by Eddy Colloton
I had a blast making the playlists for our first party, Casino Royale, but at the time I wasn’t thinking of it as anything but a practicality. Parties have music in the background, right? Craig had suggested playing the soundtrack to the movie, but I was concerned about dynamics, and the more intense parts of the score. Most people don’t like it when their cocktail parties are scored like car chases.
That being said, there are a lot of really cool parts to the David Arnold composed score, which both feel very Bond and evoke the mood we were hoping to create for our Casino Royale party, so I built out a playlist around some of my favorite tracks. I started with some favorites of mine, Tony Allen, Mingus, and Yesterday's New Quintet, and then sort of just poked around Spotify playlists for tracks that, to me, had a similar “classy jazz to drink to” vibe. We screen the movie we’re paying homage to at every party, so I made a more mellow “pre-movie” playlist, and then tried to up the energy a little for the “post-movie” playlist.
When the second party rolled around for Dr. No, everything was starting to feel a bit more deliberate. Admittedly, Craig and I had discussed a certain level of consistency when we were hatching this scheme. For instance, we were always sure each party had to have a trailer. But things like the party attire Pinterest inspiration board and the Spotify playlists developed a bit more organically. Craig had been stoked on the Casino Royale playlists and encouraged me to run with the idea. The theme for Dr. No could not have been a better fit for my music taste, so I was all over it.
After the somewhat disastrous first attempt to adapt Ian Fleming’s literary work, apparently someone thought it would be a great idea to give this incredibly racist English author another shot. Dr. No was released in 1962. The film, like the novel, is set in Jamaica.
The early 60s represent a seminal moment in Jamaican music history. The Studio One record label—shepherding artists like the Skatalites, Bob Marley & the Wailers, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Toots & the Maytals, and many others—released its first records in 1963. Byron Lee, who is heavily featured on the Dr. No soundtrack, introduced the electric bass to Jamaica just a few years prior, cementing the popularity of the then-burgeoning ska sound. Lee performed at the 1964 World’s Fair, an early indicator of music becoming the island nation’s chief export. Ten years later, Marley and the Wailers would sign with CBS records, and Jamaican reggae would be poised to take over the world. The 1960s Jamaican sound could be considered a prelude to that iconic moment in music, and Dr. No serves as time capsule of the burgeoning phenomenon.
Dr. No is released amidst a frenzy of American obsession with all things tropical, demonstrated through the travelogue style of the film and the popular music of the day. From surf rock to Acker Bilk’s Stranger on the Shore, music lovers couldn’t get enough of beaches, sunshine and polka dot bikinis. One of the things I love about the Bond franchise are the movies’ ability to represent the culture of the day. Intentional or not, Bond movies often end up being about the era they were released in, just as much as they are about villains, espionage, and fancy suits. Many of the playlists I create for our parties are entirely made up of songs that were featured on the Billboard top 100 the year the movie was released (like this one for Live and Let Die, 1973).
These two simultaneous cultural events offered more than enough inspiration for my pre-movie playlist Dr. Yeeyah. The playlist ended up becoming a mix of early 60s pop music that captured the vacation fervor of the era with ska and proto-reggae hits from Jamaica. That playlist, like the Casino Royale pre-movie playlist, borrowed tracks from the film’s soundtrack. The Byron Lee tracks on the playlist worked particularly well for this playlist and theme, but since then the Bond movie scores haven’t jived as well with our party themes (however, our 80s themed A View To a Kill Party is coming up and there will definitely be some Duran Duran on that playlist).
As with Casino Royale, I wanted the post-party playlist to be more upbeat and energetic. For Dr. No, I wanted to draw from the diaspora of Caribbean music in contemporary Western music genres. I've included some obvious choices on the playlist like Nas’ collaboration with Damien Marley and The Specials’ dub classic Ghost Town, but I also wanted some artists our guests might not have heard before, like “techno-dub” duo Rhythm & Sound or UK grime artist Flowdan. Making that playlists, Dr. Nope, also helped me find out about a new artist, Filastine, a music and video act formed by the same guy who started the Infernal Noise Brigade back in the late 90s.
I now make a pre-movie playlist and a post-movie playlist for every party. It's become a fun way to explore some of the more social aspects of Spotify I wouldn't use otherwise, like the public playlists and genre filters. For me creating playlists for the parties functions as a sort of "prompt," basically an excuse to find new music, and a deadline to motivate me. That's true for a lot of Licence to Drink, it's just parameters we've invented to be creative within. The concept helps us get the ball rolling and then the parties keep us accountable.
All of the playlists I've made for the LtD parties can be found on our parties page, along with all of the other content we create. I plan to do more deep dives into particular playlists on the blog, so let me know if there's anything you'd like to hear more about.