James Bond’s greatest hits – and biggest misses
US singer Billie Eilish has become the youngest ever artist to write and record a theme song for the James Bond film series at the age of 18.
Cary Joji Fukunaga, director of No Time To Die, said Eilish is now one of “a chosen few” and that her song will “echo for generations to come”.
Dame Shirley Bassey, Duran Duran, Lulu and Madonna are just some of the acts to have provided songs for the franchise in the past.
Both Adele and Sam Smith won Oscars for their musical contributions to the last two 007 films – Skyfall and Spectre respectively.
While we wait to hear what Eilish’s song sounds like, here is a personal rundown of the best tracks to feature in the series to date – and the worst.
Top five Bond themes
5) Nobody Does It Better, Carly Simon
Film: The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977
Highest UK chart position: 7
Sample lyric: “Like heaven above me, the spy who loved me, is keeping all my secrets safe tonight…”
Lyricist Carole Bayer Sager deserves extra plaudits for sneaking the title of Roger Moore’s third Bond film into Marvin Hamlisch’s lush and elegant composition.
The Oscar-nominated song has been covered many times over the years by such artists as Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Aimee Mann and Dame Julie Andrews.
4) Diamonds are Forever, Shirley Bassey
Film: Diamonds are Forever, 1971
Highest UK chart position: 38
Sample lyric: “Diamonds are forever, hold one up and then caress it. Touch it, stroke it and undress it…”
John Barry and Don Black’s tune may have been considered too near the knuckle by producer Harry Saltzman, but it still won the duo an Ivor Novello songwriting award.
One of Black’s proudest moments was being told by director Steven Spielberg how highly he rated the track.
3) Live and Let Die, Paul McCartney and Wings
Film: Live and Let Die, 1973
Highest UK chart position: 9
Sample lyric: “If this ever-changing world in which we’re living makes you give in and cry, say live and let die…”
This is a dynamic masterclass in pulse-quickening rock, courtesy of Beatles producer George Martin.
Subsequently covered by Guns N’ Roses, it was the first James Bond theme to be nominated for the best original song Oscar.
2) We Have All the Time in the World, Louis Armstrong
Film: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, 1969
Highest UK chart position: 3
Sample lyric: “Every step of the way will find us, with the cares of the world far behind us…”
Written by John Barry for George Lazenby’s solitary outing as Bond, this poignant ballad was one of Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong’s final recordings.
The track – which only charted in the UK after being used in a 1994 beer commercial – is not played over the opening credits, appearing instead during a romantic montage midway through the movie.
1) Goldfinger, Shirley Bassey
Film: Goldfinger, 1964
Highest UK chart position: 21
Sample lyric: “He’s the man, the man with the Midas touch…”
Told by John Barry to create a song about a villain in the style of Mack The Knife, Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley came up with the only Bond track everyone remembers.
Fans of US sitcom Frasier may remember Kelsey Grammer’s reluctant rendition of the song in the final episode of the Cheers spin-off’s sixth season.
Worst five Bond Themes
5) For Your Eyes Only, Sheena Easton
Film: For Your Eyes Only, 1981
Highest UK chart position: 8
Sample lyric: “You see what no-one else can see, and now I’m breaking free…”
Nominated for the best song Oscar, Bill Conti’s dreary ballad was rewritten at the producers’ request. (In the original version, the film’s title appeared much later in the track.)
To date, Scottish performer Easton is the only singer to physically appear in a Bond title sequence.
4) All Time High, Rita Coolidge
Film: Octopussy, 1983
Highest UK chart position: 75
Sample lyric: “All I wanted was a sweet distraction for an hour or two…”
This is a deathly dull MOR dirge, hastily written by Evita lyricist Tim Rice and perfunctorily performed by Coolidge for Roger Moore’s sixth outing as 007.
The same year brought an equally undistinguished tune from Lani Hall, recorded for Sean Connery’s “rogue” Bond film Never Say Never Again.
3) The Living Daylights, A-ha
Film: The Living Daylights, 1987
Highest UK chart position: 5
Sample lyric: “Hey driver, where we going? I swear, my nerves are showing…”
According to composer John Barry, working with the Norwegian pop trio on the gloomy theme for Timothy Dalton’s first 007 film was like “playing ping-pong with four balls”.
The Bond producers reverted to a more traditional, Bassey-esque number when they came to make Licence to Kill with Gladys Knight two years later.
2) The Man with the Golden Gun, Lulu
Film: The Man with the Golden Gun, 1974
Highest UK chart position: N/A
Sample lyric: “He has a powerful weapon, he charges a million a shot…”
One of the few 007 themes to miss the charts completely, this John Barry/Don Black composition also features some of the most blatantly suggestive lyrics in the franchise.
Alice Cooper’s 1973 album Muscle of Love features a song of the same name, which the rock star wrote for the film only to have it rejected.
1) Die Another Day, Madonna
Film: Die Another Day, 2002
Highest UK chart position: 3
Sample lyric: “I guess I’ll die another day, it’s not my time to go…”
Mixed by Paris-based producer Mirwais, Madonna’s attempt to give a dance vibe to the 007 franchise is an overcooked calamity.
The US singer also made a cameo appearance in Pierce Brosnan’s fourth and final Bond film, playing a fencing instructor called Verity.
This is an updated version of an article that was first published on the BBC News website in 2008.
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January 15, 2020 at 09:12AM