January 2013

#17 – Garbage – “The World is Not Enough” – (1999)

Garbage was an awesome band in the 1990s. Shirley Manson has one of the best female voices in rock and roll, but this song is not their best – but it’s still decent. Okay, I feel like in every one of these Bond Song posts, I’ve just dumped on why they aren’t good. I don’t dislike them all, but if I’m counting down the Top 25 – and there are only 25 songs to choose from. Then some of them are not going to be reviewed positively. And I can’t promise when this trend will change. But there are some good ones, and while this isn’t #1, it isn’t terrible.

#18 – Shirley Bassey – “Diamonds Are Forever” – (1971)

This is the second Shirley Bassey Bond theme on this countdown. There’s something about her voice… that shrill Welsh-ness. Bassey has about zero name recognition in the United States, which is part of the problem. I mean, it’s better than “Moonraker” but that lounge act vibe of it just doesn’t translate well. And that annoying horn “punch” or whatever you want to call it that was used so often in these songs. I’m not a fan.

#19 – A-ha – “The Living Daylights” – (1987)

Norwegian New Wave band A-ha was recruited to record the New Wave-y theme song for the first Timothy Dalton Bond film. The movie was okay – but it had an awesome Cold War theme to it. The song, meh. New Wave had already peaked by the time the Bond producers tried to capitalize on it in 1987. The song is largely forgettable, just like the two Dalton movies (even though I really like Timothy Dalton as an actor, he just had crappy material to work with).

#20 – Rita Coolidge – “All Time High” – (1983)

This song just sounds like a sappy movie theme song from the 1980s. Which is exactly what it is. I don’t think sappy was the intention, but it’s just the nature of the time period in which it was written and the artist chosen to perform it. Apparently, Barbara Broccoli, the daughter of the producer of the Bond films at the time, was a big fan of Rita Coolidge (who wasn’t all that popular by the time 1983 rolled around). Broccoli would play Rita Coolidge albums around her dad until he finally took the hint and hired Coolidge to sing the theme for Octopussy.

#21 – Tom Jones – “Thunderball” – (1965)

This song has a lot in common with “Moonraker” – so does the movie: instead of outer space, Bond is killing bad guys underwater with a harpoon. And the movie is quintessentially 1960s-British – to a fault. Apparently, Johnny Cash wrote a song called “Thunderball” and submitted it to the producers for use in the film (the song, in country music fashion, told the story of the film). But they declined. Instead they went with a soaring vocal from Tom Jones. And not the fun, swinging, womanizing Tom Jones. But hey, it was originally recorded by Shirley Bassey and Dionne Warwick, so at least they changed it up a little bit.

#22 – John Barry – “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” – (1969)

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the most underrated Bond movie of all time. George Lazenby doesn’t get the credit he deserves. This film had some of the most realistic fight scenes I’ve seen in a movie older than, I don’t know, 1995. The theme here was instrumental although there was a song by Louis Armstrong (that didn’t make this list) that was used as an “alternate.” This one is largely forgettable because everyone overlooks this movie and because the song has no words and no catchy hook to get stuck in your head.

#23 – Shirley Bassey – “Moonraker” – (1979)

Moonraker ranks as one of the most over-the-top Bond movies of all time. Have fights in space? Sure, they may have called the whole space shuttle thing, but come on. Originally, they wanted Frank Sinatra to sing this song but asked Johnny Mathis instead, who said “no.” So they went with old faithful – Shirley Bassey, who sang three different Bond themes. This, while not the greatest song in the world, was not her best – even though her best isn’t necessarily the best vocal she could’ve given – it’s just more iconic. One problem with some of these songs is that they are very British and being old and very British doesn’t usually translate well to today.

#24 – Matt Monro – “From Russia With Love” – (1963)

While From Russia With Love is one of the best Bond movies, it’s theme song is stuck in the lounge-singing era of the early 1960s. If it wasn’t connected to the James Bond franchise, it would be just another forgettable love song that probably wouldn’t even have charted.

#25 – Lulu – “The Man with the Golden Gun” – (1974)

I always wonder how they pick the artists to record the Bond theme songs. This one appears to be selected from a hat. Lulu had a #1 hit in the U.S…. but that was about it. This song feels ridiculously dated and the thing with whatever that repetitive noise is (you’ll notice it). It’s just not that good, which is why it is #25 out of 25 on our list of the Best Bond Songs.

Nicholas Dodd – “Casino Royale (Trailer Remix)” – (2006)

Here’s a song that isn’t even a song. It’s the music that is played in the trailer for the 2006 James Bond movie Casino Royale. I don’t think you can purchase it anywhere, but it is awesome. It’s more suspenseful than the normal theme and even has a bit of choral arrangement toward the end. It builds and falls nicely and it just might be one, if not my favorite piece of Bond music. And it’s from the best Bond movie of them all.

Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass – “Casino Royale Theme” – (1967)

The 1967 film Casino Royale was not an “official” James Bond movie. It’s a satire of James Bond films and it starred David Niven as James Bond and co-stars Peter Sellers and Orson Welles. It’s truly a bizarre movie. This theme music is an over-the-top 1960s swinging instrumental. It was actually a #1 for Alpert on the Easy Listening chart and a top 30 hit on the Hot 100. And every time I hear this song I think of the Saturday Light Live skit in which it was used where Will Forte and Peyton Manning dance to it in a locker room. I can’t find a video of it though.

Moby – “The James Bond Theme (Moby’s Re-Version)” – (1997)

Well I thought I had five tracks to feature this week, but one of them that I have, I can’t find anything about online. I thought it was the Bond Theme from Goldeneye – but apparently it isn’t. And listening to all the different arrangements of the theme music back to back leads to confusion and them all sounding the same. So oh well for now. This version definitely sounds different – Moby took the Bond Theme from Tomorrow Never Dies and mixed in some dialogue and a strong techno beat. It was featured on the official soundtrack. But even Moby admits his version isn’t as good as the original.

Nicholas Dodd – “The Name’s Bond… James Bond” – (2006)

When the Bond series was re-booted with Daniel Craig in the title role, everything got a little darker. Even the music. The ever-present Bond Theme doesn’t appear in Casino Royale (the 2006 official Bond Casino Royale) until the very end of the movie, that is, the credits. It was re-recorded by Nicholas Dodd, although it was arranged by David Arnold.

TJR – “Funky Vodka” – (2012)

TJR – TJ Rozdilsky – is the man behind this “bouncy house” track that is a lot of fun and, of course, has been “adapted” into a mainstream hit by Pitbull. I must say, I like it that TJR is at least credited in Pitbull’s endlessly catchy take on this already catchy song. “Funky Vodka” is an upbeat – very much so – remix (or however you’d like to phrase it) of Toots & the Maytals classic “Funky Kingston.” The lyrics were picked and chosen from that tune and the tempo just increased to make it “bouncy.” The result is a resounding success. This song is awesome.

Nirvana – “About a Girl” – (1989/1994)

This song was originally released on Bleach in 1989 but was recorded for the band’s live Unplugged set for MTV. It was the first single released from the Unplugged album after Kurt Cobain’s death. I’ve linked to the live version because it was a #1 Modern Rock single in the U.S. Cobain didn’t even want to include this track on Bleach because he found it might alienate the grunge fan base. He wrote it after listening to early Beatles records on repeat. He thought it was too “poppy.” I find it kind of funny, 20 years removed, that this was too pop for grunge. It’s very grunge. But I would have very much liked to see what Kurt Cobain could’ve written if he were uninhibited by his perceived grunge-God-ness and free to experiment with his Beatles obsession all he wanted.

Tubeway Army – “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” – (1979)

Tubway Army was the New Wave band fronted by Gary Numan, who would go on to have a very successful solo single of his own. In fact, his solo single was so big that many people forget this song – and even this band – ever happened. It’s synthpop – and early synthpop at that, having been released in early 1979. It was a #1 in the U.K. The music is actually kind of odd and it just drones on and on with robotic-like lyrics. It’s like listening to early Kraftwerk and I only use that comparison because, at the time of its release, there really wasn’t much to compare it to.

Bingo Players – “Cry (Just a Little)” – (2011)

Bingo Players is a Dutch house duo and this is one of their more popular songs. Not to sound like “one of those people” but I happen to really like this a lot more than Flo Rida’s sampled version. The chorus from this track is the only good part of his song, unfortunately. A top ten in the Netherlands and on the U.K. dance charts, this was a commercial success in Europe. However, straight house tracks don’t get much airplay on U.S. mainstream radio and sampling it into a pop/hip-hop song is about the only way to spread kickass dance music like this to a wide audience in the States. Oh, and to prove nothing is totally original, that catchy chorus was lifted from a song called “Piano in the Dark” by Brenda Russell from 1988.

Toni Braxton – “Let It Flow” – (1995)

Waiting to Exhale was a 1995 movie starring Whitney Houston and Angela Bassett. The soundtrack, written in large part by Babyface, featured two #1 hits and a number of top ten hits. This was one of those #1s. It was a huge soundtrack and the movie went pretty big as well. This is not my favorite Toni Braxton song by any stretch but it isn’t horrible. Babyface could certainly write songs – and hits – in the mid-1990s. But this one seems slow and fairly dated. It was also released on Toni’s 1996 album Secrets.