I’ve just skimmed through the Bond movies in preparation for watching Bond 23 aka SKYFALL and in my humble, grumpy old man opinion, the title songs haven’t been much chop for a long time. I’m not referring to Monty Norman’s famous theme, nor am I talking about the movie soundtrack music created by the mighty John Barry or lately David Arnold.
I’m focussing on the new song that accompanies those famous title sequences that were substantially the creation of designer Maurice Binder until 1989’s LICENCE TO KILL. Despite the death of Binder, the Bond franchise continues to reference his pioneering work in the field of movie titles featuring naked women in silhouette, wielding guns.
I believe there hasn’t been a half-way decent title song since the 1980s, I find the recent attempts rather forgettable. Jack White alleges he wrote a title song for QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008) and performed it with Alicia Keys, but even as it plays, it appears to Erase Itself From My Memory. I’ve heard the SKYFALL song written by Adele and Paul Epworth. It borrows from Connery-era Bond and is impressively adequate.
Here now is my completely arbitrary list of Favourite Bond Movie Title Themes.
Bond Title Song Top Three:
GOLDFINGER (1964) Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley and John Barry penned a huge song that practically everybody knows. Given an appropriately big treatment by Welsh singer Shirley Bassey, it announces that three movies in, Bond has reached iconic status. And you can’t go past the line: “He’s the man, the man with the Midas touch. A spider’s touch.”
LIVE AND LET DIE (1973) It has been fashionable for years to have a go at Paul McCartney for being corporate, uncool and a purveyor of “granny music” as Lennon was supposed to have said at one point. But he created a bona fide hit with his epic theme song while also managing to sneak in a little reggae tribute. The 'Gunners' 1991 cover is not too shabby, either.
NOBODY DOES IT BETTER (1977) Pure, expertly-crafted 1970s pop ballad corn from Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sayer and sung by Carly Simon. From an era when songs like You Light Up My Life (1977) and We May Never Love Like This Again (1974) dominated the Billboard Charts and became instant piano bar hits. Nobody Does It Better has everything you need to embarrass your partner at a home karaoke night.
YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967) An usually lovely song for a Bond title, the lush violins will stick in your mind for days. Well-sung by Nancy Sinatra. Robbie Williams even pinched a bit of this for his song Millennium. Apparently considered the best Bond theme song, by some, I had to mark it down because I can’t remember the Leslie Briceusse lyrics when I sing it in my car.
THUNDERBALL (1965) John Barry and Don Black were clearly looking for a repeat of the previous year’s Goldfinger. They even chose another Welsh belter to sing it by picking Tom Jones. Jones gives his usual bravura performance, but lightning didn’t strike twice. Although Bond “Strikes like Thunderball” according to the punchiest line.
FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981) A big ballad sung by Sheena Easton. Written by Bill Conti and Michael Leeson. I have non-scientifically decided that MOONRAKER (1979) was the movie when the title song began its slow decline into feeble, tacked on, pointlessness. For Your Eyes Only was the best song of that era. (And yes, I am saying that era continues into the present. Leave me alone, I'm just a blogger!)
A VIEW TO A KILL (1985) by John Barry and Duran Duran and THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987) by John Barry and A-Ha have a certain expensively-produced '80s pop drive to them.
And there you have it. Naturally, your list will differ. But the Internet is not about agreement. It’s about removing our ability to think. But that’s another story.