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Friday, November 14, 2008

The 007 Best Bond Theme Songs

November 13, 2008

As long as there have been James Bond films (nearly five decades now) there has been some degree of anticipation of the new James Bond theme with each new theatrical release. While the series stumbled early on in terms of theme songs (Dr. No didn’t even feature a song – though we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the “James Bond Theme” written either by Monty Norman or John Barry (depending on which piece of litigation you subscribe to) for the film, as the signature piece of music that is most associated with Bond and the series as a whole – and the easily forgettable title track to the second film in the series From Russia With Love), Shirley Bassey’s rendition of the title song for Goldfinger showed that the Bond themes were now being approached as viable, commercial products in their own right and not just simply filler over the credits.

Over the years, the series has approached title songs in a variety of ways. Early on, torch singers such as Bassey or crooners such as Tom Jones were preferred. Eventually the producers of the series turned to popular music acts to boost the popularity of the movie while selling come records as well by enlisting such acts as Paul McCartney & Wings, Duran Duran, and Garbage (to name just a few). While the series did return to the torch-style approach in the late seventies and the producers managed to make some questionable assignments throughout the years (ah-ha – yes, that ah-ha – recorded a James Bond theme!), the revamping of both the character and series with Casino Royale in 2006 signaled a new approach to the music as well. As Bond reestablished himself in the new millennium, the title tracks to his films began to take on a much needed edgier and grittier feel as well.

So, without further adieu, sit back, fix yourself a martini (shaken, not stirred of course) and enjoy MovieRetriever’s top seven (get it? – there are seven because Bond’s designation is 007, clever huh?) choices for Best Bond Theme Songs (please note that we’ve included a YouTube link with each of our picks so you can listen to each selection – you’ll also find an image of the soundtrack that you can follow to the MovieRetriever Store). Enjoy.


001. Goldfinger – Shirley Bassey

Considered by many fans and critics to be the best film of the series, it also features one of the series’ best songs. This is the quintessential Bond theme. It encapsulates the essence of the series (at least until Casino Royale) with Shirley Bassey’s strong vocal and a big brassy production and set the template for subsequent themes. Bassey is easily the queen of the Bond themes as she also recorded the superb title song for Diamonds Are Forever (1971). She also sang the underwhelming song for Moonraker (1979), the equally disappointing attempt for the Bond series to cash in on the Star Wars phenomenon (but we don’t blame Shirley for the song – which is probably the worst song of the series – as she did the best she could with the material provided her).


002. Live and Let Die – Paul McCartney & Wings

Ex-Beatle Paul McCartney scored what may be the best all around “song” created (to date at least) for any Bond film. It was difficult to put this one at number two as it’s arguably more listenable than “Goldfinger,” but in the pantheon of Bond themes, Sir Paul takes a backseat to Shirley Bassey (though just barely). This is a flat out rocker and features some of McCartney’s best work up to the time of the film and since for that matter. It is also one of the songs that the Bond series will always be associated with (though the song has managed to distance itself from the film to a certain extent – at least more than any other entry on this list).


003. The Spy Who Loved Me – “Nobody Does It Better” – Carly Simon (1977)

One of the most successful singers of the 1970s, Carly Simon delivers one of the more popular songs of the series. While universally identified as a Bond theme, this track could just as easily be a song taken from one of Simon’s albums, and excellently captures the sexuality of Bond while simultaneously delivering a pretty darn good love song to boot.


004. A View to a Kill – Duran Duran (1985)

Following “Live And Let Die,” this is probably the catchiest of all the Bond songs. Duran Duran delivers a hook-filled track that is still wildly popular to this day. Although the song slowed the descent of the Bond theme, little can be said for the movie other than that the song was pretty good (oh, and Christopher Walken was the villain – but even that was couldn’t help what thankfully turned out to be Roger Moore’s final turn as Bond).


005. Casino Royale – “You Know My Name” – Chris Cornell (2006)

Bond returned to the silver screen after a four-year-hiatus with a new face, a new attitude, and an equally new approach to the title song. The pounding beat of this track, sung by former Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell, has an edge that most previous entries lacked. This is an excellent and appropriately game-changing theme for the film that redefined the Bond series.


006. Quantum of Solace – “Another Way to Die” – Jack White and Alicia Keys

Without a doubt, the title song from Quantum of Solace is one of the more bizarre entries to the Bond theme canon. But the underlying beat of the Jack White/Alicia Keys collaboration (incredibly, this is the first Bond theme to feature a duet) is refreshingly atonal while still managing to remain oddly melodic.


007. For Your Eyes Only – Sheena Easton (1981)

Although it sounds like a 1980s electronic echo of “Nobody Does It Better” and sounds slightly dated by current standards, this wildly popular theme is one of the better late-era Bond themes and still manages to hold up remarkably well as a decent ballad. It also helps that the film may be Moore’s best work as Bond.


A Few Other Themes That Are Licensed to Kill

008. The World Is Not Enough – Garbage (1999)

Garbage is a fantastic band and this is a pretty good song. It would have made the top seven but it just seems a little bit mediocre when compared to the band’s other work.

009. Thunderball – Tom Jones (1965)

Valiantly approaches the level of “Goldfinger” but misses the top seven due to its obvious attempt to mimic that song’s success. However, it is does occasionally deliver the goods and it scores points for being sung by Tom Jones who’s just one cool cat.

000. You Only Live Twice – Nancy Sinatra (1967)

Following the success of the single “These Boots Are Made for Walking,” the choice of Nancy Sinatra as a Bond balladeer seemed to foretell the mixed-result practice of securing pop stars for crooning purposes. Fortunately, she delivers with a fine vocal performance that enhances a haunting and eerily enjoyable tune.


A Collection of the Title Songs from All 23 Bond Films

Courtesy of the MovieRetriever YouTube Page


Also of note are the many Bond themes that never made the final cut. For example, did you know that Johnny Cash made a demo for “Thunderball”? Or that Alice Cooper had his own unique version of “The Man with the Golden Gun”? Or even that Blondie recorded the original version of “For Your Eyes Only”? Many of these oddities and a whole lot more are discussed in an excellent article about from called “For Your Ears Only.”


You can buy all of the movies and soundtracks listed above (and more) through the MovieRetriever Store! Click here to visit the store!