The James Bond Files ~
Re-discovering 007, the
British Invasion, and “Swinging London”, Too
– Vic Flick and the Guitar That Changed a Generation
By Wesley Britton
Vic Flick’s autobiography – Guitarman
The 2008 Ian Fleming Centenary was a great year for book
lovers. We enjoyed reissues of the classics, experienced new novels,
and turned the pages of reminiscences written by virtually everyone
who was ever associated with any 007 book or film.
But, for me, the best-kept secret of 2008 was the publication of
Guitarman (Bear Manor Media), the long overdue
memoir by legendary guitarist, Vic Flick.
Somehow, in the avalanche of Bondiana, to coin a term,
Guitarman didn’t get the notice it deserved.
Perhaps this is because, outside of a few circles, Flick just
isn’t the brand-name he should be by now.
I can’t explain this. I can’t count the number
of times I’d show a friend a copy of Guitarman
and hear, “Who’s Vic Flick?”
Well, now’s a good time to find out.
Of course, Bondians know who Vic Flick is and what his role in
the 007 movie realm involved. Or at least they think they know,
having read many accounts of how the most famous movie theme of
all time came to be.
Musicians know who Vic Flick is, as few guitarists alive haven’t
been inspired or influenced by Vic’s work, even when they
didn’t know they had grown up listening to records featuring
one of the most prolific studio musicians of the 1960s British Invasion.
(Justin Hayward, one of the original Moody Blues, wrote the very
admiring introduction for Guitarman.)
During the heady years of “Swinging London,”
as Vic chronicles in Guitarman, he played on so many
hits, he can’t remember all the sessions he worked on. For
but a few examples, you can hear him on Peter and Gordon’s
“World Without Love” and the hits of Petula Clark.
Beatle fans heard Vic on the Hard Day’s Night
soundtrack as producer George Martin tapped Vic to play
“This Boy (Ringo’s Theme)” precisely
because Martin wanted to capture the Bond guitar sound. Even
today, few Baby Boomers know that the faces on many of those
album covers didn’t belong to the actual musicians who
performed the songs on the vinyl inside.
Vic Flick was one of these unheralded studio musicians who
remembers watching Herman’s Hermits sitting in the
control booth listening to the hits he’d help record as the
Hermits began to learn the songs they’d perform live for
all those adoring fans.
Such stories are what make Guitarman such a
In addition, Vic Flick is no slouch as a storyteller. He begins by
describing his post-war years when he became a professional
musician and shares his memories of his earliest tours with the likes
of the John Barry 7 and Paul Anka. Then he provides personal and
often poignant sketches of just how the record industry worked in the
1960s, and how quirky producers and often bemused musicians
spent hours laying down the soundtrack of a generation.
When he wasn’t in the studio, Vic was either backing
the top stars of the times on the road or on television shows like
Top of the Pops.
In short, it’s one thing to investigate the many histories
and biographies of the singers and personalities who rose to fame
on radio, TV, and on the large screen – but it’s even
more fascinating to discover the behind-the-scenes stories of how
such fame and fortune came about, at least for those who had the
good fortune to be backed by the likes of Vic Flick.
So, for anyone who ever owned a turntable, watched any Bond
movie, or simply likes well-written autobiographies told with wit and
insight, Guitarman is a title not to be overlooked.
Now, as Spywise.net is your place to discover spy nuggets not
available anywhere else on the net, we thought we’d share
a few excerpts from Guitarman that won’t give
away any of the highlights you’ll have to read for yourself
in Vic’s book. (For example, did you know Vic and Eric Clapton
worked together on an instrumental intended to be the theme for
License to Kill, a Michael Kamen project that was never
released?) Bearing in mind that Vic’s contributions to the
Bond canon go far beyond the 007 theme, we thought we’d
share two stories involving another highly-regarded track in the
John Barry/Vic Flick legacy, the music for the gypsy encampment
scene in From Russia With Love.
According to Vic –
On a John Barry film session for the Bond film From Russia
With Love, the orchestra was ploughing through a music cue
when on my part appeared a blank bar with a pause sign, the
instruction “solo” and just the chord symbol,
“Em.” The orchestra shimmered into silence. This
was a solo in the very real sense of the word.
John [Barry] looked at me and I looked back at him. “What
do you want?’ I asked with fear and trepidation stabbing
at my heart.
“It’s a Gypsy encampment – think of
something,” he responded, with that
in his eyes.
I asked to see the picture before I thought of anything and after
a couple of takes it was in the can. That’s how the gypsy
encampment scene was written.
But that wasn’t the last time Vic played those notes
Many musical directors booked me for “the sound”
and to recreate the other guitar passages in the score. In the latter
part of the 1970s, Roland Shaw was making some covers of James
Bond music for the Readers Digest and I received a call from Sid Sax,
“Did you do the guitar solo for the Gypsy encampment
scene in From Russia with Love?” he asked.
Confirming that I did, he booked me for a session at Decca
“You will get a solo fee added to the basic,” Sid
assured me and a few days later I dutifully turned up at the studio.
On the guitar part placed on my music stand, where the solo was
to be, there appeared a few bars with nothing in them apart from
“Solo Ad Lib” written over the top. At least there
were a few bar lines giving an approximate length and not just the
single bar with a pause mark over it as on John Barry’s
“You can remember what you played,” Roland
said, smiling, as he gave the down beat to the massive orchestra.
Remember what I played? It was years ago!
I put the brain and fingers on automatic pilot and came up with
a satisfactory rendition of the original. Sid smiled a “well
done” and pressed the usual little brown envelope into my
hand at the end of the session. Just before getting in my car to go
to the next date, I opened the envelope.
One pound extra! Can you believe that?
One pound extra? Well, remember Vic didn’t exactly
get rich from his performance on the original James Bond theme.
While Monty Norman and John Barry earn royalties to the
present day, Vic says he got “about seven pounds ten
So, it’s now our turn to help remedy this situation
– by adding Guitarman to our libraries and
spending some enjoyable hours with one of the most significant
unsung heroes of the 1960s – and beyond.
You can find out more about Guitarman at ~
P.S. – This month, Amazon is claiming that Vic’s
great solo CD, James Bond Now, is not available. Well,
it is – and you can get it autographed by the
James Bond Now, a wonderful collection of
Vic’s reworkings of classic Bond tunes along with original
compositions, can be ordered from Vic for $15.00 including shipping
and handling by eMailing Vic direct at ~
For more about Vic and spy guitar, see also
“Spy Guitar – From Vic
Flick to Spy-Fi”, posted in The
James Bond Files section of this website.