How We Met: Monty Norman & Barry Cryer

'He kept telling me funny jokes but I had to tell him to leave me in peace!'

Monty Norman, 84

A composer of musicals including 'Expresso Bongo' and 'Irma La Douce', Norman (left in picture) is most famous for writing 'The James Bond Theme', which has been recorded more than 500 times. He was awarded the Gold Badge of Merit for Services to British Music in 1989

It was 1958, I think, and we were holding auditions for a stage show I had co-written, Expresso Bongo. I remember this strange gentleman coming on stage, and starting to sing a song that had the same title as our show: "Expresso Bongo". It was Barry, and he had clearly written it specially. I thought this rather bold of him, and it impressed us. He got the part.

Barry was just starting out back then, and it was obvious that comedy was his thing. During rehearsals, he would keep coming up to me and saying, "Monty, what do you think of this joke?" I laughed – they were funny jokes – but I had to tell him to go away and leave me in peace!

Expresso Bongo ran for over a year and did rather well for the both of us. I had been a singer for 10 years previously, singing with all the big bands of the day – Cyril Stapleton, Stanley Black, Ted Heath – 15-piece orchestras, three singers, and so on. I also sang in variety shows alongside all manner of comedians: Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Tony Hancock. All terrifically funny, obviously, but not particularly funny off stage, unless they were in character. But Barry was simply always himself, and consequently very funny all the time. Jokes just came naturally to him. You'd meet for a cup of tea, and he'd have half- a-dozen new ones to tell you. It is always joyful whenever we meet up.

I actually had the privilege of meeting his wife, Terry, before he did. I was doing a summer season in Blackpool and she was one of the very beautiful dancers. We've remained friendly ever since. I'd love to be able to say that it was me who introduced them, but unfortunately I didn't. They met later.

What we most admire in one another is our longevity. We both started in the 1950s, and here we are today, still around. Unfortunately, when we do meet now, it's mostly for friends' funerals.

But we have both been lucky with our careers, we have both done what we've wanted to do, and we both have lovely wives. And that is something to cherish.

Barry Cryer, 77

One of our most enduring comedy writers, Cryer has been in the business for more than 50 years. He has written for David Frost, Morecambe and Wise, and Danny La Rue, and has been a regular guest on Radio 4's 'I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue'

Me turning up to audition for a play called Expresso Bongo with a song called "Expresso Bongo" was a mixture of ignorance and innocence. I didn't really know what to do for the audition, so I wrote this little ditty in my bedsit the night before, hired some bongos from a friend, went up on stage and did it. "Kid from the back street with the crazy beat," was its main lyric, I seem to recall.

It must've gone down well, because I got the part, and Monty was simply lovely, not remotely bossy. If anything, he was very accommodating to me, a naïve 23-year-old. I couldn't help but be in awe of him, this man who had written such a fantastic musical.

Once you have worked happily with someone in this industry, in many ways your friendship is cemented for ever. And when Monty did "The James Bond Theme", I used to walk around very smugly, saying, "I know him." The whole world knows it, don't they? It's timeless.

It's true he met my wife before I did. I met Terry a few years later, the same day I met Ronnie Corbett, in fact. I tossed a coin and married her. "Nothing personal," I told Ronnie. We've been married ever since, and people always ask our secret. I tell them we've never understood each other. We argue every day. I was in the car with her recently and said, "We disagree about everything, don't we?" She said, "No we don't!"

My wife often accuses me of being a shameless socialite, and I suppose that's true. I'm very "Hello, hello" when I enter a room. Terribly shy in real life, of course, but then attack is the best form of defence, and I don't find it difficult to talk to people. There are some people you have to work at; with Monty, that has never been the case. I've always felt very relaxed in his company; we have much the same temperament.

When you get to our ripe old age, you practically have a season ticket to the cemetery. It goes with the territory: another chum drops out of the tree. So Monty and I have been to a lot together. They are sad occasions, of course, but they are also a celebration of life. A lot of our friends achieved so much. They deserve a celebratory send-off.

Monty and I never did work together again after Expresso Bongo, but do you know what? Working together again would be a joy!

The new James Bond film, 'Skyfall', is out on Friday

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

HR Manager (standalone) - London

Up to £40,000: Ashdown Group: Standalone HR Manager role for an SME business b...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering