Sondre Lerche: on James Bond and George Lazenby

Oct 05, 2009 Issue #28 Fall 2009 - Monsters of Folk Photography by Crackerfarm Bookmark and Share


When I was 10 years old I was granted membership with The James Bond Club. I had replied to an ad, using my mom's name (the ad specifically requested that applicants under 18 provide their parent's signatureI must have considered it was less of an offense to pretend to be my mother).

At the time my main interest was pop music, and only occasionally the sort that my friends were digging. My other interest was watching old James Bond movies. The year was 1992 and James Bond wasn't really that much of a fixture to kids my age, so I guess I was hoping I'd meet some new friends who shared my particular interest. Maybe we'd go on camping trips together? Maybe we'd have secret meetings and meet girls? Lord knows what happens when The James Bond Club gets together.

As it turns out, it was all just a mail-order scam. Two weeks later I received the free VHS of 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service (starring George Lazenby as 007 for the first and last time) that I had been promised. All of a sudden random 007 titles were attacking my mailbox on a weekly basis, accompanied by invoices due in a heartbeat. I was so devastated by the lack of community and friendliness in The James Bond Club that I completely forgot about the consequence of invoices. My mom didn't find out about her membership until a debt collection agency interfered on behalf of Bond (and she wasn't even that big a fan to begin with). By which time I had almost given up on him completely.

However, with time, my appreciation of 007 survived. I even learned to appreciate George Lazenby's controversial turn as 007 in OHMSS (and the fantastic soundtrack by John Barrybest 007 score ever). Despite Lazenby's position as one of the most successful male models in Europe at the time, he was quite the fighter and landed the title part in the hottest film franchise around after breaking the nose of his audition opponent. What he lacked in acting chops he would have to make up for in kung fu chops.

Stories are multiple as to what actually happened in the wake of the film, which turned out to be yet another commercial success, even without Sean Connery in the lead. Lazenby claims he dropped out as he didn't see a future for the Bond character, what with the emergence of hippie culture and all. He has also admitted to losing his head and believing his own brief hype, both common causes and both fatal. All I know is George Lazenby did not go on to play Bond again. Neither did he go on to greater showbiz-related stuff.

Upon seeing the film again on DVD a couple of years ago, I dove into the bonus material which included interviews with both the young, cocky Lazenby and the dignified and gracious, yet slightly regretful present-day Lazenby. Although these interviews didn't ever really get too detailed or uncomfortable, you could sense the stuff that was left out.

I tend to write a lot of songs about bemused and apologetic 60-something male characters, stuck between old macho and modern male emotionality, attempting to look back. There seems to be a lot of them in my time-some guy who could be my dad, my stepdad, my friend's dad, or George Lazenby.

The evening of May 7th, 2008 (I remember these things only because I'm a freak) was perhaps the most exciting I've had yet as a songwriter. After a long day of the same old banging-my-head-against-the-wall-routine, some words started taking on the form of a speech in which some guy celebrating his, say, 70th birthday tries to address an array of eternal male paradoxesego, stubbornness, stupidity, and forgiveness, to name but a fewthat have guided and confused him throughout his life (incidentally the same issues that seem to be troubling Daniel Craig's current version of 007). The narrator is not George Lazenby, nor me.

In 20 minutes, "Like Lazenby" appeared in near-complete form, with me screaming the words into my tape recorder, reaching for notes I couldn't actually hit. I had been trying to write that song for quite some time. Now it's track number four on my new album, Heartbeat Radio. (George Lazenby turned 70 on my birthday, September 5th.)



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