John Barry

John BarryThe 1960s was a busy time for John Barry.  As well as providing music for numerous television shows, he also composed songs and themes for more than thirty feature films.  Early efforts, such as 1960’s Wild for Kicks (1960), which featured a young singer called Adam Faith whose breakthrough hit, ‘What do you want?’, had been arranged by Barry, quickly led to more prestigious work.  Having been approached to contribute music to Dr No (1962), Barry hit the big time: Zulu (1964), The Ipcress File (1965), The Knack… and How to Get It (1965), Born Free (1966) and Petulia (1968) – and several more Bond films – all followed.  He can rarely have been out of work for long.

I was, therefore, somewhat surprised to learn that Barry found the time to write music for television commercials.  Although the money paid out to composers is hardly on a par with that paid to star actors or big-name directors, one would not imagine that a man as in-demand as Barry needed to supplement his income by writing music for television commercials.  Or, indeed, that he would wish to do so having already achieved such success.  Such an assumption, of course, says rather more about my own (completely unfounded) prejudices than it does about the relative merits of these two media.
Anyway, material contained in the J. Walter Thompson (JWT) Archive, held at the History of
Advertising Trust
, shines a light on Barry’s work as composer for television commercials.  In April 1965, for example, Barry was engaged to provide music for two commercials then being produced for Sunsilk Shampoo.  ‘Beach’ and ‘Lovely Face’ were 45-second live-action commercials, made by Ocelot Productions for JWT. The total cost of making the first of these commercials, which was shot on location in Morocco, was just under £8,000; Barry was paid £200 for his work.


 (Image from

The commercials were given a trial screening in Granadaland in October 1965, and Barry’s music was very positively received.  Several members of the public who had watched the advertisement wrote to Granada to ask the name of the music that featured in the Sunsilk ad and where they could get hold of a copy.  Such correspondence was passed on to JWT, and received a standard reply:

“The background music to the commercial which you saw was composed by John Barry who, as you probably know, composed the music for the James Bond Theme and also The Ipcress File.  Unfortunately, the tune has not yet been recorded for ordinary commercial purposes so that we are afraid you will be unable to hear it anywhere except in the commercial.”

Gibbs Proprietaries Ltd., manufacturers of Sunsilk, were clearly very satisfied that early test broadcasts of the commercial had gone so well, and recognised the contribution that Barry’s ‘striking piece of music’ had made to its success.

An extended version of Barry’s Sunsilk music would eventually be released as ‘The Girl With the Sun in Her Hair’.  If you want to recreate the soundtrack to the ‘Beach’ commercial by adopting the role of the commentator, simply play Barry’s music whilst intoning: ‘Sunsilk can do more for you than any other cosmetic, so know your hair and know your Sunsilk.  It’s part of the art of being beautiful.’  If you want to recreate the image track, you’ll need to provide your own puppy, your own shampoo and your own hair.  And book your own flights to Morocco.

(I would like to thank the History of Advertising Trust for permission to quote from material held in the JWT Archive’s Sunsilk account files)

Richard Farmer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s