SHAKEN OR STIRRED?
Have to start with this intro……..
Watching a Bond film this Sunday started a heated debate, in my home. It started with “Who’s the best ever James Bond”? And ended with us arguing over what the best theme tune has been. Ian Fleming’s James Bond is a national institution as well as being world famous. The part of James Bond has always been a very sort after acting role, almost prestigious. It always causes controversy when a new Bond is signed up. Remember the outcry a few years back when, for the first time ever the role went to a blue eyed, blonde (Daniel Craig). Some are going to hate me for saying this, but I think the films are very tongue in cheek and really quite naff plots. But the whole attraction to the films is exactly for the same reason. It is so far removed from real life. Beautiful women, making grand entrances, looking perfect with ridiculous names. Has anyone ever met any one called ‘Pussy’ or anyone with the surname ‘Galore’? No I didn’t think so. The ‘Baddies’, as we call them in our house, with their obscure names and equally obscure looks. Beautiful back drops, over the top car chases, explosions, near death situations, crazy inventions, Miss Moneypenny and Bond never looks fazed, what’s not to love?
James Bond was created by novelist Ian Fleming in 1953. Bond is a British secret agent working for MI6 who also answers by his codename, 007. He has been portrayed on film by actors Sean Connery, David Niven, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig, in twenty-five productions. Only two films were not made by Eon Productions. Eon now holds the full adaptation rights to all of Fleming’s Bond novels. The Eon-produced films have a combined gross of nearly $5 billion (prior to the release of Skyfall), and constitute the third-highest-grossing film series, behind the Harry Potter films and the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise. If the effects of inflation are taken into account, however, the Bond films have amassed over $10 billion as of 2005 prices.
The ‘James Bond Theme’ title music is probably one of the most identifiable pieces of music ever. I’ve heard it played at school fayres, concerts, and pantomimes and by a steel band, which I have to say was really good. Calypso Bond got the thumbs up from me, might have had something to do with the Malibu and cokes though! The James Bond film series from Eon Productions has had numerous signature tracks over the years, many of which are now considered classic pieces of film music. As each film has been released and there have been 25 altogether the theme music has always been eagerly anticipated as much as the cast line up. I would say that if you tried I bet a lot of people would know all 25 theme tracks. Go on give it a go. There have been some very obvious choices I would say chosen, Dame Shirley Bassey with her glamorous persona and that amazing voice. Probably why she is the only person to sing more than once, in fact she has sang in total 3 Bond themes and is considered the Queen of Bond.
The scores and theme tunes to so many of the 007 movies have become popular in their own right, some even having been awarded Golden Globes and Academy Awards. The relationship between Bond and composer John Barry began with his work on Dr. No in 1962. Following the success of this he was asked to compose the score for the sequel plus arrange the title song, thus inspiring one of the most symbiotic musical partnerships in screen history. In addition to his uncredited contribution to Dr. No, Barry composed eleven Bond soundtracks and is credited with the creation of “007” (dominated by brass and percussion) and the popular orchestral theme from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Next to Barry, David Arnold is the series’ most regular composer. He has composed the scores for the Bond films since Tomorrow Never Dies, up to and including Quantum of Solace. His Barry-esque orchestrations combined with electronic rhythm elements gave the Brosnan era its musical identity. Other major composers and record-producers include George Martin, Bill Conti, Michael Kamen, Marvin Hamlisch, Éric Serra and Thomas Newman.
So those important questions who will be the next James Bond? the next Bond girl, the next Q and most importantly who will sing the next Bond theme? The list goes on and is eagerly anticipated each time. Bond theme music apparently is a genre of its own ha-ha! So the songs, well we all have our favourites and these are mine in descending order.
No5: DURAN DURAN – VIEW TO A KILL
Duran Duran are an English rock band formed in Birmingham in 1978. They were one of the most successful bands of the 1980s. Since the 1980’s, they have placed 14 singles in the Top 10 of the UK Singles Chart and 21 in the Billboard Hot 100, and they have sold more than 70 million records. While they were generally considered part of the New Romantic scene along with bands such as Spandau Ballet when they first emerged, the band later shed this image. The band worked with fashion designers to build a sharp and elegant image. The band has won a number of awards throughout their career, including two Grammy Awards, two Brit Awards and receiving the award for Outstanding Contribution to Music, an MTV Video Music Award for Lifetime Achievement, and were awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The band’s controversial videos, which included partial nudity and suggestions of sexuality, became popular in the early 1980s on the then-new music video channel MTV. Duran Duran were among the first bands to have their videos shot by professional directors with 35 mm film movie cameras, which gave their videos a much more polished look. In 1984, the band were early innovators with video technology in their live stadium shows.
‘A View to a Kill’ was written for the 1985 James Bond movie of the same name. This single was the first Bond theme to go to Number 1 on the US charts, and was at the time the joint highest-placed Bond theme on the UK chart where it reached Number 2. It was the last single the band recorded as the original five-piece for close to twenty years. The song was written by Duran Duran and John Barry, and recorded at Maison Rouge Studio and CTS Studio in London with a 60-piece orchestra. Duran Duran were chosen to do the song after bassist John Taylor (a lifelong Bond fan) approached producer Cubby Broccoli at a party, and somewhat drunkenly asked “When are you going to get someone decent to do one of your theme songs?” This inauspicious beginning led to some serious talks, and the band was introduced to Bond composer John Barry, and also Jonathan Elias (whom Duran Duran members would later work with many times). An early writing meeting at Taylor’s flat in Knightsbridge led to everyone getting drunk instead of composing. Singer Simon Le Bon said of Barry: “He didn’t really come up with any of the basic musical ideas. He heard what we came up with and he put them into an order. And that’s why it happened so quickly because he was able to separate the good ideas from the bad ones, and he arranged them. He has a great way of working brilliant chord arrangements. He was working with us as virtually a sixth member of the group, but not really getting on our backs at all.” The song was finally completed in April 1985, and was released in May 1985. In the UK it entered the singles chart at No.7 before peaking at No.2 the following week, and remaining at that position for three weeks. In the US, it entered the charts at No. 45, and on 13th July it reached number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. It remains the only Bond theme to do so.
I was never huge Duran Duran fan in the 80’s, but I remember liking this Bond Theme because it was something different from what had been previously released and Duran Duran were quite glamorous weren’t they?
No4: PAUL MCCARTNEY AND WINGS – LIVE AND LET DIE
Wings, also known as Paul McCartney and Wings, were a rock band formed in 1971 by former Beatle Paul McCartney with his wife Linda McCartney, session drummer Denny Seiwell, and former Moody Blues guitarist Denny Laine. Wings were noted for frequent personnel changes as well as commercial success, going through three lead guitarists and four drummers. However, the core trio of the McCartney’s and Laine remained intact throughout the group’s existence. McCartney produced nine albums with Wings (including a greatest hits compilation) and was active from 1971 to 1980.
“Live and Let Die” is the main theme song of the 1973 James Bond film of the same name. Written by Paul and Linda McCartney and performed by Paul’s band Wings. It was one of their most successful singles, and the most successful Bond theme to that point, charting at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number nine on the UK Singles Chart. Commissioned specifically for the movie and credited to McCartney and his wife Linda, it reunited the former Beatle with the band’s producer, George Martin, who both produced the song and arranged the orchestral break. Even before Tom Mankiewicz had finished writing the screenplay to Live and Let Die, producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli invited Paul McCartney to write the theme song. McCartney asked to be sent a copy of Ian Fleming’s novel. “I read it and thought it was pretty good. That afternoon I wrote the song and went in the next week and did it … It was a job of work for me in a way because writing a song around a title like that’s not the easiest thing going.” Originally, producer Harry Saltzman was interested in having Shirley Bassey or Thelma Houston perform it instead of Wings. Martin said that McCartney would only allow the song to be used in the movie if Wings were able to perform the song in the opening credits. Saltzman, who had previously rejected the chance to produce A Hard Day’s Night, decided not to make the same mistake twice and agreed. The single reached number 2 in the United States and number 9 in the UK. It was the first James Bond theme song to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song (garnering McCartney his second Academy Award nomination and Linda her first), but lost to the theme song from The Way We Were. This Bond Theme seems to be a popular choice for many, I wasn’t a big Wings fan but the change in tempo through this track and the drums are good.
No3 GLADYS KNIGHT – LICENCE TO KILL
Gladys Maria Knight, born 1944, Georgia. Known as the “Empress of Soul” is an American recording artist, songwriter, businesswoman, humanitarian and author. A four-time Grammy Award-winner, she is best known for the hits she recorded during the 1960s and 1970s, for both the Motown and Buddah Records labels, with her group Gladys Knight & the Pips, the most famous incarnation of which also included her brother Merald “Bubba” Knight and her cousins Edward Patten and William Guest. She first achieved minor fame by winning Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour TV show contest at the age of 7 in 1952. The following year, she, her brother Merald, sister Brenda, and cousins William and Elenor Guest formed a musical group called The Pips (named after another cousin, James “Pip” Woods). By the end of the decade, the act had begun to tour, and had replaced Brenda Knight and Eleanor Guest with Gladys Knight’s cousin Edward Patten and friend Langston George. Gladys Knight & the Pips joined the Motown Records roster in 1966, and, although regarded as a second-string act, scored several hit singles, In their early Motown career Gladys Knight and the Pips toured as the opening act for Diana Ross and The Supremes. Gladys Knight stated in her memoirs that Ross kicked her off the tour because the audience’s reception to Knight’s soulful performance overshadowed her. Berry Gordy later told Gladys that she was giving his act a hard time. In 1996, Gladys Knight & the Pips were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. One year before, Knight had received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2007, Knight received the Society of Singers ELLA Award at which time she was declared the “Empress of Soul”. She is listed on Rolling Stone’s list of the Greatest Singers of All Time.
Gladys Knight’s song and performance was chosen, later becoming a Top 10 hit in the UK. The song was composed by Narada Michael Walden, Jeffrey Cohen and Walter Afanasieff, based on the “horn line” from Goldfinger, which required royalty payments to the original writers. At five-minutes twelve seconds it is the longest Bond theme. The music video of “Licence to Kill” was directed by Daniel Kleinman, who later took over the reins of title designer from Maurice Binder for the 1995 Bond film, GoldenEye. All the instrumental tracks are amalgams of various sequences and musical cues from the film rather than straight score excerpts. Anyone who reads my ramblings often will know I love Gladys Knight, she is the best and I don’t love this track but I like it a lot. Love the back drop of music from other Bond Themes, very clever.
No2: CARLY SIMON – NOBODY DOES IT BETTER
Carly Elisabeth Simon born 1945, New York City is an American singer-songwriter, musician and children’s author. She first rose to fame in the 1970s with a string of hit records. After a brief stint with her sister Lucy Simon as duo group the Simon Sisters, she found great success as a solo artist with her 1971 self-titled debut album Carly Simon, which won her the Grammy Award for Best New Artist, and spawned her first Top 10 single “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be”. Simon achieved international fame with her breakthrough album No Secrets which sat firmly at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for 5 weeks, and spawned the worldwide hit “You’re So Vain”, for which she received two Grammy nominations, including Record of the Year. Over the course of her career, Simon has amassed 24 Billboard Hot 100 charting singles, 28 Billboard Adult Contemporary charting singles, and has won two Grammy Awards. AllMusic called Simon, “One of the quintessential singer/songwriters of the ’70s”.
In 1977, Simon had a surprise international hit with the million-selling gold single “Nobody Does It Better”, the theme to the James Bond film ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’. The song was composed by Marvin Hamlisch with lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager. It was the first Bond theme song to be titled differently from the name of the film since Dr. No, although the phrase “The Spy Who Loved Me” is included in the lyric. The song was released as a single from the film’s soundtrack album. “Nobody Does It Better” became a major hit, spending three weeks at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the Easy Listening chart. The song was certified Gold by the RIAA, signifying sales of 1 million copies. It was Carly’s longest-charting hit and she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Song. In 2004, the song was also honoured by the American Film Institute as the 67th greatest song as part of their 100 Years Series. I love Carly Simon’s voice. There are some artists that when they sing, it looks and sounds so natural and effortless and she is one of them. On any live recording she is flawless and makes it look so easy. I have specifically picked this link because it’s live so you can appreciate it.
No1: SHIRLEY BASSEY – GOLDFINGER
Dame Shirley Veronica Bassey, born 1937, Tiger Bay, Cradiff has a career spanning more than 60 years. Originally finding fame in the mid-1950s, Bassey has been called “one of the most popular female vocalists in Britain during the last half of the 20th century.” In 1953, Bassey signed her first professional contract. Her career has never dipped and her popularity is still huge. At the age of 78 she still looks amazing and performs with the presence of an artist half her age.
Shirley Bassey was John Barry’s choice to record the song. Barry had been conductor on Bassey’s national tour in December 1963 and also the two had been romantically involved. Barry had played Bassey an instrumental track of the song prior to its lyrics being written, the singer would recall hearing the track gave her “goose pimples” and that she agreed to sing whatever lyrics might eventually be written for it. Bassey recorded the track on August 20, 1964 at London’s CTS Studios. The track’s producer credit named Bassey’s regular producer George Martin but the session was in fact overseen by John Barry. Vic Flick, Jimmy Page and Big Jim Sullivan are all said to have been guitarists on the session. The iconic two note phrase which is the basis for the track’s intro was not in the original orchestration but occurred to Barry during a general tea break after an hour and a half of rehearsal with Bassey and the orchestra, with Barry having written the figure into the orchestration by the time the musicians returned after twenty minutes. Bassey recorded the single version of “Goldfinger” in mono, a distinct stereo version of the song appears on the Goldfinger soundtrack album. Both mono and stereo versions appear on the compilation Goldfinger. The recording of “Goldfinger” lasted all night as Barry demanded repeated takes due to mistakes by the orchestra members or technical glitches and not any shortcomings in Bassey’s vocal. Bassey did initially have issues with the climactic final note which necessitated her slipping behind a studio partition between takes to remove her bra. Bassey would recall of the final note: “I was holding it and holding it. I was looking at John [Barry] and I was going blue in the face and he’s going, hold it just one more second. When it finished, I nearly passed out.” The film that perfected the 007 formula and sound and maintains the classic voice of Bond theme tunes, Goldfinger marked Barry’s first top-to-bottom Bond score, but the title song alongside Shirley Bassey’s delivery provide the greatest Bond theme tune to date. Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley supplied roaringly melodramatic lyrics for Barry’s brassy, classy music which gave Bassey her only US Top 10 hit.
This in my opinion has to be the most memorable Bond theme and the one everyone knows. When Shirley Bassey starts singing, I get goose bumps and Iove the horn section following the initial Golllllllld Fingerrrrr………
Before I go I suppose I better tell you my favourite James Bond. Well its Daniel Craig, I’m a sucker for those blue eyes! Just saying!