May 21, 2010

Bond Theme Songs: A Countdown (Part III)

You know, this list could spring into all manner of Bond-themed lists. Best opening title sequence. Best actual video clip. Best Bond girl name. Best gadget. Best stunt sequence... there's material for a dozen blogs. Something to remember during one of my (sadly regular) idea droughts. But for now, let's continue the countdown. It's balls to the wall time. Specifically...

#10 "Thunderball", 1965

I mean, it's great, isn't it? A menacing orchestra, a bit of brass, John Barry's signature swelling sound with lyricist Don Black's simple yet evocative words, culminating in Tom Jones belting out one of the best lines ever in a Bond theme: "And he STRIKES - ba ba ba ba ba! - like THUN-DER-BALL". Why isn't it higher then, I wonder? I think because for me it's just a TAD on the too-slow side. Just a tad. I mean, I like to dance very sexily in my living room when I listen to Bond songs. Perhaps do some faux-stripper action with a broom (no, not like that). Maybe some high kicks, maybe some body rolls. Maybe I shouldn't have written all that in a public forum. All I'm saying is that "Thunderball" doesn't quite have the scope to allow me to do that.  Oh well. It remains a truism that it's terrific, a fantastic song for a fantastic movie that has a fantastic underwater fight scene and A GODDAMN JET PACK.

#9 Moonraker, 1979

And here's where you can point a finger and call me a filthy hypocrite. I complain "Thunderball" is too slow, then pip it with this oft-forgotten Shirley Bassey number. Forgotten perhaps in part because Bassey refused to plug it herself, given that she was only brought in to record the song with a few weeks' notice. Apparently she never considered it "hers", which is a shame, because it's the closest thing the Bond themes have to true poetic beauty. Moonraker itself contains some of the most sublime and the most ridiculous elements of Bond lore: for the latter, think Jaws falling in love with a nerd, the hilariously kitsch space suits, Dr Holly Goodhead (hello!), and the fabulously terrible hoverboat and double-taking pigeon. But for the former? John Barry's haunting and majestic soundtrack, capped with Bassey's toned-down vocals on the title song. Okay sure, I can't really work out if it's about the hero or the villain, but who cares? "I've seen your smile in a thousand dreams/Felt your touch and it always seems/You love me/You love me" - it just makes you want to float away, far off into space, where no one can ever find you.

#8 "Goldeneye", 1995

Bond came blasting into the 90s with Goldeneye, which combined all the best Bond memes with a modern twist, some sizzling ladies and an on-form Pierce Brosnan. Tina Turner sashays her way through a pitch perfect theme, written especially for her by Bono and The Edge from U2. Sultry and raw, Turner's voice delivers the sexy lyrics in style: "Goldeneye, not lace nor leather/Golden chain take him to the spot/Goldeneye I'll show him forever, it'll take forever to see what I've got". If I was a stripper, I'd totally do a routine to this. It must have something to do with those brassy trumpets. Hey, there's a good Bond girl/stripper name right there. Brassy Trumpet. Maybe I should take up burlesque? If I worked out for a bit I could give this chick a run for her money.

#7 "Nobody Does It Better" from The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977

Easily in the top five Bond films ever, and certainly Roger Moore's best outing, The Spy Who Loved Me also boasts Carly Simon's dulcet tones on this pretty tune. Don't let LJ bloody Hooker ruin it for you; the original is a sun-drenched celebration of discovering love and reckless abandon, rather than a tacky real-estate agency cash-in. Mind you, the fact that so many people would automatically sing "LJ Hooker you're the best" is testament to just how catchy the music is - surely this is the best Bond theme to choose if you're up for some karaoke.

#6 Diamonds Are Forever, 1971

As gaudy as Wallace Bishop's best cubic zirconia, Shirley Bassey's second Bond theme is pure Vegas lounge gloss - which suits the film's gambling and casino-based shenanigans to a tee. Sean Connery's brief return to the role after The Lazenby Experiment saw producers crowbar all the best aspects of previous Connery outings into two-and-a-half hours of spectacular action and over-the-top hairpieces. Gloriously sparkly, it's this song that makes Bassey so ripe for parody - the bombast, the high notes, the best rhyming of "finger" with "linger" until The Cranberries 25 years later. Still, you can't help but sing along, usually accompanied by dramatic hand gestures and fierce facial expressions. And Shirley and lyricist Don Black tap into go-getting 70s feminism big-time: "Men are mere mortals who are not worth going to your grave for". Just ignore the rampant 60s sexism hangover, and enjoy the ride.

Only five more to go! This is where it gets interesting...


  1. "Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome to the stage, the ever clumsy, Miss Brassy Trumpets!!"

    I imagine a very entertaining burlesque routine then ends with the crashing of saucers and a spinning hubcap sound.

  2. Yeah thanks for earworming Diaaaaamonds Aaaaare Forevaaaaaa Forevaaaaaa Forevaaaaa into my head.

    Brassy Trumpets indeed. Don't want to know where the spit valve is.

  3. Brassy Trumpets makes me think of a cross-dresser or a pre-op transexual. Both perfectly fine candidates for a truly gripping burlesque show

  4. Now we're getting up the pointy end. Very good list so far GC.

  5. No ! No ! No !
    One cannot take this lying down...

    Brassy Strumpet..indeed
    At least singers of her ilk are able to put out a lyric without the need to attempting to swallow the microphone. Really,I doubt that anyone could recognize what passes for a singer, these days, when they are not hiding behind a mic.
    As to their ability (?) to sing (?) honestly you could get a better tune out of a slowly strangled cat (possibly better lyrics too in some cases)
    Please not that if you continue to denigrate the singers of the past i will be forced to take action
    The Ancient Man