Drum Corps International
Spotlight of the Week: 1986 Velvet Knights
1986 Velvet KnightsPhoto by: Drum Corps International

Spotlight of the Week: 1986 Velvet Knights

by Michael Boo

The 1986 Drum Corps International World Championship win for the Blue Devils came on the 10th anniversary of the corps' first DCI title, and in both cases, the corps won all caption awards at the Finals competition at Madison, Wisconsin's Camp Randall Stadium.

The Cavaliers placed among the top-three corps for the first time, passing up the Garfield Cadets by a tenth of a point. Just eight tenths down from The Cadets was the fifth-place Suncoast Sound, while the eight-time finalist Troopers appeared in the Finals for the last time until 2009.

Helping the southern California corps secure a 12th-place finish, the 1986 Velvet Knights took the field with a production based on the James Bond film franchise, which at the time included 16 movies. Each of those films focused on the British Secret Service agent created by author Ian Fleming in 1953, a character Fleming featured in 12 novels and two collections of short stories.

1986 Velvet Knights1986 Velvet Knights


In recognition of Bond's code name, "007" stickers were attached to each of the Velvet Knights' bass drums, which, like the rest of the drums, were of a gunmetal blue reflecting Bond's trusted sidearm. The opening drill set was a highly stylized formation of the corps name's "VK" initials.

A nod to James Bond's impeccable style, brass and percussion performers wore white tuxedos with long red scarves and red cummerbunds. Uncommon for the time period, Velvet Knights members portrayed James Bond with no headgear, which arguably would not have fit the character's tuxedoed persona.

The first three musical selections, treated as a continuous medley, followed the order of the first three Bond films. The medley started with the "James Bond Theme," written by Monty Norman and arranged by John Barry for the 1963 "Dr. No" film, the first in the Bond franchise.

 

The opening fanfare led directly into "From Russia With Love," the 1964 film for which John Barry and Lionel Bart composed the music. Bart had previously achieved considerable fame for writing the music, lyrics, and book for the highly successful 1960 musical, "Oliver!"

Out of Velvet Knights' commitment to humor came the James Bond character dancing a tango with a female character, who then removed her wig to reveal that she was a man; ostensibly a Bond villain out to embarrass the secret agent.

The medley segued into John Barry's theme from "Goldfinger," released in 1964 as the third Bond film. In keeping with the title villain's love of gold and other precious medals, Barry's musical score incorporated the extensive use of metallic sounds. Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse, the duo that wrote music for the 1971 production of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," wrote the lyrics.

1986 Velvet Knights1986 Velvet Knights


The corps then transitioned into the theme for "Live and Let Die," written and recorded by Paul and Linda McCartney for the 1973 film that introduced Roger Moore as Bond. George Martin, who was McCartney's producer during his years with The Beatles, scored the rest of the film as McCartney's fee was too high for the entire production.

The "Live and Let Die" theme also contributed to Velvet Knights' show a percussion feature consisting of "Baron Samedi's Dance of Death," which evolved out of the theme song.

The fanfare coming out of the percussion feature was "Runaway" from Bill Conti's score to the 1981 Bond flick, "For Your Eyes Only." Next in the same segment was a re-composed arrangement of the "James Bond Theme," which paved the way for a masked assassin to battle Bond toward the end, with Bond getting the upper hand by slugging his foe, resulting in the entire corps yelling, "Thanks, I needed that!"

 

The next segment was the theme from the 1981 film, "For Your Eyes Only," written by Bill Conti and Mike Leeson. Sheena Easton sang the title song and became the first such performing artist to appear on screen in a Bond film. The ballad ended with the Bond character kissing a female color guard member, but not before spraying his mouth with breath freshener.

Rather than ending with another Bond selection, the show's closing number was Henry Mancini's theme to "Peter Gunn," an American private eye television series that ran between 1958 and 1961.

A mobster with a Tommy gun stalked the horn line before collapsing right in front of the on-field television camera, ending the show in a sort of a time warp that even James Bond would not have been able to escape.

1986 Overview


Michael Boo was a member of the Cavaliers from 1975-1977. He has written about the drum corps activity for more than 35 years and serves as a staff writer for various Drum Corps International projects. Boo has written for numerous other publications and has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating. As an accomplished composer, Boo holds a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's degree in music theory and composition. He resides in Chesterton, Indiana.

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