(In anticipation of Quantum of Solace, we're rerunning some of our favorite Bond posts alongside a few new ones. Enjoy!)
By: Jeffrey M. Anderson
One of the pleasures of anticipating a new James Bond film is considering which singer or band would be most appropriate to add themselves to the long and diverse list of James Bond themes. (Wouldn't a Radiohead theme song be just great? Or the Pixies?) It's almost like winning some kind of award. These songs will likely be revived and re-packaged for generations to come. Not all of the choices have been particularly timeless ("The Living Daylights" by A-ha), and many others are not without a cheeseball flavor (Tom Jones strutting through "Thunderball"). It's also obvious that a great song does not guarantee a good movie, and vice-versa. Hence, as terrific as Casino Royale was, the song by Chris Cornell was only so-so. But no matter what anyone thinks of Quantum of Solace, the new song "Another Way to Die" (by Jack White and Alicia Keys) rocks!
In choosing my seven, I decided to omit Monty Norman's original, instrumental theme, written for Dr. No (1962), but used again in various forms throughout the series.
1. "Goldfinger," by Shirley Bassey
Bassey and the Sean Connery era go together like "martini" and "shaken, not stirred." She had that bold, brassy voice that sounded not unlike the wah-wah horns or the twangy guitar that accompany all that 1960s music. It's the most instantly recognizable song, and the most closely associated with its specific film. Plus how can you not love those bizarre rhymes, like "Midas touch" with "spider's touch" and "Goldfinger" with "cold finger"? Pure genius! Bassey returned to record "Diamonds Are Forever" (1971) and "Moonraker" (1979), the latter for an undeserving Roger Moore.
2. "Live and Let Die," by Paul McCartney
This is perhaps the best song of the set, but it has outgrown its corresponding movie, the first Roger Moore film and one of the bottom-scrapers in the series (aka "the one with the redneck sheriff"). McCartney was at his songwriting peak, incorporating all kinds of unexpected tone changes following that distinctive, unforgettable opening piano "plung." "When you were young, and your heart was an open book. ..."
3. "Nobody Does It Better," by Carly Simon
Just a lovely, lovely song and way less irritating than "You're So Vain." This one has more memorable lyrics as Carole Bayer Sager tried to shoehorn the movie's title in: "But like Heaven above me/The spy who loved me/Is keeping all my secrets safe tonight."
4. "For Your Eyes Only," by Sheena Easton
This breathy ballad has aged surprisingly well, considering its roots in the synthesizer-heavy 1980s, and it corresponds well with this film's sexy opening titles featuring nude swimmers in silhouette. (Many consider this the best of the Roger Moore films.) At the time, Easton was still a squeaky-clean Scottish warbler (her first big hit was "Morning Train"), but eventually Prince transformed her into a sex bomb with "Sugar Walls" and "Strut." (And, come to think of it, why hasn't Prince done a Bond theme?)
5. "A View to a Kill," by Duran Duran
One of the more infamous themes (and for one of the very worst movies), I like it because it actually sounds like a James Bond theme; it has an espionage feel to it with those short, chilling guitar bursts and horn blasts, and the sober, British vocals that could have come from one of the Bond villains. Trivia note: director Matthew Vaughn made incredible use of Duran Duran's "Ordinary World" in his film Layer Cake -- also starring he new Bond, Daniel Craig.
6. "Die Another Day," by Madonna
I'm not the world's biggest Madonna fan, not by a long shot, but I love the icy, digital production value on this song, with its eerie stops and starts, that matched perfectly with the darkest of the Pierce Brosnan films. If only she could have stayed out of the movie...
7. "We Have All the Time in the World," by Louis Armstrong
Just because it's the great Satchmo -- I generally prefer Armstrong's earliest stuff from the 1920s with the Hot Five and Hot Seven, but this is a very nice song, and from one of the very best films, On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969). Many fans concur that it would have been the best film if not for the casting of the bland Bond George Lazenby. ...