Wed
Sep 19 2012 2:00pm

The James Bond Theme Song Dossier

The James Bond Theme Song Dossier

Bombastic, kitsch, or catchy, there’s something unique about a James Bond theme song. There are a few timeless classics, but most either represent a weird moment in the zeitgeist, or are downright embarassing. Uniquely, James Bond theme songs are often better than the films they kick off, though the reverse can occasionally be true, too. With excitement for Skyfall ramping up and the confirmation that Adele is performing the new theme song, it’s time to determine once and for all which 007 tunes are better than their respective films, which ones are worse, and which ones fit just right.

Shake up a martini, and grab your headphones. The James Bond Theme Song Dossier is declassified!

 

“Dr. No” (The James Bond Theme) written by Monty Norman. Performed by The John Barry Orchestra (1962)

Though the Eric Rogers song “Under the Mango Tree” features heavily in this film (Bond even sings a few bars) the actual theme song for Dr. No is simply the slick famous instrumental James Bond theme, complete with horns and guitar. Every single real James Bond movie (the Peter Sellers Casino Royale and Connery’s Never Say Never Again don’t count) uses some arrangement of this theme. Does it fit with the movie? Well, really, how could it not? Dr. No is a solid and entertaining James Bond film, but by no means the best. So, in this sense its theme song is better than the movie. It’s also possible that “The James Bond Theme” is better than all the James Bond movies combined.

Verdict: Theme song is better.

 

“From Russia With Love” written by Lionel Bart, performed by Matt Monro + “007” written by John Barry and performed by the The John Barry Orchestra (1963)

I love this one. Several months ago I was waiting for a train on a New York City subway platform and a man was playing an instrumental version of this on a trumpet, which is awesome because the opening sequence of the film is also an instrumental version. (People singing at the start of James Bond movies doesn’t happen until Goldfinger.) This is one of those great classic crooner songs that just gets stuck in your head and makes you feel all dizzy and romantic. Like many James Bond themes, it’s actually more tender than the characters in the movie. From Russia With Love is up there with my favorite Connery movies, and this theme song does generally fit with the film. However, I think it could have easily been a memorable movie even if it had a different theme song.

But, the real cool one here is the introduction of the instrumental adventure theme “007.” This orchestral drum pounding romp is basically a chase scene in the form of strings, percussion, and brass. I love love love this. It’s more heroic than “The James Bond Theme,” and when it’s used in subsequent movies, I get chills. I’m really not sure why contemporary Bond composer David Arnold never brought it back for Dalton, Brosnan, or Craig-era films. Easily a better piece of music than the film where it originated.

Verdict: “From Russia With Love” is probably as just as good as From Russia With Love. Meanwhile “007” beats them all and is perfect.

 

“Goldfinger” written by John Barry, Anthony Newley, and Leslie Bricusse. Performed by Shirley Bassey (1964)

Arguably, this is the best of all James Bond theme songs, introducing what is also arguably the best James Bond movie. Like other early films, the song also incorporates part of “The James Bond Theme” into its arrangement, making the instrumental motifs of the song throughout the movie super-nuanced. There’s no getting around how great the movie is or how great this song still sounds. It’s sexy, flashy and memorable. This is also the first time of three times Shirley Bassey is singing for Bond! If I was backed against a wall by a man with a lethal hat and forced to pick between the song and the movie, I’d probably pick the song, by a very small margin.

Verdict: Theme song is better, but only just barely.

 

“Thunderball” written by John Barry and Don Black, performed by Tom Jones + “Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” written by John Barry and Leslie Bricusse, performed by Dionne Warwick. (1965)

This one is full of all sorts of weird history. The original theme for this movie was supposed to be “Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” but was changed at the last minute to “Thunderball.” Johnny Cash also sent these guys a song called “Thunderball” which ended up not being used. Finally, Tom Jones apparently fainted after singing the last note of “Thunderball!” Weird.

After “Goldfinger” we got another Bond theme song seemingly about the bad guy, rather than about Bond. Or is it about Bond? Tom Jones is fairly cool in this one, but there’s something about Thunderball the movie and the song that aren’t quite up to par for me. (Maybe it’s because they couldn’t make their minds up.) There’s a great underwater scuba-brawl which uses “007” again, but this is definitely one where the movie is slightly better than the song. Tom Jones is right for a James Bond song, but fails to be as memorable as some of the other big artists.

“Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” shows up on some Bond music compilation and is a little too tinny and silly for my tastes. James Bond movies sometimes have two legitimate theme songs, but I really don’t think “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” should count.

Verdict: Thunderball and “Thunderball” are both decent, with the movie being slightly better. “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” is really hard to accept as being real.

 

“You Only Live Twice” written by John Barry and Leslie Bricusse, performed by Nancy Sinatra (1967)

Like many of the early Bond songs, the arrangements of the melodies are a natural fit for the film’s score. I think the opening strings in this one are totally over-the-top cheesy-wonderful. The world seems to agree with me, since covers and samples of this song are everywhere! From Bjork to Coldplay to Robbie Williams to Cee-Lo, those opening strings are part of the human musical brain. This one is a personal favorite and despite the various incarnations, I think Nancy Sinatra hits it out of the park. There’s also a stellar foot-chase sequence in where an aerial camera angle is accompanied by the orchestral version of the theme. Great movie moment. For me “You Only Live Twice” is a kooky and fun Bond movie, with a fitting saccharine theme song. But because of its deserved ubiquity, I think the song is winning.

Verdict: Theme song is better! (Related viewing: the video for Robbie Williams “Millenium”which is is a full-on Connery and Moore era James Bond homage. Aston Martin! Voodoo guy! Gambling! Jet pack!)

 

“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” Written by John Barry, performed by theJohn Barry Orchestra + “We Have All the Time in the World” Written by John Barry, performed by Louis Armstrong (1969)

Oh no! The Connery era is pratically over! When Bond was rebooted with new actor George Lazenby, the opening titles were, again only instrumental. “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” is an awesome piece of music and so iconic that it was even sampled in the trailer for The Incredibles.

The film itself is a little on the not very good side, though aspects are interesting. The song is certainly winning over the movie with this one. However, the other theme song for “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” is the Louie Armstrong “We Have All the Time in the World,” a love song about James Bond and Tracy, I guess. The title is also the last thing Bond says to the audience while he’s holding Tracy’s dead body in his arms. Seriously, this movie is such a downer; it almost makes me love it for being so weird. Almost. “We Have All the Time in the World” is sweet enough, but not something I ever listen to when I’m in the mood for Bond OR Louie Armstrong.

Verdict: Theme song—“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” is way better than the movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Although “We Have All the Time in the World” is worse than On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

 

“Diamonds Are Forever” Written Don Black, performed by Shirley Bassey, (1971)

With Connery returning to the role of Bond, it makes sense to play it safe and go with Shirley Bassey for the song, since she previously did the best Bond song ever with “Goldfinger.” Notably, this is the only time a performer was used again (Bassey recorded three in all) to do a Bond opening theme.

However, it’s less than stellar. “Diamonds Are Forever” is slow, uninteresting and has creepy themes. Sort of like the movie! This is one everyone should skip. Hearing this song always reminds me of how bored Connery looked in this movie. The song and the movie certainly need each other, but they’re both just the worst. Then-Bond producer Harry Saltzman also hated the song.

Verdict: Both are terrible.

 

“Live And Let Die” written and performed by Paul McCartney and Wings (1973)

The first Bond film to feature Roger Moore was also the first to not have John Barry composing the music. This time, Beatles producer George Martin was in charge, making ex-Beatles Paul McCartney a natural choice for the theme song.

I’ve always loved how Bond is talking smack about The Beatles in Goldfinger but less than 10 years later; a Beatle produces the best James Bond song since the song “Goldfinger.” As a big Beatles fan, this is never a Paul McCartney solo song I ever listen to, mostly just because it’s been a bit over-played. But I loved it as a kid. It’s great, it seems like a Bond movie, it’s really different from 60’s era stuff and the orchestral arrangements of it in the film are thrilling.

Is it better than the movie it occupies? You bet. Live and Let Die is a disaster of movie. Sometimes racist, other times inappropriately slapsticky. This one is really hard to watch, even if Roger Moore’s 70’s suits look great and the alligator sequence rocks. The song will live on way beyond anyone’s knowledge of the film. Just don’t listen to that Gun N’ Roses version.

Verdict: ”Live and Let Die“ is way better than Live and Let Die.

 

“The Man With the Golden Gun” Written by John Barry and Don Black, performed by Lulu (1974)

Oh the 70s. I’m so confused by you. Why were there groups singers like Lulu in the 70s? Why did she do this song? Just how much does it suck? Almost as much as the oddly creepy movie? There’s a school of thought which claims James Bond was ruined over the years by too much self-parody in the writing of the scripts. The same might very well be true of the theme songs; with “The Man With the Golden Gun” being a big culprit. Full of sex/killing innuendos, this earworm is definitely one to skip. The movie is slightly better than its theme song, but only because Christopher Lee is in it and he has three nipples.

Verdict: Movie is barely better.

 

“Nobody Does It Better” Written by Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager, performed by Carly Simon (from The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977)

I know this is going to be hard for everyone to believe but this is easily one of my favorite songs of all time, and my secret favorite among the good James Bond theme songs. Carly Simon’s famous love letter to Bond has been covered by pretty much everyone, but the Aimee Mann version is easily the best and possibly better than the original. Of the various Bond songs which are corny love songs, this is the best. The movie isn’t bad either! Bond meets his match with agent XXX (not Vin Diesel), drives an underwater car, and shoots a dude while skiing. What more do want? It’s too bad the song is so memorable, because it would almost be a tie. But, really, this song could have gone with any Moore-era Bond movie.

Verdict: Song is better.

 

“Moonraker” written by John Barry and Hal David. Performed Shirley Bassey (1979)

Not sure what they were thinking here. I suppose after a love song worked as the opening theme for The Spy Who Loved Me, the producers figured bringing back the singer of “Goldfinger” (again) was money in the bank. It’s so weird that both of these Shirley Bassey songs after “Goldfinger” are big old clunkers. She’s got a gorgeous voice and in theory this should work, but it’s just weird. Why is this corny love song at the beginning of a movie about Bond flying space ships and shooting lasers? Is this a dream? Obviously because of the aforementioned lasers and the return of Jaws, the movie Moonraker is way better than the song “Moonraker.”

Verdict: Movie is better.

 

“For Your Eyes Only” by written by Bill Conti and Michael Leeson, performed by Sheena Easton (1981)

I am a huge James Bond fan, but I’m not sure I can tell you what happens in this movie. Part of me is convinced it’s not actually anything more than a series of Bond clichés strung together. Here’s the snow scene! Look, here’s Bond in the casino! Now he’s underwater! I also recall Roger Moore wearing a windbreaker and looking like someone’s lame dad throughout.

The theme song however is kind of sweet and is the only Bond opening sequence to actually feature the singer singing to you! The first time a character sings the theme song in a Bond movie is “Live And Let Die” but of course the person singing isn’t Paul McCartney. The only time a singer of the theme song is also a character in a Bond movie is when Madonna appears in Die Another Day.

“For Your Eyes Only” was also nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award. Though I’m not crazy about the corny love-song marathon during the Roger Moore era, this one doesn’t really bug me. Though Blondie was originally going to do a song (bummer!) Sheena Easton is fantastic. There’s no question that this forgettable Bond movie is much worse than its sweet little theme song.

Verdict: Song is way better, and actually kind of romantic.

 

“All Time High” (From Octopussy) Written by John Barry and Tim Rice, performed by Rita Coolidge. (1983)

Wow. This song is terrible. I remember being mortified by its crappiness even as a teenager. The Roger Moore-era is sort of at its worse in Octopussy. The saxophone outro of this song describes the crappiness of the movie and the song perfectly. Shockingly, Tim Rice wrote the lyrics to this cliché nonsense. I’d like to say Maud Adams saves this movie, but she doesn’t, no more than Tim Rice saves the song. In terms of the song/movie competition, it’s slightly close because they’re both so bad, but I’ll have to give it to the movie, if only for the audacious title.

Verdict: Movie is better, I guess?

 

“A View To A Kill” written by John Barry and Duran Duran and peformed by Duran Duran. (1985)

Boom! Bond is back! In terms of charts and sales, this is still the most popular James Bond theme song, ever. That’s right, Duran Duran beat Paul McCartney! Apparently it was also Duran Duran’s idea to do a James Bond theme song, after the bassist John Taylor asserted that nobody decent ever does the theme songs. Is the movie any good? Well, it’s got Christopher Walken, Patrick Macnee, AND Grace Jones, so it’s watchable as hell. But, Roger Moore looks terrible in it and the film has a general suckiness to it. Overall, it’s super fun. However, the contest between song and movie is pretty obvious in this one.

Verdict: Song is WAY better.

 

“The Living Daylights” written by John Barry and Ah-ha, performed by A-ha (Also “If There Was a Man” by the Pretenders, 1987)

After over a decade of Roger Moore as Bond, Timothy Dalton stepped into the role for what was a slightly more serious version of the famous agent. This was the last Bond film scored by John Barry, and featured an upbeat opening track by A-ha.

It’s funny how the successful Bond theme songs sometimes would create a trend of other very similar types of songs. After “Nobody Does It Better” became a success, all Bond movies had saccharine love songs. After “A View To A Kill” killed it, the producers seemed to have ordered a pop-replacement in the form of “The Living Daylights.” For being a poor man’s “A View To A Kill,” “The Living Daylights” isn’t all that bad. For novelty reasons only, I sometimes prefer it to “A View To A Kill.” The movie isn’t half bad either.

Though, on balance, everything here is just okay. And because the song really is a poor man’s “A View To A Kill,” and the movie has a scene in which Bond rides a cello case like a sled, the movie wins by a small margin.

Oddly, this is an instance in a Bond movie where there’s randomly another song sung over the closing credits. It’s called “If There Was a Man” and it’s by The Pretenders. I guess they were trying to make a big deal out of Dalton’s debut by giving him two songs? This one doesn’t have any impact on me at all, and there was a man, but so what?

Verdict: The movie is a little better. Though I really irrationally love this song.

 

“License To Kill” written by Narada Michael Walden, Jeffrey Cohen and Walter Afanasieff. Performed by Gladys Knight and “If You Asked Me To” written and performed by Patti LaBelle. (1989)

I feel like with this song the Bond franchise is splitting the difference. On the one hand this is a sort of old school love song from the Roger Moore era, but on the other hand it’s kind of got some throwbacks to “Goldfinger.” (It even uses some of the horn line from that one.) I actually quite like this song and I think there’s something slightly more romantic about it than it lets on. Like the previous Bond film, this one also has a second song sung over the end credits; the Patti LaBelle song “If You Asked Me To” which was covered by Celine Dion years later. It’s pretty obvious why Celine took it; it’s a belter of a big epic love song. Totally great. Weird that it’s in this James Bond movie.

The movie is sort of just okay. Though I’m always bonkers for the “Bond goes rogue” premise, this one has a lot of third act problems which really bury the movie in a confusing mess filled with semi-trucks and missile launchers. If you have to choose between the two, I think the Gladys Knight music video is sort of genius.

Verdict: The song is better and Gladys Knight looks great in a tux.

 

“GoldenEye” written by Bono and the The Edge, performed by Tina Turner (1995)

Despite some corny hacker stuff, GoldenEye holds up as being a really great Bond movie and easily remains the best of the four Pierce Brosnan outings. And the theme song is awesome! Written by Bono and The Edge of U2, this one feel like a classic era Bond song, but is somehow new and catchy every time you hear it. The opening title sequence was really hot and the music video with Tina is great. I’m sort of bummed out she’s not in the movie playing some awesome MI6 inventor or something. Not since Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome has a movie needed Tina Turner more. Further, considering how long Bond had been away, they needed some big guns like Tina.

Verdict: The song is better. Come on. It’s Tina Turner. Why did it take them so long to get her to do one of these anyway?

 

“Tomorrow Never Dies” written and performed by Sheryl Crow and “Surrender” written by k.d. lang and David Arnold and perfromed by k.d. lang. (1997)

The 1990s are a weird time for James Bond movies, and the choice of Sheryl Crow for this one seems super arbitrary. I actually don’t mind Sheryl Crow at all, but this is not one of her better offerings. I mean that “Steve McQueen” song of hers is better than this. Tomorrow Never Dies the film is also a huge step backwards after GoldenEye and the feeble attempt the song is making to be catchy parallels the feeling you get from the movie: it’s just trying a little too hard.

Oddly, there’s again another theme song in this movie which is much better called “Surrender”written with new Bond composer David Arnold and performed by k.d lang. This song is totally awesome, sounds like a Bond theme, and was relagated to end-credtis status by the producers. Bummer! (But here’s a fan-edit with the good k.d. lang song for the opening credits.)

Verdict: The movie Tomorrow Never Dies is slightly better than the song “Tomorrow Never Dies” BUT, the k.d lang song “Surrender” is way better than Tomorrow Never Dies and “Tomorrow Never Dies.”

 

“The World is Not Enough” written by David Arnold and Don Black, performed by Garbage. (1999)

I really like this one. It’s got something really old-fashioned about it, but it also rocks. I think Garbage is great. (I mean really, who hasn’t jammed out to “I’m Only Happy When it Rains?”) The movie is sort of a mixed bag. It’s pretty hard not to be offended by the presence of Denise Richards, but the rest of the story is actually not bad. I like the way Bond gets screwed over in this one and the way M is in on the action. But, really, you could hear the song and never care about the movie one bit. Apparently David Arnold really wanted this one to sound like a John Barry-era song. It worked and Shirley Manson sounds like she’s time-traveled straight from 1963.

Verdict: The song is way, way better than the movie.

 

“Die Another Day” written and perfromed by Madonna (2002)

It’s shocking no one thought to get Madonna to do a Bond theme before this one. With Die Another Day the franchise was pulling out all the stops because, at the time, it was the 40th anniversary of the Bond film franchise. In terms of a movie, I think Die Another Day is probably the worst James Bond movie of all time, if only because it’s such a cynical mess. (Though it does have a great pre-title sequence) It’s hard to believe this is the same James Bond from GoldenEye. However, I think Madonna's theme song is a great techno-dance track and totally belongs in a James Bond movie. It’s rad.

This music video in which she fights herself contains probably more James Bond references than the actual movie. It’s also sort of the best anyone could hope for in terms of being entertained by the weird medium of music videos based on songs written for movies. It should feel cynical, but it doesn’t.

Verdict: The song is way better.

 

“You Know My Name” (From Casino Royale, 2006) written by David Arnold and Chris Cornell. Performed by Chris Cornell.

Initially, I wasn’t crazy about this one mostly because I couldn’t get behind Chris Cornell’s voice. But as I’ve watched Casino Royale several times since, the song has really grown on me. I think it really hits me in an early scene when Bond is driving a fork lift and the awesome orchestra version of the theme sort of blasts through. It’s a great touch. Now, obviously Casino Royale is awesome and a nearly perfect Bond movie. I can’t say enough good things about it. It’s also the most faithful to the novels, which gives it huge points in my book.

Verdict: The movie is way better by virtue of being maybe the best James Bond movie ever.

 

“Another Way to Die” (From Quantum of Solace, 2008) written by Jack White. Perfomed by Jack White and Alicia Keyes.

Still loving Daniel Craig as Bond even though Quantum of Solace is totally terrible feels weird. What is even happening in this movie? I know D. Craig is supposed to be the dark, brooding Bond, but the complete lack of humor in this movie is shocking. There’s something almost depressing about the movie’s lack of thematic focus.

However, the song by Jack White and Alicia Keyes is excellent. Not since Tina Turner, Bono and The Edge have the Bond songs had such talented musicans around. What a waste to use them on this odd duck of a James Bond movie. They’re the only duo in Bond song history thus far! The song is catchy and hot and this music video with them is even cooler than the Madonna ”Die Another Day“ entry.

Verdict: The song is way better, if only because Jack White had the good sense to avoid using the word “quantum” in the lyrics.

 

There you have it readers/listeners. The history of James Bond theme songs is long and strange. If there’s one overall pattern I’ve noticed it’s this: when the film’s composer is not writing the theme song, and instead total creative control is left to that artist, the songs tend to be better and more memorable. But, without John Barry, and now David Arnold (who also now scores Sherlock), we certainly wouldn’t know what Bond sounds like in general, meaning their influence can’t be stressed enough.

Now, dear readers, tell me which theme songs you loved, which movies you thought were better than their songs and vice versa. Let’s shake things up 007 style!


Ryan Britt is a staff writer for Tor.com. If you see him walking around lip-synching to his iPod, the chances of the song being “For Your Eyes Only” are really high.

29 comments
Noneo Yourbusiness
1. Longtimefan
I will agree with you and say that Goldfinger is marginally the top of the heap from the songs. It is catchy, it hints to the story and it is sung wonderfully.

I own all of the DVDs for the pre Craig Bond movies. I love them all in their own ways but sometimes they are not very good. Sadly Live and Let Die is such a better song than the movie. A really good song and probably in the top three of the Bond songs.

Generally the songs are good to me for various reasons even if the song itself is kinda corny (Diamonds are Forever, I am looking at you)

But the title sequence is also important with the songs and I know it is going to sound sexist but I find the female sihouettes to be intergral to the overal feel of the franchise openings.

James bond is a super spy but also a dynamic sexual character (for good or for ill) and the lack of women in the opening credits of Casino Royale just made it feel kind of off to me.

To be honest I did not like the movie for several reasons and have not watched the other Craig film.

I have similar problems with Live and Let Die and the Man with the Golden Gun (mostly the horrible and pointless sherriff) and rarely watch them.

Now I will watch my favorite one tonight. On Her Majesty's Secret Service. I cannot help it. It has Diana Rigg and she is fantastic.

Not good in the song catagory and not really the most engaging of the Bond actors but the scenery and the costumes and the chase scenes are spectacular. Very of its time.
berthok
2. berthok
Just recently I became obsessed with Nancy Sinatra and "You Only Live Twice". I'm not ashamed to admit it! I even tried to learn how to play the guitar just to place that song. Didn't get very far but it's something I will revisit some day.

This is my favorite of the Bond songs. Now, if you ask me about my favorite of the Bond girls... I'd have to say...

Maryam d'Abo
berthok
3. Jeff S.
"Die Another Day" might be the worst Bond movie of all time, but it has Halle Berry walking out of the ocean. That's good enough for me.
JP Ikäheimonen
4. Oldtribe
I too like the song "You only live twice" best of all Bond songs. Nancy Sinatra gives a great performance, but I have lost my heart to the orchestral version. It's one of the top five movie themes ever.
Mike Conley
5. NomadUK
So many great tunes ... and a few utter klunkers, of course.

Favourites: 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service', 'Goldfinger', 'You Only Live Twice', 'The World Is Not Enough', and 'Diamonds Are Forever' (though I completely agree that Diamonds Are Forever as a film was crap). Shirley Bassey is probably the best of the singers (I will forgive her for the execrable 'Moonraker', but only because I know she would have belted any better song out of the park), Nancy Sinatra is just fine, as is Garbage, with a wonderfully retro piece that could have been done for a Connery film.

I definitely like 'Live and Let Die', 'You Know My Name', and 'Another Way To Die'. 'A View To a Kill' is pretty good, too. 'Thunderball' has a good melody, but insipid lyrics (what exactly is thunderball like, that one could be compared to it?).

It occurs to me that I intensely dislike all but two Roger Moore-era tunes, which goes hand-in-hand with my dislike of almost all of Moore's Bond films, except possibly The Spy Who Loved Me — which is a much better film than the song.

Daniel Craig simply is James Bond. Sean Connery comes close in Dr No Goldfinger, and From Russia With Love, but, seriously, Craig is the best there has ever been. And I really do get tired of people dissing Quantum of Solace; I don't particularly need overdoses humour in my Bond films, I don't mind dark introspection in a bloke whose job is to kill without conscience for Queen and country, and for some reason I'm able to follow a plot reasonably well, so this film works just fine.

And another vote for On Her Majesty's Secret Service as an undersung, great Bond film — a precursor to the darker Craig films, and a welcome innoculation against the drivel that was to follow with Roger Moore. Lazenby turns in a fine performance, and — Diana Rigg. One needs nothing more. And your inexplicable dismissal of Armstrong and 'All the Time In the World', which is a wonderful song, is only barely compensated for by your agreement with me regarding Craig's Casino Royale. Screw upbeat.
berthok
6. TheMadLibrarian
For me, the best Bond themes are the original instrumental ones. There are two: the classic James Bond theme (guitar riff FTW!), and the secondary one that was introduced for You Only Live Twice, when Bond was scooting about in the autogyro. The others (and the movies as well) are take it or leave it, depending on my mood that day and my need for popcorn.
T C
7. Freelancer
Shirley Bassey, Gert Frobe, Honor Blackmon, Harold Sakata, Lois Maxwell, the '64 DB5. And the only real Bond, Connery. How can Goldfinger, movie or themesong, be anything but the best?
Del C
8. del
Lulu's not a group, but a singer, still around today.
Chris Meadows
9. Robotech_Master
On Her Majesty's Secret Service is really underrated. If it had been a Connery movie, it would probably be considered one of the best. For one thing, it's almost verbatim faithful to the book it was based on in a way no other Bond movie would be before or since until the Craig Casino Royale. In a series where at least one movie (The Spy Who Loved Me) was so different from the story whose title it was based on that they had one of the scriptwriters novelize the movie script for the tie-in, that's saying something!

It also had one of the all-time best ski chases of any Bond film. It might not have ended in parachuting off a cliff, but in terms of stunts and action it beats the pants off the one in The Spy Who Loved Me.

(In fact, you could say it's too faithful to the book—since the books were filmed out of order from how they were written, Bond had met Blofeld in a couple of other movies already, but in the book this was their first face-to-face encounter. But just as they didn't recognize each other at first in the books, they didn't recognize each other in the movie either! Of course, to be fair, they were both being played by different actors at the time, so it's easy to see how they could be confused.)

Another ironic thing about "We Have All the Time in the World", which resonates poignantly with the Traci story, is that it was the last song Louis Armstrong recorded before he died. All the time in the world indeed.
Joel Cunningham
10. jec81
Pulp did a cover of "All Time High" that I really like.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maeELHysFPE
john mullen
11. johntheirishmongol
I like a few of the songs. The Nancy Sinatra song is great, I like the Paul McCartney and Wings song and From Russia with Love was excellent. I am not as fond of Goldfinger, not a big Shirley Bassey fan. The movie was great. But as always the real discussion is who makes the best Bond.

I, personally, have a great fondness for Pierce Brosnan as Bond. He got screwed out of the role when he was younger because he got tied up with Remington Steele, but he did get a chance later and I thought the balance of action, toughness, and humor was the right amount.

I don't care for Daniel Craig because it totally lacks humor and while I do like superhero movies, he is actually too buffed out for Bond, who smokes, drinks, chases women and has a lot of human frailties.

I did enjoy Connery here, but it ruined his career for any serious acting. That happens a lot to UK actors. They do go for the money.

Roger Moore performed the role exactly right or the time the movies came out. By then it was all about the humor, the gadgets, and the girls and he was the right person for the role.

I do like some things about Daltrey playing Bond. He was about the right age and had a really good twinkle in his eye, but he was almost too goody-goody as written.
berthok
12. Erik Dercf
Nancy S is great with "You Only Live Twice" it is the ice in Bond's drink and her voice is as good as any spirit you can put in a glass. Daniel Craig's Bond is wonderful but his Bond shows how much influence The Jason Bourne films have had on the popular notion of a spy. While Bond remains a brand Craig's departure from the previous Bond portrayals is blond, bold, and new new new not old.
alastair chadwin
13. a-j
Robotech_Master@9
When Fleming sold the film rights for the Bond novels he stipulated that only the title of The Spy Who Loved Me could be used, not the plot.

Personal favourite Bond theme/song? Tricky. Lot of love for 'Diamonds Are Forever', soft spot for 'The Man With The Golden Gun' with its weird lines about 'In the next room/Or this very one/The man with the golden gun' and 'Live & Let Die' is great but grammatically inept: 'In this ever changing world/In which we live in'. 'Surrender' from Tomorrow Never Dies is great and really should have been the main theme, rumour has it that David Arnold decided it was too reminiscent of the 60s.
Much prefer 'Nobody Does It Better' to the appalling The Spy Who Loved Me, that anyone actually likes this film genuinely mystifies me! And don't get me started on Moonrake
So song that is so much better than the film? For me it has to be Duran Duran's 'View To A Kill'.
Long Time Fan@1:
Have to disagree with respect. I loved the whole opening to Casino Royale including the credit sequence. I feel the nude silhouettes etc had become tacky rather than stylish, but each to their own (apart from attitudes towards The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker in which I am right:))
Ryan Britt
14. ryancbritt
@6 You know, it would be interesting if they suddenly decieded to NOT have a theme song with vocals at some point. I wonder if it would seem "classier."

@8 Noted! Fixed in the post!

@10
Well, Pulp can make anything good, right?

@11 I think Pierce is a fine Bond. It's just that after GoldenEye he didn't really get any good scripts!
I assume you mean Dalton and not Daltrey? I mean Robert Daltrey might have been able to pull it off, right? ;-) No, all kidding aside, I really like Dalton, I think The Living Daylights is the only good one of the two though.

@13
Seems like we agree!
Terence Tidler
15. libertariansoldier
"It’s pretty hard not to be offended by the presence of Denise Richards?" What? In a series that caused the phrase "Bond Girl "to enter the lexicon?
I like all three of the Bassey songs and have them all on my iPod--of course, I also have FRWL, DAD, AWtD, FYEO, AVtaK, LtK, and TWiNE.
And as far as Casino Royale and "It’s also the most faithful to the novels," you must have been reading a novelization of the movie. In the original novel Le Chiffre is a paymaster for a Communist backed labor union, not an international money launderer; he is an agent of SMERSH, not some Trilateral Council Conspiracy, the action is restricted to a small area around northern France, not all over the world, and James Bond does NOT play Texas Hold'em. Sheesh.
Also, you must never have read the novels Dr. No, From Russia with Love, or Thunderball.
berthok
16. Your Mom
I guess my perspective is a bit skewed due to my age. For me Bond music is strictly instrumental. So, Dr. No had the best theme song but I will agree that Live and Let Die is the best song with lyrics. Growing up with the Beatles, while not actually living near them, just near their music, I was a huge fan. Still am. As for the Roger Moore Bond movies, they all sucked. Anybody's dad would have done a better job playing 007. Good job on all your research. It seems that the newer the movie the more you liked that music and the less I even paid attention to it. I guess that makes sense.
Ryan Britt
17. ryancbritt
@15 Hey there!
I actually have read all the Bond novels. I'd stand by my statement about Casino Royale, insofar as it really does a great job at updating the same basic story, and making it relevant for a contemporary movie. Of course he's battling terrorists and not communists, and he's playing Hold 'em instead of Bacharach. But, the very A Farwell to Arms romance between him and Vesper is potrayed pretty well, I think. Sure, there's a big climax, in the movie, whereas in the book she kills herself and leaves a note, but still. I mean, at this point, the only way to do a totally accurate adapatation would to be a period piece. (Which
Tarantino wanted to do at some point.)

I'm actually doing a post soon on the books versus the movies, so stay tuned for that! :-)
Liz J
18. Ellisande
@ryan Definitely showing my age, but as a person who had the poster on my wall, I can tell you the group's name is spelled a-ha. (and also they were dreamy!) I thought even at the time that they were a bit of an odd choice to do a Bond theme, especially following Duran Duran, who were huge megastars. The song's okay, though my favorite is World is Not Enough for the modern songs.

And I have to throw a little love at Tomorrow Never Dies the movie, for Michelle Yeoh. Her character was competent and believably tough, and her scenes were fun.
Ryan Britt
19. ryancbritt
@18 How right you are! Spelling will be changed now!
john mullen
20. johntheirishmongol
Ryan..yes, you are right. I meant Dalton.

Mom, you and I are of an age, and I thought the instrumentals were ok, but just ok. They weren't any better than a number of other theme songs of the day. I remember an album I had with theme songs of a number of movies of the day, and others were as good or better.

Libertariansoldier..I agree with you about Casino Royale, although I must say it's much closer that the Woody Allen/David Niven version of the same title.
Noneo Yourbusiness
21. Longtimefan
@ a-j'

I completely understand that the title sequence has been done well and done tacky depending on the arrangement but even if they had been digital renderings of women to match the animations it would have been somewhat in keeping with the long tradition of the visual asthetic.

But that is not the reason I am not fond of Casino Royale. The writing just did not sit with me at all. One of my dislikes (and it has been years since I read the book so I do not know if it is in the book or not) is his breaking in to M's apartment and having a restrained tantrum.

Just so wrong on so many levels. James Bond (the character) has had disagreements with the Home Office in other storylines but has always kept his business at work or in a neutral location, not in his or his boss's home. It is just not very professional and why would you grant a license to kill to someone who cannot behave in a professional manner. But that is just me.

Plus the clothes are awful. :)

I am curious about your attitudes about Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. Personally I like them.
Shelly wb
22. shellywb
This is an amazing amount of work you did to put this post together! It made for a lot of fun listening and brought back a lot of memories. But I think my favorite Bond song is one you just brought to my attention, k.d. lang's Surrender. She just nails it, and I can't stop playing it.
berthok
23. BlondieFan
Blondie actually was supposed to do the theme to For Your Eyes Only. They thought they they were to compose the theme. They actually wrote a song for the movie. They backed out when they realized the studio just wanted them to perform a song someone else had written. You can find the song that Blondie wrote on their album, "The Hunter."
Joe Mason
24. joemason55
Liked most of the Bond movies, not too fond of Daniel Craigs version. Liked most of the theme songs as well. However, your list didn't mention the original Casino Royale theme song by Herb Alpert. :-)
Michael Burke
25. Ludon
I can understand serious Bond fans not wanting to count the Peter Sellers Casino Royale as a true Bond film but I think the way the music works with that movie should be considered. Much of the music matches the slapstick but it does get serious where it counts. The Look Of Love may not be a Bond theme but it is the song that for me comes to mind the most when reading or hearing a discussion of Bond films.

And to comment about how Bond music grows into the musical landscape, this evening I attended an aviation history meeting and at one point they were running a compilation of footage from the L.A. air races from the early 1930s with an Easy Listening cover of Nobody Does It Better. Oddly, it worked.
Terence Tidler
26. libertariansoldier
@17. Since this is a thread on music was that an intentional pun on baccarat?
alastair chadwin
28. a-j
LongTimeFan@21

Different people have different tastes. Personally I find The Spy Who Loved Me to be terribly dull and it's really just a re-make of You Only Live Twice. But I know it's much loved by many, not least Roger Moore! Moonraker, on the other hand, I really do dislike as lazy opportunistic film-making. As the end credits of The Spy Who... state, the next Bond was to be For Your Eyes Only, but the success of Star Wars gave us Moonraker instead. Time was, the Bond films set trends, now they followed them (a criticism that I do make at Casino Royale, which I liked, as being Bond does Bourne). Hugo Drax is a good Blofeld like villain, but otherwise I found the film to be formulaic and incoherent.

Incidentally, The Spy... and Moonraker are the only Bond films where the villain's plan is to end the world and rebuild it in his image, despite that being the default plot in so many people's minds (see the Star Trek: Deep Space 9 homage 'Our Man Bashir')
sushanta mahanta
30. skmyna
The Latest James Bond Movie Music Composing Is Done In The Amazing Music Composing Software called BTVSolo Created By 2 Times Grammy Award Winner Music Producer Dallas Austin.
berthok
31. Natella
Great list! I enjoyed it! :)

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