ALWAYS KEEPING AN EYE ON HOLLYWOOD!!!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

JER'S TURN: SELECTING THE TOP 5 JAMES BOND THEME SONGS

JER: I am a huge James Bond fan! I have enjoyed ALL of the different ‘Bond’ variations portrayed by each and every actor that has stepped into the iconic tuxedo and downed a Vodka Martini- shaken, not stirred. The one exciting and anticipated moment of each film’s opening sequence is the new song and the artist(s) that will hopefully make it another classic tune to remember it by. Reportedly, the rock group Kings of Leon has been asked to perform the new theme song once the legal tape is cleared and production of the new Bond film can resume. Until then, we have a great collection of different tracks that have represented the time stamp of its release while also showcasing the talent of the era to best vocalize the film it is recognized for.

With that in mind, I posed the question to myself, if I could only pick and list my top 5 favorite James Bond themes, which would they be and why? Before I began, I needed to remind myself the order of these classic themes that were brought to our ears and by whom… here is the list I composed:

  • DR. NO “James Bond Theme” =Monty Norman/ John Barry
  • FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE =Matt Monroe
  • GOLDFINGER =Shirley Bassey
  • THUNDERBALL =Tom Jones
  • YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE =Nancy Sinatra
  • ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE “We Have All The Time In The World” =Louis Armstrong
  • DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER =Shirley Bassey
  • LIVE AND LET DIE =Paul McCartney and Wings
  • THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN =Lulu
  • THE SPY WHO LOVED ME “Nobody Does It Better” =Carly Simon
  •  MOONRAKER =Shirley Bassey
  • FOR YOUR EYES ONLY =Sheena Easton
  • OCTOPUSSY “All Time High” =Rita Coolidge
  • A VIEW TO A KILL =Duran Duran
  • THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS =a-ha
  • LICENSE TO KILL =Gladys Knight
  • GOLDENEYE =Tina Turner
  • TOMORROW NEVER DIES =Sheryl Crow
  • THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH =Garbage
  • DIE ANOTHER DAY =Madonna
  • CASINO ROYALE “You Know My Name” =Chris Cornell
  • QUANTUM OF SOLACE “Another Way To Die” =Alicia Keys/ Jack White

WOW! It is quite an overwhelming list of classic tunes that have given each James Bond film a certain ‘theme’ of storytelling or adventure- development. Where to begin? The first steps will have to start with a process of elimination…

The drawing of first blood begins as I can immediately knock off the last two themes that include CASINO ROYALE and QUANTUM OF SOLACE. Why? There is nothing about the music, its orchestrations or the vocals that makes me recall them, much less, allows me to place it in any exclusive list. I can comfortably say that I felt they do not rank in the ‘memorable’ themes in my book!

I have been staring at my laptop for a few moments and realize that this isn’t as easy as I thought it could have been. Although I do thoroughly enjoy just about ALL of the themes, I must now draw the line and forge down some more disappointing choices. I will bid ado to THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH… although Garbage did a great job of performance and vocals (thank you, Shirley Manson) I feel that there are better songs that will fight to grab a spot on the top five I have limited myself to.

Can I state some honorable recognitions? It will put my mind at ease if I do. First off, one of the greatest performances comes from Ms. Tina Turner for GOLDENEYE! Great range of vocals with a powerful projection as the song comes to an end. Breathtaking! How could I not include the great Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong for his unique vocal talents on “We Have All The Time In The World” for the film ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE? The added plus is the trumpet solo Armstrong performs on this very mellow and heartfelt theme…one look at this film and you know why this tempo is appropriate to its finale.

What about Nancy Sinatra’s “You Only Live Twice” or Tom Jones’ “Thunderball”??? Dare I leave them out as well? What about the one and only Lulu and her abrasive turn on “The Man With The Golden Gun”? Who can forget the sexy sultry sounds Sheryl Crow provides with the very seductive “Tomorrow Never Dies”? It hurts to say that they will not make my top 5 as well…

“Live And Let Die” by Paul McCartney and Wings was produced by long-time Beatles collaborator George Martin is a fantastic song, but doesn’t stir me emotionally for what I am looking for to make the final cut either.

Madonna’s “Die Another Day” is too electronic to pass for an orchestrated option that could make the list as well as my thoughts on Duran Duran’s “A View To A Kill.” Great songs, respectfully, but not what I am looking for to make the list.

Three of the remaining themes were sung by the jazzy interpretations of Shirley Bassey, what does that tell you about the voice and delivery of this powerhouse of a woman! “Diamonds Are Forever” has a great melody woven into a classic ‘nightclub’ sound with great horns and strings as well…what about that last note…high and sustained! Perfection! Then there is “Moonraker” with that very recognizable delivery. Unmistakable!

5.  “The Living Daylights” theme to THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987) sung by a-ha. I know I am probably going to get some slack for this one, but the boys from Norway co-wrote (along with John Barry) and brought forth a well design production of vocal backups to lead singer’s Morten Harket. With a reported five- octave range moving from baritone, baritone and finally some falsetto notes… how can anyone deny the memorable “Take On Me” hit the band enjoyed during the 80’s? Orchestra works well with modern keyboards and drum machines along with brass arrangements punching into the song to deliver a very classic theme with a contemporary flare.

4. “License To Kill” theme to LICENSE TO KILL (1989) by Gladys Knight. What? Two Timothy Dalton Bond films in a row? It has nothing to do with the actor in question and everything to do with the fact that composer John Barry was in top form in the late 80’s when it came to writing great music for Bond and selecting the best possible vocalist to present another layer to the final product. Knight’s voice is like a fine- tuned instrument as it comes into the song with some signature crooning delivered with the soulful touch that made her a success throughout her career. Only she can go up against the heavy brass arrangements Barry brought to this particular piece. It almost feels like you might be watching a great tennis match as Knight delivers the ‘bridge’ of the song while the brass fights to be heard as well. The film focuses on revenge and the song spills like the plot: dark, deep and with plenty of feelings! 

3. “Goldfinger” theme to GOLDFINGER (1964) sung by Shirley Bassey. Bassey’s vocals had to be recognized but it was just a matter of deciding which song would rise to the top to best represent her talents. Can you deny the first deliberate punch in the face Bassey delivers when you first hear her utter the words “goooold finga”? Everything else that follows is direct and articulate…every word so accurate you can almost feel the breath escaping the mouth as the song progresses. The song rightfully belongs in what is called the best Bond film of the series!

2. “Nobody Does It Better” theme to THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977) sung by Carly Simon. This is a personal note from my end. THE SPY WHO LOVED ME is my absolute favorite film of the series…period! A lavish film with a cross- country trek through Egypt, Roger Moore as Bond with the beautiful and exotic Barbara Bach as ‘Agent XXX’ also presented Bond with one of his most memorable villains: the metal- mouthed ‘Jaws.” I love what composer Marvin Hamlisch did with presenting a 70’s touch of contemporary groove but not sounding like a more time-stamped sound that maybe LIVE AND LET DIE and THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN had for the mid 70’s. A simple piano with the tickling of the right keys necessary to introduce the soft spoken vocals of Ms Simon before a crescendo coming from both her singing and the introduction of the accompanying orchestra. A bit more on strings than any horns, the deliver is strong but not overpowering. The song would receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Song.

1. “James Bond Theme” theme to DR. NO (1962) orchestrated by Monty Norman/ John Barry. The theme is iconic and recognizable anywhere you hear it. The slight punches of horns to open up the theme is quickly followed by the very distinctive guitar riffs before exploding into a ceremony of horns accompanied by a very jazzy background of percussion. The theme was first heard in the opening credits of 1962’s DR. NO and became a staple in most of the Bond films to follow. A variety of different arrangements and variations would be taken on by following composers as well as satires and other takes to the classic orchestration. The music presented here forth could only set you up with an imaginary mental picture of the quintessential playboy of the early 60’s…a man’s man who drank vodka martinis, smoked expensive cigarettes and knew how to woo the women with a wink of the eye. He was a gentleman as well as England’s celebrated spy working for King and country. The music spoke for it’s composed year, using a fusion of jazz with just a dash of radio rock and roll…just two years prior to the USA’s introduction to the Beatles. That is why it is number one in my book!

JOHNNY CHAZZ: The James Bond movies were certainly entertaining, but took an awful turn for the worse after about 1983's "Octopussy". Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig were all disasters playing the role and I would doubt that they would know the difference between an Extra Dry Martini and a Gin Fizz. Thus, I cannot agree that I have enjoyed all of the actors to have put on the iconic tuxedo. Still, we are here to discuss the top 5 songs associated with the Bond films, so here are mine ranked from 5 to 1:

5. Sheena Easton’s performance of “For Your Eyes Only” written by Bill Conti was always a favorite of mine. Most people remember Sheena for “Morning Train” but I like to think of the Bond theme as being her ace.

4. “All Time High” will always be a favorite of mine from “Octopussy”. Rita Coolidge really had an amazing voice and it was so fitting at the time this film was released.

3. “From Russia With Love” (Main Theme) was just outstanding – and if you can ever hear the version sung by Matt Monroe, it is even better. The tune fit considering the relatively slow pace of the film with a proper air of romance and intrigue.

2. “Goldfinger” – Shirley Bassey’s version is and always will be nothing short of remarkable.

 
1. Dusty Springfield’s performance of "The Look Of Love" for “Casino Royale” is undoubtedly the bet tune ever written for a Bond film. The tune was written by Burt Bacharach with lyrics by Hal David. Nina Simone would later record a version of the standard as well as Janis Hansen from Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66. This alone tells us that it was truly one of the best songs not only in a Bond film, but ever to hit the airwaves.
                 (Being that JC lives in Las Vegas and I (Jer) live in California…the conversation continued on by way of the telephone…this is a condensed version of JC’s additional comments to be placed on his behalf)

If an honorable mention can be made… or upping the top 5 to include a number six…my choice would be “A View To A Kill” performed by Duran Duran. Like Jer’s thoughts of “The Living Daylights”, my choice to select “A View To A Kill” is nostalgic. It reminds me of high school and the 80’s and the fact that the video showcasing Duran Duran in and around the Eiffel Tower was brilliant.

JER: A great choice of themes with a couple of surprises coming from JC. For some reason or another, I thought you would go with some of the older hits like “Thunderball” or “You Only Live Twice”… you always seen to go with the retro before the contemporary, even thought you still went with “Goldfinger” and “From Russia With Love.”

As I mentioned previously…this was a tough list to compile. I almost went with Rita Coolidge’s “All Time High” as well as Duran Duran’s “A View To A Kill”.

If JC gets an honorable mention slot, then I will take advantage of one as well. It is not a theme…but, like JC’s choice to go with another song featured in a film (Dusty Springfield’s “The Look Of Love”) I am going to go with ANOTHER tune from THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS soundtrack. My choice is The Pretenders’ “If There Was A Man.” Appearing at the ending credits of the film, the smooth ballad and Chrissie Hynes’ vocals demanded that I stay in my seat until the song was over! It gave me chills then and it gives me chills now just thinking of it. Again, another fine example of a wonderful collaboration of vocals and orchestrations melding to create a beautiful piece of music.
A wonderful segment that includes all of the BOND themes!

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2 comments:

  1. Hello. Besides the James Bond original theme song which will always stand the test of time, I have also been a big fan of "Live And Let Die" which really captures the mood of Bond films as well as introducing Roger Moore to audiences - Chester @ Rosemead, CA.

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  2. Thank you, Chester... it was very hard to leave out the iconic sounds of Sir Paul and Wing's "Live and Let Die" ... in their own ways, each Bond theme has been the voice to the specifics of the era, the feel and pace of that particular film! Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

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