Thursday, June 30, 2016

SHOOT 'EM UP BANG BANG: 15 TOP FAVORITE JAMES BOND THEME SONGS

It’s complicated. That would be my description of my relationship with James Bond movies. I was born during the Cold War and was but a mere babe of five when the first Bond film, Dr. No (1962) was released; so I grew up during the whole “spy mania” craze of the ‘60s with nary a recollection of a world without spies, espionage, and James Bond. Although Boris Badenov and Don Adams’ Agent 86 were more my speed, spy culture was everywhere during my formative years; from movies, TV shows, pop songs (Johnny Rivers’ Secret Agent Man was a personal favorite), fashions, magazines, novels, and, of course, the real-life nightly news. If you think John Travolta's white 3-piece-suit was omnipresent in he '70s...well, that's nothing compared with how many wannabe 007s sought out the instant cool of a white dinner jacket.
Bond movies were intended for adults, but that didn’t prevent them from being marketed to kids during Saturday morning cartoons and in comic books. I had a James Bond doll (excuse me, action figure) and one of those very cool, arsenal-laden Bond attaché cases before I’d ever seen a Jams Bond film. In fact, the first James Bond film I ever saw in its entirety was Live and Let Die (1973) when I was 15-years-old. (I saw and fell head-over-heels in love with the much-reviled, psychedelic Bond spoof Casino Royale when I was 10, so perhaps my ultimately warped perception of James Bond got off to a particularly twisted start.) 
So why did it take me so long to see a Bond film? Well, this is where things start get complicated. You see, I don’t exactly like James Bond movies. See, even as a kid I found all those spy shows: The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., The Avengers, Secret Agent, I Spy, Mission: Impossible, The Saint, etc. – to be dull as dishwater. The same “shoot ‘em up, bang bang” with different faces was all it was to me. 
When I tried watching the Bond films when they aired on TV, if I didn’t fall asleep, they simply failed to hold my attention. As I've said in previous posts on the topic of action films, Ive never found stoic heroism and macho aggression to be in and of itself very compelling. In fact, it just feels redundant and done-to-death.
To this day the only Sean Connery Bond film I’ve ever watched all the way through is the lamentable Thunderball remake and “rogue” Bond production, Never Say Never Again (1983); a film which marked Connery’s return to the role after a 12-year absence and saw the then-53-old agent succumbing to frequent naps in between saving the free world.
Given what appears to be my indifference to (if not downright antipathy for) the genre, you'd figure I’d just leave 007 alone. But once, again, this is where things get complicated. Spy movies were the westerns of my generation, and James Bond is this mythic figure that looms as a pop-culture staple in my psyche, like Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny. Bond was such a pre-consciousness presence in my formative years that it feels like he’s in my blood, if not exactly my DNA. And while I have no problem ignoring the current craze in superhero films, James Bond isn't exactly the same. He MY era's Star Wars and feels like an indelible fixture in a distant corner of my moviegoing life.
So, of the 24 “official” James Bond films made to date, I’ve seen 13. Can I remember the plots to any of them? No. Do I enjoy them? Yes. Do I like them? No. Funny, that.

And so it goes. It’s like a knee-jerk, spontaneous response. I haven’t missed a Bond film since 1985s A View To a Kill – which featured my favorite Bond villain, the exquisite Grace Jones as May Day, but I do so almost out of tradition and a vague connection to something I’ve never been able to put my finger on. Whatever it is, it’s the same willful surrender to mindless spectacle and purposeless action that drove my interest in disaster movies during the ‘70s.
Daniel Craig is my favorite Bond of all, and Judi Dench was so good she made me forget that I never knew what the hell was going on from one movie to the next. I watch Bond movies for the scope, the explosions, the stunts, the special effects, and the retro “cool” of handsome guys going about in suits and beautiful women kicking ass in high heels and gowns. I seem to like that "idea" of James Bond more than I like the real thing.

And then, there are the title sequences. Even as a kid I was entranced by the dreamlike (now iconic) title sequences of Bond films, often finding them more rewarding than the films they introduced. And the music…the influential James Bond theme and intro music is as identifiable a trademark as the Coca-Cola logo. The individual theme songs...because of their need to reflect the taste of the times and due to their heavy radio play, I easily associate with specific moments in my life.

Since it’s highly inconceivable that I’ll ever devote any energy to reviewing a Bond film on this site (never say never, I suppose),  I do love James Bond theme songs, so here is a list of my favorites. Not the best crafted, well-written, best-sung, or most iconic; simply the ones, in order of personal preference, I absolutely and subjectively adore. And, not being a Bond fan frees me from having to be a Bond purist, so some of my choices fit in the “unofficial” category: songs commissioned and rejected, or end-credits songs that should have been used for the title.

MY TOP 15 FAVORITE BOND THEME SONGS:

1. Casino Royale (1967)
Not officially a James Bond film, but Burt Bacharach's theme music (played to a fare-the-well by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass) is for me the all and end-all of Bond themes ever. Timeless while being oh-so-Sixties, it ranks at the very top of my Bond chart. Since most everyone is familiar with the instrumental version played over the film's animated title sequence, I've posted a single of the rarely-heard complete lyric version by Mike Redway (its abbreviated version is heard over the closing credits). Alpert's horns are sorely missed, but the comic lyrics - and Mr, Redway's voice - soar.

2. Goldfinger (1964)
For my money, everything about this track is practically perfect- from the dramatic arrangement to its slithery lyrics; but, to coin an overused cliché, Shirley Bassey’s forceful and sexy vocals make this the gold-standard of Bond theme songs. Anthony Newley (Leslie Bricusse co-lyricist on this Dave Barry composed tune) does a wonderful version of this song that’s definitely worth a listen.

3. Skyfall (2012)
If Shirley Bassey and Goldfinger didn’t exist, this would be my top favorite “official” James Bond theme. Composer/vocalist Adele (with Paul Epworth)channeled the feel and sound of all the classic Bond songs to come up with the most hauntingly beautiful (and dark) theme of them all. It’s a gorgeous song that has the feel of a dirge, an anthem, and a melancholy love song, all at once. And god, what a voice!

4. Goldeneye (1995)
Tina Turner has a voice tailor-made for a Bond theme, and this sensuous and smoky song (composed by Bono and The Edge) fits her husky vocals to a T. The musical arrangement is marvelously slick and dramatic, but the danger and lurking in Turner’s delivery is what makes this song work. It’s hot!

5. The World Is Not Enough (1999)
This lushly-orchestrated theme performed so seductively by alternative band Garbage (vocalist Shirley Manson) reminds me that, at least in part, some of the unbreakable connection I have to James Bond is due to the films being so outrageously flamboyant. James Bond movies are to the action film genre what Busby Berkeley movies were to the musical. The sheer high-flown theatricality of this song is seductive as hell. This credits sequence is great, but the music video for this song is really something.

6. Casino Royale (2006) - "You Know My Name"
Chris Cornell’s powerful, veins-bulging vocals back up the vivid lyrics in this intense self-penned Bond theme (with five-time Bond composer David Arnold) that gives me goosebumps each time I hear it. The feeling I look forward to experiencing at least once in every Bond film is the adrenaline rush this song gives me. Also, aren't the graphics in this title sequence simply amazing? 

7. Quantum of Solace (2008): "Another Way To Die"
This is a really big favorite of mine. The pairing of singers Jack White and Alicia Keyes in an alternating duet combines several of my favorite things. First, from the time I discovered Cole Porter as a kid, I’ve always had a thing for “list” songs. Here, the cataloging of danger signals that a spy need be wary of (a door left open, a woman walking by, etc.) is just too cool to talk about.  Second, I love when discordant voices blend into something unexpected and perfect. Keyes’ velvet smooth vs. White’s rasp is like badass dramatic counterpoint in this effectively tense tune. This is the song that has the “Shoot ‘em up, bang bang” riff I used for this post’s title (Alicia Keyes slays on this song). And can we take a minute to appreciate that Daniel Craig has the sexiest walk of any Bond?

7. The Man With the Golden Gun (1974)
This one is a sentimental favorite. part for its very '70 arrangement which I find to be thoroughly infectious, but mostly because I have always loved the voice of '60s pop star Lulu (To Sir, With Love). The song itself doesn't have much to recommend it, even by my fondness for bubble-gum tunes standards, but Lulu's energetic performance makes a strong case for the power of interpretation. Even managing to put over the singularly crass lyric: "His eye may be on you or me. Who will he bang? We shall see!" with cheeky charm.

8. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997): "Surrender"
The official title by Sheryl Crow is actually quite good, but I really prefer this k.d. lang alternate song, played over the film's end credits. Lang's vocals have the retro sound of Keely Smith or Nancy Sinatra, so that hooks me from the start. But I love the traditional arrangement and classic Bond sound. Crow's song is more melodramatic (always a good thing), but the coffeehouse smoothness of k.d. lang wins out  in the end.

9. Diamonds Are Forever (1971) 
The inimitable Shirley Bassey is back, but in place of Goldfinger bombast is a mellow (some would say middle-of-the-road) ballad that soars exclusively due to Bassey's vocals. I can honestly say that had someone else recorded the song, it likely wouldn't have made my list at all. But, c'mon it's Dame Shirley Bassey!

10. Live & Let Die (1973 )
This Paul McCartney & Wings song was all over the radio in 1973 (I was surprised to discover it was the first Bond song to be nominated for a Best Song Oscar) and its '70s sound is one of its most enduring charms. I have always liked McCartney's voice, but my favorite thing about this theme is its elaborate/erratic shifts in tone and tempo. I remember at the time being impressed the old Beatle (he was all of 30 at the time) still had it in him!

11. For Your Eyes Only (1981) - Blondie version 
Although I adored it at time and it made me a short-lived fan of singer Sheena Easton, the official For Your Eyes Only theme hasn't aged particularly well for me, evoking as it does, unfortunate memories of '80s radio and that era's preponderance of sound-alike romantic ballads. This rejected song submitted by Blondie is more my speed. The song is tres-'80s (but in the best Debbie Harry "Call Me" kind of way) and the guitar riffs sound very '60s spy-mania retro.

12. Thunderball (1965): "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang"

I've no problem with Tom Jones' memorably testosterone-pitched theme song, but this rejected tune sung by Ann-Margret is more to my liking. Making up for in Rat-Pack-era sultriness what she lacks in seductive menace, Ann-Margret IS a Bond girl even if in real life she had to settle for one of those dreary Dean Martin Matt Helm spy spoofs (Murderers' Row) rather than the real thing. This song has been sung perhaps more effectively by Shirley Bassey and Dionne Warwick (you can find them on YouTube) but when it comes to sex-kitten slink, Ann-Margret has a lock on it and nobody does it better.

13. The Living Daylights (1987) "If There Was A Man"
The A-ha theme song gets my vote for most forgettable, nondescript Bond theme ever. I had to listen to it again before writing this because it's a song that refuses to remain to make an impression. However, Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders contributed a longingly plaintive, waltz-time ballad that is really lovely. Hynde's low-register voice is ideal for a song like this, which could  have come off as too tamely lyrical.

14. Moonraker (1979)
Hmmm, looks like dreamy slow songs are dominating the end of my list. Ms. Bassey again, this time keeping her bombast in check (a little) and giving a gentle caress to this this floating romantic ballad. I have a thing for the more melodramatic Bond themes, but quiet ones like this...ones that showcase just how velvety-soft Bassey's voice can be, are a delight of a different sort.

15. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) "Nobody Does It Better"
Closing out this Top Fifteen list is Carly Simon's rather quintessentially Simon-esque Bond theme. This one is a nostalgic favorite likely to be someday bumped to a lower ranking, but stays firm at #15 because I have always been so crazy about Simon's voice. I played this to death in 1977, so perhaps my waning fondness for it now is a result of prolonged exposure to one too many repeated "Baby, you're the best!" refrains.


BEST JAMES BOND THEME MUSIC THAT ISN'T BUT SHOULD BE

"So Hard"  Pet Shop Boys
From the instant I heard this song on the Pet Shop Boys' 1990 Behavior album, I thought it sounded like it came from a James Bond movie. It has "spy movie" written all over it - not the lyrics, but that absolutely amazing arrangement and tempo. I'd read online that Pet Shop Boys had been approached for contributing a song for The Living Daylights, and there's an odd, unsubstantiated tune up on YouTube said to be the result of that aborted collaboration (later reconfigured into their This Must Be The Place I've Waited Years To Leave), but I have my doubts. However, I can visualize a '90s James Bond title sequence accompanying this song with ease.

On a final note, you can't write anything about the music of the James Bond films without crediting composer John Barry (12 Bond films). Along with: Monty Norman, David Arnold, Thomas Newman, and no doubt many others I'm forgetting.  YouTube has a wealth of rejected Bond songs- one the more curious, Johnny Cash's Thunderball.

Do you have a song from a James Bond film that's your particular favorite? Perhaps, one that drives you to distraction? Either way, I'd love to hear about it!
Copyright © Ken Anderson

39 comments:

  1. I'm going to have to duck after saying this, but I love A-ha's "The Living Daylights". Another favorite is Duran Duran's "A View to a Kill". What can I say? I was a Reagan-era go-go girl!

    I would have loved to see (hear) the Pet Shop Boys do a James Bond movie theme song. IMHO, many of their songs have a real cinematic quality.

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    1. Ha! I'm glad you kicked off the comments by proudly declaring your love for A-ha's "The Living Daylights"! Having someone like the one Bond song I could really do without gets things off to an even-handed start.
      With the 60s and 70s tattooed all over my pop-culter taste buds, who am I to say anything if the 80s have got you by the shoulder pads?

      I too think the Pet Shop Boys' music is intrinsically cinematic (like ELO's), I think they could have contributed an amazing Bond score (I've always thought Liza Minnelli's melodramatic "I Want You Now" on her Pet Shop Boys-produced "Results" album, has the sound of a Bond song).

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    2. A View to a Kill is a classic guilty pleasure. The movie is really terrible and I never cared much for Duran Duran. However, those lyrics are just great. The allure of vicarious thrills! Promises more than the movie delivers, alas.

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    3. Chalk up another vote for "A View To A Kill"!
      And I know what you mean about the movie being weak. It's funny, I know Tanya Roberts was in it, but I can't remember her very well.

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  2. Ken, Ken ..... you write what I'm thinking so many times!

    You like the *idea* of James Bond movies more than the movies themselves - EXACTLY how I feel! Like you, they are in my DNA because when they started coming to Network TV in the late 60s and into the 70s (almost always on the "ABC Sunday Night Movie", my dad would be on the couch without fail watching. When I was about 10, he started taking me to see them in the theater. So I have a "nostalgia" thing for them.

    I also love the flip moments of camp, like his wise-guy lines to some bad guy about to be dispatched, or the smoothly spoken, deliciously delivered threats of the bad guys (it seemed like they were ALWAYS trying to take over the world!)

    The songs - I'm SO glad you included "IF There Was A Man" - that song gives me goosebumps. It is truly one of the most beautiful pop / songs I've ever heard. Hynde's vocals, the lyrics, the string arrangements...swoon.

    MOONRAKER and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE are gorgeous too. And the VIEW TO A KILL song is dynamite.

    Thanks for another wonderful column!!!
    Happy 4th!
    Mike

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    1. Hi Michael
      At last! Someone who gets my conflicted "It's complicated" feelings about Bond! I too associate them with my youth (I love that your dad watched the movies on TV and took you to see them at the theater. My dad was a Mission:Impossible fan,and whenever he settled down to watch it on Sunday evenings, I knew it meant the weekend was officially over and I had to go to school the next day).
      I too find a saving grace in the moments of intentional camp the Bond films indulge, whether it be the dialog, silly names (Xenia Onatopp), or self-effacing humor (Daniel Craig has great dry takes). And indeed, the takeover of the world was ALWAYS the goal. These days the world seems so loopy, I don't think anybody would care to put up much of a fight about it (You want it? You're welcome to it!").

      In researching this post, I was surprised to see how well-liked and highly-regarded a Bond theme "A View To a Kill" is since it falls below my 15 (remarkably it's the only Bond song to ever reach #1 on Billboard). I wonder if I have something against the 80s? Hmmmm

      Thanks for your contributions to this list, Michael, and for sharing your love/meh feelings about Bond. Have a Happy 4th!

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    2. Thank you Ken! (Oh and yes - I forgot to mention the outrageous names!!)..and BTW, I share your take on MISSION IMPOSSIBLE - it would come on as I was being made ready for bed on Sundays and that meant school loomed. I have the same memory of the Robert Vaughn spy series THE PROTECTORS, which was on CBS on Sundays. I'd hear the theme as I was drifting off to sleep.
      Peace!
      Mike

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    3. Oh one more thing (I know I'm hogging the board - in the 1967 CASINO ROYALE - ya gotta love the whole sequence involving Joanna Pettet and the marvelous Anna Quayle (Baroness Bomburst in CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG)- I watch that one sequence on YouTube and it never fails to crack me up!

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    4. Hi Michael
      I'd forgotten about "The Protectors"...certain Sunday TV shows just always gave me the blues (like Meet the Press. After the deluge of Saturday cartoons, I was always hated how Sunday morning TV was comprised dull nature shows [Wild Kingdom], news, and sports...all signaling to me that the fun of the weekend was soon over).
      And given my love of Joanna Pettet, it's perhaps no surprise that her sequences are my favorite in "Casino Royale," too. I forget which of those 5 directors did it, but I think it is the most solid and consistently witty. Thanks for bringing up these points. Always funny to think of how many people share such similar yet disparate childhood memories!

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  3. Hi!
    First time commenting. Even though I managed to figure out the plots of these movies until Craig's movies came along, I think I'm on the same boat with you on this one. James Bond movies I mean.
    That said, the title credits sequences and theme songs of this franchise NEVER fail to impress or at least engage me.
    What's your favorite movie?

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    1. Hi, newbie
      Thanks for commenting and welcome to the asylum! I don't know what it is about the Daniel Craig Bond films, but they somehow engaged me more emotionally than the previous Bonds. The earlier ones were so much about action and derring-do, Craig brings a level of ambivalence about what each kill is doing to him as a man.
      What always amazes me about my personal Bond experiences is that not knowing what the hell is going on has never once meant the least bit of difference. Somebody gets shot, something blows up, someone chases someone else...it's scary that these can entertain devoid of a logical context. The movies are so visual-reliant, I've wondered what the experience reading a Bond script must be like; I mean, with all that techno jargon and action, how would an actor know it's bad? By the size of the check offered?

      Your "handle", as it were, suggests you are a fan of music; so am I, and on that score I am with you in feeling that - even at their weakest - the Bond songs (when combined with those dazzling credit sequences) are always engaging.
      Some time ago on YouTube someone edited together a string of Maurice Binder's title sequences...they were like MGM musical numbers remembered in a dream.
      As far as favorite Bond movie...I think it's "Skyfall" I absolutely loved Javier Bardem's villain.
      Thank you for your contribution to the comments section and I hope you check in with us again!

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  4. Wow, someone actually likes Another Way To Die? Who knew!?!

    You might like to check out these posts from my blog to give you an idea of where I stand

    http://randomramblingsthoughtsandfiction.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/my-three-least-favourite-bond-themes.html

    http://randomramblingsthoughtsandfiction.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/for-your-ears-only-almost-bond-themes.html

    As for isn't, but should be

    http://randomramblingsthoughtsandfiction.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/out-on-blue-six-en-vogue.html

    http://randomramblingsthoughtsandfiction.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/out-on-blue-six-jigsaw.html

    http://randomramblingsthoughtsandfiction.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/out-on-blue-six-desmond-dekker.html

    http://randomramblingsthoughtsandfiction.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/out-on-blue-six-dave-ansell-collins.html

    As ever Ken, a really great read!

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  5. Mark!
    I love that you covered the Bond topic so thoroughly on your blog! And you display such a keen sense of "getting" Bond music with your list of "Isn't, but should be" songs.

    And (perversely, perhaps) I love that you really seem to hate "Another Way To Die"! Your description of it reminds me of when I dislike something...the colorful descriptions virtually flow from the keyboard and the words convey a kind of catharsis at being able to vent on the topic.
    Even poor Lulu didn't make the cut!

    Visiting your links reminded me how remiss I've been about revisiting your wonderful site. So full of fresh observations, diverse topics, and you own, concise and clever writing style. I have a lot of catching up to do!
    Thanks, Mark, for contributing your choices to this post. We Yanks could benefit from reading a Brit's take on Bond music!

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    1. Ken, you are too kind.

      Yes poor Lulu. I've never really band a fan (bar To Sir With Love) but, like you, I just find the song itself lacking any real oomph. Even when we disagree we roughly share the same points - I don't like Another Way To Die but I am fond of the tricksy lyrics which you yourself remark so fondly upon.

      Personally I love that you love the Casino Royale soundtrack - I just love that film, it takes me back to my youth too, when it was often shown on TV and I loved anything with Peter Sellers in. And Moonraker, proof that even a poor Bond film (and I believe that to rank amongst the poorest) can have a good theme.

      And the disco version! https://youtu.be/oXb0-HOEo8Y

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    2. Maybe it'll turn out the one thing that everyone agrees one is that Madonna's "Die Another Day" is just dreadful.
      I know not many people like "Another Way to Die" (I choreographed a "Flashdance"-inspired chair routine to it and no one in class knew what the song was or where it was from)- your use of the word "caterwauling" bringing to mind my favorite bit of musical criticism. A person's voice was described as sounding "like a cat and a baby in a bag being swung over someone's head."
      The Bond songs vary in quality, and as you note, a terrible film like "Moonraker" can yield a lovely theme. As for Lulu, I think I've always liked her voice because she was like the last of the "gimmick" type voices I grew up on (Frankie Lymon, Sue Thompson, Ronnie Spector). Also, I remember calling into the local radio station at the time and asking if they would play the song and they did! So perhaps that sways my affection for "man with the Golden Gun" (But I gotta say, that "bang" lyric always strikes my inner prude! Little did I know what pop music had in store for me once Donna Summer introduced the disco musical orgasm). Now off to check on the disco version of "Moonraker"! Thanks again, Mark!

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    3. Ooh another song in Lulu's favour for me is Boom Bang A Bang

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekg-uIvtg80

      Whaddyaknow, I like her more than I actually think!

      "like a cat and a baby in a bag being swung over someone's head." haha, great line! And yes, I defy anyone to sing the praises of Die Another Day, both song and film! I have all the Bond films on DVD and that one has been watched once I reckon. I hated it at the cinema, and yet still - for completist's sake - I bought it.

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    4. Back in the seventies, my friends and I would emit raucous gales of smutty laughter at the double-entendres of "The Man with the Golden Gun", especially those great opening lines:

      He has a powerful weapon,
      He charges a million a shot!

      This would inevitably be followed by speculation as to which men we knew had "powerful weapons". Yes, we were rude and crude...and that never improved as we got older!

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    5. Mark
      Ha! I have a "Best of" CD of Lulu's somewhere and I think that song is on it along with "Fool for You Baby" my second fave Lulu song after To Sir With Love. Still, I've read that the composer of "Golden Gun" doesn't think it's his finest hour.
      I don't have all the DVDs (I actually don't own a single Bond film), but as completist of another sort, I do have all the Bond songs on my ipod...even the ones I don't like.

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    6. Deb
      You and your friend's reaction to that song seems right in line with what the lyricist intended (below the belt). It seems so funny that I go all Jane Hathaway about the "bang" part...it doesn't help that I felt the Roger Moore Bonds were growing relentlessly goofier and class-less anyway. Powerful weapon, indeed! (I saw with my back stiffening like a Dickens-era schoolmaster)

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    7. Hi Ken, I've just been prompted by a friend to look back on some Bond reviews I did and I just had to share something I wrote about Die Another Day at the time with you...

      Die Another Day, as a theme tune, is something that is marginally better than listening to Oddjob fart into a wet football sock for three whole minutes.

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    8. Ha!! OK...I think we have a winner! That's a hilariously vivid criticism. I'm going to have to check out the entire review if that's a taste of it. I'm glad you clocked in with the ultimate assessment of a song I'm still waiting to hear is someone's favorite. Thanks!

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  6. So happy to see you rank Skyfall so high. I think it really is the best Bond song in decades. And what a thrill to see her singing it at the Oscars the same year Bassey came back to belt out Goldfinger again.

    As for one that really drive me to distraction is Madonna's Die Another Day. I think it's the only Bond film I've never seen, and I've yet to listen to the whole song all the way through.

    Top 5, I'd have to sneak in You Only Live Twice. A million thanks for the links and heads up to so many alternate/unused Bond covers.

    And while I think the opening theme to On Her Majesty's Secret Service is terrific, it's so odd there was no vocal. It's not even really addressed in the DVD commentary that I recall.

    Finally, Bacharach's Casino Royale is thrilling--I craved the soundtrack when I was young, especially for the art work. But I have to also add the dreamy Look of Love.

    And finally, finally, as a huge fan of 60s spy-movie music, my favorite non-Bond is Smokey Robinson's Come Spy with Me (1967).

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

    Great read, Ken!

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    1. Hi Max
      Wow! You've seen all but one Bond film! Impressive! I'm usually hard-pressed to tell the ones I've seen apart, and although I saw "Did Another Day" I can't remember a thing about it.
      I'm not a huge Adele fan like so many people I know, but "Skyfall" to me is really an exceptional Bond theme.
      it's nice to see "You Only Live Twice" pop up, since it's rarely ever referenced, and like "To Russia With Love" I tend to forget it.
      It's puzzling about there being an instrumental theme for "On Her Majesty's" what with their kicking off a new Bond and all, the the opportunity it afforded to help establish a strong identity.
      Funny how out of the loop Casino Royale is, but how hard it is to separate its music from the Bond canon. One of Bacharach's best, I think.
      Lastly, I can't thank yo enough for bringing "Come Spy With Me" to my attention!! I really don't even recall the film at all, but I'm crazy about the retro go go dancing in the credit sequence, and what a treat it is to be introduced to a great Motown song from the 60s?
      Appreciate the compliment, Max. thank you for contributing your top favorites!

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  7. My favorite Bond theme is "Nobody Does It Better." It's fluff, but it's great fluff, and combined with the over the top phallic symbolism of Maurice Binder's title sequence, it's the perfect kick-off for a great piece of entertainment. Since I went to Bond movies to be entertained, I also really liked "For Yours Eyes Only," All Time High" and "Live And Let Die." I always thought of the Bond movies as pure escapist entertainment, so fluff was fine with me as long as it was done well. (I guess that explains my disappointment with Daniel Craig as the new, more-realistic, "gritty" 007-"gritty" in Hollywood apparently meaning "scowls all the time and doesn't shave.") After "A View to a Kill," I didn't really care for any of the songs until "Skyfall."
    Also,a nice surprise in "Skyfall" was Charles Trenet's "Boum." I've heard that song in movies ever since I was a kid and first heard it in the "World at War" documentary, but hearing it in "Skyfall" finally pushed me to find out what "that song" really was.

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    1. Those are all great songs. The songs by Simon,Easton, and Coolidge being all of a romantic departure from the "adventure/danger themes of the other Bonds.
      (All that riding on a gun barrel imagery in the title sequence of "Nobody Does It Better" is a fave).

      It's also interesting that the evolution of the pop entertainments of the 60s/70s required the dropping of a certain lightness (like the superhero movie franchise)and the adoption of the grittiness you speak of.
      I had such a problem with the Roger Moore Bonds (they were like "The Saint" (flip and winking) with a bigger budget, so I never minded the scowling of Daniel Craig. I did find myself wanting Timothy Dalton to lighten up a bit, though.
      That song you speak of I never noticed until it popped up in some commercial and I then remembered it in Skyfall. I never looked it up, so I'm glad you credited it. I loved the way it was used in Skyfall.
      Thanks for contributing, Maynard's Dad. Almost all songs are being represented!

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  8. Nothing says Bond to me more than Shirley Bassey's Goldfinger. It's the gold (hah, hah) standard of Bond themes. Of course, my introduction to bond was Sean Connery in the sixties, so I'm sure that's one reason I'm partial to it. Ironically, my favorite Bond film is From Russia with Love. No memorable song, but Lotte Lenya and Robert Shaw as the villains! Yum!

    My teen years were dominated by Nobody Does It Better and Live and Let Die. By that time the torch had been passed to Roger Moore, who will never, ever be Bond to me. I saw only one of his Bond ouvre, the schlocky Moonraker. Nobody Does It Better is a great pop song for sure (I believe it was the theme song for my sister's prom), but my heart is with Live and Let Die. Could be Paul's best post Beatles song.

    Of the newer crop of Bond songs, I was surprised to like Adele's Skyfall. I respect her talent, but she's just not my cup of tea, despite all of my friends protesting my lack of enthusiasm. But it is a great song that really fits the mood of that movie. I find myself remembering the song more than the film. And you are right, Daniel Craig is a great Bond. My sisters are team Connery, but I'm going with Craig!

    I also love You Only Live Twice. It's beautifully melodic. I don't remember who sang it, or what the lyrics were. I just know that we had a Montavanni easy listening album that was all "modern movie masterpieces" and I played the instrumental You Only Live Twice way more than twice. It definitely sounds like a John Berry composition. I'd forgotten about the song until Mad Men used it at the conclusion of one of its season finales. The sight of Don Draper wrapped in swirling cigarette smoke while eyeing two women at the end of a bar set to that music made my heart skip a beat.

    PS Ken, I think one of your other readers mentioned Shirley Bassey's appearance on the Oscars at their salute to Bond's 50th anniversary. She looked smashing and sounded that way too!

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    1. Hi Roberta
      If you like Bond songs at all, Shirley Bassey's "Goldfinger" is pretty hard to resist. I've never seen "To Russia With Love", but I have seen those great clips of Lenya trying to stick it to Connery with her foot.
      I'm not a huge fan of Adele's either (I've actually never heard her "Hello" song all the way through), but I too feel the song so fits the mood of the movie, and her voice is beautiful with that arrangement (ove the title sequence, too).
      Nancy Sinatra is the singer of "You Only Live Twice" on the CD I have, but I don't know if she sang it for the film. Some of those slower melodies that didn't do it for me when I was young, I've come to appreciate now that I'm older (and its style is less associated in my mind with "my parent's music").
      I love thinking that "Nobody Does It Better" was a prom theme song. I was in college when that song came out and in the full flush of my adoration of all things Carly Simon. I'm surprised I never took the trouble to see the film, but I honestly loathed Roger Moore as Bond. Such a stiff.
      I rewatched that wonderful Oscar clip of Bassey at the Academy Awards. Was struck by this amazing, enduring icon performing on the stage, then when the camera takes in the standing ovation, I'm greeted by all these (to me) bland, nondescript, nobodies in the audience.
      I'm officially an old coot.
      Thanks, Roberta!

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  9. I saw my first Bond film - "Dr. No" - at the age of 12 and became hooked for life. So, I can't be objective about the Sean Connery pictures because they really bowled me over as a kid and I still have a lot of fun with them.
    Roger Moore never did it for me, although "The Spy Who Loved Me" is pretty terrific, starting with that ski-jump pre-title sequence.
    "Goldfinger" is the quintessential Bond theme in my view, but I also love "Nobody Does It Better." Richard Perry's production of that song is spectacular (love that brief piano intro!)
    No one ever talks about "We Have All the Time in the World" from "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" but I think it's one of the most beautiful pieces of music John Barry ever wrote.
    And since nobody mentioned it, I have to cite Gladys Knight's "License to Kill" from the 1997 Timothy Dalton dud as an underrated Bond theme. (It has a slight Shirley Bassey sound).
    Thanks Ken for triggering so much enjoyable nostalgia!

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    1. Hi Joe
      Great to hear from a Connery Bond fan! And I was wondering if Gladys Knight's "License to Kill" was ever going to show up on anyone's list. It really never gets any love (even from me), but it has a classic Bond sound.
      I have to check out my ipod to re-listen to "We have All The Time in the World", I honestly forgot all about it. I thank YOU for inspiring me to revisit a "lost" (again, to me) John Barry song.

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  10. Argyle here. Contrary as I can be, this will not be a full-hearted defense of La Ciccone and “Die Another Day.” But in her defense, I will suggest that she gets partial credit for yet another box checked on her romp through world history. Nothing could stop her from doing a Bond theme (plus getting a cameo - take that, Dame Bassey!) even if it’s in the absolute nadir stretch of the series. More grievous than that song is the whole notion of Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, but maybe that’s just me.

    Truthfully, I’ve never been a huge Bond film fan. I was too young to see the early ones, although I did lust after the dolls and accoutrement in the Sears catalog. My best friend’s family did something called “Family Night” on Fridays where they all went to a movie together, and I was astonished that Mark could go see things like “Planet of the Apes” and the new Bond films on opening day. Presbyterians did not believe this apparently. He had the briefcase with the built-in camera, etc. But who has better values now, I ask you?! Actually, Mark’s father must have had a pretty strong Bonds jones; they had a modern house, Scandinavian furniture; he drove an orange Karmann Ghia. Mark’s oldest sister had a store mannequin in her room that was painted in multi-colored pop flowers ala Goldie Hawn or, now it occurs to me, the “Casino Royale” body-art.

    So I never saw a Sean Connery/George Lazenby Bond film until years later on TV. I did actually see a Roger Moore in the theater at some point and that was more than enough. I remember those films as being very “date-y” and that was just never my scene. The Connerys I can pause to appreciate on TV, but not the Moores unless it’s the one with Carole Bouquet who I find mesmerizing. I’ve never even seen the Grace Jones one, but will submit that “Warm Leatherette” could have been a Bond theme (and title) that would have gotten me into the theater.

    The Daniel Craig thing just seemed like another attempt to serious-ify an essentially and charmingly fantastical genre. But I think we actually saw the first one in a theater. And even though I do not admire Sam Mendes, I did happen to catch “Skyfall” as it was starting on TV one night and was pretty taken aback at the opening motorcycle stunts and enjoyed Javier Bardem also. And I think Eva Green is awesome. And I like the one where Bond sort of falls from grace and has to earn his way back, but obviously, I get them confused, too.

    So far no mention of Sam Smith and “Spectre”?

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    1. Hi Argyle
      You're right about Madonna. Like a pop-culture Becky Sharp, she manages to insinuate herself into every fad or trend with the single-minded tenacity of an ear-worm. And, at least by me, you aren't too off in your appraisal of Brosnan. He does absolutely nothing for me on the screen, but I had a chance to meet him at a screening of that Polanski film he did, and I almost fell over he was so gorgeous. WTF? 100% percent polar opposite reaction. He just looked sexy as hell.
      Saw him onscreen again after that...dull as ever.

      Your memories of your best friend, Mark, are really adorable. His family just sounds so "other" as most of our friend's families did, I think.
      Your mentioning of Carole Bouquet (who was the best thing in that abysmal Rosemary's baby remake) brings to mind that often the Bond "girls" were a good deal more compelling than many of the bonds. I still can see Grace Jones with her chic wardrobe and flattop haircut...
      Lastly, your recounting of the scenes you remember from Skyfall and perhaps Spectre remind me of one of my own problems with the films...I can never remember the events of the film in correct connection to the films themselves. They flip around in my mind like playing cards and I am never sure which bond film Craig did what in.
      And Sam Smith's song for "Spectre"!!! Ay yi yi.
      I know someone out there must like it, but it was stupendously awful I thought. I think I even like Madonna's song better...and you KNOW that can't be a good sign!
      Thanks so much, Argyle! For a non-Bond fan, you had a lot of fun memories to share!

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  11. I am a big fan of Bond, myself. I have only one Bond entry on my blog, though. A View to a Kill, along with Live and Let Die would rank as my favorite songs, but I also liked Lulu's intro song on The Man with the Golden Gun. (anything but that wimpy Steve Smith one from Spectre).

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    1. Hi Quiggy
      Both are your choices are chalking up to be lead contenders in the favorites listed in the comments section. You of course get double points for liking Lulu's contribution!
      And I'm with you regarding Steve Smith's song. I saw the film on DVD and had to hit "mute" during the credits.

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  12. At last, "If There Was a Man" is on one of these lists! Though I should give special mention to "Where Has Everybody Gone?", also by the Pretenders :)

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    1. Hi Chick in the Middle
      Gratified to hear from another Pretenders fan! Chrissie Hynde just has one of those voices that makes any song work (I feel similarly about k.d. lang). The first time I heard "Where Has Everybody Gone?" was when I was looking up Bond songs on YouTube for this piece. I loved it on first listen.
      Thank you for adding to the list!

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  13. Loved this post, Ken. My three faves are, in order: "Nobody Does It Better" (the FIRST Bond movie I ever saw, and I was mesmerized by the credits with the nude female silhouettes...I still see it in my mind's eye and it remains a most-frequently-played song on my iPhone playlists)..."Goldfinger" (saw Shirley Bassey in concert in South Beach in 1997 and she was UNforgettably amazing...)...and McCartney's "Live and Let Die" (despite the weird ungrammatical lyric "in this world in which we live in") which is unlike any of the other songs. Many of the others sound a lot like each other!
    So much fun, Ken, you spice up our lives with your amazing ways!!
    -Chris

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    1. Hi Chris
      Glad you liked the post!And thanks for contributing your fave picks. I'm enamored of almost all the Bond title sequences even when I'm not crazy about the songs themselves.
      of course, I'm happy to hear you like Bassey, as well. I've only seen her once (back in the 80s at the Greek Theater), but I remember being blown away by the power of her voice heard live. Wow!
      So cool learning what Bond songs still endure with people! Thanks so mcuh, Chris

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  14. Dear Ken, my comments to your post about Bond themes is quite late. The idea for of listing your favourites is brilliant and it took some time to listen through the songs and think of the ones I enjoy the most. I love all the Bond movies up until “A View to a Kill” (Grace is the only good element in it!). The ones that followed never held my interest and I’ve hardly seen any of the ones that came after the lapse in the early 90s, all though I agree that Daniel Craig is quite dreamy! The songs from these later Bonds are quite dreary in my opinion and this time I have to disagree with you about which ones are the best!

    Shall I just say that our opinions diverge when it comes to some of your later choices. I find the themes for “Golden Eye”, “The World is not Enough”, “Casino Royale” (2006), “Tomorrow Never Dies” are quite tedious. On the other hand, I too love “Casino Royale” (1967), “Goldfinger”, “The Man with the Golden Gun” (even though many don’t and I don’t know why), “Diamonds are Forever”, “Live and Let Die” and “Moonraker”. I guess my heart is stuck in the 60’s and 70’s!

    “The Spy Who Loved Me” by Carly Simon and “You Only Live Twice” by Nancy Sinatra are my favourites. These two give me goose bumps! Rita Coolidge’s “All Time High” and Lani Hall’s “Never Say Never Again” are not good songs but I keep returning to them. They´re odd and certainly no classics but strangely I like them…

    It was great to hear the more unknown songs that you listed. The K.D. Lang song is better than Sheryl Crow’s (who doesn’t have the voice for a Bond song). Ann-Margret’s song is fantastic!!! Wow! Chrissie Hynde’s is very good and underrated and classy. Thanks for mentioning those!

    I LOVE the Blondie song. It chilled me when I bought “the Hunter” album in 1982. It’s so moving and dreamlike. I played it all the time then. Maybe it was deemed too down beat for the Bond film producers. It should have been the one they used! Sheena’s song is good but it got played to death on radio, like you said.

    Add me to the list of those who think Madonna’s “Die another Day” is the very worst movie song ever. Just tuneless and terrible. What was she thinking? Was she trying to be “controversial” or could she just not think of as melody for her song?
    -Wille

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    1. Hi Wille
      So much better late than never, where you're concerned!Especially if you gave a listen to many of the songs you didn't know.
      Yes, as much as I tend to be stuck in the 70s and 60s, pop culture wise, I do find those contemporary Bond songs I like to be so engaging! The explanation, perhaps, is to be found intheir theatricality. All the songs I like are overwrought to an almost cinematic degree (like musical versions of Douglas Sirk movies), so they kind of fit my "style" without really fitting my style.
      You picked many terrific ones, and I like that Nancy Sinatra's "You Only Live Twice" has shown up so often in these comments. I think your choice of songs is consistant with what I would have guessed. I especially like that you are a fan of Blondie's "The Hunter" album. Me too!
      And alas, Madonna makes the top of the bottom again.
      Of, course, your comments made me laugh!
      Thank you your adding you favorites to this fun list, Wille. It feels complete!

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