Book Review: John Higgs – Love and Let Die (Bond, the Beatles and the British Psyche)


From Philip Norman’s insightful Paul McCartney to the herculean efforts of Mark Lewisohn (now researching the second part of his trilogy), there’s no lack of identifiable Beatle titles for readers to enjoy. But what about the fans who enjoy watching James Bond as much as they do listening about The Beatles? Because that’s exactly the market John Higgs is cornering with Love and Let Die, a sparkling read that puts as much focus on the earmuffs as it does on the spy who needs them to listen to The Fab Four. 

 Curiously, The Beatles released their first single ‘Love Me Do’ on the same day Dr.No was released to cinemas. October 5th has gone on to become known as “Bond day”, not least because the series in question is still going strong 60 years later, but maybe it’s time that the two fandoms share a birthday, considering how much they shaped the England of recent years. It was Paul McCartney who made the leap from Beatledom to Bondom (funny word, eh?) when he composed the raucous ‘Live and Let Die’, a rocker Higgs feels the bassist started on his lucrative trajectory as a seventies artist. Drummer Ringo Starr married a Bond girl, while John Lennon wed his soulmate the same year Bond married his (I won’t spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen the genuinely brilliant On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but I would suggest buying a hankie or two before watching it.) 

Interestingly, Higgs sees George Harrison as the one who most resembled Bond, although he does respect that Harrison’s quest for love was very different to Bond’s crusade as an angel of death. Love and death are the cornerstones that form the book, and while love ends, death carries on. Bond may have been killed at the end of No Time To Die (yes, I am going to spoil the ending of this one), but the credits ended with the promise that he would return. 

Bond, like The Beatles, showed that to be powerful you didn’t need to belong to a posh circle, as neither Lennon nor Bond incumbent Connery spoke to audiences in a register that was designed for members of the aristocracy. Yet their influence was too grand for the royal family to ignore, and in 1965, Queen Elizabeth II decorated The Beatles with MBE’s. Connery was knighted for his efforts for cinema, while his successor Daniel Craig – the longest serving Bond, as of the time of print – filmed a segment with the monarch during the opening of the 2012 London Olympics. Craig was followed by McCartney, who embraced the nostalgia his native country was offering him with a rendition of ‘Hey Jude’. 

We’re nearly five hundred words into the review, and we haven’t mentioned Pierce Brosnan. Cast in 1994, Brosnan’s tenure as Bond reminded many critics of Connery’s. He was charming, laconic, and decidedly more Celtic than the Etonian brat Ian Fleming had described in his books. By the time he made his debut in 1995, Britain was in the throes of Britpop, a sub-genre of music that was as much revival as it was renaissance. It was hard to escape the waft of sixties nostalgia through the air, as every magazine ached to discover the next Beatles (Oasis, it seemed, were the obvious candidates.) 

In the sixty years since ‘Love Me Do’ and ‘Dr.No’ were released, the world has chosen not to cast off the shackles of nostalgia, but rather buy into it. And although the “love/death” duology might be a little difficult for readers to buy into, they can be rest assured that Higgs has his two subjects covered, replete with flair and some droll one-liners.