The 10 Best Bond theme songs?
Adele may be singing the theme to Skyfall, the latest James Bond film, but her song is not up there with the best. Mark Monahan compiles the Top 10 Bond theme songs.
1. From Russia with Love, 1963
When United Artists rang John Barry in 1962 and suggested he contribute to the score for Dr No, it launched the longest and most symbiotic musical relationship in screen history. Having delivered his barrelling, immortal version of Monty Norman’s theme for Bond’s first outing, Barry was then asked to compose the score for the sequel and arrange the new title song. Written by Lionel Bart (fresh from West End triumph with Oliver!) and powerfully sung by bus driver-turned-crooner Matt Monro, the bittersweet ballad in fact plays out not over the movie’s opening credits, but its close.
2. Goldfinger, 1964
The film that perfected the 007 formula and “sound’’, Goldfinger marked Barry’s first top-to-bottom Bond score, and his title song remains his equal favourite from the series (along with the later We Have All the Time in the World). Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley provided roaringly melodramatic lyrics for Barry’s louche, brassy, classy music, giving Tiger Bay’s own Shirley Bassey her only US Top 10 hit. Bond producer Harry Saltzman told Barry it song the worst he’d ever heard.
3. You Only Live Twice, 1967
Hot property after her single These Boots Were Made for Walking, Nancy Sinatra was invited by Bond production company Eon (“Everything Or Nothing’’) to provide the vocals for 007’s fifth adventure. She rose to the challenge like a pro, her delivery of Bricusse’s mysterious, romantically carpe diem lyrics at once velvety, brittle and quite bewitching, though chief laurels must go to Barry. His score for You Only Live Twice was his best yet, and his title song remains the standout of the entire series, a perfect counterpoint of serene melody and swirling strings that make it a gorgeous piece of music by any standards.
4. We Have All the Time in the World, 1969
“I said, look – you can’t use On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as a song title, unless you’re going to do it like Gilbert and Sullivan! Let me write an instrumental for the opening.’’ So says Barry, who, as promised, delivered an exhilarating but wordless opener for George Lazenby’s only Bond movie. For the song that appears during the actual movie, he teamed up with lyricist Hal David and Louis Armstrong, and the result, poignant in the film itself, also proved a fitting swansong for the great singer, who died the next year.
5. Diamonds Are Forever single, 1971
One of Barry’s main assets as a composer has always been his dramatic nous, and never more so than on this introduction to Sean Connery’s sixth and last Eon-produced Bond movie, which won him an Ivor Novello award. From the sinister, sparkling opening to the punchy climax, all his hallmarks are there: lyrical melodies, gently propulsive dotted bass figure, rich orchestration and bold theatricality. It saw Bassey return for her second 007 venture, belting out Don Black’s brazenly materialistic words with typical gusto.
6. Live and Let Die, 1973
A British agent dies by snakebite, and composer (and former “fifth Beatle”) George Martin’s strings slither mercilessly down and melt into the opening of this magificent little piece of songwriting by Paul McCartney. The track’s sheer melodious punch – combined with Maurice Binder’s superb flaming-skull visuals – make Live and Let Die’s opening credits the most exciting of the lot, and the song itself has long been a live, pyrotechnical favourite of McCartney’s. It took him, incidentally, a short afternoon to write – don’t you just hate that sort of talent.
7. Nobody Does It Better, 1977
By this point, Roger Moore was Bond, and tax headaches were putting the now US-based Barry out of the running. In the latter’s absence, Eon turned to Marvin Hamlisch (whose A Chorus Line was the toast of Broadway), also enlisting the burnished vocal talents of Carly Simon for the title track. Playing out to particularly fine visuals by Maurice Binder, the result, a sublimely melodic, innuendo-laden trumpeting of Bond’s brilliance, was the first 007 opening theme song not to be named after its film, and also – perhaps harshly for Barry – the first to be nominated for an Oscar.
8. Moonraker, 1979
The Spy Who Loved Me wrapped with the words “James Bond will return in For Your Eyes Only’’ - but after Star Wars, Eon decided it would be more lucrative to blast 007 into space. Barry, back on the team, delivered a superlative score and a title track that’s not his most celebrated, but definitely among his most beautiful. Returning to Bond for a third and final time, Bassey injects considerable passion into this yearning love song (lyrics again by Hal David), while Barry’s strings ripple into infinity.
9. A View to a Kill, 1985
Although Barry had never collaborated with a band for a Bond song, the fast-living, hyper-successful Duran Duran somehow seemed a natural choice to join him in 1985, and the result remains by far the biggest hit of any 007 track. Reaching No 2 here and the top slot in the US, it’s lyrically loony (“The week ends – why? / Until we dance into the fire’’) but elegantly crafted, stomping along with irresistible brio. Singer Simon Le Bon – who one suspects always thought he actually was Bond – has an absolute whale of a time.
10. Another Way to Die (2008)
Opinion is divided on the merits of Daniel Craig’s second outing as Bond. But what everyone instantly seemed to agree on was that Jack White and Alicia Keys’ song Another Way to Die launched the film in high style. It is (for want, perhaps, of a better word) the rockiest of the lot – rivalled only in this respect by Live and Let Die – and, depite being built around a one-note melody of the kind that John Barry would never have sanctioned, White’s growling guitar and Keys’ insolent delivery make it an enduring pleasure.
Martin Monahan Telegrpah.co.uk