Ninety Nine Years (Dead or Alive)

Recently I heard for the first time a recording of a 1956 song titled Ninety Nine Years (Dead or Alive.) It can be found in YouTube either by just typing in the title or trying this link. (I realise these can be notoriously buggy hence the advice to go to YouTube and do a manual search.)

The single’s label.

The song was composed by Sid Wayne and John Benson Brooks both well-known, prolific composers working out of the U.S. from the 1950s onwards. It was recorded in this version by Guy Mitchell who was a successful singer and scored hits in the the U.S., the UK and Australia. (His biggest chart hits were Singing the Blues, and Heartaches by the Number.) Ninety Nine Years was less successful reaching 23 in the U.S. and 26 in Australia. If it was released in the UK then it failed to chart.

The interest here is that the song’s opening is pretty close to sounding like the James Bond theme composed by Monty Norman and arranged by John Barry. The use of the horns within the song is also reminiscent of a typical Bond arrangement and cues. No point even attempting to conjecture whether this tune was an influence in any way, and even if it was an influence it is minor and is certainly not a copyright infringement in anyway.

Musical influences and inspirations are part and parcel of composition. And why not. This is the same across all the arts. Softly, a piece by Henry Mancini for the TV series Mr. Lucky (1959) has an identical chord progression within it. But then Bond motives crop up a lot later in Mancini’s work – just listen to Charade for example.

But still – that opening chord progression???