What is Your Favourite Bond Title Song?
There are many subjects that when mentioned will quickly start an argument. Who’s the best Doctor Who? (and it isn’t David Tennant), do Balrogs have wings? (no, read the text again) and of course that old chestnut, “Data or Spock?”. Then there’s the thorny issue of Bond film title songs. We now have twenty-four to choose from. Obviously, your age group and musical preferences will shape your opinion. As well as when you started viewing the franchise. I personally have very particular views on the subject, hence this post. So here for your edification are five of my personal favourites, each with a few thoughts about why they are of merit. Feel free to leave comments with your own opinions. I’m sure we won’t fall out over the matter. Unless you like Sheryl Crow.
First and in no order of preference we have Goldfinger. Composed by John Barry and with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, this iconic song was performed by Shirley Bassey (although it was originally intended that Newley would record it). Like the film, it was a huge commercial success in both UK and US music charts. What can be said about this song, other than the fact that it personified the emerging Bond franchise at the time. Well it’s brassy and ballsy, plus Bassey's delivery of the lyrics is superb. The whole song just oozes sixties cool and has subsequently become indelibly associated with the series. Curiously enough, despite the songs success, Barry and Bricusse only collaborated on one further Bond title song.
Next, we have my first of our controversial choices, because technically this is not a song from one of the film, but from an 007 game. However, before you all start spitting tacks and writing to your duly elected representative, I would point out that Bloodstone was an officially sanctioned product. Plus I really like this track and it is my blog, so there! Being editor has to have some benefits. I'll Take It All written by Dave Stewart and Joss Stone and performed by Joss Stone herself, is a solid Bond title song that understands the idiom and legacy of the franchise. It is yet another example of how the gaming industry equals the production values of the movie business. I'll Take It All is smart, powerfully delivered and could easily have graced the title credits in one of the more recent Bond films.
1977 saw the release of the biggest Bond film to date, namely The Spy Who Loved Me. Nobody Does It Better, a power ballad composed by Marvin Hamlisch with lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager, was performed by Carly Simon. It was the first Bond theme song to be titled differently from the name of the film, although the phrase "the spy who loved me" is included in the lyrics. In some ways, this song is the complete opposite of Goldfinger, representing what Bond had become in the seventies. It is a very sexual and self-assured composition, verging on self-parody. Therefore, is perfectly enshrines the Roger Moore years and is also a damn fine song in its own right.
Here is another wild card. The 1969 Geroge Lazenby Bond film, On Her Majesties Secret Service, differed from most others by having an instrumental theme song, played over the titles. Composer John Barry opted to use more electrical instruments and crafted a slick instrumental based around a Moog synthesizer and under pinned by his peerless use of brass. This musical piece is both clever and stylish and certainly imbued this particular Bond outing with a subtly different ambience. But On Her Majesties Secret Service was not a typical Bond film and has in recent years been re-evaluated. It is more thoughtful and experimental, which is exactly what Barry brought to the table with his core and main theme.
Finally, we have a personal favourite of mine, You Know My Name. This intelligent, strong and enigmatic song performed by ex Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell, fits perfectly into the title of the 2006 Bond reboot Casino Royale. Written by David Arnold and Cornell himself, it has always amazed me that the film’s producers allowed such an experimental (by Bond standards) approach to the title song. The song itself is oblique and somewhat discordant, yet it encapsulates the new Bond of the twenty first century. Gone is the smug caricature. We now have a song that explores the social isolation and the uncertainty of carrying a license to kill. This track perfectly complements Daniel Kleinman's opening credits and sets a new standard for the franchise.