Top 20 James Bond “Themes” – 20-11

Since I’m off this week…and I’m hungover and bored this morning, I thought I’d put this idea to rest and make my personal Top 20 James Bond “themes.” I put it in quotes only because some are closing credit themes and some are pieces of music simply IN the film, but always composed for the film specifically. Enjoy!

Top 20 James Bond Themes – 20-11

#20 – “Thunderball” – Tom Jones (Music by John Barry, Lyrics by Don Black), from Thunderball (1965)

Not a massive fan of this song, but Tom Jones’ voice certainly fills the recording space and the resultant recording.

The original main title theme to Thunderball was entitled “Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,” which was written by John Barry and Leslie Bricusse. The title was taken from an Italian journalist who in 1962 dubbed agent 007 as Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. Barry had thought he couldn’t write a song about a vague “Thunderball” term or the story of the film, so his song was a description of the character of James Bond.
The song was originally recorded by Shirley Bassey, but was later rerecorded by Dionne Warwick. Both version were not released until the 1990s. The song was removed from the title credits after producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were worried that a theme song to a James Bond movie would not work well if the song did not have the title of the film in its lyrics. John Barry teamed up with lyricist Don Black and wrote “Thunderball” which was sung by Tom Jones who, according to Bond production legend, fainted in the recording booth when singing the song’s final, high note. Jones said of the final note, “I closed my eyes and I held the note for so long when I opened my eyes the room was spinning.” Like “Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, the lyrics of “Thunderball” are a description of Bond’s character.
Country musician Johnny Cash also submitted a song to EON productions titled “Thunderball” but it wasn’t used. The lyrics of Cash’s “Thunderball” describe the story of the film.

#19 – “Where Has Everybody Gone?” – The Pretenders, from The Living Daylights (1987)

This song was submitted by The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde to producers for possible inclusion in 1987’s The Living Daylights. They liked it and it appears several times throughout the film, playing on the assassin Necros’ headset that he uses to choke his victims. The song was so popular with the production team that it appears quite liberally throughout the soundtrack to underscore a few fight scenes.

#18 – “The World Is Not Enough” – Garbage, from The World Is Not Enough (1999)

Garbage’s theme to 1999’s The World Is Not Enough is never really given enough credit, IMHO. Manson’s performance is great and the song interestingly contrasts the film’s villian, Elektra King’s motives and over the top megalomania without really trying.

#17 – “License to Kill” – Gladys Knight, from License to Kill (1989)

Good Bond song for an amazing film. License To Kill is still one of my faves, right up there with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Honestly, any film that has Bond doing some SPYING is a-ok with me. The video for this song (below) was what got Danny Kleinman the gig of creating the Bond title sequences after Maurice Binder (which he’s been doing ever since) sadly passed away.

#16 – “GoldenEye” – Tina Turner, (Music and lyrics by Bono and The Edge) from GoldenEye (1995)

James Bond’s triumphant return to the cinema after a 6 year absence was long overdue and this revamped idea of a Bond theme by U2’s Bono and The Edge is great fun. Tina Turner does her best Shirley Bassey (with mixed results). The playful, clever lyrics are also a rarity in a Bond theme – “It’s a gold-en honey-trap I’ve got for you toniiiiiiight…” Presented below is the film-edit of the song, with a hard ending (instead of the long fade the soundtrack version has) – much prefer this. Thankfully, the film’s dreadful composer, Eric Serra, had nothing to do with this theme.

Interesting note, the title sequence below got the film banned in Red China because of its depiction of bikini-clad females shattering symbols of Communism – fucking awesome.

#15 – “Live and Let Die” – Paul McCartney and Wings, from Live and Let Die (1973)

The soundtrack to 1973’s Live and Let Die is a bit of an anomaly in the world of James Bond in that it isn’t composed by John Barry (for the first time) and that the title song is written and performed by a Beatle. Sweet. George Martin, the “5th Beatle,” took over composing duties for LALD, quite successfully. Not much else to be said for this one – great fun and a true original Bond theme.

#14 – “You Only Live Twice” – Nancy Sinatra, (Music by John Barry, Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse) from You Only Live Twice (1967)

It was composed by Bond veteran, John Barry. At the time, this was his fourth credited Bond film. The theme song, “You Only Live Twice”, was sung by Nancy Sinatra. In 1998, Robbie Williams sampled the title song “You Only Live Twice” for the chart-topper “Millennium“. A rock version of “You Only Live Twice” was covered by Coldplay when they toured in 2001, and was covered by Natacha Atlas for her 2005 compilation album The Best of Natacha Atlas. The Icelandic singer Björk also recorded a cover version. Also of note is the similarities of the main riff from You Only Live Twice for the Graeme Revell film score in the opening and closing of The Saint, the big screen adaptation of the popular British television series.
Interestingly, an alternative example of a possible theme song (also called “You Only Live Twice” and sung by Lorraine Chandler) was discovered in the vaults of RCA records in the ’90s. Probably intended as a demo for consideration by the film’s producers, it became a very popular track with followers of the Northern soul scene (Chandler was well known for her high-quality soul output on RCA) and can be found on several RCA soul compilations. A completely different “You Only Live Twice” sung by an uncredited Julie Rogers but written by John Barry featured on a James Bond 30th Anniversary CD.

#13 – “All Time High” – Rita Coolidge, (Music by John Barry, Lyrics by Tim Rice) from Octopussy (1983)

Another “unsung” Bond theme – this time by Rita Coolidge. Octopussy is one of the best Bond films, but the title presented the producers and the composer with more than a few problems song-wise. They correctly chose to not bother shoe-horning “Octopussy” awkwardly into the lyrics and chose to try and recreate the feel of 1977’s “Nobody Does It Better” from The Spy Who Loved Me. Admirable effort.

#12 – “A View To A Kill” – Duran Duran, from A View To A Kill (1985)

The song that marked the break-up of 80s supergroup Duran Duran, this was their last single before implosion. Until Madonna’s Die Another Day was released, this was the only Bond theme to ever reach the pole position in the pop charts – unsurprising. What is surprising is how popular Madonna’s polished turd became with its release.

#11 – “If The Was a Man” – The Pretenders, from The Living Daylights (1987)

The “Love Theme” to 1987’s The Living Daylights – again, this isn’t the “theme” of LAD, but it is a very, very strong song. The soundtrack is peppered with melodic references to this sweeping song. Very nice.


~ by seangstm on June 30, 2008.

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