Top Five Lesser-Known Bond Tunes

Twenty films into the most box-office-lucrative movie franchise ever, the films have a logic all of their own. An audience cares less about realism than getting a healthy dose of Bond iconography: the girls, gadgets, exotic locations, and wisecracks. I'd argue that a slice of realism is also necessary to make the threat vivid for our hero, as in two of my favourites: Goldfinger and The World Is Not Enough. When this is overlooked you get pseudo-sci-fi dross like Moonraker and Die Another Day.

The music of James Bond is as big a component as any other. A lousy tune gets the picture off to a bad start. Here are some occasions where the best song in the movie might not be the title one.

1. We Have All The Time In The World: Louis Armstrong (On Her Majesty's Secret Service, 1969).
The last thing he recorded. I think he could make the ingredients of a Pop Tart sound like the food of the gods.

2. Mr. Kiss-Kiss Bang-Bang: Dionne Warwick (Thunderball, 1965).
Tom Jones' title song is awesome even though "Thunderball" means absolutely nothing. Never mind. This was the first attempt to recreate the success of the Goldfinger theme in all its horn-y splendour, based on James Bond's nickname in Asian markets. Coincidentally, Charlie Higson of The Fast Show went on to host a movie review programme called Kiss-Kiss Bang-Bang and he's now the official Bond novelist.

3. Surrender: k.d. lang (Tomorrow Never Dies, 1997.)
Not to be confused with her other song by the same name that I downloaded by mistake! This one features the lyrics "tomorrow never dies" so was probably another abortive attempt at a title song, cf. Pulp's not very good Tomorrow Never Lies and Alice Cooper(!)'s View To A Kill for others.

4. Backseat Driver: The Propellerheads (Tomorrow Never Dies, 1997).
Time to put your trivia helmet on, if you're not wearing it already. David Arnold was the man behind Shaken And Stirred, a sweet collaboration album with contemporary artists reinterpretting Bondian themes without pissing all over what made them great in the first place. For example, the Satchmo song above is sung by Iggy Pop! On the strength of this work, he landed the gig as regular composer for the Bond films from this film onwards.

He collaborated with The Propellerheads to cover On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the only instrumental Bond theme after Dr. No and a real doozy at that. Their next album featured a track called Spybreak, which is essentially O.H.M.S.S. Mark II, and the remote control car chase in Tomorrow Never Dies is scored with yet a third variant which uses the same electro bassline from their original cover! Are you still with me?

5. Where Has Everybody Gone?: The Pretenders (The Living Daylights, 1987).
Apparently the henchman's favourite song because it's on repeat on his Walkman throughout the movie.

To be honest, these are all the good songs you don't know outside of composer-only (i.e. no guest artist) soundtrack cues. Bond's greatest musical gaff? "My dear girl, there are some things that just aren't done. Such as drinking Dom Perignon '53 above the temperature of 39 degrees Fahrenheit. That's as bad as listening to The Beatles without earmuffs!"


Blogger Hayden said...

As a HUGE 007 fan, I have to agree with you on the songs you've picked out here. Tomorrow Never Dies was the biggest embarassment as K.D. Lang performed Surrender as the title song and they pulled it at the last minute in favor of Sheryl Crow. It pisses me off to this very day.

Blogger thisismarcus said...

Oops! Did you like the visuals? I'm never sure if my links get clicked or whether I need to make a bigger fuss about the really good ones.


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