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Top 7 James Bond Theme Songs

08/10/2012

The James Bond film franchise has thrilled audiences for 50 years, and part of that thrill is each movie’s theme song. Last Friday (the 50th anniversary Dr No’s cinematic release) saw the official release of the latest song to join this group: Adele’s Skyfall. It will be heard in cinemas around the world when Bond’s next adventure, also titled Skyfall, opens next month. Although, it’s only been available for a couple of days, it’s fair to say that reaction to the song has been largely positive.

Don’t take my word for it, however, take a listen for yourself:

It’s easy to see where Adele has drawn inspiration from those who have gone before her. She may not be Welsh, but she’s doing a good job of channelling Shirley Bassey.
Seeing as it is the 50th anniversary, I’m going to take a look back at the themes that have gone before and share my favourites with you. Seeing as the topic is James Bond, I going to list my Top 7. I’m also going to list the songs chronologically, mostly so I don’t have to agonise over which is better than the others.

1. Goldfinger – Shirley Bassey

The first Bond theme song to feature a singer, and one that set something of a bar for later themes to live up to. Tom Jones’ Thunderball was essentially Goldfinger with a male singer and worse lyrics (“…his fight goes on, and on, and on”). Bassey was so good they bought her back for two more films, and she still sounds good today.

2. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – John Barry

Some people love it, some people hate it. Me? As much as I miss Sean Connery, OHMSS is still a good film. More tongue-in-cheek, perhaps, but still a very good story, and one that marks an important point in Bond’s life. I’m not sure why the producers went with an instrumental track for the opening, but John Barry knocked it out of the park. 28 years later, The Propellerheads updated the song for David Arnold’s album Shaken and Stirred. The same album featured a collaboration between The Propellerheads and Shirley Bassey.

3. Live and Let Die – Wings

Most people will remember Paul McCartney as one quarter of The Beatles. I’ll remember him as a guy who has appeared on The Simpsons a couple of times, and as the guy who bought us one of the most popular James Bond theme songs – even among people who don’t like the movies.

4. Nobody Does It Better – Carly Simon

This song is, basically, a love song sung by a Bond girl about her love for the secret agent. Most likely before being shot, stabbed, thrown out of an airplane, electrocuted, or one of the many, many ways Bond’s women meet their fate. There is a reason he doesn’t keep the girls between movies. This song was also used in the Tribute to Desmond Llewelyn after his untimely death in 1999.

5. A View to a Kill – Duran Duran

This song will always hold a special place in my heart as it was my first Bond film. The music video has not aged well (particularly the hair), but I don’t care. As they say, you always remember your first.

6. The World Is Not Enough – Garbage

35 years after Shirley Bassey wooed movie goes with Goldfinger, another Shirley did it all over again. Shirley Manson bought a touch of Scotland back to the franchise, and one hell of a voice too. Unlike other recent performers, she didn’t insist on appearing in film – not that many would have minded.

7. You Know My Name – Chris Cornell

After the horrorshow that was Die Another Day, Eon Productions needed to make some changes to the Bond franchise. They got a new Bond, reset the story back to the beginning, and lost a lot of the camp that had crept into the movies. They also hired a grunge rocker best known for songs like Black Hole Sun to perform the title track. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Luckily, they did just the right thing and we got a brilliant song that acknowledges the reboot just enough.

Honourable Mention: Surrender – kd lang

Back when they were producing Tomorrow Never Dies, Eon Productions held a competition to find the theme song for the film. Sheryl Crow ended up winning, but this was a close second. David Arnold even ended up using parts of the song in the score for the film. As much as I like Crow’s song, I’ve always thought that this sounded more like what a Bond theme song should sound like.

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