James Bond and The Beatles: When 007 made fun of the Fab Four
October 5th, 1962, will always be seen as the birth of the swinging sixties as it welcomed not only the debut single from The Beatles in ‘Love Me Do’ but also the premiere of the very first James Bond film in Dr. No.
Two juggernauts of British culture at the time, the James Bond franchise and The Beatles, haven’t often crossed paths. While the former stood for the law and order of Britain’s establishment, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were the rabble-rousers of pop music and with Lennon, in particular, happy to play the role of rock ‘n’ roll rebel, the two factions of iconography never merged too drastically beyond their duel debuts, excluding one moment of controversy.
Two years later, however, and James Bond, played by the swashbuckling Sean Connery, had found a brand new adoring audience as his suave and sophisticated tone married perfectly for a new generation. The Fab Four were experiencing an equally impressive career trajectory. The Beatles had become the biggest band in the world and the phenomenon of pop music was now an inescapable cultural revolution.
It’s hard to ignore the clash of cultures here. The Beatles were the brand new dawn of a new culture and James Bond was a defender of the old. The tension between the franchise and The Beatles grew in 1964 when Goldfinger was released and a noted piece of dialogue became the talk of the music industry.
During a particularly hot and heavy scene of flirtation, 007 is with a lady in his bedroom when notices that the champagne has gone warm. It’s an unacceptable situation for the secret agent and provokes him to utter an unforgettable line: “My dear girl, there are some things that just aren’t done; such as drinking Dom Perignon ’53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs”.
At this stage in The Beatles career, it was pretty unfathomable that they would be so openly criticised and though they never really reacted to the line in public, we’d imagine it must have irked the bandmembers at least a little. At the same time, Bond fans were split down the middle by the agent’s words. While some saw it as the perfect kickback against the long-haired revolution, others saw it as Bond not keeping up with the times.
It’s fitting that in 2020, both British institutions are still standing firm, despite line-up changes and narrative switches. The fact that James Bond doesn’t like The Beatles has never done them any harm, so why not just enjoy the churlish quip?