On the heels of the announcement a couple of weeks ago that the next James Bond film has been placed on indefinite hold due to MGM’s budget restraints, I’ve been watching a few of my DVDs. One of the things that the 007 franchise is best known for is a long list of cool theme songs and title sequences. So…being the listmaker that I am, here are my seven (Get it? 007? I crack myself up…) favorite theme songs, with a couple of honorable mentions.
“We Have All The Time In The World,” Louis Armstrong, from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) — This one isn’t exactly a theme song, and let’s face it: Louis Armstrong isn’t exactly who you’d think of to sing a song in a Bond film (about as likely as a duet between Jack White and Alicia Keys…oh wait, that happened). But “We Have All The Time In The World” is a sophisticated, sweet love song that I actually read a few years ago was used as a worship song in some churches in England.
“License To Kill,” Gladys Knight, from License To Kill (1989) — To be brutally honest, the Timothy Dalton movies were nothing short of terrible. And this song doesn’t really sound like a 007 theme, but it’s a good song, and Atlanta girl Gladys Knight gives a really solid performance on this one.
Now…on to the countdown…
007: “You Only Live Twice,” Nancy Sinatra, from You Only Live Twice (1967) — So it lacks the dynamic punch of most of the rest of the 007 theme songs. So it’s a slightly lackluster performance from the woman who brought us “These Boots Are Made For Walking.” It’s still actually a fascinating song, particularly because of the Japanese elements brought into the score, fitting the theme of the film perfectly. For a bonus, check out Coldplay’s cover version…
006: Tomorrow Never Dies,” Sheryl Crow, from Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) — I remember that there was a bit of controversy over this song. k d lang had written and produced a song for the film, and the producers passed it over for Sheryl Crow’s song; I remember some critics being up in arms over the choice, but I can’t help but think that the producers made the right decision. It’s a cool song, and I think it’s one of Sheryl Crow’s best performances.
005: “Thunderball,” Tom Jones, from Thunderball (1965) — In 1965, Tom Jones was the epitome of cool. His schtick looks corny today, but I think he’s a heck of a vocalist. He was probably the obvious choice for this theme song, and the song shows his vocal capabilities well. I’d say it’s a good follow-up to “Goldfinger” as far as the theme songs go, and it set the stage for even more great songs to come.
004: “You Know My Name,” Chris Cornell, from Casino Royale (2006) — After the themes from the last two Pierce Brosnan films veered sharply in a techno/dance direction, it was nice to see the first Daniel Craig theme song really ROCK! Chris Cornell was the perfect choice to write and perform this song (Why didn’t they ask him years ago?), and the song and clever title sequence went a long way to establish the gritty, realistic tone of the new films.
003: “Diamonds Are Forever,” Shirley Bassey, from Diamonds Are Forever (1971) — Shirley Bassey, arguably one of the most melodramatic vocalists of all time…but in a good way, recorded the themes to three Bond films: Goldfinger (probably her best known song), Diamonds Are Forever, and Moonraker. Her second time up is the best song; it’s a textbook slice of sophisticated early 70s pop, delivered with Bassey’s trademark vibrato. The song offers quite a nice vocal range for her, and the melody is both catchy and classy.
002: “Nobody Does It Better,” Carly Simon, from The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) — Even if it hadn’t been a Bond theme, it’s an incredible song, and probably Carly Simon’s finest performance. Cleverly written and perfectly produced, it’s a theme song that transcends the kitsch of a late 70s Roger Moore flick.
001: “Live And Let Die,” Paul McCartney & Wings, from Live And Let Die (1973) — I guess it would stand to reason that the Bond theme by one of the Beatles would be my favorite, but would you believe that he almost didn’t record it? Even with a McCartney-written theme song and a score by George Martin, the producers almost hired Thelma (“Don’t Leave Me This Way”) Houston to sing it! I’m sure she would’ve done a fine job, but could you imagine anything better than the amazing record that it turned out to be? The song threads the line between rock and classical/film scoring and its driving energy helps set the tone for the movie. Hands down, it’s the best.
There’s my Top 7. Let me know what you think…