Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

James Bond themes

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • James Bond themes

    All the James Bond themes: ranked from worst to best

    Neil McCormick, music critic
    Telegraph - 2 AUGUST 2019 • 10:04AM

    Killer tunes or dead on arrival? To be chosen to sing over the opening credits of a James Bond film is both a badge of honour and a poisoned chalice, demanding a paradoxical blend of sophistication and cheesiness, musical adventure and reassuring familiarity. In fact, the very first Bond film, Dr No in 1962, made do with a jaunty calypso opening, although composer John Barry and guitarist Monty Norman conjured up a melodramatic instrumental brew that has been thrilling audiences ever since in near infinite variation.

    Crooner Matt Munro performed the first official Bond theme song for 1963’s From Russia With Love and pop stars have been serenading the superspy ever since. Ed Sheeran’s supposed theme for Bond 25 is still under wraps. But here we rank the rest, from worst to best. Who has left us shaken and stirred, and who should have their license revoked?

    23. The Man With The Golden Gun – Lulu, 1974

    As with even the most successful formula, getting the mix of ingredients wrong can prove disastrous. Barry went a little too brassy while lyricist Don Black (composer of five Bond themes over the years) went full double-entendre. Scottish singer Lulu gives it all she’s got but her raw, declarative vocal only serves to emphasise the Carry On James aspect of a cringe-inducing homage to Bond’s “powerful weapon.” “His eye may be on you and me / Who will he bang? / We shall see, oh yeah!” Lulu had a frank assessment: “I think mine was probably the worst (Bond song) ever.”

    22. Tomorrow Never Dies – Sheryl Crow, 1997

    “Darling, I’m killed / I’m in a puddle on the floor,” trills country rock singer Sheryl Crow, not perhaps the most romantic of opening images. Crow’s dreary ballad (co-written with Mitchell Froom) falls foul of a perennial challenge of the Bondgenre for female vocalists: how to express ardour for a homicidal womaniser without sounding like a pathetic victim?

    The real problem, though, is Crow’s soporific delivery and horribly stretched tone on the chorus. Tragically, Crow was parachuted in at the last minute by film producers who got cold feet about composer David Arnold’s superior original theme with lesbian country singer kd lang. Was she too gay for the heterosexual hero?

    21. Moonraker – Shirley Bassey, 1979

    Barry reunited with the great Shirley Bassey for Roger Moore’s space-themed adventure but couldn’t recreate the sinuous magic of earlier collaborations. Barry’s strings are rather lovely, rippling to infinity, but the languorous, yearning ballad (composed with Burt Bacharach lyricist Hal David) is so gentle and subdued it seems less likely to quicken viewers pulses than lull them to sleep.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis and Kate Bush all passed on the opportunity to sing it, and late substitute Bassey has to damp down her melodramatic instincts to capture the lullaby tone. Bedtime with Bond has never sounded so unsexy.

    20. Thunderball – Tom Jones, 1965

    Ian Fleming’s inventive and exciting title phrases don’t always lend themselves to being sung with a straight face. But if anyone can, Tom Jones can. The Welsh wonder’s swaggering macho delivery is so over-the-top it verges on camp, full of explosive grunts and gasps.

    Although only the fourth Bond film, Barry and lyricist Don Black were already tipping towards pastiche by overplaying key musical elements. The arrangement switches almost schizophrenically between sensual restraint and sudden brass punches and timpani bursts. By the time Jones has reached the final note, he sounds like he is about to asphyxiate. The result lacks the cool sophistication we associate with Bond but would make a fantastic theme for Austin Powers. Yeah, baby.

    19. All Time High (from Octopussy) – Rita Coolidge, 1983

    Even Bond’s double-entendre fixated lyricists balked at the title phrase Octopussy. Andrew Lloyd-Webber collaborator Tim Rice was drafted in to write anodyne romantic lyrics for John Barry’s pleasant, easy-listening melody, performed with the sultry disinterest of a bored cocktail lounge chanteuse by Rita Coolidge. As all time highs go, this one barely gets off the ground.

    18. Another Way To Die (from Quantum of Solace) – Jack White and Alicia Keys, 2008

    Like Bond’s supervillains, even the best laid plans often end in disaster. The combination of garage rock genius Jack White and nu soul queen Alicia Keys looked better on paper than in the studio. Another Way To Die uncoils as a sparse, distorted, dirty Delta blues rock wail, high on attitude but short on melody.

    The intro is strong, with Barry-esque strings and horns, sinister piano tinkles and an electric guitar riff that hints at 007’s familiar motif. But when the singing starts it all goes pear-shaped. White and Keys sound as if they are wrestling over a microphone. Quantum of Solace was originally supposed to have been written and sung by Amy Winehouse before drug addiction incapacitated her. That must surely rank as the great lost theme.

    17. Die Another Day – Madonna, 2002

    “I’m gonna avoid the cliché,” Madonna sang, and that she did. Not much loved by most Bond fans, at least Madonna’s electro R&B work-out is expressively weird, brutally modern and evocative of the dark heart of a killer. Featuring excessive autotune and cut up strings, it was the first and possibly the last Bond dance theme. On the plus side, Madonna actually looks as if she might be a match for Bond in either bed or battlefield. Or both.

    16. Writing’s On The Wall (from Spectre) – Sam Smith, 2015

    Slow and restrained, Writing’s On The Wall floats by on resonant piano notes and the faintest brush stroke of orchestra, with all the focus on Smith’s intense, tremulous vocal.

    It may have been better suited to a Hitchcock psychological thriller than the helter-skelter adrenaline rush of James Bond. The ballad ticks by in a mood of building tension, emerging in shadows and ripples, and the big, dramatic reveal turns out not to be a pyrotechnic blast but the sheer emotional rush of Smith’s falsetto. Once again, the film title does not feature in the lyrics. Spectre is actually an awkward acronym for SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion. Try singing that with a straight face.

    15. A View To A Kill – Duran Duran, 1985

    The name’s Bon. Simon Le Bon. New romantic posers Duran Duran always behaved as if they were living in a Bond fantasy and went to town on this Eighties pop epic, replete with a slick verse about “assassination standing still” and histrionic chorus about dancing into the fire. Co-written with Barry, the composer’s usual orchestral punches are replaced with synth stabs sampling horns and strings, peppering the track with an air of random violence. It’s still the only Bond song to reach number one on the US charts.

    14. You Know My Name (from Casino Royale) – Chris Cornell, 2006

    The Daniel Craig era commenced with this tough rock song by composer David Arnold and Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell. Orchestral elements are none-too-subtly weaved in paying homage to the John Barry formula but the high tempo delivery, hard rock guitars and Cornell’s raw, urgent vocal signalled something new for a hard Bond reboot.

    13. The World Is Not Enough – Garbage, 1999

    Composer David Arnold was Barry’s handpicked successor. Shirley Manson’s tough but tender voice proved well suited to Arnold and lyricist Don Black’s aching ballad, which hints at Barry’s style without slavish imitation. Garbage brought a big of alt-rock swagger to the Bond franchise, with a gritty, modern rhythm track, lush strings, synthesiser bleeps and enticing sprinkles of silvery guitar. Nevertheless, it still sounds like a convincing replica rather than a true original.

    12. The Living Daylights – A-Ha, 1987

    The Norwegian pop group and composer Barry clashed in the studio, with the band later claiming he did not deserve a writing credit, and Barry comparing them to the Hitler Youth. Nevertheless, it’s a strong Eighties synth-pop offering, that manages to be an effective pop song whilst weaving through Barry’s signature Bond themes. It went well with new Bond Timothy Dalton’s blow dried hair. It was to be Barry’s last Bond soundtrack. Battling throat cancer, he bowed out from the series and semi-retired from composing, although he survived until 2011, living to the age of 77.

    11. Goldeneye – Tina Turner, 1995

    U2’s Bono and Edge composed the song for fellow Irishman Pierce Brosnan’s debut as the great British hero. The track’s slinky, sexy strut hints at the Bassey-era with strident synth burst on the chorus bringing it into the Nineties. Tina Turner was an ideal Bond vocalist, her raw soulful presence investing what is essentially a tribute song with some tangible humanity before rising up for an imperious chorus. It is a song that has everything you could want from a Bond classic except, perhaps, the kind of killer hook that might deliver a lethal coup de grace. It was named after Fleming’s Jamaican house, where Bono spent his honeymoon.

    continued below...

  • #2
    10. For Your Eyes Only – Sheena Easton, 1981

    Scottish singer Sheena Easton became the only vocalist to appear in the title credits. Composer Bill Conti took over from Barry for one film only, abandoning many of the Bond signature elements in favour of something more contemporary and funky.

    The striking title song is an atmospheric ballad with big ABBA-style piano chords, delivered with a blend of tender intimacy and cabaret flourish by Easton. But fans were not happy with the film’s disco themed chase scenes and John Barry soon returned to take the baton.

    9. From Russia With Love – Matt Munro, 1963

    The first real Bond theme song, written by Lionel Bart (fresh from West End triumph with Oliver!) and sung with cool elegance by bus driver-turned-crooner Matt Monro. The bittersweet ballad plays out not over the movie’s opening credits but its close. Although produced by John Barry, there is nothing particular Bond-specific about it, yet it has a gorgeous sophistication that set a very high bar for all Bond ballads to follow.

    8. Nobody Does It Better – (from The Spy Who Loved Me) – Carly Simon, 1977

    Songwriters Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager cheekily consigned the camp film title to a throwaway line. This little gem of a Californian ballad nevertheless captures the breezy insouciance of the Seventies Roger Moore Bond. Classy, playful and tongue-in-cheek, with an elegant melodic flow and sly, teasing vocal from Carly Simon, it is a Bond song that simultaneously pays homage to and mocks the character.

    7. License To Kill – Gladys Knight, 1989

    This soulful Bond song was written by Narada Michael Walden, Jeffrey Cohen and Walter Afanasieff, incorporating sinister John Barry style elements into the background string themes. Gladys Knight delivers a restrained but powerfully intent vocal, sounding like a woman that even the superspy would think twice about messing with. “Got a license to kill / And you know I’m going straight for your heart.”

    6. You Only Live Twice – Nancy Sinatra, 1967

    John Barry’s swirling violin and French horn intro is dazzling and beguiling, later to be appropriated by Robin Williams for nineties hit Millennium. Leslie Bricusse wrote the mysterious, quasi-philosophical lyrics (“One life for yourself / And one for your dreams”). It is delivered with deadpan allure by Nancy Sinatra, then riding high with These Boots Are Made For Walking. A strange, velvety, mysterious torch song that could only belong to the world of James Bond.

    5. Skyfall – Adele, 2012

    One of the better attempt to replicate the classic Bond torch song. Co-writer and producer Paul Epworth watched 13 Bond films in a row to “decipher the musical code”, eventually determining that Bond songs rely on “a minor ninth as the harmonic code.”

    The familiar John Barry chord progression pulses beneath the chorus of a lushly orchestrated piano ballad, featuring sinister lyrics full of winking Bond references (“You may have my number, you can take my name but you’ll never have my heart”) and a traditionally clunky inclusion of the film title (“When the sky falls, when it crumbles, we will stand tall”). A vocalist the equal of any previous Bond chanteuse, Adele paces herself carefully, gradually powering up as drums, strings and horns kick in. She waits till the final notes to give it the full Shirley Bassey, dragging out the last “skyfaaaaaaallll” for 13 seconds.

    4. We Have All The Time In The World (from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) – Louis Armstrong, 1967

    Of all the Bond themes, it is this that has become a jazz standard, justifiably regarded as one of the greatest and loveliest ballads ever written. It is also the least Bond like song ever to grace a Bond movie. It appears over the closing credits of George Lazenby’s only appearance as the superspy.

    Barry pointed out that you couldn’t use the film’s title as the basis for a lyric “unless you do it like Gilbert and Sullivan.” Instead he composed one of the great Bond instrumental themes, and dished up this little beauty with lyricist Hal David for the end credits, based around a poignant line where Bond nurses his murdered bride, played by Diana Rigg. It proved a fitting swansong for the great jazz singer and trumpeter, Louis Armstrong, who died the following year.


    3. Diamonds Are Forever – Shirley Bassey (1970)

    This slinky, mysterious, gothic ballad has embedded itself in pop culture, much sampled by hip hop artists including Kanye West, Dead Prez and Jay Z. A sinister toybox intro immediately captures the glamorous, dangerous world of the superspy. Delivering lyrics balanced between irony and profundity, Bassey icily hints at a world of hurt beneath her lustful avarice. Sinister, strange, camp, melodramatic and utterly bewitching.


    2. Live and Let Die – Paul McCartney (1973)

    Most non-Barry theme songs amount to little more than loving pastiche, with great composers getting their strings and horns in a knot. Yet as early as 1973, ex-Beatle McCartney showed how Bond could be completely re-imagined, with a witty, multi-part opus that combined piano balladry, a driving orchestral rock rhythm and a playful reggae interlude. The epic sweep and sheer imaginative daring make this a Bond rock classic. Still provides an explosive climax to McCartney concerts, with a somewhat contrasting sentiment to his peace and love classic Let It Be.


    1. Goldfinger – Shirley Bassey, 1964

    What else? This mad, melodramatic cabaret showstopper is the gold standard of Bond themes. The tremendous excitement of the call-and-response opening between lush orchestra and rasping horn section seems to evoke everything about Bond's blend of smooth luxury and animal brutality.

    Shirley Bassey gives the ludicrous lyrics an imperious diva delivery, simultaneously seductive yet fearsome. Barry walks us out with the swaggering pulse of his sinister, gorgeous three-note Bond theme. Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley provided the suitably ludicrous lyrics. Bond producer Harry Saltzman told Barry it was the worst song he’d ever heard.

    How would you rank Bond theme songs from best to worst?
    Last edited by Maurice; 2 August 2019, 10:40 PM.

    Comment


    • #3
      How would you rank Bond theme songs from best to worst?
      But not having the dreadful Day Another Day, Quantum of Solace, and Spectre themes ranked higher than An All Time High, Moonraker and Tomorrow Never Dies, which are all perfectly decent solid and serviceable songs. Frankly, I dont think much of the one from Casino Royale either - instantly forgettable. Golden Gun may not be the best Bond song ever, but its hardly the worst - catchy and at least memorable.

      Licenec to Kill is a perfectly decent song, but its not a number seven, when Thunderball has been relegated to twenty! Overall, the top ten isnt far off, although knock Licence to Kill out. But you do have to wonder at his judgement. I just hope the next Bond has a decent song - apart from Skyfall (which is very much Bond), there hasnt been a really decent song since Tomorrow never Dies, which is 20 years ago!

      Comment


      • #4
        While not a song I love 007 by Barry I think that this captures the action of Bond it's a pity they have not included it in any of the recent outings.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLpc...MOUjCI&index=4

        Comment


        • #5
          For me, nothing beats John Barry's instrumental theme used in the opening titles for On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Nancy Sinatra's You Only Live Twice comes second, and I'd guess Matt Munro's From Russia With Love would come third. After that I would put anything from the 60's through to the 80's without any order of preference, as they're all decent enough songs I would say.

          I appreciate everyone has their preferences, but in my opinion pretty much every tune from the Pierce Brosnan era right through to the most recent film have fairly forgettable theme tunes.
          Last edited by Carl V; 3 August 2019, 09:08 AM.

          Comment


          • #6
            I've always had a soft spot for this:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWibNjWCjkg

            Nick

            Comment


            • #7
              What a terrible list - as mentioned above, no way are TMWTGG and Moonraker worse themes than Die Another Day and the abysmal Writing’s On The Wall. A View To A Kill and Nobody Does It Better should be much higher too.

              Comment


              • #8
                Pretty much agree with the top 10, maybe not the exact running order but the essential tunes all make it there

                Comment


                • #9
                  The best one isn't on the list. John Barry's best theme tune for me is O.H.M.S.S!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The order is a bit rubbish really ( I am being polite ) but then it is compiled by Neil McCormick, music critic of the Telegraph so says it all really!!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      The order is a bit rubbish really ( I am being polite ) but then it is compiled by Neil McCormick, music critic of the Telegraph so says it all really!!
                      I didnt want to mention that, but yes!

                      While hoping for a better song for the next one, I forgot to mention my vote for the next singer/writer.

                      A lot of us must have listened to Amy Winehouses 'Back to Black' and thought 'wow, and would that make a great Bond song...'. Sadly, she was falling apart at the point where work was starting on the song for Quantum, and it never really happened, and then she died.

                      The second I heard Ellie King's 'Under the Influence', I though much the same. The intro to the chorus and the chorus itself is spot on, and great lyrics (which she co-wrote). Very good album, btw.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        OHMSS theme

                        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfjL9uX2leg

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Metro1962 View Post
                          The order is a bit rubbish really ( I am being polite ) but then it is compiled by Neil McCormick, music critic of the Telegraph so says it all really!!
                          It just goes to show how subjective music can be. I don't really know why McCormick has included the Louis Armstrong number "We have all the time in the world" in the list as, while granted the song is used in the film, it isn't played in the opening titles.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            YouTube: 'Jack' is disappointed that La Vie En Rose has not been used in a James Bond film:

                            Jack2 years ago (edited)
                            And to think why this song has never been played in the James Bond films I'll never come to comprehend when in the original novels, this song has left a very particular impact on Bond from an emotional stance that constantly reminds him of the love he once had... Beautiful song!

                            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgTUgLgAsD0
                            Last edited by Maurice; 4 August 2019, 09:08 AM.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Carl V View Post

                              It just goes to show how subjective music can be. I don't really know why McCormick has included the Louis Armstrong number "We have all the time in the world" in the list as, while granted the song is used in the film, it isn't played in the opening titles.
                              McCormick most likely thinks that the theme from O.H.M.S.S is We have all the time in the World and really has no clue but makes a great write up!!

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X