Monday, August 29, 2016

Worst to Best: James Bond Songs

Making ranked lists is tool used by exceptionally lazy bloggers.  I know that, and wanted to acknowledge it right up front, lest anyone accuse me of feeling as though I'm reinventing the wheel with this particular post.
  
I'm under no such illusions.  The fact is that I just like making a list every once in a while, and if it's a ranked list, all the better.  
  
Now, having finished reviewing all of the Bond movies, I think I will turn my attentions to doing a series of Worst-to-Best lists.  Seems like fun, right?  Yeah, sure it does!  We're going to start with one examining the Bond-movie songs, and I mean ALL of them; hopefully, I've not managed to somehow forget one.
  
In deciding what counted as a "Bond song," I used a set of loose criteria, and I thought it might be worthwhile to comment on that a bit before we proceed.
  
  • Non-EON productions -- Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again -- are included.  How could they not be?  Those are Bond movies, and they have original songs in them.  End of story.
  • There are a few "official" cover versions of theme songs, including the source-music version of "Live and Let Die" performed by B.J. Arnau and the demo version of "Goldfinger" performed by Anthony Newley.  I included both, because they received official Bond-soundtrack releases, and also because they are individuated sufficiently to be worth my time to treat them individually.  With Dr. No, I both did and didn't do the same thing.  The charge: inconsistency.  My plea: guilty.
  • As many Bond fans know, there are a great many rejected would-be Bond songs out there, ranging from Johnny Cash's "Thunderball" to Radiohead's "Spectre."  I have included a small handful of these, but only when they were composed and/or performed by artists whose other Bond credentials are sufficient to make these rejected songs the genuine article in a de facto sense.  I'll speak about my thought process when we get to each, but if you wonder why I've included them and not the Cash and Radiohead songs (or Alice Cooper, Blondie, Ace Of Base, etc.), know that it isn't because I'm unaware of them; it's because I've determined they don't belong on this particular list.
  • No instrumentals have been included.  So whereas the James Bond Theme is unquestionably the pinnacle of Bond music, if not the pinnacle of culture in the entirety of the Virgo supercluster, you won't see it at #1 on this list: I don't consider it to be a song.  Nor do the credit-sequence themes for From Russia With Love or On Her Majesty's Secret Service have spots here.  There will be a later list that deals with the scores, and rest assured that those pieces WILL be present there.
  • There are a decent number of minor songs on the list, and in some cases they were barely used in the movie.  However, if they (A) were in the movie, no matter how briefly, (B) were written expressly for the film, and (C) appeared on the soundtrack albums, then they are included here.
  • Songs not written for the movie -- "California Girls" and "London Calling," for example -- are not included.  For this reason, "Kingston Calypso" from Dr. No -- which relies heavily on "Three Blind Mice" -- has been omitted.
  • Cover versions -- such as the ones recorded for the David Arnold album Shaken & Stirred -- have not been included unless (as previously mentioned) they were performed expressly for one of the movies.
  • Songs written for Bond video games and books were not considered.  I considered considering them, but opted to not to.
  
By the time all of those thoughts were thinked, I had a list of 47 songs.  We will start at the bottom and work our way forward, but first, I present to you some images I stole after Googling "James Bond songs."




What?


Well, there's ONE way for Spectre to have been worse...

And now...


#47 -- "Wedding Party" by Ivory 
(from Licence to Kill)

I think the idea with this dance piece was to evoke Monty Norman's Dr. No music.  If so, maybe they could have managed to make it sound less artificial; maybe they could even have managed to have it not be a solid four minutes' worth of annoyance.  All I know is, we jumpin' up, this wedding party; and by that, I mean we skippin' this track every time we play the CD.

I don't know anything about Ivory.  I tried Googling "wedding party" "ivory" but as you might imagine, that yielded a lot of results that didn't help.  Luckily, I don't care all that much, so let's move on.

#46 -- "Dirty Love" by Tim Feehan 
(from Licence to Kill)

I don't know much about Tim Feehan, but he's easier to Google than Ivory, so there's that.  His Wikipedia page informs me that he is Candian; still active in the recording industry; worked with Bone Thugs-n-Harmony at some point; and had songs in episodes of Dexter, The Good Wife, and Ugly Betty, among other shows.  He's recorded seven albums, including this one from 1981:




However, none of those albums have individual Wikipedia pages, which is usually the sign of a thing that has made minimal cultural impact.

Look, here's the thing: I don't want to crap all over Tim Feehan.  But do I hate "Dirty Love"?  You bet I do.  If I was, for some inexplicable reason, listening to it in my car on the way to work, I would have to turn the radio down anytime I was at a stoplight because I'd be embarrassed for anyone to hear me listening to it.

But not AS embarrassed as I would be for someone to hear me listening to "Wedding Party" by Ivory.

Boy, Licence to Kill was not a high-water mark musically, was it?

Anyways, "Dirty Love" is a bland rock number that does not in any way sound like a James Bond song.  I know that it's impossible to define what a "James Bond song" sounds like; and yet, we all know it when we hear it.  In some ways, it sounds like a song written by John Barry, in which case some of the most famous Bond songs -- "Nobody Does It Better," for example, or "Live and Let Die" -- sound nothing like Bond songs.  From there, our discussion quickly devolves into incoherent inanity, and the definition becomes so muddy that it is scarcely a definition at all.

Even so, "Dirty Love" sounds nothing like a James Bond song.  That'd be fine if it sounded like a good song; but it doesn't, and so it's #47 for you, Mr. Feehan.
  

#45 -- "Die Another Day" by Madonna

There have been times in my life when I actually liked this song.  For example, when it was first released in 2002, I kind of dug it for a hot minute there.  We've all got things in our past of which we cannot be proud.

On the one hand, I get what the producers were going for when they hired Madonna.  She's an international mega-superstar, or at least was at one point in her past; and the argument can be made that being an international mega-superstar is a bit like being a Marine in that there's no such thing as being an ex-one.  Once you are one, you stay one, in one way or another.  So hiring Madonna to do a Bond song was not a bad idea, from that perspective.  The films had not had a commercial hit theme song since 1985, so you can hardly blame them for wanting to get that mojo back.

Thing is, Madonna can't do two things: (1) sing and (2) be anything other than herself.  The former means that she's kind of unfit for a traditional Bond song and the latter means that she's likely to "follow her muse," wherever it means she ends up going.

We all know where it went, and I don't know many people that like it.  I will admit to liking moments of the song (especially played against the excellent opening titles of Daniel Kleinman); it has a nice energy at times, and is well-produced sonically.  Other moments undo all the good ones, though, and in the end you're left with a song that simply does not work, either on its own merits or as a member of its rather specific subgenre.




For the record, I actually own the CD single (EP?) pictured above.  I'm glad I do, if only from a collector's standpoint.  One of the remixes -- the Dirty Vegas one, to be specific -- plays over the film's end credits, and I realize as I type this that I really ought to have placed it somewhere within this list.  Even after recognizing my mistake in not doing so, I'm going to opt against it.  Why?  Well, I'm too lazy to figure out where I'd rank it, is what it boils down to.  I realize that this means I am a shit blogger, derelict in his duties and bereft of all integrity.

Alternatively, it's not really worth worrying about.

You be the judge!

Incidentally, you'll have noticed that I didn't provide a YouTube link for this song.  I'm not going to link to all the songs I cover; and to be honest, I have no idea why I'm picking some and not others.  I thought I'd better mention it in case you thought I'd merely forgotten.
  

#44 -- "Another Way to Die" 
by Jack White and Alicia Keys 
(from Quantum of Solace)

Boy, do I hate this fucking song.  To be honest, I hate it worse than I hate "Die Another Day."  "Die Another Day" doesn't anger me; it's just a swing and a miss, but it's a swing for the fences, at least.  "Another Way to Die" is just a lazy waste of time, one which doesn't even manage to seem cool when combined with the movie's opening credit sequence.  I might actually hate this more than I hate either "Wedding Party" or "Dirty Love," because those songs can be avoided; all I have to do is skip them if I'm listening to the soundtrack, and then bear the scant few seconds of the movie in which they actually appear.  You can't ignore "Another Way to Die" unless you skip an entire part of the movie, and then you're committing a Bond-movie party-foul.




White is a talented man, and Keys is a talented woman, so what happened?  Beats me, so in lieu of trying to figure it out, let's just look at what I said about it when I wrote my Quantum of Solace review:

I'll tell you now, I think this song is shit.  Very little about it works, and while I like the meat of the chorus (the section running from "A door left open..." to "...someone that you think that you can trust..."), when it gets to the end ("...is just another way to die"), the whole thing collapses.  I don't have the musical vocabulary to explain this, but my idea of a chorus is that it has to build to a satisfying conclusion; it must set up an expectation -- even if that expectation only becomes apparent in retrospect -- and then resolve/satisfy that expectation.  It never happens with this song.  It just deflates.
 
I'm by no means a Jack White expert, but I mostly like him based on the songs I've heard.  Here, though, he sounds wee and shrill and unmotivated; this sounds like an idea he crapped out one morning between naps.  Worse, the song completely fails to take advantage of Alicia Keys' talents.  You don't hire Alicia Keys and then give her THIS to do.
 
The song has virtually nothing to do with the movie.  Sure, the concept of death lurking around every corner for a spy is relevant; and the post-credits scene illustrates that.  But otherwise, this song doesn't reflect the movie very well at all.  Not that it has to; I don't know what "A View to a Kill" has to do with A View to a Kill, either, but that doesn't stop it from being rad.


Nailed it.
  

#43 -- "The Experience of Love" by Eric Serra 
(from GoldenEye)

As with "Die Another Day," I can't quite manage to hate this song.  And that's saying something, because I do genuinely hate most of Serra's score for GoldenEye.  This song has a tone that kind of works for me a bit; if I pretend I'm 16 again and am at the beach on a family vacation listening to this on my Walkman in the middle of the night while waves crash outside, I can kinda/sorta get to a place of thinking it's okay.  But in no way does it work for a Bond movie, and it definitely doesn't work for this particular Bond movie.  It's thunderously boring.  I think Serra must have felt it was romantic and sexy, and that it had something to say about Bond's relationship with Simonova.




I think it risked deflating what had been a thoroughly exciting Bond movie and sending people out of the theatre on a down note rather than an all-time high.  For a series that was in danger of vanishing and never emerging again, why take that risk?  I can only assume there was no better option.
  

#42 -- "Make It Last All Night" by Rage 
(from For Your Eyes Only)

Written by Bill Conti with lyrics by his wife Shelby (along with Chris West), "Make It Last All Night" is a thoroughly sleazy early-eighties disco/rock song.  Both musically and lyrically, it would not have been even vaguely out of place in a porno: the Ron Jeremy and Harry Reems classic For Your Thighs Only cums comes to mind, for some reason.




"Oooh, oooh, oooh, can you feel it inside you?" sings Rage.  "Oooh, oooh, oooh, can you feel it inside me, too?"  Look, I don't know exactly what that means, but I feel guilty about it, so it can't be anything I'd want to tell my grandmother about.  Yours, either.
 
It's such a bizarre choice to be in a Bond movie . . . and yet . . . I mean, there is a LOT of fucking in those movies, so is it THAT out of bounds?  Probably not.  I give Bill Conti a bit of credit for realizing that, having the moxie to act on it, and then successfully getting it both into the movie AND onto the soundtrack.  Ya got balls, kid.
  

#41 -- "Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown?" 
by Nina (from On Her Majesty's Secret Service)

Firstly, let's not confuse this Nina -- Nina Van Pallandt of Nina & Frederick -- with Nena, who sang "99 Luftballoons."  That's a must.

No, this is the Nina who would co-star a few years later in The Long Goodbye.




This song was written by John Barry (with lyrics by Hal David), and if Barry ever did anything worse for the Bond films, I don't know about it.  I can tolerate the song somewhat at Christmas, and it plays over one of the best scenes of Majesty's, but apart from that I have very little use for it.  It's the one and only James Bond Christmas song, and if they can't do any better than this, let's hope it stays that way.
  

#40 -- "If You Asked Me To" by Patti LaBelle 
(from Licence to Kill)

Our old frienemy Licence to Kill is back, placing a third song within the bottom ten of this list.  Written by Diane Warren, it's not really that bad a composition; in fact, Celine Dion covered it a few years later and turned it into a smash hit.

My problem with this song is almost entirely Patti LaBelle.  Beyond "On My Own" and "Lady Marmalade," I don't know that much about her, and on the basis of this song I'm going to keep it that way.  I don't like her voice at all.  Prince wrote a few songs for her, and even he couldn't do much with that voice.

But also, there's this video:




  
#1, nobody ever -- EVER -- needed hair like that.  #2, there's overacting, and then there's whatever histrionics LaBelle in experiencing here.  Stop that.  Just stop.
  
  
This magazine appeared less than a month prior to the release of Licence To Kill, and in the entire interview there is nary a single mention of the movie or "If You Asked Me To."  Does that strike anyone else as odd?


#39 -- "Une Chanson d'Amour" by Sophie Della 
(from Never Say Never Again)

  
This song was written by Michel Legrand (with lyrics by Jean Drejac) and sung by Bulgarian Певец (that's Bulgarian, pronounced "pevets," for "singer") Sophie Della, who, the Internet informs me, is also known as Sofia Margo.  I don't know much about her other than that.




I'd have no argument with someone who disliked it, but in my opinion this isn't that bad a song; it's got a sort of flair to it that is otherwise missing from most of Never Say Never Again, and Della sings it well.  It's not a track that will ever feature prominently on any of my self-made Bond-song mix-tapes (which are all MP3 folders at this point), but it's alright.
  

#38 -- "Tomorrow Never Dies" by Sheryl Crow

  
I don't dislike this song, but I do dislike Crow's vocals.  In no way is her singing ability commensurate with performing this song.  She does okay during the verses, but when the chorus rolls around, she becomes thin, stretched, shrill, and borderline incompetent.  In those moments, she is delivering a weak performance, and it is amazing to me that the producers signed off on it.




I'm an awful singer.  In point of fact, I can't sing; that's true in all but the most literal sense.  It doesn't stop me from trying every once in a while, though; if nobody else can hear me, I might occasionally bleat along with whatever I'm listening to, and if the song matches my voice well enough I can make noises that are at least in the same ballpark as acceptable.  I always know when I'm truly stepping outside that ballpark, though, and the resultant noises can be found in the dictionary under the word FAIL.

How could Crow not have known what was happening to her during the choruses of this song?  How is it that nobody stepped up and said, "Hey, look, good try and all, but this isn't working"?

When you consider that a perfectly good song -- we'll get to it much, much later on this list -- had already been recorded by another artist, the issue becomes even more befuddling.  Somebody just cooked you a filet Mignon, and you ask for a ham sandwich instead?  And then, when you see that they've put tartar sauce on that sandwich instead of mayonnaise, you go ahead and eat it rather than take the steak back out of the oven?!?

These things make no sense to me.
  

#37 -- "James Bond Jr"

  
I don't know who wrote the theme song, nor do I know who performed it, but the video to which I linked above says Maxine Sellers sang it, and IMDb says she was the series composer; elsewhere on the Internet, the song is credited to composers Sellers and Dennis C. Brown.  I wouldn't want you thinking I'd simply forgotten to mention it, but is any of that actually true?  Beats me.

I also wouldn't want you thinking I'm insane for not ranking this lower on the list, so allow me to attempt an explanation.




There are 65 episodes of James Bond Jr, and such is my dedication to this blog that I watched all but one of them; and the only reason I skipped that one is that I couldn't find it anywhere.

In all that time, I never wanted to tear the ears off my head while listening to the theme song.  I wouldn't go so far as to say that I liked it, but by the end of the process, it seemed oddly comforting.  Perhaps this was sheer familiarity, or even an aural form of Stockholm syndrome.  Whatever the case, I'm forced to admit that for what it is, the theme song does its job capably and efficiently.

The composers also had a better sense of what makes a "James Bond song" than Madonna did, so if we give this song no further credit, let's give it credit for that.
  

#36 -- "Goldfinger" by Anthony Newley 
(from The Best of James Bond 30th Anniversary Limited Edition)

 
Even in 2016, it's probably true that "Goldfinger" is the best-known of all the Bond songs.  Or maybe that's hyperbolic of me to say; perhaps it's actually some other Bond song altogether.  Who can say?

Whatever the case, "Goldfinger" certainly remains well-known.  It's the Shirley Bassey version everyone knows, of course.  What if I (like Morpheus on a low-stakes day) told you that Bassey's version was not the first version to be recorded?  What if there was a demo version performed by Anthony Newley (who, along with Leslie Bricusse, wrote the lyrics to John Barry's song)?

Because that's the case; there is.




The song was performed as a demo with Newley on vocals; it was never intended or even considered for inclusion in the movie, which means that my inclusion of it on this list is questionable.  However, it did appear on an official Bond soundtrack release:




We'll discuss that 1992 two-disc goldmine more later, but suffice it for now to say that it, in my opinion, canonizes the Newley recording as a "real" Bond song.

A strange one it is, too.  Newley's performance is eccentric, but somewhat persuasive; the music is, obviously, VERY different in tone from what would end up in the film; and overall, this seems like the sort of thing that might have appeared as a somewhat low-rent cover version during the Bond-mania that ensued over the new few years after Goldfinger's (and "Goldfinger" 's) release.  That it actually came first is an eyebrow-raiser.

I can't in good conscience rank it any higher than this, but it's an interesting listen.
  

#35 -- "Dream On James, You're Winning" by Mike Redway 
(from Casino Royale 1967)

  
A few places further up this list, I will lament that I'lllikely never -- without the intervention of a new life inside a quasi-immortal robotic body -- find the time to fully investigate the career of Matt Monro.  No offense to Mr. Monro, but to some degree that is simply because I have higher priorities, one of which is a full investigation of the career of Burt Bacharach.  I know a decent amount of his music already, and you can give most of the credit for that to Casino Royale.


Burt Bacharach circa 1972

  
The movie Arthur probably ought to get some of the credit, too, but I've loved the soundtrack for Bacharach's Casino Royale ever since I discovered it.  I can't recall exactly when that was.  Mid-nineties, maybe?  I never saw the movie as a child, and had only a dim notion of its existence, so I think I probably bought the soundtrack on a whim one day in the midst of my soundtrack-buying mania of the mid-nineties.  I loved it, and eventually found a copy of the movie so I could see what it had been created for.

I know for sure that this happened at some point prior to the release of the first Austin Powers, but hey, you don't care about any of that, do you?  No!  And I don't blame you.  But I sometimes use these blogs as a sort of memory tool for myself, so I couldn't help doing so here for a moment.

Does this feel like too high a ranking?  The song is admittedly a trifle, and the lyrics run for less than half a minute.

James Bond playing at Casino Royale
He won a lot of money and a gal at Casino Royale
He's not really such a wonderful spy
But winning lots of money and gal, he's a fabulous guy

And that's it!

But it cracks me up, man.  I have no earthly idea why; I'd planned to use this space to try and figure it out, but have -- on the fly -- decided that I don't care.  That it does is good enough for me.
  
  
  #34 -- "Never Say Never Again" by Lani Hall

 
Here's one that's despised by many Bond fans, but I actually kinda like.  And if I didn't, I'd tell you: all you've got to do is read my review of the movie to know that I'm not shy about saying when I dislike something.

I think this song is okay, though.  It's a bit incongruous when placed over the film's opening sequence (which really ought to have had the benefit of top-notch action scoring), but I don't think that ought to be held against the song.  Hall is a competent vocalist; nothing special, but she's got Madonna and Sheryl Crow whipped.




I doubt there was ever any circumstance in which the song was going to be considered a classic, but if this one had had the benefit of appearing over a Maurice Binder titles sequence, complete with gymnastic nudes and copious gun imagery and whatnot, I'm guessing it would be at least a bit more popular.

That that did not happen was the result of Never Say Never Again being -- deservedly or not -- in the position of having to try to be a Bond movie without the benefit of so many of the elements that go into making a Bond movie.  Any old movie circa 1983 could have a song in it; not just any old movie could have a title sequence by Maurice Binder, though, and this one couldn't.

So it goes!

Still a better Bond song than "Die Another Day," though.  Yeah, I'm gonna keep repeating it!
  

#33 -- "The Man With the Golden Gun" by Lulu

 
I know there a lot of Bond fans -- including at least one prominent friend of the blog (lookin' at you, McMolo) -- who adore this song.  To all of you, I apologize for placing it this low.  It feels too low even to me, but the fact is that, try as I might, I just can't quite come fully to terms with it.  The electric guitar feels out of my place to my ears, almost as though John Barry felt obliged to ape "Live and Let Die" a bit but wasn't sure how to go about doing it.  Lulu's vocals are fine; she's got a certain amount of pixieish appeal (especially in that live performance to which I linked above).




All in all, though, I just can't take the song seriously.  I don't dislike it; I get a smallish amount of enjoyment from it every time I hear it.  But as far as my personal-favorite Bond themes go, it's way down the list.

Audience poll: is she singing "who will he bang?" or "who will he bag?"  I've always heard it as "bag."  There's no subtlety in saying "bang," and anyways, I've never heard the word "bang" used as a verb meaning "to kill."  I have heard "bag" used that way, and I've also heard "bag" mean "to sexually seduce to completion."  It's a hunting term, and thus works for both situations, whereas "bang" kinda only works the one way.  I don't know what the official lyric is, but I'm sticking with "bag."


#32 -- "Where Has Every Body Gone" by The Pretenders 
(from The Living Daylights)

Let's get one thing clear: it's "Every Body," NOT "Everybody."  So sayeth my copy of the soundtrack, and so, apparently, sayeth the single:




This synth-heavy rock song is an odd one.  Written by John Barry with lead Pretender Chryssie Hynde, the song appears as source music coming from the Walkman of Necros, the film's main henchman.  The melody also appears throughout the film, often as a theme for Necros; so it's both source music AND score, which is atypical not only of the Bond films but of films in general.

Whether it works or not is up to the listener.  I love the instrumental versions, but the song itself is only okay in my opinion.  I really don't like the "There's no time . . . there's no time at all!  Hah!" bit, which comes off as cheesy as hell to my ears.  The rest is fine, but it doesn't rank highly for me overall.
 

#31 -- "Under the Mango Tree" by Monty Norman 
(from Dr. No)

The first Bond film doesn't have a theme song, but if it did, it'd be "Under the Mango Tree," which appears at least thrice, each time sung by a different vocalist.  The most notable version is probably the one delivered by Honey Ryder during her emergence-from-the-sea scene, but -- for reasons I cannot quite articulate -- I have opted against including that version.  Sorry about that.

This version is the one sung by Norman himself, which appears during the scene in which Bond is suspiciously tailing Quarrel.


Norman with director Terence Young

I like the song well enough, and Norman's vocals are decent.  But shouldn't the title be "Underneath the Mango Tree"?
  

#30 -- "From Russia With Love" by Matt Monro

Though a bit too languid and aimless for me to have it much higher than it is in this ranking, this is a beautifully-performed song.  That, apparently, is no surprise if you're familiar with Matt Monro.  Outside of this single ditty, I am not; and while I suspect I could fix that via a quick visit to YouTube, I think I'm going to opt to remain in the dark.  So much music, so little time; we do NOT have all the time in the world, I am sad to say, so I'm going to continue to guard mine jealously.

However, here are a few facts about Monro gleaned from Wikipedia (meaning I really ought to have typed that "facts"):

  • Throughout his 30-year career, he filled cabarets, nightclubs, music halls, and stadiums in Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and Hong Kong to Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas.
  • Prior to producing the Peter Sellers album Songs for Swingin' Sellers in 1960, George Martin [Bryant's note: that's George Martin of eventual Live and Let Die fame, by the way] asked Monro to record a satirical ditty to help the comedian imitate the song with a Frank Sinatra-type styling. When Sellers heard the recording he decided to use it to open the record rather than record his own version. However, Sellers billed Monro as "Fred Flange," and though it was a demoralising experience at the time, the incident developed into a lifelong friendship with Martin, who subsequently asked Monro to begin recording with him for EMI's Parlophone record label. 
  • He also had a hit with the Beatles' "Yesterday" in 1965, releasing the first single of the most recorded song of all time, predating even the Beatles' own.  The following year, Monro sang the Oscar-winning title song for the John-Barry-scored film Born Free, which became his signature tune.


Matt Monro performing in Melbourne in 1967

It bums me out sometimes to think that there are dozens -- hundreds, probably; maybe thousands -- of singers and musicians in the pantheon whose work I would almost certainly enjoy and never will, at least fully.  From this particular style of music, I cannot even claim to be fully familiar with the work of the most famous of them all: Frank Sinatra.  And I know I'd enjoy immersing myself in the discographies of any number of other crooners, such as Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, Matt Monro, Nat "King" Cole, James Darren; and so forth.

This is why when the opportunity comes for me to transplant my brain into a shiny robot body and live for the next few millennia, I'm going to volunteer with no hesitation.

Failing that, I'm apt to continue to be mostly ignorant of the recordings of Matt Monro.  I did jump over to YouTube and search for him, though, and this documentary seems well worth watching.

Robot body or not, I'll have a brief familiarity with Monro for the rest of my days via "From Russia With Love."
  

#29 -- "You Only Live Twice" by Julie Rogers 
(from The Best of James Bond 30th Anniversary Limited Edition)

  
 Let's have a word about rejected Bond songs.

Hardcore fans will have heard more than a few of them; more casual viewers -- or even hardcore fans who simply aren't all that focused on the music -- might have little to no idea that such things exist.  That latter group is the majority, by the way, so lest anyone get high and mighty about knowing things like this (or feel that I'm trying to be), let's put such sentiments to rest.

Instead, let's now use this as an excuse to talk about a bunch of them, starting with the one at hand: "You Only Live Twice" by Julie Rogers.

This song was written by John Barry with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, and once it was recorded, the composers felt they could come up with something better.  That's how we ended with up Nancy Sinatra's song, which is indeed better.  I like this one quite a bit, though, and Rogers sings it very well.  She'd had a top ten single called "The Wedding" in both the UK and the US in 1964, but does not seem to have had many hits other than that one.




You've got to wonder what having a Bond theme song could have done for her career.  In any case, it wasn't to be, and the song didn't get released until that 1992 30th-anniversary two-disc set came out.  Poor woman wasn't even credited on that, either!  Apparently nobody knew who it was.  Thems the breaks, kid.

It's a good song, but unless I had official sources to verify it for me, I wouldn't peg it as John Barry.  It doesn't have the Barry sound, or the Bond sound; the two are often one and the same.  I don't blame Barry for feeling he needed to try a little harder and come up with something exceptional.

The fact that the song was written by Barry -- and, later, canonized as a part of The Best Of Bond...James Bond -- is what earned the song a place on this list.  But there are plenty of other rejected Bond songs which didn't have a John Barry credit, nor ever received a canonical release on an official Bond soundtrack album.  I decided it would be wrong to rank all of them; there's a difference between being a Bond song and trying to be a Bond song.  That doesn't mean that some would-be Bond songs (such as "Supremacy" by Muse, which was not actually -- so far as I can tell -- written for a Bond movie buts sure does sound as though it might have been) can't be better than actual Bond songs ("Another Way to Die"), but we are not discussing quality, we are discussing canonicity.  Some songs got it, some don't.  We're ranking the ones that've got it.

Here are a few notable ones that don't:

  • "Thunderball" by Johnny Cash:  You hear that Johnny Cash did a spec song for a Bond movie and you think, "Well, how could that possibly work?"  You hear it, and it turns out it's exactly like what you'd expect: utterly inappropriate for a James Bond movie.  And yet, god damn is it awesome.  It sounds like James Bond turned into a gunslinger between movies and is roaming the Wild West, his six-guns smoking at his sides as he sidles into a saloon and eyes up the madam, who in turn eyes him up.  This is not your idea of James Bond, and it's not my idea of James Bond, but it MIGHT have been Johnny Cash's idea of James Bond, and doggone it, I kinda want to see that movie.
  • "Let the Love Come Through" from Casino Royale '67:  One of Bacharach's melodies evidently formed the basis of an unused song called "Let the Love Come Through," which arranger Roland Shaw later used on a 1971 album called The Phase 4 World of Spy Thrillers.  It's not that great, although not even a shoddy production like this can diminish Bacharach's tune all that much.
  • "You Only Live Twice" by Lorraine Chandler:  I thought about including this in my rankins simply because the James Bond theme is used as part of the song.  However, I don't think this song was written by anyone associated with the Bond films, and it's never -- so far as I know -- been released on an official Bond compilation.  Plus, I don't like it.
  • "Man With the Golden Gun" by Alice Cooper:  The first time I heard this, I thought it was absolutely dreadful.  It's grown on me a bit over the years, but in no way does it seem like it would have worked for a Bond movie.  Listen to it immediately after you listen to McCartney's "Live and Let Die," though, and I think you kind of see what Cooper was going for.  In any case, the producers turned him down, and he released the song on his 1973 album Muscle of Love, which came out months prior to the movie The Man With the Golden Gun.
  • "For Your Eyes Only" by Blondie:  I don't hate this song, and you can hear a bit of Bond-iness to it that tells you that Blondie put more effort into having their song fit the subgenre than did, say, Madonna.  So there's that.  They released the song on their 1982 album The Hunter, and despite that, it's an obscurity these days.
  • "Never Say Never Again" by Phyllis Hyman:  I can almost imagine this being the theme song for a Roger Moore Bond film.  Almost.  Not really, though; it just sounds like something I might have heard on a soft-rock station driving home from seeing Octopussy, and that's not the same thing, is it?
  • untitled demo by Pet Shop Boys for The Living Daylights:  This instrumental demo was allegedly a work-in-progress for a would-be Bond theme song by the synthpop duo who brought us "West End Girls" (one of my favorite songs, FYI).  It seemingly didn't get much farther than that, although they later turned it into their song "This Must Be the Place I Waited Years to Leave."  A second version on YouTube claims to be another try, but I'm skeptical.  I'm glad the final movie included the a-ha song, personally, but I like what I know of Pet Shop Boys, and would like to visit the parallel universe where they actually got their Bond song into theatres.
  • "The Goldeneye" by Ace of Base:  I'll say this for it: it's better than it probably ought to be.  I'm glad the producers ended up with a U2/Tina turner collaboration, but I don't hate this demo.  I should!  I just don't.  The band reworked it and turned it into a song called "The Juvenile," which actually works a bit better.
  • "Tomorrow Never Lies" by Pulp:  Little-known fact: the movie was at one point going to be called Tomorrow Never Lies, and it's that title which Pulp used for their rejected title.  the band eventually released the song as a b-side.  I have to confess that I don't quite understand the appeal of Pulp.  Maybe I just haven't heard the right songs.  This is your cue to try to sell me on them, but be warned that I am only mildly interested in having my mind changed, so you'd better bring your a-game.  I don't like "Tomorrow Never Lies" at all, FYI.
  • Tomorrow Never Dies is a cornucopia of rejected title songs.  Other bands who gave it a try include Dot Allison ("Tomorrow Never Comes"), The Fixx ("Fatal Shore"), Saint Etienne, and Swan Lee (who even did a Bond-esque video for the song).  None of them work for me all that well, and all in all, I guess I can live with Sheryl Crow.  But I kind of like each on their own terms.
  • "Beyond the Ice" by Red Flag:  This was their tryout for Die Another Day.  It's a dud.  Let's move on.
  • "Spectre" by Radiohead:  Everyone hates the Sam Smith song, but everyone also hates the song Radiohead wrote for Spectre.  They released it onto the Internet late in 2015, and I fell in love with immediately.  But then again, I'm in love with the Sam Smith song, so that tells you where I'm coming from.  At one time on YouTube, you could find a video in which some bloke had edited Radiohead's song over the movie's opening credits, and let me tell you, it works pretty dang well.  But there appears to be a determined effort to keep this song off of YouTube altogether, so I can be of no further assistance to you in locating it.
I'm sure there are other prominent rejected Bond songs, but those are the ones I felt like discussing.  Ranking them all on this list would have been fun, but that way lies madness.
  
  
#28 -- "Under the Mango Tree" by Diana Coupland 
(from Dr. No)

I've always preferred the female-vocalist version of "Under the Mango Tree" to the male-vocalist version.  More seductive, I'd say.  I like the way Coupland sings this, especially the way she draws out the final word ("treeeeeeeeeeeee").

I've got little else to say about the song, so let's press on.
  

#27 -- "Licence to Kill" by Gladys Knight

In some ways, this is a Bond-song mashup, which sort of means it loses points.  But I dig it, and it's only grown on me more over the years.  Plus, it's one of my Dad's favorite Bond songs -- maybe even (I'd have to ask him to know for sure) his #1 -- so that means a lot to me, since it was my Dad who turned me into a hardcore Bond fan.




Gladys Knight gives what I'd call a flawless vocal performance on this.  She's pretty great in general, actually.  I'm no expert, nor even a knowledgeable amateur, but she sang "Midnight Train to Georgia" and so I assume she is basically a genius, because I've got not proof to the contrary.  Flawed logic, but what of it?

I like how this song ends with her whispering the word "kill" a few times.  I like to imagine that a few serial killers have heard this song and gotten up out of their chairs, unsure whether these orders from Gladys Knight were binding.
  

#26 -- "GoldenEye" by Tina Turner

  
I only gave this song a 004/007 when I reviewed the movie in December of 2014.  That seems like a point too low, and I suspect that whenever I begin the process of revising all of those posts, it's a mistake which will be corrected.

GoldenEye has the worst music of any of the Bond movies, in my opinion.  Eric Serra's score is, at time, thunderingly awful.  The saving grace of the film, musically, is the title song.  It was written by Bono and The Edge of U2, and they must have been thinking for years about what they'd do with a Bond song if they got a chance.  Give 'em all the credit in the world, because their first decision seems to have been, "We've got to get Shirley Bassey to sing it."  Somehow, they ended up with Tina Turner instead of Bassey, but that was no problem: Turner is no downgrade from Bassey (if indeed they ever had Bassey in mind at all, and I have no clue about that).




All I know for sure is that Turner brought a lot of power and personality to the mix here, and the music and lyrics by Bono and The Edge enabled her to do so.  She was a great pick for a Bond singer.  I don't think I have much more to say about the song than that, so let's move along.
  

#25 -- "All Time High" by Rita Coolidge (from Octopussy)

  
This song catches flak from some in Bond fandom, but I've always loved it.  It's got a great melody, solid lyrics, and good vocals.  Is it easy-listening pop?  Well, basically, yeah.

I've got news for you: by 1983, Bond movies were the cinematic equivalent of easy-listening.  I'm not kidding or being snarky; that's just a fact.  Easy-listening radio appealed to older listeners and was designed to be almost entirely inoffensive.  Tell me that doesn't describe Octopussy.  Sure, it had a wee bit of edge to it at times, but those last few Roger Moore Bond films had most of the edge sanded off of them.  I don't say this as a criticism; I love those movies.  It's just a fact (by which I mean it's my firmly-held opinion).

"All Time High" fits that era like a glove.  So I suspect that if you love the era, you probably like the song.  Or not.

Boy, that's keen critical insight, isn't it?

Anyways, here's Rita Coolidge:




Having found a photo of her with a Muppet, there was no way I wasn't using it.  That got me to thinking: what other Bond singers have appeared on-screen with a Muppet?  Was there any chance Coolidge was the only one?  If so, that would have been a heck of a trivia question.  So I did a bit of research, and found that a few other Bond singers had similar honors (sorry, Rita): Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Sheena Easton, Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, Sheryl Crow, k.d. lang, Alicia Keys, and, most recently, Jack White.  Also, there was a monster named Lulu on Sesame Street, but I don't think that counts.

And now you know.
  

#24 -- "Moonraker" by Shirley Bassey

  
Fun fact: I frequently type "Monnraker" rather than "Moonraker," so I betcha somewhere on this blog, that typo got missed and is sitting there stupidly looking up into the world from the screen.  If you happen to see one of 'em, apologies for my sloppiness.

I've always liked "Moonraker."  John Barry was good at writing those Moore-era romantic songs.  The first one was "Nobody Does It Better," which Barry had no involvement with; but he wrote "Moonraker" and "All Time High" and, later, "If There Was a Man," and while none of them had the impact of "Nobody Does It Better" -- or "For Your Eyes Only" (another non-Barry pop smash), for that matter -- I think it's a solid trilogy of '70s/'80s MOR-radio hits.




"Moonraker" was intended to be performed by Frank Sinatra, and Barry wrote a version of the song with lyrics by Paul Williams -- who, in the same summer of Moonraker's release, would have "The Rainbow Connection" in The Muppet Movie -- and recorded a demo.  Sinatra dropped out of the project not long thereafter, robbing the world of a Bond song performed by perhaps the greatest crooner to ever live.  Them's the breaks, kids.

Williams also ended up leaving the film, and Hal David came in and wrote new lyrics.  Johnny Mathis was hired to perform the song; perform the song he did, and it was apparently deemed unsuitable and shelved.  Bassey was hired to take his place, and that is the story of how we have "Moonraker."

There's a much more expansive version of that story in Jon Burlingame's book The Music of James Bond.  If you're interested enough in Bond music to be reading this, trust me when I tell you that you want a copy of that book.

As regards "Moonraker," I think it's solid.  Romantic, a little sad, very well-sung by Bassey; good stuff.  I also dig the disco version, and if you're wondering why I didn't rank it separately, that makes at least two of us.  I think it's because I couldn't decide which I like more, so I froze and decided to skirt the issue.
  

#23 -- "Casino Royale" by Mike Redway 
(from Casino Royale 1967)

  
Burt Bacharach's marvelous opening-credits theme for the 1967 version of Casino Royale is arguably the single best thing about the entire movie.  Brace yourself: it's nothing like a John Barry theme, except in that it's just as good.

We're not here to rank instrumentals, though, so we're not talking about that version.  We're talking about the version with lyrics, which can be heard toward the end of the film.  It opens with a reprise of "Dream On James, You're Winning," and I suspect you're either charmed by what vocalist Mike Redway is doing or you're really, really not.  I think it turns the movie's ludicrousness up to 11, and I think that's a good thing; most of the movie only has it at about a 3, and that's not a high enough setting to work.

While looking for that, I found this, which seems to be a demo track for a vocals-included version of the opening credits.  If you're into purposely-lazy rhymes, you're in for a minor treat.

And now, I present to you the top ten most incongruous images that turned up when I Googled the phrase "the formula is safe with old 007":


What?

Why?!?

Worst peanuts ever.

Uh...


Okay, that's kinda rad.

Awww....

Awwwwww.....

Is this an ad in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen?

Sorry about that.  Also, kid: quit looking at me.

You've got me?!?  Who's got YOU?!?


#22 -- "Only Myself to Blame" by Scott Walker 
(from The World Is Not Enough soundtrack)

 
Does this one count?  Not in the movie, but on the soundtrack.  Hmm...

Yeah, good enough for me.

The idea with this song, I guess, was for it to be an end-credits song, but apparently Michael Apted felt it was too much of a downer to end the movie with.  Who wants audiences walking out to the sounds of a song as big a bummer as this one?  I can see his point, but on the other hand, Apted was okay with Denise Richards playing nuclear physicist Dr. Christmas Jones, so maybe we ought not to put that much reliance on his judgment.

Walker seems like a fascinating guy.  Hard to Google him these days, since there's a Wisconsin-based politician occupying his good name.  He got his start with The Walker Brothers -- none of whom were brothers, or actually named Walker -- and had a few hits, including the awesome Burt Bacharach song "Make It Easy On Yourself."  That one's so good that I'm embedding the motherfucker:

    

  
  
Man, what a song.  Bacharach was a genius; the more I dig into his work, the more evident that becomes.

I couldn't tell you much of anything else about Scott Walker, except that by the time The World Is Not Enough came out, I'd already encountered him via the Nick Cave-scored soundtrack album for the film To Have and to Hold.  Walker contributed an excellent cover of Bob Dylan's song "I Threw It All Away" for that album/movie, so when I heard "Only Myself to Blame" three years later, I gave it a big thumbs-up not merely for being a terrific song, but also for the tenuous Nick Cave and Bob Dylan links.  That's the closest we're ever getting to those fellers doing a Bond song, I suspect; rightfully so, too, bless their hearts.

Anyways, as regards "Only Myself to Blame," would it have been that difficult for somebody to figure out a way to edit it into the movie someplace?  I'm not saying give it a full-blown mid-film montage like "We Have All the Time in the World," but it could have gone in there somewhere.  Feels like David Arnold is constantly getting screwed by the Bond series, and it's kind of a shame.

It's a shame for Scott Walker too, in this instance.  But hey, at least it made the soundtrack.
  

#21 -- "The World Is Not Enough" by Garbage

  
Here's one that doesn't get all that much love, but which I feel is underrated.  I'm only moderately familiar with Garbage.  I like what I know of their music, but I'd never have pegged them to do a Bond song.  And yet, they -- in collaboration with David Arnold and lyricist Don Black -- managed to turn out a perfectly good one.



  
Does it break the mold in any way?  Nah.  So what?  It's like "GoldenEye" in that regard.  And that's plenty good enough for me.

Incredibly tenuous link between James Bond and Stephen King: in the 1999 fauxquel The Rage: Carrie 2, two characters have a brief discussion about Garbage.
  

#20 -- "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" 
by Dionne Warwick (and by Shirley Bassey
(from The Best of James Bond 30th Anniversary Limited Edition) 

Would you say this is the most famous rejected Bond theme song?  That's a very relative thing, I suppose; it's probably more accurate to say that there ARE no famous rejected Bond songs, not in mass-consciousness terms.

So instead, let's look at this a different way.  Is there a more prominent rejected Bond song than "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang"?  I think the answer to that is almost certainly no.

The story goes like this.  Fresh off the stupefyingly large success of Goldfinger (the movie) and "Goldfinger" (the theme song), the Bond family was eager to replicate their fortunes.  For Thunderball, everyone wanted another smash hit theme song, so naturally, they turned to John Barry to compose it.  He turned to Leslie Bricusse for lyrics, and they both turned to rising pop star (and frequent Burt Bacharach collaborator) Dionne Warwick to perform it.




The song was "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," and everyone was pleased with it . . . except United Artists, the movie studio, who felt quite strongly that the song needed to be doing more with the word "thunderball."  As is, it was doing nothing, and nothing meant nothing to them.

Barry composed a new song, "Thunderball," with lyrics by Don Black (Matt Monro's manager and sometime lyricist).  We'll see how that one turned out a bit further into this list.

Consideration was being given to keeping "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" around as an end-credits song, but for reasons that are unclear (to me), Warwick's version was all the way out.  Instead, somebody had the bright idea of bringing Shirley Bassey back.  And why not?  That song plus the singer of "Goldfinger" seemed like surefire success.

We're not judging that recording separately.  Maybe we should be.  It'd be a lower on the list, as it is inferior to the Warwick version.  Bassey's vocals are powerful, but her phrasing is occasionally bizarre.  By this point in her career, she'd seemingly become obsessed by the tactic of delaying her delivery of a line of lyrics until the last possible moment, resulting in her having to speed-sing her way through certain parts of the song in order to avoid getting out of sync.  She does that a lot in live performances, where a producer is powerless to stop her.  They were apparently powerless to stop her here, too.  Also, they seem to have been powerless to get her to clearly pronounce the "g" in the word "bang."  It's an off-putting performance, frankly, and while I wouldn't go far as to say it's bad, it's very easy for me to say (again) that Warwick's version is clearly superior.

With an inferior Bassey version in hand, everyone seems to have decided to just skip the song altogether.  Was Warwick unwilling to submit to an end-credits placement?  Beats me.  Seems possible.  Whatever the case, the song was gone, but melody remained, as Barry had woven it into the score for the film.  It's on par with the melody for "Thunderball" in terms of its prominence within the score (and, thus, the movie); if anything, it's more present.

It's a bit of a redheaded-stepchild among Bond songs, but let's make no mistake: this IS a Bond song, through and through.  It's been living in the attic for years, subsisting on gruel and rainwater.  But it grew up fairly healthy, and it's hereby invited to all of the You Only Blog Twice parties.  Good stuff; let's all give it a welcome and a hug, shall we?
  

#19 -- "Live and Let Die" by B.J. Arnau

 
I never much cared for Arnau's version of this song when I was a kid, but it's grown on me a lot over the years.  It's kind of daffy for the movie's theme song to be performed FOR Bond within the movie, but this can be rationalized away: the Wings version that plays over the opening credits is merely a foreshadowing of the moment in the story when Bond, while listening to somebody sing a song, is whisked away into danger.  After all, it's not like the song is "Goldfinger" or "Skyfall" or something; nothing from the plot of the movie is referenced in "Live and Let Die," so this makes it fairly easy to pretend that it's a song from Bond's world that just happens to be repurposed by McCartney during those opening credits.

Alternatively, you could simply not care about issues of that nature.  If so, I get where you're coming from; I just came from someplace else.




I know nothing about Arnau, apart from her Wikipedia page tells me.  It doesn't appear that her career ever managed to take off, which puts her in a class alongside any number of other sings who can just never quite find a way to make things catch fire.  It's luck as much as it is talent, I guess.

Thing is, Arnau does at the very least have a prominent scene in a movie that has been seen by millions upon millions of people, and will likely continue to be seen by new Bond fans for quite some time to come.

That's a better legacy than most folks can reasonably hope for, so good on ya, B.J. Arnau.

Her version of "Live and Let Die" is confident and powerful, and while it doesn't manage to scale the heights of the Wings version, it's pretty great.
  

#18 -- "The Living Daylights" by a-ha

  
This seems to be one of the Bond songs that isn't particularly well-loved.  What a shame!  This is a fantastic song, for the most part; it's got a great melody, slick production, and good energy.  I'm not thrilled by the parts Morten Harket sings in falsetto (he sounds a bit like a Muppet to me there), and I still don't know what some of the lyrics mean; but those are mild criticisms.




The song was co-written by the band with John Barry, and apparently it was not a harmonious collaboration.  Barry publicly criticized the band's attitude over the years, and the band in turn insisted that Barry seemed uninterested in working with them.

Who's really to blame?  Impossible to say, and mostly irrelevant even if it wasn't.  It's possible that Barry brought with him the chip on his shoulder he might've gotten from working with Duran Duran on the previous film in the series; he'd had problems with them, and could conceivably have gone into an a-ha collaboration assuming that another teenage-girl-sensation band was going to be misery to work with.  Conversely, a-ha might have seen themselves as the top-of-the-line talent in the Bond-song equation, and Barry as a mere contributor.  It's even possible that both of those things happened at once.

Or neither.  It's pure speculation on my part to theorize either of those things.  What matters is the end result, and I dig the hell out of this one.
  

#17 -- "Jump Up" by Byron Lee and The Dragonaires 
(from Dr. No)

 
Arguably the first hit single in James Bond history, "Jump Up" is a high-energy tune that helped introduce Jamaican music to the world.  It doesn't have much in the way of "James Bond sound" as we would come to define it, but it's a hell of a lot of fun.




Lee and his band would continue to perform until his death in 2008, and The Dragonaires have even pressed on without him.
  

#16 -- "If There Was a Man" by The Pretenders 
(from The Living Daylights)

 
Co-written by John Barry, "If There Was a Man" marked the first time in series history that a Bond movie included an end-credits song as well as the traditional opening-credits song.  The next three films in the series continued the trend, making for a quasi-ritual that I would love to see brought back.

I now quote from my blog post about The Living Daylights:

This is a gorgeous song, but it is a brutally sad one.  "Where's the one I'm holding out for?  When's he walking through that door (the one that you walked through), if he isn't you?"  That shit'll break your heart, boy.  So why does the movie end with a song like this?  "Happy endings never find me," sings Chrissie Hynde, although the movie ends happily for Kara.  "So my moment's overdue," she admits; "but if there was a man out there for me, I wish it would be someone who could love me, too...if someone was you..."

Here, in the end credits song, is a tacit admission: that while the movie may end with Kara falling into James's arms, whatever happiness they may share is doomed to be transitory and fleeting.  This is the song Kara will be singing six months from now, and it's a major bummer: all of James Bond's romances end in tragedy of one sort or another, the song tells us. 

Couldn't have said it better myself.


The always-dignified fingerguns.

I didn't have a copy of this single, but The Living Daylights was the first Bond movie I owned a soundtrack for.  On cassette, natch.  Ah, 1987...
  

#15 -- "No Good About Goodbye" by Shirley Bassey 
(from her album The Performance)

 
"No Good About Goodbye" is not a James Bond song.  Why, then, are we discussing it here?  "My heart is no good at pretending," sings Bassey during the song, and I share that sentiment.  I could pretend that my ears don't hear this as a James Bond song, but why bother?  They do hear it that way, and that's just a fact.

But it's also a fact that no matter what my ears hear and no matter how they hear it, the song is definitively NOT a James Bond song.  The song's placement on this list, then, is a cheat.

Here are the reasons why I've decided to cheat in this manner:

  • The song was composed and produced by David Arnold, who was a Bond-series veteran.
  • The lyrics were written by Don Black, who was a Bond-series veteran.
  • The song was performed by Shirley Bassey, who was a Bond-series veteran.
  • The song began its life as a would-be Quantum of Solace theme song for singer Amy Winehouse, whose personal problems prevented it from being properly developed.
  • A six-note phrase that is a major part of the song was used extensively by Arnold in his score for Quantum of Solace.
  • The word "solace" is part of the song's chorus.

In other words, "No Good About Goodbye" sure does have a shitload of Bond-series pedigree and relevance for a song that is not a Bond song.  In other words, what I'm saying to you is that I don't care about facts; this might not be a Bond song, and I have to acknowledge that lest I appear to be ignorant of those facts, but as far as I'm concerned it's got the credentials it needs.  So object if you wish, but it's on my personal list, and there it's going to stay.

Jon Burlingame's The Music of James Bond has some interesting context.  Winehouse, along with her producer, Mark Ronson, had struck an agreement to record a theme song for Quantum.  "Arnold and Ronson," Burlingame writes, "worked on song ideas in early March 2008 and, two weeks later, got together with the Dap-King's (who played on" [Winheouse's album] "Back to Black) to record a rough backing track.  Winehouse, who was to have written the lyrics and come up with a title, didn't show up to sing the next day as expected.  Or the day after that; or any time over the next three weeks.  And while she promised to come up with a title and lyrics, she never did."

All of this led to the abandonment of the Winehouse idea and the hiring of Jack White and Alicia Keys, whose song "Another Way to Die" would eventually appear as the 2008 film's theme song.

That's not the end of the story, though.  Burlingame writes, "A isx-note phrase that Arnold originally penned for the unfinished Winehouse song and that pops up occasionally in the film was later spun off into a song of its own.  In 2009, Arnold produced a new album for Dame Shirley Bassey.  Black penned a lyric that uses the word "solace" several times, leading Bond fans to speculate that it may have been intended for Quantum of Solace; but it was actually written months later."  Bulringame goes on to quote Arnold, who says that while the finished product contains the string riff and feel of the aborted Winehouse song, it is melodically and chordally different.




The Performance also contains a song written by John Barry and Don Black, by the way.  It's called "Our Time Is Now," and it's pretty good, but you'll notice that I'm not making any claims for it being a quasi-Bond song, despite having work by four Bond vets (Barry, Bassey, Black, and Arnold).  No, and that's because it's doesn't strike my ears that way, nor does it have its origins in a Bond movie.

"No Good About Goodbye" does have those roots, and it does have a Bondian vibe to it.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
  

#14 -- "Writing's on the Wall" by Sam Smith 
(from Spectre)

Boy, a lot of people hate this song.  If you're one of them, apologies to you for my refutation of your assessment.




I don't have much to say other than what I said in my review of Spectre, so here comes a quotation:

For the first time since at least Licence to Kill (and possibly farther back than that), I managed -- on purpose -- to not hear the new Bond song prior to seeing the movie.  I wanted the experience of see a brand-new Bond movie and watching the opening titles without having any clue what the song sounded like.

I got that experience, and the song made little impression on me at all.

The next day, I listened to the song in my car on the way to work, and loved it.  It's been catching flak from a lot of people ever since it came out, and the Oscars were widely mocked for giving it the song of the year statue.  This post certainly proved that I've got no problem firing flak when I feel it's appropriate, but I don't think it's appropriate in the case of "Writing's on the Wall."  It's a beautiful song, it's sung wonderfully by Sam Smith, and it's got a classically-Bondian sound to it.  I think it sounds like a better version of the movie than the movie we actually got.

A criticism: the song never gets quite as big as I think it secretly wants to get.  The strings get it close in a few moments, but everything else doesn't quite make it.  It gives the song a slightly defeated mood that doesn't quite seem warranted.

One way to defuse that: pretend it's a theme song for Quantum of Solace, to which it would be more appropriate.

Consider this notion: the song actually does a much better job of selling the Bond/Swann romance than the movie does.  Smith wrote  the song after he read the screenplay, without benefit of seeing the film; he tried to put himself in the mindset of James Bond, and tried to anticipate the movie that would be the result of the screenplay.  Smith was writing a song for a version of the movie that would have actually made that relationship work on screen; this version of the movie does not.

So if you feel the song doesn't match the movie, I'd argue that it's because the movie failed Sam Smith, not the other way around.

I stand by all of that.

#13 -- "You Know My Name" by Chris Cornell 
(from Casino Royale)


  
  
Here's what I had to say about "You Know My Name" in my post about Casino Royale:

I've got an odd relationship with music.  Sometimes, when I'm initially hearing music that I anticipate big-time, I can't quite process it.  So, for example, if U2 (arguably my favorite band) puts out a new album, the odds are decent that I'm going to not like it very much for the first two or three listens.  But then, as I listen to it more, I'll sort of mentally absorb it.  (Note that this was note my reaction to the recent U2 album Songs of Innocence: I loved it on the first listen, and have continued to ever since.)

Similar experiences have happened to me with John Williams scores, Nick Cave and Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan albums, and -- in the case of "You Know My Name" -- James Bond title songs.

I generally try to avoid hearing new Bond songs until I'm seeing the movie, but I think the last time I was successful in that aim was, like, Licence to Kill.  We;ll try it again with Spectre and see how it goes!  But in any case, I heard "You Know My Name" before Casino Royale came out, and I hated it.  I mean, flat-out hated it.  Went on and on about how much I hated it to anyone who would listen to me, too.

Then, a funny thing happened: I saw the movie, and in the context of the film and those Daniel Kleinman opening titles, I changed my mind real quick.  Went from hating the song to loving it in the span of a few minutes.

What can I say?  I got that one wrong.  It's a terrific song, and while it may not have screamed BOND at me when I first heard it, it damn sure screams it at me now.  I love so many of the Bond songs SO much that I'm not even certain this one would make my top ten; but regardless, it's great stuff.  One thing worth mentioning: Chris Cornell is a rock singer, but he's a rock singer, and that's a big part of what helps this fit into the Bond mold; or to reshape the Bond mold to fit it, if you prefer.

And again, I stand by all of that.

This would probably be the opportune place to cover three additional facts:

  • This is the point in time at which the Bond soundtracks ceased to include the opening-credits song.  (With Quantum of Solace and "Another Way to Die" excepted, that is.)  This is an obnoxious practice that creates a tremendous amount of disparity in the Bond-music collector's set of CDs.  Am I aware that the vast majority of people on the face of the Earth are utterly unmoved by this?  I am.  Doesn't make it any less galling to the tiny percentage of us who do care.
  • The song was co-written by Cornell with David Arnold.  So if you've got the opinion that Arnold can't write a great Bond theme song -- looking at you, Barbara Broccoli -- then you need to look again.
  • There are apparently three different versions of the song.  This is not uncommon; the film mixes of the songs are almost always different from the album versions (if only via having been edited down).  Which version am I ranking here?  The one in my brain.
 
#12 -- "You Only Live Twice" by Nancy Sinatra

The recording of this iconic Bond song was evidently a touch-and-go sort of affair.  Sinatra -- a good vocalist, but perhaps not one who is in the same league as a Shirley Bassey or a Tom Jones in terms of her voice's power -- was intimidated by the large orchestra from the outset, and after several dozen takes, the decision was made to send the orchestra home, keep Sinatra in studio, and concentrate on the song a piece at a time.  Ultimately, what you and I think of as "You Only Live Twice" ended up being edited into a whole from as many as two-dozen-plus pieces.




And hey, if you can get results like this via methods like that, why not?  I'm writing this in 2016, and rare is the song that gets released which is a single-source take; the editing of multiple takes into a cohesive whole doesn't discomfit me in the slightest.

This song is utterly iconic, and is certainly one of the two or three Bond songs which has had the most vitality outside the Bond series.  Its gorgeous melody -- one of Barry's very best -- was used as the backbone for the smash-hit Robbie Williams song "Millennium," so you could make a persuasive argument that it was an iconic recording not once but twice.

I kind of like the symmetry of that, don't you?


#11 -- "Thunderball" by Tom Jones

Let's have a look at this song's lyrics (which were written by Don Black):

He always runs while others walk.
He acts while other men just talk.
He looks at this world and wants it all,
So he strikes, like thunderball.

He knows the meaning of success.
His needs are more, so he gives less.
They call him the winner who takes all,
And he strikes like thunderball.


Any woman he wants, he'll get.
He will break any heart without regret.
His days of asking are all gone.
His fight goes on and on and on,
But he thinks that the fight is worth it all,
So he strikes like thunderball.


There's a goodish amount of contention within the Bond-fan community as to whether this song is about Bond himself or about Emilio Largo, the villain.  What's your take on that?  My take is that it's about Largo; you can say a lot of things about James Bond, but you can't say that he wants the world.
  



Whoever it's about, this song is a belter (as the fellows at JamesBondRadio.com would likely describe it).  Jones's vocals might be the most powerful of any song in the series, and the song just oozes cool.  I don't have much more to say about it than that, so let's move on to the top ten.


#10 -- "Surrender" by kd lang 
(from Tomorrow Never Dies)

Written by David Arnold and David McAlmont with lyrics by Don Black, this song was composed under the title "Tomorrow Never Dies" and was intended to be the movie's primary tune.  Indeed, the theme (melody?) runs throughout the entire score.  However, the producers had a hard-on for the idea of finding a big-name musician to deliver the series a big commercial hit, and so they held a surreptitious competition to find such a beast.  Among the participants: Pulp, Saint Etienne, The Fixx, Swan Lee, and Sheryl Crow.  I guess k.d. land wasn't as big a star as Swan Lee...


I love that photo.  I imagine lesbians -- a sizeable percentage of them, at least -- must have been driven into a frenzied froth by lang during this era.  If not, I'll eat my hat.  I'll have to buy one first, but I'll eat it once I get one.

Seemingly, lang recorded the song -- retitled "Surrender" once the Crow song was chosen for the opening credits -- with knowledge that it was destined for the end credits, so maybe we shouldn't feel too bad for her.  And yet, I do.  Maybe there was never any chance of "Surrender" (in its proper guise as "Tomorrow Never Dies") being a big hit or winning an Oscar or leaping to the top of the ranks of Bond-song favorites...

...but then again, maybe there was.  I personally think it's a good enough song to have had at least a few of those things happen.  It was never going to win an Oscar during the year "My Heart Will Go On" came out, but a nomination seems securable.  A stronger legacy and an increased visibility certainly seems so, too.

Whatever the case, we'll never know, because this superior song was shuffled off to the end of the movie.  It's a crackerjack in every way: from lang's confident and powerful vocals (why haven't I listened to more of her music?!?) to the old-school brassiness of the orchestra's performance and even the slightly-ninetiesish sound of the production.

Part of me feels a wee bit guilty about keeping "Thunderball" out of the top ten in favor of "Surrender," and in case you're wondering whether I agonized over the decision, I can answer that question in the affirmative.  I mean, not the way you'd agonize over deciding whether to have your dog put to sleep or not, but a little bit, sure.

In the end, I'm comfortable with the choice I made.  This song rules.  Lang teases and tantalizes with every line, sure enough.
 

#9 -- "We Have All the Time in the World" 
by Louis Armstrong 
(from On Her Majesty's Secret Service)

 
John Barry, who co-wrote this song with Hal David, stated in at least one interview that "We Have All the Time in the World" was the last recording jazz legend Louis Armstrong ever made.  This is not the case; he recorded at least one other song (in 1970), and gave at least one public performance prior to his passing in 1971.

Let's not hold that against Barry.  He didn't have Google for the vast majority of his life, and was likely told by somebody who struck him as credible that that very thing was the case.  And anyways, "We Have All the Time in the World" simply sounds as if it's being sung by a man whose time on this Earth has very nearly expired.  Not in terms of the quality of Armstrong's performance, which is exemplary in every way; but in terms of the moodiness of the piece.  In that way, the song sounds as if it's (A) being sung about a man who has every expectation of time being plentiful by (B) a man who knows that his own time is a very precious commodity indeed.

In that way, I don't know that On Her Majesty's Secret Service could possibly have been the beneficiary of a more fitting title song.  Yes, yes, I know it's not actually the title song.  I use that designation merely as a shorthand.




One wonders if the song would be as celebrated as it is if the movie had actually had a proper title song (instead of the kick-ass instrumental piece of Barry's score that plays over the credit sequence)...?  Impossible to say for sure.  And ultimately irrelevant.  The song is a classic, and is likely to stay that way.


#8 -- "The Look of Love" by Dusty Springfield 
(from Casino Royale 1967)

Are you surprised this one ended up so high on my list?  That makes two of us.  And yet, here it is, and I don't find myself feeling the slightest bit bad about it.  With two possible upcoming exceptions, I think this is handily the sexiest Bond song of them all; and, for the record, I'd give this the nod over those two ("Diamonds Are Forever" and "Nobody Does It Better") in that regard.




"The Look of Love" was written by Burt Bacharach with lyrics by Hal David.  Springfield had already recorded several Bacharach songs by 1967, including "Wishin' and Hopin' "and "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself," both of which were top-ten hits in 1964 (the former in the U.S. and the latter in the U.K.).  They're both gems no matter who sings them, and Springfield arguably contributed the definitive versions of both (which have been recorded by numerous artists).

Her version of "The Look of Love" also remains the definitive recording . . . but I've got to admit that the Isaac Hayes cover (especially the eleven-minute version) from 1970 is, if anything, even better.  The first time I ever heard that was when it popped up in the movie Dead Presidents, and I sat there listening to it positively slackjawed with amazement at how awesome what I was hearing was.  The movie also contained Hayes' version of Bacharach's "Walk on By," which -- despite the fact that the Issac Hayes version of this song is perhaps one of the very finest achievements of the entirety of American culture -- has no James Bond connection, and thus serves as a prompt for us to get back on topic.

That topic being how great "The Look of Love" is.  It hails, obviously, from the "fake" version of Casino Royale, the much- (and justifiably-)maligned 1967 spoof version.  Because of that, "The Look of Love" is rarely mentioned in the same discussions with the other James Bond songs (i.e., the legitimate ones).  I get the reasons why that is the case.  But I'm writing this with at least an attempt at objectivity on this incredibly subjective topic; and to the extent objectivity works in this case even within my own brain, I can't entertain notions of placing this song any farther down the list.  It's a classic, through and through, not only as a composition but as a performance, and as a recording.

One of THE very best Bond songs?  You bet it is.
  

#7 -- "For Your Eyes Only" by Sheena Easton
 
It has come to my attention that this song is not universally beloved.  I'm not sure how this came to be; the years 1981 to 2016 have found me blissfully assuming -- mostly based on personal bias, one supposes, but with a healthy dollop of anecdotal evidence from others supporting it -- that everyone with two ears and a heart must love this song as much as I do.

And yet, that seems to be the case.




But hey, we're living in the brave new world of 2016, and part of our social contract now seems to be that everything is wrong, except things people say are wrong, which are right.  I don't think that's right, though, so I'm gonna keep living -- at least for the duration of this paragraph -- in 1981.  And in 1981, this song is great.  #7-best Bond song, bare minimum.


#6 -- "A View to a Kill" by Duran Duran

When I wrote about A View to a Kill for this blog previously, I had one overriding question about the Duran Duran song: what, exactly, is a "feeonix" and is it anything like a phoenix?




I have yet to receive an answer to that question, and if I'm being honest, I don't really want one.

If one were to undertake a ranking of the Bond-song performers from the standpoint of least-popular at the time of their song's release to most popular, what do you suppose that would look like?  I wouldn't quite know where to begin in assessing that popularity for ranking purposes, which is why I'll never undertake that post.  If I were guessing at the top five, though, it'd look something like this:

  1. Paul McCartney at the time of Live and Let Die
  2. Adele at the time of Skyfall
  3. Duran Duran at the time of A View to a Kill
  4. Madonna at the time of Die Another Day
  5. Tom Jones at the time of Thunderball

Guesses all, but I reckon I'm in the ballpark of being right about them.  By that standard, you'd have to say that "A View to a Kill" was one of the high-water marks of the series in terms of hit-chasing.  In 1985, you hired Duran Duran to do a song for your movie because you wanted a top-five hit on radio stations around the world, and you figured you had a good chance of getting it.
  
You were right.
  
I don't know that their popularity has survived into the twenty-teens in any meaningful way -- hell, I'm not sure it survived into the nineties in any meaningful way ("Ordinary Love" excepted) -- but there were a few years there when Duran Duran was inescapable.  This was certainly true if you'd been born in the mid-seventies like yours truly had been.  Hit after hit after hit: "Rio," "Hungry Like the Wolf," "Girls on Film," "Is There Something I Should Know?," "Union of the Snake," "Notorious," "The Reflex," "I Don't Want Your Love," "Save a Prayer," and (my personal favorite) "The Wild Boys."  They had a half-a-decade run of hits, and "A View to a Kill" came right in the midst of it.  It was one of the biggest smashes of their career, too.
  
Listening to it now, it arguably sounds a bit more like Duran Duran than it does like Bond, but it sounds enough like Bond for that not to worry me; and anyways, it helped redefine the idea of what Bond sounded like.  It wasn't the first Bond song to come along and do that, nor would it be the last.  This is a series that needs an infusion of hot new blood every so often, and it's perhaps telling that this one came via the Bond film that had the oldest lead actor.  My memory of things is that nobody gave too big a whoop about how old Roger Moore was; maybe that's selective memory, or maybe it's my having been eleven years old and not privy to the thoughts of the rest of the world.  But I think part of me figured that if ol' Rog was okay with Duran Duran, he was okay by me.  I didn't think anything like that consciously; I never once questioned Moore being Bond, he simply was Bond in the way that the sun was where the sunlight came from.  No need to question it, consciously or otherwise; it was a given.
  
If I had, though, I think Duran Duran's work on the film would have helped ease me over that speedbump.  They were a big part of making that film seem like a vital and of-the-moment piece of 1985, rather than a holdover from a previous decade.
  
I wouldn't underestimate the impact of a thing like that.  Especially when the end result is a rollicking piece of pop/rock history, as this song surely is.
  
  
#5 -- "Nobody Does It Better" by Carly Simon 
(from The Spy Who Loved Me)
  
Time for a bit of laziness.  I quote now from a previous post:
  
I think I'm safe in saying that most Bond fans consider this to be one of the very best of all the title songs.  It's right up there on my list, too.

Thing is, it probably shouldn't be.  It shouldn't have worked; it's essentially a ballad, a sort of low-key torch song.  It was nothing like any of the previous Bond songs, except that it just had ... attitude.  That's a worthless comment, I know, but it's the best I can do.
  
Carly Simon kills here, and the lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager are pretty solid, too.  It's a classic.  It was nominated for an Oscar, but lost to "You Light Up My Life," which is proof that when it comes to songs, the AMPAS simply cannot be trusted to make the correct decision.
  
I stand by all of that.
  
I don't know a heck of a lot about Carly Simon.  I did a wee bit of research in between sentences just now (meaning that I visited Wikipedia), and learned that her song "Let the River Run" from the movie Working Girl won her that Oscar she ought to have won for The Spy Who Loved Me.  It also won her the Holden Globe and a Grammy, and she was the first person to achieve that particular hat-trick.  Well done, Carly Simon!
  
  
See that watermark-looking thing that says "After the Storm"?  I thought that was, indeed, a watermark.  However, the following photo indicates that instead, "After the Storm" was the b-side to the single.  That's how you learn things, I guess.

  
I also learned that at some point in the nineties -- and I'm assuming this is true (not always a good assumption when dealing with Wikipedia) -- Simon was at a Joni Mitchell concert and was physically assaulted by a drunken Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders.  How great is that?!?  One Bond singer trying to choke out another one at a Joni Mitchell concert.  The only way that's a better story is if it had been at a Tina Turner concert and the fight had been about Tom Jones cheating on one of them with the other.
  
But it's an imperfect world, and we can't have everything we want.
  
  
#4 -- "Live and Let Die" by Paul McCartney and Wings
The big controversy with this song has always been whether McCartney sings "this ever-changing world in which we live in" or "this ever-changing world in which we're living."  This blog is firmly in the "in which we're living" camp, and even if Paul McCartney himself said otherwise, that is where it shall stay.
  
However, in the course of writing this, a fresh controversy -- which is likely controversial to nobody except me -- has raised its head: how should the song's performer credit read?  Here are the options:
  • Paul McCartney and Wings
  • Wings
  
And here is some photographic evidence for both options:
  
  
That yellow is the worst.



  
  
Making this all worse: sometimes, "Paul McCartney and Wings" is represented as "Paul McCartney & Wings."
  
Pick one and stick with it!
  
But if you were a quarter of The Beatles, you can -- and should -- do as you please.  So in this ever-changin' world in which we live in, I guess "Live and Let Die" was performed by all of the above.
  
However you spell it, it fucking rocks.
  
  
#3 -- "Skyfall" by Adele
  
Maybe this is just recency bias talking, but I think you could make a very strong argument for "Skyfall" being the best Bond song ever written.  
  
  
  
  
If nothing else, it holds the distinction of being the Bond song that finally won the series' music an Oscar.  Looking over this list, it's unthinkable that it took fifty-one years for that to happen.  There are, at a bare minimum, ten songs which predate it that were good enough to have won.  Perhaps there were more deserving songs in a few of those years; I'd say that's true.  But in ALL of those years?!?  And when considering songs from a series that is world-renowned for producing original songs each time at bat?!?
  
Unthinkable.  Unforgivable, even.  Oscar, you did this series wrong.  That's all there is to it.
  
But bless your sorry heart, you did finally get it right when Adele's turn came around.  It's a shame you couldn't have given the eternally-deserving John Barry one of these for his 007 contributions, but so be it.
  
Regardless of awards considerations, I think this song stands tall.  Written by Adele with Paul Epworth, it sounds exactly like a James Bond song without sounding all that similar to any other James Bond songs.  One wonders on occasion whether there is any new gold to be mined from the depths of this particular subgenre; "Skyfall" proves that there certainly is.
  
  
#2 -- "Goldfinger" by Shirley Bassey
  
"Goldfinger" has every right to be at the top of this list.  In many ways, this is a the avatar of "Bond songs," the mold from which any song that wishes to possess that particular sound is still cut.  I don't possess enough musical knowledge to say why that should be, from a songwriting and/or production standpoint; but I know that it is so.  You want to sound like "James Bond"?  You sound like this song; you sound like Shirley Bassey.
  
  
What is that, Swedish?  I'm assuming Swedish.  If you know it's something else, please correct me.
  
I say all that so that I can avoid being accused of sheer ignorance.  Because really, based on the simple fact alone that "Goldfinger" retains that status as definer-of-the-Bond-sound after a whopping 52 years means that this song ought to be #1 on any list of best 007 tunes.
  
I get that.  I agree with it.
  
And yet, here it is at a mere #2 on my list.  Shameful!  If I were you, I'd be outraged.  Except I'm kind of am you, and I'm only mildly peeved.  
  
And the fact is, I think the next song is even better.
  
  
#1 -- "Diamonds Are Forever" by Shirley Bassey
  
If "Goldfinger" defined the Bond-song sound, then I'd argue that "Diamonds Are Forever" perfected it.  From that opening orchestral sting to the eight-note repeating phrase that aurally evokes the many-sided appearance of a diamond, this song is sheer excellence from beginning to end.  The bassline is tremendous; the strings are glorious; the percussion is perfect; Bassey's vocals are like hearing somebody hollering down at you from Heaven.
  
  
  
Numerous times in the course of the song, those various elements coincide in the same moment and create something Else, something Other.  All of the individual elements are transcendent; put them together, and you damn near go into warp-speed transcendence.  Perhaps that's what all really magical music does.
  
It's certainly what this song does, at least for me.
  
So yeah, "Goldfinger" is great.  But "Diamonds Are Forever" is, like a diamond itself, the closest thing to perfection.
  
*****
  
And there you have it.  I've ranked 'em all, from the insipid to the sublime.  You've got disagreements with some of the placements; I know you do.  So hit up the comments and tell me all about it.  Are you a passionate fan of "Wedding Party" by Ivory?  Tell me all about it, and I'll do my best not to ask what's gone so very wrong in your life.  Are you of the opinion that "Writing's on the Wall" is, as the haters insist, a piece of broken-off rectum?  Do tell.  In your heart of hearts, are you convinced that "All Time High" is in fact the all-time high of this subgenre?  Man, I'd love to hear it!
  
I've got a soft spot for even the worst of the Bond songs.  Even "Another Way to Die," which is a wretched piece of flopsweat-covered dookie.  But maybe you love it, and if you do, I'd love to hear about it.
  
You Only Blog Twice will return in . . . "Worst to Best: Bond Girls."

10 comments:

  1. I like Bill Conti’s “Make It Last All Night” more than you do. I think that one works better as a Miami Vice montage of some kind rather than Bond, with lots of cars pulling up to a dockside warehouse and exchanges of briefcases and Asian bodyguards with uzis and what not. Being observed via binocular from across the water or a rooftop or something.

    That is odd indeed about the Jet interview not mentioning Patti’s Bond song at all. I had no idea that was written for the film – I knew it only independently as one of those radio-songs you couldn’t avoid, there, for a few years.

    It very much SHOULD be “Underneath the Mango Tree.” That’s weird. I love that tune. Years ago there was some kind of zydeco-reggae CD that always played at the coffee shop where I worked and in one of the songs they broke into that and every time I sang along. (Cuz “Dr. No.”)

    The “Casino Royale” soundtrack is such great 60s kitsch. It’d odd to think of it as a Bond soundtrack the way something like “Live and Let Die” or “From Russia with Love” is. And yet, it fits the movie as well as anything could. And surpasses it, by far, though admittedly the bar is pretty low on that one.

    “Love is requi-red! / Whenever he’s hiired! / He comes just before the ki-i-illl…” Oh man, do I love that tune. I will definitely be listening to it (and perhaps the Ventures cover of it) over the course of the morning.

    That’s cool that your Dad likes “License to Kill.” At the time of its release, I’d have pointed to it as a good example of the type of song I went out of my way to avoid, but now I kind of love it. I agree, it’s a Bond mash-up of sorts (which makes it ahead of its time, I guess, considering how that wave went, as a culture). Ditto for “Goldeneye.” I can easier see and hear the Bond-ness of both nowadays than back then. (Incidentally, I’m listening to the “From Russia with Love” soundtrack as I type this, and this “007 Takes the Lecter” John Barry sort of Bond-ness is wholly different. Yet same. There’s the workdesk contradiction I mentally try to resolve this morning.)

    I love the “Moonraker” song. I’d say that one and “TMWTGG” are areas of disagreement of degree-of-awesomeness between myself and most of the Bond fans I’ve talked to. I guess this is true of “All Time High” as well, so I’m happy to have found an ally on that one.

    That is indeed quite the return-results for “The formula is safe with 007.” (That’s a great turn of phrase, incidentally.)

    I saw that “30th Century Man” documentary on Scott Walker years ago and had forgotten all about it until reading about him here. I remember thinking it was interesting but recall virtually nothing about it. That’s a cool tune, though, as is “Make It Easy on Yourself,” which has a lot more 50s-style production with the Mantovani-like strings than I would have thought, given when it came out. I agree on Burt Bacharach – genius.

    Wow, this “No Good About Goodbye” tune is dynamite. This is totally a Bond tune. I’m adding it to my Bond playlist right now. It’s too bad Amy Winehouse couldn’t get out from under the drugs. For many reasons, but this would easily and instantly have been her signature track had she managed.

    You are absolutely NOT overranking “The Look of Love.”

    Excellent list! Very exhaustive, and the links have made my morning 100% more Bondian and for that I thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Welcome! I apologize for sending down any rabbit holes on YouTube. I went down quite a few in writing this post, so I know how delightfully treacherous they can be.

      I like that "Miami Vice" approach to appreciating the Rage song. I think I probably have it ranked a bit too low here; I would say it's at least better than the next three songs up the list. I don't actually dislike it. I'm kind of impressed by how sleazy it is, and for better or worse, it evokes a particular set of elements about its era. The older I get, the more valuable that seems.

      Regarding "If You Asked Me To," I wonder now whether the song actually WAS written expressly for the movie. It also appeared on her album "Be Yourself" (the one with the Prince/Sheena Easton song "Love 89" on it) which was released only a couple of weeks after "Licence to Kill." I wonder if any of the other songs -- "Dirty Love," for example -- might also be potentially not-quite-originals.

      I agree that both "Licence to Kill" and "GoldenEye" (the songs) have aged surprisingly well. Almost all of the Bond songs have, really. Maybe not "Die Another Day."

      Had you never heard "No Good About Goodbye"? If so, I'm pleased to have introduced you to it. That whole album is quite good, by the way. Bassey has still got it.

      Delete
    2. I don't believe I ever had, no. (re: "No Good about Goodbye.") Great stuff.

      Delete
    3. It really is. It's a massive bummer to me that David Arnold isn't getting to write the theme songs for these movies; he's clearly got the chops.

      Then again, I love both "Skyfall" and "Writing's on the Wall," so I can't complain too much.

      Delete
  2. Also, I must respectfully disagree with regard to worst-to-best lists being lazy blogging. On the contrary, they often take much more time and consideration and legwork to put together. And if you mean that they're lazy ideas for blog-posts, I grant you it's not the most original motivation for a blog, but I think just a "here's a movie I saw and here are my thoughts" (and nothing against those posts, either) post would technically be "lazier."

    And the ultimate in laziness for those would be the "I saw/ read this and here are the bullet-points." I've resorted to those a few times! I know my lazy-bloggin' from the inside-out and ground-up. But hey, sometimes that's how it goes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, you're probably right; list-centric posts are not automatically lazy blogging. But I think a great deal of lazy blogging IS list-centric. Those are two different things altogether, though, and you're right to point it out.

      I've definitely used the bulletpoints method a time or two in my life, and will likely continue to do so. Sometimes it just seems like the way to go. It's like, "I took the time to have these thoughts, so I may as well fling 'em into the world." A coherent essay-form approach is always preferable, but if there's no chaff, the wheat doesn't seem nearly as appealing; so I'm okay with bullets once in a while.

      Delete
  3. "What the hell is 'Dirty Love' by Tim Feehan??" I asked myself while reading this. So of course I threw it up on youtube, in my work office, and of course somebody walked in and heard me listening to it. So I got to experience that "stopped at a stoplight" feeling you mentioned. And now I've actually got it stuck in my head - feel so dirty!

    You are too considerate of Another Way To Die's feelings. I love the opening, but the second Jack White starts singing it turns to pure shit.

    Man you weren't kidding about Patti LaBelle in that video. I started to get worried that she was having some kind of fit. All I can think is that the director told her they were going to add footage from the movie to the video, so she wasn't too worried about what she was doing. Yikes.

    I like Man with the Golden Gun more than you, but it's hard to defend as anything but pseudo-Shirley Bassey. I even read a quote from Lulu at one point where she kind of mocked the song.

    I haven't read Burlingame's book, but somewhere I read a John Barry interview where he remembers walking around the city fretting about what to do with Moonraker given the problems they were having getting someone to sing it. Then Shirley Bassey just kind of magically stepped out of a department store or something (apparently they had parted on bad terms and hadn't seen each other in years) and in the course of their conversation, Barry offered her the song. Do you know that story?

    Incidentally, I loved Bassey's performance of Goldfinger on the Oscars, but I wish they could have found a way for her to sing a mash-up of all three of her Bond songs. It was the 50th anniversary, after all!

    Bit disappointed that "Living Daylights" didn't make it higher on the list, but as you point out, it would probably be at the bottom of many fan rankings. I know a-ha claimed that Barry didn't contribute enough to the song to deserve a co-writing credit, but based on how much of it is incorporated into the film's excellent score, I assume that he had a big hand in laying down the motifs we hear throughout. (He probably just didn't write the lyrics or the main part of the song, which I'm guessing is the reason the band had a beef with him.)

    "If There Was a Man" is another great song; love how it's used as the love theme in the movie itself. Man Living Daylights has some good music (what happened, Licence to Kill??)

    I never heard that Amy Winehouse was connected to Quantum of Solace at one point. That's a real tragedy, she would have been perfect. Love Is a Losing Game is an honorary Bond song, in my opinion.

    She would have nailed No Good About Goodbye. Would have been much better than Another Way to Die. Man, that's one of those huge missed movie opportunities, like Warren Beatty playing Bill in Kill Bill. Anyway, nice work including it on the list.

    Personally, Live and Let Die is #1. #1 Bond song, second only to Maybe I'm Amazed as the greatest Paul McCartney song. That said, your Top 5 is pretty impeccable.

    (I guess Goldfinger moved up on the list for you at some point, huh? In your comments you say you have it at "a mere #4").

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good call -- I did indeed have "Goldfinger" ranked #4 at one point. But while I was writing about it, I realized there was simply no way it could be that low, so I moved it up. Thanks for pointing out the discrepancy, I will go in and edit it.

      Re. your McCartney song top-two: is that including or excluding Beatles songs? Either way, those are a couple of GREAT songs.

      Warren Beatty was up for "Kill Bill" at some point?!? I'd never heard that. Man, that would have been something. I'm glad Carradine is in it, though; he's great.

      Don't let the moderately-low ranking fool you -- I love "The Living Daylights." I considered placing it a few spots higher, but there were a bunch in that spot of the list I couldn't quite figure out how to best arrange. I probably should have it above "Jump Up," though, for sure.

      I was disappointed the Bond/Oscars bit. Bassey was good, but did some of the things I like for her not to do singing-wise. And yes, absolutely, there should have been more songs represented. The whole thing felt perfunctory to me.

      I don't think I'd heard that "Moonraker" story, no. If I did, I forgot it. I'd love to heard the Johnny Mathis version someday. And when I visit the alternate dimension where Sinatra sung it, I'll do my best to smuggle a copy back.

      I am so sorry to have prompted somebody to overhear you listening to "Dirty Love." That is awful. Better, perhaps, than "Make It Last All Night," though, I guess.

      Delete
    2. It couldn't be helped - you sparked a genuine curiosity in me with Dirty Love. I'm still not sure what the hell it is in the context of the movie - is it playing in the dive bar where Bond goes to meet Pam?

      I was referring to McCartney's solo work, although I think Maybe I'm Amazed is a song that stands up against even the best of the Beatles. Whether Live & Let Die belongs in the pantheon next to And I Love Her, For No One, Lady Madonna, All My Loving, We Can Work It Out, I've Just Seen a Face, Got to Get You Into My Life, I Saw Her Standing There, Two of Us and Can't Buy Me Love? Good question - will have to think about it. Seems like it wouldn't have been out of place on the second half of White Album.

      Tarantino offered Kill Bill to Beatty, but he turned it down (I think he'd decided he was semi-retired and, like Eastwood, didn't wish to act in a movie he didn't also direct). I wasn't too impressed with Carradine, and since hearing Beatty was the original choice I can't even watch the second movie. Personally, the failure to get Beatty into the film feels like a genuine flaw.

      The Oscars manage to screw up cool ideas. They waste time on endless musical performances of songs nobody cares about. But given the opportunity to get half dozen Bond performers up on stage together to play their respective songs, which would certainly be in their power to do? Nope, just Bassey and Goldfinger. No effort whatsoever.

      Delete
    3. Indeed, and it showed. But I guess some recognition from Oscar is better than no recognition from Oscar.

      "Dirty Love" in indeed playing in the Bond-meets-Pam bar sequence. You can only kinda hear it, and if the song hadn't been on the soundtrack, I wouldn't have included it on this list. Apologies to Tim Feehan!

      Delete