946, the site of a plantation, that he rehabilitated into his estate which he named Goldeneye. The property was bought in 1976 by Bob Marley and then sold a few years later to Chris Blackwell who still owns it as his home and resort today. It is but one way that these entities—James Bond, Chris Blackwell, and Jamaican music—combine to produce a product for worldwide consumption. It all began with Dr. No.

Blanche Blackwell and Ian Fleming

In late 1960, producers for Dr. No hired Chris Blackwell as a location scout. Chris Blackwell, before he became founder of Island Records, was a boy living in the country in Jamaica. He loved Jamaican music and as a teenager he attended soundsystem dances and clubs where the music became a part of his character. Eventually he started recording local artists in the same way that many other producers had, first going to the United States to buy rhythm and blues records, returning to play and sell them. He, like the others, also tapped into the wealth of Jamaican singers and musicians and started to record these young artists. Prior to Island, Blackwell founded a label called R&B and recorded artists such as Laurel Aitken, Wilfred “Jackie” Edwards, and Owen Gray.

But Chris Blackwell was also the son of an incredibly wealthy family, and as such, he had means and access that many others lacked. The family of Chris’s mother Blanche, the  Lindos, had been in Jamaica since 1625. They owned banana and sugarcane plantations and they later established J. Wray & Nephew, the famous rum distillery. In 1916 they took over Appleton rum. Chris’s father, Joseph Blackwell, was a military officer whose family founded Crosse & Blackwell, a Jamaican food company. Needless to say, Chris Blackwell was a member of the colonial elite.

Blackwell was connected to the producers of Dr. No through his family. He explains, “I was recommended by Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond books. He was a friend of my mother.” (Incidentally, his mother, Blanche, was a mistress of Ian Fleming.) Blackwell recommended that popular bandleader Byron Lee and his band members be cast to play on film in the calypso scene at Pussfeller’s Club. The character of Pussfeller was played by Lester Prendergast who owned the Glass Bucket Club. Byron Lee’s Manager Ronnie Nasralla says that it was he who put Blackwell in contact with Byron Lee. Nasralla says, “They came down to Jamaica and asked me if I could help with getting a cast for the nightclub scene, so I auditioned different artists for the nightclub scene including Bob Marley and the Wailers. I turned down Bob Marley and picked Byron to perform in the nightclub scene and organized the different dance steps and the music and the dancers in front of the bandstand.” When asked why he didn’t choose Marley, Nasralla states, “He was very untidy. Untidy, and I didn’t think the people wanted that. No shoes and he smelled bad and he was just untidy.”

Byron Lee and his band, the Dragonaires, formed at St. George’s College, a private high school that has been home to such notable alumni as author, sociologist, and professor Barry Chevannes who was head of the Institute of Jamaica and head of the National Ganja Commission; Ziggy Marley; Stephen Marley; Abe Issa; Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding; and numerous dignitaries, politicians, and business owners. Lee and Nasralla were school friends and teammates on the St. George’s football team. Nasralla recalls how the band first formed in 1959. “What happened is that after every game that we played at Emmett Park, if we were victorious, we would start clowning around in the dressing room, singing and making songs. Byron had a guitar that a Mexican friend had given him, and he was in the forefront of the celebration, playing and singing. With him were Carl Brady, Ronald Peralto, Alty East, and yours truly. Carl Brady knocked two Red Stripe bottles together, Alty and Ronald used garbage pans as drums, and I played on a grater with a fork, which we got from the kitchen. The music was Jamaican mento and calypso. Occasionally, Frankie Lewis would join in with a Trinidadian calypso or kaiso as he called it. This went on for months and got better and better and eventually they got more instruments and started playing. And the Old Boys asked Byron to play at the annual dinner and he played there and he got five pounds for the night and he added more musicians to the group,” says Nasralla.

As the band started playing out in the community, mostly at garden parties at first before appearing in popular clubs like the Glass Bucket and Sombrero Club, they tightened up their sound and look from the rag-tag band in the dressing room. Nasralla explains, “Most bands didn’t have uniforms. Byron’s rules were you must look good on his bandstand because people are looking at you. We were all in uniforms. Other bands wore whatever they wanted to wear and were untidy. Lights must be on the bandstand and no lights on the dancefloor and the dancefloor must be right in front of the band. Byron was very disciplined. He didn’t believe in drugs. All advertisements must be done by me at my advertising agency to ensure that Byron got good publicity. I was in advertising and I was their manager.” With such a polished look, and with the connections to Nasralla and therefore, Chris Blackwell, they were a natural choice to appear on film in Dr. No.

Byron Lee says that being cast in the movie was an essential part of the band’s growth in these fertile years and it provided accessibility for their future endeavors in the United States two years later. In an interview with Roy Black in the Jamaica Gleaner, April 22, 2012, Byron Lee states, “Then in 1960, came along the producers for the first James Bond movie, Dr. No, part of which was filmed in Jamaica. They paid us to play our music in the movie. So that’s where we got our head start from. After that, we became very much in demand, and fully professional.” But at the time, no one could have foreseen that the film would become so iconic and the band would have received such a boost.

In the Jamaica Gleaner, March 26, 2006, Lee states, “The James Bond film and the producers came down here on a hope and a prayer. It was like a pilot. They had no idea it would become the biggest film series the world has ever seen. I was fortunate enough to have had a role when the band appeared at Morgan’s Harbour.” Fortunate indeed.

Byron Lee in Dr. No

According to Matthew Parker in his book Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born, “Byron Lee himself is seen in the film playing bass guitar in ‘Jump Up.’ Ernest Ranglin provided extra guitar for the final sound, and another Jamaican legend, Count Prince Miller, does his trademark dance. As it turned out, the film would provide a great international showcase for Jamaican and, more generally, West Indian music.” Also visible in the scene are a “Gleaner freelance photographer” played by Marguerite LeWars who was Miss Jamaica 1961, Ken Lazarus and Keith Lyn. “We were playing Morgan’s Harbour regularly those days and we got a call saying we were going to be in this movie. It was pretty exciting,” Lyn told the Jamaica Observer on June 17, 2012. In addition to appearing in the film, Byron Lee & the Dragonaires also performed on the Dr. No soundtrack. The song “Jump Up” appeared in the film, and the soundtrack also featured “Kingston Calypso” (“Three Blind Mice”) and “Under the Mango Tree.”

The Dragonaires in Dr. No

Bandleader Carlos Malcolm was also involved in music for Dr. No, though his experience was not as positive as Lee and his bandmates. Malcolm was a skilled musician and composer who served as a musical director at Jamaica Broadcasting Company along with Sonny Bradshaw in 1958. Malcolm also served as musical director of the Jamaica National Dance Theater Company. He composed jingles for numerous clients including Maxwell House, Shell Oil, and Milo in addition to arranging music for the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation Studio Orchestra to accompany singers on the weekly live show, “The Jamaican Hit Parade,” developed by Malcolm and Sonny Bradshaw. “We did radio production, the writing of scripts, timing of programs. There were no Jamaican programs until we started to write them, things like the Lou & Ranny Show which was in the Jamaican dialect. I produced their programs; a program called Our Gang which was the Howdy Doody template that we brought to Jamaica. We had an orchestra and I would do all of the music, the arrangements with Sonny Bradshaw. As an arranger I went back to Jamaica from Panama and I used to write plays for Pantomime and I had good arranging experience. I was invited to write and play for the 1957 Jazz concerts and did some arranging and that featured Don Drummond, Sonny, and Rupert Anderson. They used to call us the Wicked Four,” he says. The BBC sent a camera crew to the Bournemouth Club to film a session of Carlos Malcolm performing “Jamaica’s latest dance craze, ska,” according to the Star Newspaper on April 24, 1963 which proclaimed Malcolm’s band the “winners of the STAR 1963 ‘Best Band’ award.” The show, which was broadcast live, was watched by some nine million viewers. Malcolm received that award from Minister of Development and Welfare Hon. Edward Seaga. But Malcolm was not to perform on film for Dr. No and instead was involved in the film’s music.

Daily Gleaner, February 27, 1962

Both Carlos Malcolm and Ernest Ranglin provided music for the film but were never compensated properly for their compositions, resulting in a lawsuit against the film company, Eon Productions. The Daily Gleaner on February 27, 1962 featured the front-page headline, “£1,064 writ on ‘Dr. No’ producers.” The story said that the writ was filed on behalf of Carlos Malcolm, “music teacher and instrumentalist and Ernest Ranglin guitarist. Mr. Malcolm claims that he was engaged to compose and write musical scores and supervise recordings, while Mr. Ranglin claims he was engaged to look after the arrangements.” Decades later at the Institute of  Jamaica, Malcolm appeared for an event, at which he told the audience, “After Dr. No came out, it took me two years to watch the movie. The first time it came out I cried like a baby. The man left with my scores. These were my original scores.” Malcolm said he wrote 53 scores for the film. “This is where I made my big mistake, I signed my life away. Once you’ve signed a general release, that’s it. I got paid as hired. If you didn’t sign it, you would get pay every time it (the movie) plays. After that, I went out and copyright everything I wrote. That’s the greatest lesson of my life,” he said.

Carlos Malcolm recalls the details of that legal debacle and the Dr. No soundtrack in his seminal book, Carlos Malcolm: A Personal History of Post-War Jamaican Music, New Orleans Jazz, Blue to Reggae. He writes, “Early in 1961, Eon Productions of London, England came to Jamaica to film the first James Bond movie, Dr. No …  My friend and counsel, Anthony (Tony) Spaulding, [who later defended Don Drummond during his murder trial, along with P.J. Patterson] from the chambers of Dudley Thompson, informed me that he had received a call from the Eon Productions field office, enquiring of my whereabouts. Apparently, I was being tracked for a meeting with the musical director of Eon Productions, Monty Norman. His job was to identify and arrange for original tropical background music, created in Jamaica.”

Malcolm says that he met with Monty Norman who showed him musical notation of the famous James Bond Theme that he had freshly penned. Malcolm told Norman, “I like the melody, especially the leading note to tonic, followed by fifth to flattened fifth, that is very mysterious and dramatic.” Norman not only liked the comment, but saw that Malcolm was an adept musician. So Malcolm advised Norman on the bass line and “worked long hours, discussing scenarios and scene durations, where tropical-sounding music fills would be suitable. The scene durations were from seven seconds to one minute. I scored 53 pages of musical fills,” Malcolm states. Norman continued to have a friendship with Malcolm, until one day at Malcolm’s house during a barbecue when Norman absconded with Malcolm’s musical scores. Malcolm recalls the after-dinner conversation.

“We talked about the Dr. No movie all night. As it got late and my guests began to depart, Monty indicated that he also wanted to leave. I was his means of transportation. After everyone had left, Monty said, ‘Carlos, I’d like to borrow your musical scores overnight to double-check the time sequences I originally gave you against recent changes we’ve made in the script. I’ll notate the changes on the music scores.’ ‘They’re on my desk with a rubber band around them,’ I replied. With the rolled musical scores under his arm, we walked out to my car. I drove Monty back to his hotel at about 2:00 a.m. He was now staying at the Morgan’s Harbour hotel in Port Royal. At 7:00 a.m., I was back at the hotel to get Monty. We were facing another hectic day of recording, or so I thought. As I approached his room, I heard the hum of a vacuum cleaner. When I got to the open door, there were two chamber maids cleaning the room. Thinking that Monty had probably been transferred to another room, I went to the front desk and asked for Mr. Norman’s room number. The front office cleark looked at her book and said: ‘Mr. Norman? He left on the BOAC flight to London at four-thirty this morning, sir.’”

Malcolm was physically sick at the news. He contacted his attorneys, Spaulding and Patterson, who advised him to “get out of town until I was contacted to come back.” During this time, the government had ordered a hold on all equipment involved in the production. When Malcolm returned he was told to sign for a check by Eon Productions’ lawyers, just enough to pay the musicians used in the recordings. But the signature was more than just a check release. Unbeknownst to Malcolm, the signature was also one for a general release. “I had completely signed away my rights to any further litigation and the matter was now closed.” Malcolm would never receive any royalties.

The experience of Dr. No was devastating for Carlos Malcolm. “I refused to attend the premiere of Dr. No when the movie came to Jamaica. I just could not, although I wanted to. Several months later, when I finally summoned the courage to see the movie, I sobbed unconsolably for days. Some of the music, rearranged and played by the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, were my original ideas … I had tried to find a logical explanation for Monty’s blatant act. He had planned to take my property, even as he looked me in the eye and accepted my kindnesses and hospitality with a smile.” Malcolm describes Norman as “a thief in the night.” He says, “I never heard from Monty Norman afterwards, proving that his action was not an error. In this life, the rich may not hesitate to rob the poor.”

Others look back on the filming of Dr. No in Jamaica as a positive experience that helped to put Jamaica on the map during a critical time in the nation’s search for an identity. It was no small news when cast and crew were in town filming Dr. No. Gossip columns in the Star Newspaper followed Sean Connery and his “burst at the seams muscles and masculinity.” He was a “six foot two ‘he-man,’” and Ursula Andress was a “shapely blonde” and a “beautiful nature girl who meets undercover agent James Bond on an exotic tropical island.” The team arrived on Sunday, January 14, 1962 and cameras started rolling two days later. One week after shooting in Kingston, the production moved to the north coast where they filmed in St. Ann’s Bay. Filming wrapped on February 21, 1962. That pilot movie would grow into a $5 billion franchise with 26 films to date. It was the end of filming for Dr. No in Jamaica, but the beginning of musical ambassadorship for Byron Lee, Carlos Malcolm, and dozens of others.

James Bond arrives at Palisadoes Airport in Dr. No.

7 Replies to “Sean Connery, 007”

  1. I am saddened by the passing of Sir. Sean Connery. This is an amazing and superb recall of all the events surrounding the making of the movie, Dr. No. starring Mr. Connery in Jamaica. I love it! I read the details
    with great interest and wish to thank everyone concerned with sharing this information with those of us, myself included, who hadn’t a clue of what went on behind the scenes.
    Thank you.

    1. My pleasure, Eloise! I am the author of this. It was a labor of love digging up the information, interviewing all those who spoke here, and ultimately including this chapter in my book, Operation Jump Up: Jamaica’s Campaign for a National Sound where I have researched and written about the Jamaican government’s push for tourism by bringing ska to the U.S. and the world in 1964. It may not have worked short-term but it definitely did long term! Thanks again! Heather Augustyn

  2. “Malcolm says that he met with Monty Norman who showed him musical notation of the famous James Bond Theme that he had freshly penned.”

    That would have been impossible as Norman did not start work on the theme until he was back in England, and his first attempt at a theme had been ruled out.

    1. Fascinating, Geoff–tell me more. Is this according to the court proceedings between Norman and John Barry? What, or who, is the source of the timing? Thanks for your comments!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *