Abbey Road 90: The Story Behind Shirley Bassey's 'Goldfinger' | The Start of Abbey Road's Relationship with 'Bond'

8th January 2022

Today we’re celebrating the birthday of the legendary Dame Shirley Bassey who turns 85!


Dame Shirley has worked at Abbey Road countless times during her career, from 1959’s The Fabulous Shirley Bassey with Geoff Love and his orchestra to 2014’s Hello Like Before, not forgetting the recording of one of the most significant Bond themes of all time.

Journalist Naomi Pineda takes a further look into the recording of the iconic Bond theme Goldfinger which became Bassey’s only US top 10 hit and formed the start of Abbey Road’s relationship with Bond.

 

The Story Behind Goldfinger


In the summer of 1964, a young Shirley Bassey was in the studio with John Barry’s orchestra recording one of the most significant Bond themes of all time.

The record was produced by George Martin, and in the EMI archive there exists one of the session tapes where Bassey is working on her vocals. Having listened to the tape, you get a true sense of her genius. The power of her voice flows through each take, and it’s amazing to hear her humanity as well. At one point, she misses her cue, and you can make out an apology down the microphone. And when she tries to make the final note, there are a few times she stops before reaching it, knowing she won’t quite be able to make it if she tries. And then with the last take on this tape, her voice is perfect.
 
 
 
Guitarist Vic Flick played on the Goldfinger theme, and he remembers a story of Dame Bassey running out of breath while trying to reach the high note at the end of the song. He told Guitar Player magazine: “There was a funny moment when John Barry told her, ’That last note isn’t long enough. You’ve got to keep going on it.’ So Shirley slipped behind a studio partition, took her bra off and threw it over the top of the partition. She said, ‘Okay, let’s take this last note again.’”

The vocal session tape was created on 7 September 1964, with the engineers listed as Malcolm Addey and Ron Pender, with George Martin producing in Studio Two.

A young musician called Jimmy Page was a session player with the John Barry Orchestra and played on Goldfinger. He recalled in an interview with GQ: “The full orchestra sounded absolutely amazing, but then Shirley Bassey arrived. She arrived with a friend, was very quiet and then was asked to come out and sing. And it took her just one take. And at the end of the tape, she collapsed on the floor … she just held this one note and she basically ran out of breath and collapsed. You know how dramatic she is usually, what with all the stuff she does with her hands, but this was even more dramatic – and I was in the front row of the musicians, so I really had a good view of all of this.”
 
 

Goldfinger became Bassey’s only US top 10 hit and formed the start of Abbey Road’s relationship with Bond. Over 50 years later, Adele would record the title track for Skyfall in Studio One, which was released in 2012.

 
 

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