Seven Songs Spy Style: Best of Bond
The James Bond theme is perhaps the most recognisable film music of the last half century. Like a good plot a successful theme song courts tension.* Skyfall, the 23rd film in the franchise, opens here on 22 November 2012. The title song has already been released but will it earn a place in your playlist?
While I wait for the Australian release I’ve been listening to past Bond soundtracks. Over the last couple of years I have also revisited every film (in chronological order). A great Bond song is memorable, sexy, and works whether you’re watching the movie or just enjoying the song in its own right. It also references the phenomenon that is James Bond in some way.
A note on criteria: Music is a matter of personal taste. This list is not based on record sales or some other proxy for pop-cultural reach. These are the songs in my private playlist. I’m not concerned with whether a song includes the suspense motif or not. James breaks rules and any ‘Best of Bond’ worth a Vesper Martini should be similarly unconstrained.
007: ‘The World Is Not Enough’ by Garbage
A James Bond song should be dramatic and the orchestral sound of Garbage’s ‘The World Is Not Enough’ updated classic 007 by coupling with electronica. Shirley Manson’s hypnotic sensuality and edgy attitude enable this song to outlast the closing credits of a much maligned film.
006: ‘Goldeneye’ by Tina Turner
Goldeneye was my bungee jump into the cinematic experience of James Bond. I’m told that explains my fondness for Pierce Brosnan’s 007. I’ve enjoyed Tina Turner’s music at countless weddings, in Mad Max, and at sporting matches. Turner’s performance of the title song is suitably bold and evokes the sort of ego (or steel gonads) required for the opening sequence’s dam jump.
005: ‘Nobody Does It Better’ by Carly Simon
Not being alive for the 1977 release of The Spy Who Loved Me hasn’t stopped me from ranking ‘Nobody Does It Better’ as performed by Carly Simon. The track has been appropriated by advertisers ever since (any Australian alive in the 1990s would surely associate the song with a national realtor). The song is a testament to Bond’s self assurance with females. The seventies sensuality of the song slips into later films: some Octopussy teaser posters feature the tagline ‘Nobody does it better … thirteen times.’
004: ‘You Know My Name’ by Chris Cornell
Chris Cornell’s song evokes the harder side of Bond – the gritty, uncompromising nature of the man – yet is still sexy.This is the second song of my seven which isn’t named after the film it opens. Casino Royale revivified the Bond franchise. It is one of my favourite Bond films of all time (even without the DBS).
003: ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ by Shirley Bassey
Bassey’s voice is rich with experience. Many will list ‘Goldfinger’ as the superior song (and I might agree if only considering instrumental versions) but which song has the more well known chorus? Which has song has more samplers than a showbag?
002: ‘You Only Live Twice’ by Nancy Sinatra
Nancy Sinatra’s vocals are of another time but the song itself is not dated. It’s sixties chic. The lyrics and melody dance as lovers. Danger in love and business meld. The song’s Orientalism is handled more subtly than the film itself.
Soft Cell released a version in the early eighties. The Vultures’ surfer style cover conjures fantasies of owning one’s own private island (or at least a hammock).
The power of the original song is evident in its small screen reuse. I present Mad Men (the final scene in season five episode 13). Don Draper versus James Bond anyone?
001: ‘Live and Let Die’ by Wings
This song captures the thrill of watching a James Bond film and transports the listener into a world of high-stakes espionage. Originally performed by Paul McCartney & Wings, this song’s covers (I’m thinking Duffy’s version and Guns N Roses) are also excellent. ‘Live and Let Die’ was the first James Bond theme song to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Where is ‘Skyfall’? you may well ask. I’m delaying judgement until I see the film. I love Adele’s voice but will artists be inspired to make the song their own? Will you listen to it long after the curtains close on Daniel Craig’s 007?
Which 007 songs are in your music collection?
© Chenoa Fawn. 2012.
*Monty Norman met Count Basie on an all-expenses paid trip to Jamaica to work on the score for Dr No (see http://www.montynorman.com/jamesbond/bond_9.asp). John Barry later arranged the theme but tension escaped the tune and led to a legal stoush as to who gets credit for the theme.
Some fiftieth anniversary trivia to reward those that read to the end: Trumpet player Derek Watkins has played for all twenty three film soundtracks (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqybdEgn3zI&feature=player_embedded).