Auto Tune: “Run, James, Run” by Brian Wilson

May 20th, 2015 at 3:00pm

Driving, riding, roads and of course cars themselves have all been immortalized by writers, composers and musicians around the world. Auto Tune is our way to spotlight a unique transportation song to celebrate these “ridden” gems along with the artists or composers who crafted them. Some you may know, many we’re sure you don’t.

Beach Boys Pet SoundsIt was 1966, the greatest year in music but that observation is for another column. In movies there’s was nothing hotter than the nascent James Bond series. The fourth installment of Ian Fleming’s Super Spy, Thunderball, was still basking in critical acclaim and filling theaters as the team began work on the next film in the suite “You Only Live Twice.”

Meanwhile in music, the Beatles and the Beach Boys were waging a spirited battle for the hearts, minds & wallets of the music listening public. In fact, while the rest of the band toured Europe, head Beach Boy Brian Wilson stayed home in California creating what would become arguably the greatest pop album of all time.

But living in Hollywood and seeing what the Bond series had done for Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones, the singers of the Goldfinger and Thunderball themes respectively, Wilson went to work on creating his own Bond theme for the next movie hoping to garner that same international spotlight for the Beach Boys.

What he eventually wrote was an instrumental piece, which he entitled “Run, James, Run.” Of course if you know anything about Mr. Wilson’s history at the time, not only was he making fantastic music but he was – allegedly — experimenting with substances not procured from your local drug store. He might’ve thought this helped his creativity, but it also turned him into a bit of a hermit. So after he finished “Run, James, Run,” what he hoped to be the next big Bond theme, it just sat there in his studio. He didn’t call Eon Productions, the producer of the film, nor did he alert anyone at United Artists who was the distributor the series. And then, before you could say “Run, James, Run” is a runaway hit, Nancy Sinatra, perhaps the hottest pop vocalist at the time, was hired to record a song written by John Barry & lyricist Leslie Bricusse, the men responsible for the Goldfinger theme.

With the Bond option now closed to him, and still producing his new Beach Boys record, Wilson chose to change the song’s name, add the song to the album and then title the record after the song.

So now you know how the movie “You Only Live Twice” lost Brian Wilson’s Run, James, Run but his epic album “Pet Sounds” gained a title track. And thanks to one of our friends on the Internet, had Mr. Wilson actually picked up the phone in time to call the movie’s producer some 49 years ago, the above video might’ve been what we’d seen and heard when the movie debuted in June 1967.

And by the way, Brian Wilson just released his latest, and what he’s indicating may be his last album, “No Pier Pressure.” And on at least a couple tracks, “Half Moon Bay” and “The Last Song” to name two, he seems to have recaptured the spirit of his ‘60s output. So if you’re interested in this Auto Tune, you may want to check that out this newer music as well.

- Chip Drake, Executive Producer, Autoline

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