Cool chair

Not a trombone this time, but a chair…

Composer, arranger and conductor John Barry is seen lounging in one of the few pieces of furniture which actually deserves the word iconic on the cover of this 1965 album John Barry Plays 007, which turned up in our Help The Aged store last week (I say turned up; they’d had it on the wall a while ago but nobody had wanted to pay the price. I found it back in the racks and at a fiver decided it ought to come home with me).

Barry’s work on the Bond music contributed enormously to the atmosphere of the films, though the authorship of the James Bond theme has gone to court a couple of times when Barry claimed he’d written it. They ruled that Monty Norman merits the writing credit, John Barry having done the jazzy arrangements heard in the first film, Dr. No in 1962.

Barry went on to compose the music for many of the later film soundtracks. As well as these (and other film scores), Barry did record his own versions of the Bond music on the side and this album was issued in 1965 on the Ember record label.

Ember was established in 1957 as one of the first UK independent labels to make and distribute their own product (pressed in Brighton!). John Barry joined the label around 1963 from EMI, and this may have inspired them to release more film and TV related titles. They also issued early singles by the likes of Twiggy but are best remembered today for a lot of classic soul singles licensed from America. The label only closed in 1979 when the owner, Jeff Kruger, wanted to devote more time to other projects.

Ember albums always have a bit of a budget feel about them, lacking the resources of the majors. So the typography is a little basic, and the (mono) back cover text is mostly set on an electric typewriter . The sleeve is what some collectors call a flipback; the front cover piece of card has three 15mm flaps, which are wrapped over and glued to the separately printed back cover sheet to form the joins. Only the front is laminated.

The (uncredited) photograph is a great portrait, perhaps taken in the composers lounge – all deep pile pink carpet and tweedy curtains. There is evidence of some retouching work on the facial highlights, but otherwise it remains as is – so the slightly distracting phone and electric cables lurk in shot. Copies of a film magazine and Newsweek decorate the oval coffee table, along with a very contemporary cup and saucer, while Barry holds a ball point pen to suggest he’s just taken a break from work.

Then of course there is the Eames Lounge chair by designer Charles Eames. First manufactured back in 1956, and made from moulded plywood (finished in leather) this model has been in production ever since. Barry is clearly sat in an original (there are a lot of copies – or what are advertised as ‘in the style of’ – around today), which would set you back a couple of thousand today depending on the finish. It’s a lot of money, but probably less than he paid for it at the time.

You can read more about the chair in the book The Eames Lounge Chair: An Icon of Modern Design.

Update : Chris Meloche has spotted something else in the cover shot at the right hand side – a Quad brand Electrostatic Loudspeaker (ESL), first introduced in 1957 and manufactured in England. These flat curved speakers work differently to conventional box shaped ones but have their admirers, and were only discontinued in 1985 when a new model was introduced. They certainly look the part and must have been quite costly in their day. (£57 new Chris has just told me – an average weekly wage that year was £10).

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