Well, I took it as a given that the whole wide interwebnet thingie would have been bursting at the seams with lists like this one. I was somewhat surprised to see that there were very few, if any, like it!
With Bond fever about to grab the world (or bits of the world interested in Bond) again with Quantum Of Solace, I figured why not have a look at the best themes delivered thus far?
Cutting out the really bad ones was easy (Madonna are you reading), but trying to rank the ten, solid great ones was a tough battle. I suspect, or at least hope, that I do have the best ten listed below, just maybe not in the same order that a few of you would have them.
Feel free to comment, so long as it is considered and not going to cause offence!
01 The James Bond Theme -John Barry and Monty Norman
there’s no point in arguing this one. the original Bond theme is perhaps the single most recognizable song anywhere in the world. you go anywhere in the world and start going “dingdadadadingding da da da dingdadading ding ding dum dum dum dah-daaaah, da da da” and more than half the people you do it to will know exactly what you’re humming / singing / air guitaring. a work of genius.
02 A View to a Kill - Duran Duran
my favourite of the lot. i respect that the majority of fans would select the track i have as number three for the top spot, but this one just does it for me. Duran Duran were the biggest band in the world at the time of this, and showed exactly why they were with this tune. A brilliant reworking of the Bond theme into their own pop art style, A View To A Kill is blessed with lyrics above and beyond the standard fare (“first crystal tears fall as snowflakes on your body”) delivered with a whole hearted vocalist and a dynamic, thrilling performance from the band. Duran Duran reached their heights with this and, for better or worse, this theme set a standard so high that no Bond theme which followed thus far (except, perhaps in time, number five on this list) has come close to.
03 Goldfinger - Shirley Bassey
this is the favouirte Bond theme for the favourite Bond film of most fans of the franchise, and it’s not difficult to understand why. Shirley Bassey delivers the lyrics with all the passion and power of the world of Bond, giving us a song that if you only heard it once you would never, ever forget. If Goldfinger was the film that firmly put Bond on the higher end of cultural significance scale, then Goldfinger the song is the one which made the theme for a new Bond film an important event.
04 You Only Live Twice - Nancy Sinatra
you kind of get the feeling that the film producers would have loved to have landed the king, Frank, to do a Bond film at some point. they would never have got him unless they agreed to let him star in the film as Bond, you would suspect. getting Nancy to do the beautiful, melodic theme for You Only Live Twice was not a bad alternate option, really! this one was considerably more subtle than the themes before and after it, but in no way was this a bad thing. it’s rather unfortunate that the majority of the world today would associate the delightful melody of this one with Robbie Williams since he sampled it for the not bad track Millennium, but maybe that just underlines the quality of the song.
05 Another Way To Die - Jack White feat. Alicia Keys
wow, what a track! the Pierce Brosnan era Bond themes gave one the feeling that the film producers were not interested in the theme for the latest film being a significant event. GoldenEye was at best average, the themes which followed declined until you got to Madonna’s Die Another Day, possibly the worst song in history let alone in Bond films. the comeback to the importance of the theme started with Chris Cornell’s You Know My Name, granted, but this mind blowing track suggests that once again the naming of the artist and the releasing of the theme song will be seen as just as important as the actual next Bond film. Jack White does his astonishing thing to the Bond theme, in essence delivering a White Stripes-esque song that is a homage to all things great and stylish to the character. this is has all the makings of a classic despite the presence of the usually annoying Alicia Keys, time will tell if it stands up with the other greats. for now, partially because of the buzz this track is generating, it’s fair to include it in the top ten. what would you do, drop it for Sheryl Crowe? didn’t think so
06 Live and Let Die - Paul McCartney & Wings
it’s a shame i didn’t have a joint 4th or 5th slot on this list, as this should perhaps be higher. a Beatle, and one with a very healthy 70’s career, doing the Bond theme no less. this shows just how important and what an honour doing the Bond theme once was, and makes me all the more sad that it’s been allowed to fall from grace of late. like all of the above, it stands as a classic track in its own right as well as being a sensational Bond theme. it’s a three minute cut that’s loaded as much with sympathy as it is aggression; it is quintessentially Bond. Heck, even the “reggae” bit doesn’t sound like that much of a mess!
it’s so good that even that egotistical megalomaniac Axl Rose stayed faithful to it when his band (or what was left of it) delivered a not at all bad cover version.
07 The Living Daylights - a-Ha
this was the last attempt by the Bond makers to show they were paying attention to modern culture until the likes of Chris Cornell and Jack White were called in. a-Ha were big in Europe at the time, and i would have imagined this got them some airplay in the States. a great song in a similar vein to A View To A Kill, the only thing that let this one down is that the actual film was mostly incoherent and dull. It doesn’t quite stand on its own as a great song as much as the others do, but it’s still worth the occasional spin every now and then. that’s no bad thing for any 20 year old track now, is it?
08 Nobody Does It Better - Carly Simon
hmn, an annoying inclusion, this one. when you first hear it, the feeling is that it’s rather middle-of-the-road, dangerously bland. however, after you have heard it, the words for it kind of stay with you, don’t they? at least, unlike Carly's other well known song, there's no question of who this song is about, as it's more of a straightforward, worship the man homage to Bond than an actual theme song, but a good one! well, nobody does do it half as good as him, i guess!
09 The Man With The Golden Gun – Lulu
all too often this one gets overlooked, which is a great shame. a manic, wild ride of a song in which the singer, the once upon a time teen sensation Lulu, is totally out of her depth with some sort of quasi-Joplin attempt at singing. now that i think of it, you do get the feeling that maybe this one is the one that the late, lamented Janis should have done. manic and frenzied, it pretty much encapsulates the film’s manic and frenzied plot of Bond vs Anti-Bond. go on, play it in the car, bet you are shouting along to it by the last chorus!
10 Thunderball - Tom Jones
not the greatest track, hence it being down in tenth position, but not at all bad either. Tom Jones was a big star when he got this job (not that he is any less of a star now), but at times it feels like with this one they were trying less to get a Tom Jones classic as a theme, more that they were trying to do a male version of Goldfinger. it hasn’t, to be honest, really withstood the test of time. it’s still a good, solid theme that makes you at least interested in seeing the film, and you would not object to hearing it more than once.
Well, there you go.