Figure 1 shows a rare lobby card made to promote the 1984 re-release of Dr. No. Most lobby cards just show scenes from the films, and many of them were colourized. Badly. But back to our Bond themes! You will recall that last year we left off at #10 “canon,” and #26, which was the spoofy version of Casino Royale.
We’re going to start with the first Bond book I ever read, because in 1961 I didn’t know from spies, and it was in the science fiction section of the library (their categorization was odd, because I found E.E. “Doc” Smith’s books, in the blue Fantasy Press bindings, back in the “adult” section. Very odd thing to find for an Air Force Base library back in the early part of the 1960s. But I didn’t care; anything in that bookcase—or indeed, the whole library—was fair game to me! Anyway, that book was:
- Moonraker (1979), written by John Barry with lyrics by Hal David, and sung by Shirley Bassey. Not only is this a fairly undistinguished song, both music and lyrics, but Maurice Binder’s usually stellar title sequence is somewhat limp. Even Bassey’s not a big fan of this song. Richard Kiel’s Jaws makes a final appearance in this film; Bond girls are Lois Chiles and Corinne Cléry. Michael Lonsdale’s Hugo Drax bore a startling resemblance to my friend, the late Jon Gustafson (Figure 2).
- For Your Eyes Only (1981) was written by Bill Conti (Rocky’s “Gonna Fly Now”), with lyrics by Michael Leeson, and sung by Sheena Easton, whose hit “Morning Train (9 to 5)” was a big hit on both sides of the pond. It was also the first Maurice Binder sequence to feature the singer of the title song. “Bond girls” were Carole Bouquet and Lynn-Holly Johnson of skating fame. It also marked the departure of Bernard Lee as “M.” (He would play “M” in a couple of Bond spoofs, however.)
- Octopussy (1983) was an impossible title to write a song about, so John Barry, with lyrics by Tim Rice, wrote “All-Time High” for Rita Coolidge to sing. It’s not a bad song, but it doesn’t really fit as a Bond song, IMO. Maurice Binder’s title sequence is a return to form, and maybe an escalation, as we get a topless full-frontal, where before breasts were mostly hinted at or in silhouette (okay, the nipples are obscured by jewellery). Maud Adams is the main “Bond Girl,” as well as Kristina Wayborn. George MacDonald Fraser (Flashman) co-wrote the screenplay.
- A View to a Kill (1985)’s theme and title song was composed by (with John Barry), and sung by Duran Duran (Simon Le Bon and group). Not a bad ‘80s song—several ‘80s orchestral “hits”in it—it was the first non-solo Bond theme song. Maurice Binder’s title sequence made extensive use of UV paint and lights, plus some creative use of ice. The Avengers’ Patrick MacNee and ex-Charlie’s Angel Tanya Roberts join Christopher Walken in this film, along with singer/model Grace Jones, as well as Fiona Fullerton and Alison Doody (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). This is Roger Moore’s last shot at a Bond role. Oh, and one name stood out in the credits: Dolph Lundgren! (A side benefit of doing this particular column is rewatching most of these movies. And another side benefit is reading the credits!) Oh, and Robert Brown plays “M” for the first time.
- The Living Daylights (1987) was composed by Paul Waaktaar and John Barry, and peformed by Norwegian band a-ha. After listening to it again, I find it an entirely forgettable song, though it was a big hit in Europe. Maryam D’Abo is the “Bond Girl.” This is the first Timothy Dalton Bond; he is more like the book Bond, in my opinion, than Roger Moore ever was. Cast changes: Robert Brown plays “M” again, and Carolyn Bliss replaces Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny; John Terry plays Felix Leiter.
- Licence to Kill (1989), sung by Gladys Knight, was written by Narada Michael Walden, Jeffrey Cohen and Walter Afanasieff; it’s well sung in typical Knight style, but even though it charted in England, Europe, and Canada, it failed to hit the top 100 in the US (Wikipedia). If it didn’t have Gladys, it wouldn’t be very good. “Bond girls” are Carey Lowell and Talisa Soto; David Hedison is again Felix Leiter. Notable walk-ons include Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Zerbe, and Everett McGill. Brown and Bill reprise their “M” and Moneypenny roles. This is Dalton’s second, and last, Bond movie. (Too bad; I thought he was a good, and serious, Bond.)
- GoldenEye (1995) was written by Bono and The Edge (U2), and sung by Tina Turner. The title is based on Ian Fleming’s estate in Jamaica; the film wasn’t based on Fleming at all. Although it has a very “Bond” feel, and despite Turner’s best efforts, it’s not a very memorable tune. First Pierce Brosnan Bond; first Judi Dench turn as “M.” Samantha Bond (!) takes over as Miss Moneypenny. “Bond girls” are Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp, and Izabella Scorupco. Notable cast members include Sean Bean, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Cumming, Tchecky Karyo, and Minnie Driver(!). Daniel Klineman succeeded Maurice Binder as title designer.
- Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) was written by Sheryl Crow and David Arnold, and performed by Crow. The song’s not bad, but it doesn’t seem to stick in my mind, like some of the others. Title sequence is something Binder would be proud of, I think. Jonathan Pryce is the baddie, and “Bond girls” are Michelle Yeoh and Teri Hatcher. Notable in the credits are the late card wizard Ricky Jay, Joe Don Baker (3rd Bond movie!) and Vincent Schiavelli. Some terrific action sequences; overall a pretty good Bond.
- The World Is Not Enough (1999) was written by David Arnold, lyrics by Don Black, and performed by Garbage. I think the song could have been better with a stronger singer, but it’s not bad. The title sequence is stellar, with oily naked women. (But I’m biased….) Robert Carlyle is the villain, and Bond’s women include Sophie Marceau and Denise Richards. Robbie Coltrane returns as Zukovsky, and John Cleese assists “Q” as “R.” Serena Scott Thomas played “Dr. Molly Warmflash.”
- Die Another Day (2002) was written by Madonna and Mirwai, and performed by Madonna, in a highly processed vocal and synthesized way. Not to put too fine a point on it, I think it’s the worst Bond theme. Bluntly, it sucks. The title sequence, which is great, deserved better. Madonna’s five minutes of acting in the movie are better than this song. Brosnan returns for the fourth time as Bond; he’s a little bit lightweight compared to Dalton (or Craig!), but he was a pretty good Bond; this is his last outing. Bond’s women this time were Halle Berry and Rosamund Pike. John Cleese becomes “Q”; Desmond Llewellyn has retired; the last of the “old guard.” Dench and Bond continue as “M” and Moneypenny. Notable credits include Rick Yune, Michael Madsen, and Will Yun Lee.
- Casino Royale (2006) (“You Know My Name”) was written by Chris Cornell and David Arnold, and performed by Cornell. Daniel Klineman’s title sequence, a kind of pop-arty thing featuring Daniel Craig, was a surprisingly good intro for the latter as the new Bond. Just from the title sequence and song, we knew right away that Bond was back, and he was bad! The opening parkour chase established Craig as the most active Bond ever! Mads Mikkelsen menaced as Le Chiffre, and Eva Green and Caterina Murino were the Bond women. Jeffrey Wright takes over as Felix Leiter. Start to finish, an amazing new Bond movie!
- Quantum of Solace’s (2008) theme song, “Another Way to Die,” was composed by David Arnold and performed by Jack White and Alicia Keys. Nothing about it says “Bond” to me, and I think it’s in competition for the worst Bond theme; I find it jarring. (Yes, I’m old school; I think Bond music can change with the times, but this didn’t work for me.) Bond’s opponent, Mathieu Amalric, was sleazy, but not menacing like Mikkelsen in the previous film. Bond’s women were Olga Kurylenko and Gemma Arterton (as “Strawberry Fields”!). Jeffrey Wright is back as Leiter. Some good action in this film; too bad the song’s not up to it. (It could have been Amy Winehouse, but she “wasn’t up to recording” at the time.)
- Skyfall (2012) was written by Adele and Paul Epworth, and performed by Adele. At the time this came out I didn’t care for it, much, nor was I impressed by the film. Subsequent viewings have changed my mind entirely; I now consider this tune (with a terrific opening sequence by Daniel Klineman) a top Bond tune (Adele’s another “big voice” singer, and totally fit for a Bond film), and the film itself is a pretty darned good Bond. Judi Dench’s last appearance as “M”; she is succeeded by Ralph Fiennes; Ben Whishaw is now “Q” and Naomie Harris is Eve. Bond’s love interest is Bérénice Marlohe (Only one? They’re trying to change his narrative.) Albert Finney makes his last screen appearance. Javier Bardem’s the bad guy.
- Spectre (2015) is another Bond with a title song that uses a different title: “Writing’s on the Wall,” written by Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes, with surprisingly androgynous vocals by Smith. It’s not bad, but barely misses the mark as a Bond song, I think. Klineman’s opening not only features the usual nudes, but a half-nude Daniel Craig; from the images, it appears he’s confused P.E.C.T.R.E. (“Special Executive for Counter-Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion”) with HYDRA from the Marvel movies. (Dave Bautista is the Marvel tie-in here.) Christophe Waltz is the Smooth Criminal Blofeld; Bond’s women are Léa Seydoux, Monica Belluci, and Stephanie Sigman; Fiennes returns as “M”; Wishaw’s “Q”; and Naomie Harris is still Eve, but now we know she’s Moneypenny.
- No Time to Die (2020), with a title song written by Finneas O’Connell and Billie Eilish, and performed by Eilish. Although she has a distinctive voice, I’m not sure it’s a Bond voice, and the lyrics are somewhat jejeune. No title sequence has been released yet. The usual suspects star as “M,” “Q,” Blofeld, Moneypenny (and I should credit Rory Kinnear making his third or fourth appearance as Tanner—head of “Station M” in the books). Women involved are Ana de Armis and Léa Seydoux. Rami Malek, fresh from an appearance as Freddy Mercury, is the bad guy. This should be out in a few months, I hope.
Non-“official” Bond films (i.e., those not made by Eon Productions) started with #26, Casino Royale (see last week’s column) and finished with:
- Never Say Never Again (1983), which was a remake of Thunderball (despite the Disco Volante not being the same kind of yacht), had Max Von Sydow as Blofeld and Klaus Maria Brandauer as Largo; kind of a two-fer of villains. No Maurice Binder sexy opening sequence, either. The theme was written by Michel Legrand with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, and sung by Lani Hall. It sounds like a Sergio Mendes and Brazil ’66 song, frankly, but it’s catchy as heck. The women Bond interacts with are also a two-fer: Kim Basinger as the Good, and Barbara Carrera as the Bad. (What? No Ugly?) Edward Fox (Day of the Jackal) is “M”; Bernie Casey is Leiter, and Alex McCowen is “Q.” Rowan Atkinson plays a befuddled Station Agent, Small-Fawcett. One thing of real note: the underwater sequences were choreographed by Ricou Browning. If you don’t recognize that name, how long since you saw the original Creature From the Black Lagoon? It was Browning in the Gill-Man suit! The movie was a Talia Shire (Rocky) production, too.
Something my wife (The Beautiful & Talented Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk) pointed out: some of these tunes are only good in the proper context; i.e., with the opening sequence—whether designed by Maurice Binder or Daniel Klineman. It’s a good point. And some songs/themes aren’t very good in any context. Just sayin’.
Breaking news: This column (me, actually) is a finalist for the Canadian Prix Aurora Awards; the Canadian equivalent of the Hugo, in the category of Best Fan Writing. The ballot should be available today; the nominated works will be available for download (for Canadians who are members of CSFFA, the Canadian SF/Fantasy Awards thingy) the week of the 18th, and voting will start in June and end in July, I believe. I feel very lucky/privileged to be nominated. Only Canadians (members of CSFFA, but it only takes $10 for a year’s membership) can vote, but I hope my American friends will root for me! (Coincidentally, my wife—the Beautiful and Talented Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk, is also a finalist for Artistic Achievement! Canadians, I hope you take notice!) I’d also like to give a nod to another Amazing® online columnist, R. Graeme Cameron, who is up for the same award. His reviews are stellar, but you can vote for me instead. <g>
Did you like this/these two columns? Do you want to send me your own list of favourite Bond themes? Please—drop me a comment here, or on Facebook. Anything you want to say! (Just keep it polite, okay?) My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owner, editor, publisher or other columnists. See you next time!
Favorite Bond Themes: Goldfinger and Live and Let Die. Both of these have outstandingly dramatic trumpet work.
They’re both terrific themes, John.
Drax looks like Matthew Tepper, too, as I recall him.
Not sure I ever met Matthew, though of course I know the name. But he’s almost a dead ringer for Jon. Well, when Jon was alive, that is. 🙂