May 20, 2010

Bond Theme Songs: A Countdown (Part II)

This is a bit of a tough gig, you know. I love all these songs in their own way. Picking favourites is hard. But let's plough on - and to start, let's take a trip back to the Swinging Seventies...

 #15 "The Man With the Golden Gun", 1974

It's eclectic, it's almost pornographic, it's John Barry, it's Lulu, it's oh-so-seventies pop. But it's very reflective of the movie itself - a romp of a film with an awesome stunt (complete with dodgy slide whistle!), Britt Ekland in a bikini, Dracula, and of course, Herve Villechez as the best sidekick since Oddjob. Yes, they put all of that into the one film. Again, hats off to John Barry, who seems to sniff out the musical moods of the years like Scaramanga sniffs out impostors wearing fake nipples (watch the film, I tell you, it's got everything crazy). He ticks the right boxes by making it all about the sexy villain. When the opening line is "He's got a powerful weapon/He charges a million a shot", you know you're in for an interesting musical experience. But it's overall just a little bit silly. And the line "Love is required whenever he's hired/It comes just before the kill" - HELLO! One word changed there and all of a sudden it's a lot more confronting.

#14 "Another Way to Die" from Quantum of Solace, 2008

It's funky, to be sure, and it continues the trend of the Bond redux film themes being about the hero, rather than the villain de jour. But it's a just a tad too far into hipster territory for my liking - although that was fairly probable givien the involvement of Jack White from The White Stripes. The man does know how to peel off some thumping good drums, but his sharp vocal tones seem to clash with those of ring-in femme fatale Alicia Keys. She came in to replace Amy Winehouse, who surprisingly turned out to be as reliable as a Leyland P-76 running on E10 and hope.Would have been interesting to hear her take, though. Surprisingly enough, this was the first Bond "duet" - and certainly an experiment I'd be hesistant to see happen again. For one thing, it's far too easy to make up your own lyrics. Skip through to the chorus: "A door left open, a woman walking by/A drop in the water, a look in your eye." You can throw anything in there. Go on, play along at home: "A dog with a symbol, a monkey in the sky/A dude on a barrel, a fish you can buy". It's lots of fun, but a truly great Bond song shouldn't leave room for lyrical shenanigans. Well, apart from substituting "shag" into various titles.

#13 A View to a Kill, 1985

What was going on this film? An Amazonian Grace Jones hanging out with an Aryan Christopher Walken, Roger Moore suddenly going from Super Spy to Super Grandad... actually, who cares? 80s hairband Duran Duran are too busy cranking out the best plastic synth-pop this side of Nick Kershaw. The jarring upbeat of "Dance! Into the fire/That fatal kills is all we need" is the stuff of singing-into-hairbrush dreams; and it's countered by the sultry tones of "Meeting you with a view to a kill/Face to faces, secret places, feel the chill". Ooh, I feel it Simon Le Bon. I feel it. It also has a fantastically tacky opening sequence as well, and while ranking the opening sequences is a totally different list-in-the-making, I think this is the only one with a woman writhing about with a gun that frankly looks like a day-glo French tickler.

#12 From Russia With Love, 1963

You could take me up on a technicality here, because Matt Monro's smooth number wasn't played over the opening credits. Instead, we hear a sassy John Barry composition that incorporates the "From Russia With Love" riff, all set to images of jiggling belly-dancers. But give us a break - this was of course only the second-ever Bond film, and they were still fiddling with the format. This is, after all, the first film where Q appears and gives Bond his first "gadget" - a bulky suitcase with some hidden throw knives and a surprise tear gas bomb. It is kind of neat, in a retro way. And Lotte Lenya's poison shoe dagger is way cool, and would come in so handy... oh, wait. The song. Yeah, hard to believe it was written by the bloke who wrote Oliver!, isn't it? No cor-blimey-guvnor-consider-yourself-at-home winsome Cockneys here, is there? No, it's all sexy Vegas lounge, all "put it all on black, then get yourself a cocktail" style. The lyrics are simple but sophisticated: "From Russia with love I fly to you/Much wiser since my goodbye to you". It's slick, and belongs to a film that was probably the slickest, hardest and grittiest until Daniel Craig suited up 43 years later.

#11 "The World is Not Enough", 1999

One of the few Bond themes credited to a band, we're really here for Shirley Manson, whose gorgeous voice brings back some much-needed sexiness to the Bond theme milieu. Did I tell you about the time I MET Shirley Manson? Mmm-hmm, that's right. Me. Shirley Manson. She signed my t-shirt (although I've since lost that t-shirt). I actually asked her about this song, saying it was one of my favourites. I got the impression from her reply that it wasn't the easiest of gigs for the group. I mentioned the name "Barbara Broccoli" (reportedly a demanding perfectionist), and frown lines creased Ms Manson's creamy-skinned forehead. 'Nuff said. Lyrically, it's magic, perfectly reflecting the tone of the movie's touch-challenged villain: "There's no point in living if you can't feel alive", and his Stockholm-syndromed love affair: "We know when to kiss and we know when to kill/If we can't have it all then nobody will". It builds to a wonderful crescendo, spinning around and around in a whirlwind of orchestral majesty. The world may not be enough for Bond, but Garbage, an empty shampoo bottle, a mirror and an inflated sense of my own attractiveness is enough for me.


  1. Isn't "The world is not enough" the Bond family motto? Written in latin on their family crest- Or am I just making up exciting stories?

  2. I did not know that Alicia Keyes was a ringer for 'Another Way To Die', but now that I hear it, it makes a lot of sense.
    I do love the instrumentation in this one, and Jack White's voice works very well, but Keyes is so polished, she's almost frictionless. She sounds nice, but there's no soul or character in what she's singing.
    I haven't heard such an unbalanced duet since the lead singer from the Cardigans thought it was a good idea to try and sing in the same room as Tom Jones (seriously, it's like watching a bunny in the headlights).
    I echo your sentiments, though, I'd love to have heard this with Amy Winehouse instead.

  3. Why yes, Wah, you are right!

    The Bond family motto is "Orbis non sufficit" - first revealed when Bond traces his genealogy in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service".

    It's a great name for a Bond movie, as it also aptly represents the ambitions of villains Elektra King and Renard.

  4. Pol - ah, yes - "Burning Down the House"! Very odd. The Cardigans were massively popular there for about half an hour after that "Love Fool" song, but I agree, not really a good duet to go with!

    Of course, Tom Jones will be making an appearance in our Top Ten somewhere, being the voice behind "Thunderball".

    And yeah - Alicia Keys has a great voice and does well in the song, but for me it just doesn't crackle like it should. Kinda of like the movie itself, really - after "Casino Royale" there was a lot of expectation (perhaps unfairly so) on "Quantum of Solace", and while it was solid, it didn't really fire. The villain was just a tad ineffective - actually, I can't even remember his name off the top of my head. Green something?

  5. Damian Green? Dominic Green? Something equally nondescript. Appropriate really.