James Bond Greatest Hits

Bond’s Greatest Hits
This specialized programme was aired on Channel 4 on 18th November.  Showing at 9.25pm it ran for two hours and listed the countdown of the most popular music of the Bond films. Their poll had shown that “From Russia With Love” is one of the most popular Bond theme tunes  – a testament not only to Matt’s enduring popularity and his talent but also to the writing skills of Don Black and John Barry.

Here is a summary of that programme:

From the moment the first pistol shot rang out in 1962 the films of James Bond have created a musical legacy unrivalled in cinematic history.  Behind every song is a great Bond story, some of which were controversial.  Here we take a nostalgic look back to all the gossip and behind the scenes drama.

Octopussy – 1983 – Roger Moore

This was the 13th Bond movie and is possibly the most frivolous to date.  The plot meanders as Moore follows Maud Adams and renegade Soviet general Steven Berkoff across India and Central Europe.

This film music didn’t do very well in the charts of this poll, as there was no relationship between the song and the film’s title.  Composed by John Barry and penned by Tim Rice, Rita Coolidge sang the song “All Time High”


Casino Royale – 1967 – David Niven
Though nominally based on Ian Fleming’s first 007 novel, it is in actual fact a spoof, in which David Niven’s retired Bond rounds up assorted 007 agents to avenge the death of “M”.

This was the unofficial film done as a spoof.  Burt Bacharach composed the song with Herb Albert as lyricist and Dusty Springfield doing the vocal honours.  The film had six or seven directors and a surfeit of screenwriters involved with it and it was a total disaster of a production, but the song has gone on to become an easy listening classic.


Moonraker – 1979 – Roger Moore
The 11th Bond movie jettisons Ian Fleming’s marvelous novel and sends 007 into space.  Weighted down by often-clunky special effects and non-existent plotting, the movie seems to be merely an attempt to update Bond in the wake of Star Wars.

By 1979 Bond had struck gold with “Moonraker”.  Bringing together John Barry and lyricist Hal David an original song by Johnnie Mathis was abandoned.  Shirley Bassey was called in to sing a song that was hurriedly written in a week.  To appeal to the masses a different version was played on the end credits with a disco beat but it failed to become a favourite.


Never Say Never Again – 1983 – Sean Connery
Sean Connery’s return to the role after a 12-year absence.  His well-groomed presence holds the screen with ease while being flanked by three charismatic ne’er-do-wells, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Max Von Sydow and Barbara Carrera.

In 1983 a rival unofficial film was released with the reappearance of Sean Connery.  The producers hand were tied as because of the Bond license they couldn’t use those popular items that were associated with all the other Bond films, no Austin Martin or the underlying Bond Theme and with the absence of that music it was evident you were only watching an action movie with someone called James Bond in it.

To counteract losing the Bond music the producers wanted a big singer with a big voice.  Husband and wife team, Lani Hall & Herb Albert were brought in to write what became “Never say Never Again”.  Bonnie Tyler had turned the chance to sing the song down and so Lani herself stepped in.  It failed to chart on either side of the Atlantic.


Thunderball – 1965 – Sean Connery
The Bond series went well and truly comic strip with this gadget-filled extravaganza that too often cuts plotline corners to squeeze in all the hi-tech hardware.  Playing 007 for the fourth time, Sean Connery is still getting a kick out of the part, but he’s less the suave spy and more the man of action than in previous outings.

By the mid 60’s James Bond and the Beatles were at the forefront of a British music revolution that was transforming British music across the world.

The original song by Dionne Warwick was abandoned and John Barry turned to lyricist Don Black to come up with the right song.  Riding high with the chart hit “What’s new Pussycat” they gave the song to Tom Jones.


The World is Not Enough – 1999 – Pierce Brosnan
A welcome return to the gritty glamour of such early outings as “From Russia with Love”, the 19th James Bond adventure effortlessly juggles a hard-hitting story with all the expected super spy embellishments and keeps it in diamond-cut focus for maximum suspense and thrills.

In 1997 Grammy award winning composer David Arnold released a 007-tribute album, “Shaken and Stirred”.  The album modernized old Bond classics for a modern audience.  David McAlmont had the opportunity of singing, “Diamonds are Forever” on it.

Two years later David Arnold took up the baton left by Barry and gave a contemporary feel to the music of “The World is Not Enough” with Shirley Manson singing the title song.  It failed to break the Top 10 but the song and soundtrack successfully moved the Bond music forward without betraying the past and kept the traditional ideas going at the same time as contemporizing it.


The Living Daylights – 1987 - Timothy Dalton
This was Timothy Dalton’s debut as 007 and it was already pretty clear that it lacked the necessary ironic touch that made the credibility-straining action seem fun rather than ridiculous.

In 1987 two bans were vying for the contract to sing the new Bond theme tune, The Pretenders and Aha, to the winner the titles, the loser the end credits.

Working with Aha on his 14th and final Bond film was veteran composer John Barry.  Behind closed doors the working relationship with Aha wasn’t working out.  Despite problems in the studio the fusion with Aha’s pop and Barry’s Bond know how helped the song reach No.5 in the charts, the 3rd biggest ever UK chart hit


A License to Kill – 1989 – Timothy Dalton

As hero James Bond turns his attention to big-time drug barons, Timothy Dalton phones in his performance and there’s a spectacular chase with an oil tanker.  The title was to have been “License Revoked” until market research implied that Americans didn’t know what “revoked” meant.

In the late 80’s the music charts were dominated by dance and R&B.  The film’s producers hired record producer Michael Walden who was behind the chart success of Whitney Houston.  He hired Gladys Knight but without “The Pips” and although she sang the song she was unhappy about promoting a film with violence because of her devout Christian upbringing.


The Man with the Golden Gun – 1974 – Roger Moore
This is an improvement on Ian Fleming’s novel with Christopher Lee making a fine villain, sporting a golden gun and a third nipple and a tiny henchman called Nick Nack, wittily played Herve Villechaize.

1974 saw Bond take on the most curious of musical twists.  They hired shock rocker Alice Cooper who recorded the song with backing vocals by legendary singer, Lisa Minnelli.  In the end they picked Lulu, who had been an international start for some ten years and had a more family friendly face than Cooper.

The song reunited Barry and Black, but “The Man with the Golden Gun” failed to take off commercially.  Barry himself thought it the least interesting of the Bond songs.


Tomorrow Never Dies -1997 – Pierce Brosnan
The 18th Bond outing is up there with the best of them: it has terrific pace, Pierce Brosnan has romantic and rough-house appeal, Teri Hatcher is a match for him, and the Post-Cold War story has grip and even plausibility.

In the mid 90’s a change in musical fashion with an easy listening revival and the sound that had made the 60’s Bond music so cool.  With this film a bidding battle for the theme tune emerged with MGM taking offers from anyone and creating a bidding war.  Mark Almond put himself forward but was rejected.  After several songs lay by the wayside two songs were left standing.  Bluesy rocker Sheryl Crow and soundtrack composer David Arnold who felt he had the perfect song with KD Lang.  Sheryl Crow won the day and song was co-written by David McAlmont and Don Black.


On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – 1969 - George Lazenby
This is the Bond everyone forgets, mainly because it stars the Australian George Lazenby, who went from chocolate commercial to big screen disaster.  Wittily written and pacily directed it has excitement galore.  Yet the chemistry between Diana Rigg and Lazenby is non-existent.

1969 and a new Bond demanded tougher action.  In this film John Barry’s instrumental theme was played over the opening credits but the film’s showstopper was saved for later in the film.  To sing it producers approached a bona fide living legend Louis Armstrong.  Although he was semi-retired, fairly frail and in poor health, when he opened his mouth the notes flowed out as powerfully as ever.  The song didn’t enter the charts but 25 years later, “We Have All the Time in the World”, did for a beer commercial.  The song is more associated with the Guinness advert than the Bond film.


GoldenEye – 1995 – Pierce Brosnan
Pierce Bosnan as his first mission as 007 quickly establishes himself as the best Bond since Sean Connery and makes a fetish out of the old-fashioned values of loyalty and patriotism.  There are also splendid Bond girls, including Izabella Scorupco and feisty Famke Janssen, who kills her victims by crushing them between her thighs.

After a seven-year gap a new Bond, Pierce Brosnan took the stage in “GoldenEye”.  With a new era came a radical new sound from Frenchman Eric Serra, but the music was not to everybody’s taste.  “A Pleasant Drive in St Petersburg was the title of the climatic tank chase and the producers didn’t feel that Serr’a score was working.  To get back in track they brought in composer John Altman who gave it high action with lots of brass and the original Bond theme threaded throughout.  The score was adventurous with the title song written by Bono and The Edge who stuck to Bond traditions.  A big song needed a brassy diva, this time round Tina Turner.


A View to a Kill – 1985 – Roger Moore
This Bond movie sees Roger Moore as 007 for the seventh and final time.  Christopher Walken, and his accomplice girlfriend, Grace Jones, head the baddies and these is plenty of action and excitement to be had.

The mid 80’s and 007 took on a band that epitomized both the times and Bond’s hedonistic life style – Duran Duran.  John Barry was the composer and right from the start the working relationship was not an easy one.  After seven years together the band was close to implosion, they were not talking and were split into factions.  Despite the niggling that was going on in the band the Bong song was a great success; it hit No.1 in the States and No.2 in Britain.


Die Another Day – 2002 – Pierce Brosnan
The much-loved franchise has never looked better.  Such continued vigour is down to Lee Tamahori’s fluid style and the relentless pace which effortlessly propels the film’s intense action around the globe.  Pierce Brosnan, as a betrayed agent and vengeful 007, is on particular fine form while the introduction of Halle Berry as an equal, if underdeveloped, female sidekick is a definite coup.

This film opened with one of the most dramatic movie opening sequences to this day and a song that has split opinion like no other.  In this Bond outing James actually gets captured and tortured and snippets are shown throughout the opening credits.  David Arnold was the composer and the selection of singer Madonna was a natural choice for the Bond people.  In their view it put Bond’s music out into the modern world, others disagreed.
Madonna is the only Bond singer to get an acting role within the film itself in a cameo as a fencing instructor.


Dr. No – 1962 – Sean Connery
The James Bond series started in great style with this cleverly conceived dose of sheer escapism that, unlike later episodes, remained true to the essence of Ian Fleming’s super spy novels.  Director Terence Young set the 007 standard with terrific action sequences, highly exotic atmosphere and witty humour.  There was also the sex of course and bikini-clad Ursula Andress couldn’t have asked for a better star making entrance.

A surprisingly low entry for the signature tune that started it all. The origin of the “James Bond Theme” is a story of intriguing twists.  Composer Monty Norman wrote the theme for an abandoned West End musical “A House for Mister Biswas”.  Set in an Asian part of Trinidad it had a strong Indian influence.  He decided to split the notes and realised he was on to something.  What was critical to the song was the John Barry orchestration.  To add a younger swagger to his orchestration, John called in fellow guitar player, Vic Flick.  It successfully merged the age of big band jazz with the new exciting era of rock ‘n’ roll. It is one of the greatest movie themes to this day.

In 1977 Moby was approached to do a remix of the original James Bond Theme and a court battle emerged over who was the true composer of that theme.  Barry had been hired to arrange, orchestrate and record the theme, he has the screen credit for that but not for writing it.  When the Sunday Times ran a story saying Barry had written it, Monty sued.  In 2001 a major court case ensued but the jury of twelve found unanimously for Monty Norman.  He was awarded £30,000 in damages but more importantly the verdict upheld that he was the sole author of the “James Bond Theme”.


You Only Live Twice – 1967 – Sean Connery
One of the very best of the Sean Connery Bonds, this dispatches 007 to Japan, where having faked his own death, he goes native, “marries” a local girl and, in his quest to discover why spaceships are disappearing, unearths a volcano with a false crater.  Donald Pleasence’s scarred, cat-stroking Blofeld proves one of the all time great screen villains, although unseen for much of the film

Fort this film Barry produced a great seductive orchestration.  The producers approached one of the biggest stars of the day – British vocalist Julie Rogers.  The song was recorded at Universal studios with a 50-piece orchestra and John Barry and that was that.  But someone didn’t like the performance.

A search began for a replacement but Chubby Brocoli had his eye on hiring Frank Sinatra. Although he turned it down, he did suggest to Chubby that his daughter would do the job.  Nancy Sinatra hung out with Elvis, she was hip and swinging and being American it gave Bond an international flavour.  They loved her sound but by the end of twelve takes John Barry didn’t feel he had the perfect performance.  The result was a hatchet job; he took parts from all the different takes and blended them together for the final offering.


The Spy Who Loved Me – 1977 – Roger Moore
Roger Moore in one of the best post-Connery James Bond adventures.  Well acted, smartly cast and lavishly directed, this exceptional spy escapade is far-fetched mayhem of the highest order, with a welcome accent on character realism rather than just spectacular sets

In 1977 Britain was seduced by disco music and the Silver Jubilee. “The Spy who Loved Me” paid tribute to both.  Three times Oscar nominee, Marvin Hamlisch had new ideas of how to write a Bond song.  He felt it didn’t have to blast onto the screen but ease in gently.  His then wife, lyricist Carole Bayer Sager, came up with the original title of “Nobody Does It Better”.
The producers went for the song but not the title so it became “The Spy Who Loved Me” sung by Carly Simon.  It charted higher than any Bond song before it and was the only song written about James Bond himself.


For Your Eyes Only – 1981 – Roger Moore
Number 12 in the 007 series and the plot revolves around the hunt for a device from a sunken spy ship, with French star Carole Bouquet providing a little class as the girl who may hold the key to the puzzle.

The year was 1981 and to reflect a more serious Bond in the film “For Your Eyes Only” the producers approached one of the most credible acts in music.  She was cool, she was smart and she was up for it.  With five No. 1’s in just two years Blondie carried both credibility and commercial clout.  But there was one small problem, the producers only wanted her to sing their track, but to use the name Blondie, Blondie had to play.  Blondie’s own song submission was rejected.

Bill Conti, the man behind the “Rocky” soundtrack wanted Streisand to write the song and Donna Summer to sing it.  The last person he had in mind was the person United Artists had suggested to him.

Sheena Easton had in only 10 months had two Top 10 hits and she won the final selection round.  It was the first time that an artist’s face appeared on the opening credits, which cunningly, later doubled up, as a pop video.  It went Top 10 in both UK and USA.


From Russia With Love – 1963 – Sean Connery
Superbly shot on location in Istanbul, and closely following Fleming’s original story, the film has Sean Connery duped into smuggling a top-secret communist decoding machine, plus blonde Russian diplomat, from Turkey to the west via The Orient Express

1963 combined a cocktail of cold war antics; master criminals and sex spy scandals were playing perfectly into the exaggerated espionage world of Bond.  The producers picked a singer who epitomized the smooth style of James Bond.  Britain’s answer to Frank Sinatra, Matt Monro, was suave, sophisticated and clean cut and had a certain Bondesque feel about him.  The look was chic and classy.  Matt Monro was a little guy capable of producing big notes.

Before “From Russia with Love”, the musical template was yet to be set.  The titles feature an instrumental with the song only appearing 30 minutes into the film.  You heard just a snippet of the song coming from a radio while James is wooing the girl but the main song was played in full over the end credits.


Live and Let Die -1973 – Roger Moore
Roger Moore’s first tour of duty as James Bond, in the eighth of the licensed-to-kill series, has him up against the powers of voodoo in the bulky shape of Yaphet Kotto, while embracing the more curvaceous figure of tarot reader Jane Seymour.

Paul McCartney and Wings proved a perfect introduction to a new Bond.  The music was more rock ‘n’ roll than had ever been done before.  It reunited Paul with the producer from his Beatles days, Sir George Martin.  With George acting as music producer the demo was complete and Martin approached the film producer Harry Saltzman.  He wanted the song but not the singer.  Diplomatically Martin explained that if he didn’t take McCartney then he didn’t get the song.

With the McCartney name and a great chart sound it achieved the most successful chart position up to that time.


Diamonds Are Forever – 1972 – Sean Connery
After “You Only Live Twice”, Sean Connery said “never again” but after George Lazenby’s sole effort in “On her Majesty’s Secret Service”, Connery was lured back for a fee of more than $1 million, which he donated to the Scottish International Educational trust.

1971 and Connery was back and to celebrate the producers reunited the team behind their biggest singing success, John Barry, Shirley Bassey and lyricist Don Black.  Shirley was delighted but someone wasn’t.  Bond producer Harry Saltzman hated it but the other part of the production team and the more genial; Cubby Brocoli liked it so it stayed in.

It is definitely the best movie song of the 70’s and it was the song that really defined Bond.


Goldfinger – 1964 – Sean Connery
The third big screen outing for Ian Fleming’s suave super spy ranks among the slickest of all Bond movies.  Endlessly entertaining and effortlessly performed, it’s packed with classic moments.  There’s Shirley Eaton’s legendary gold-plated death, the duel with bowler hated sidekick Oddjob, the best name for any Bond girl, Pussy Galore enthusiastically played by Honor Blackman and the mid-air showdown with Gert Frobe’s brilliantly bizarre villain obsessed with gold.

In the mid 60’s the Beatles were the biggest money making machine on the market but even they were knocked off the top spot by Shirley Bassey and her rendition of “Goldfinger”.  It is deemed to be the ultimate Bond song because of the sheer power of Bassey’s voice.

For a young John Barry, it was the first opportunity he had to compose the soundtrack and the title song.  But “Goldfinger” nearly ended in disaster.  Again Harry Saltzman thought it shockingly bad and wanted it taken out of the movie but with only three weeks before the premiere and no time to record a replacement it stayed.

It became a worldwide hit and the standard by which all future Bond songs would measure and later on Saltzman thanked John Barry.  Its success in America made an overnight star of Bassey and most music enthusiasts think it is the most quintessential of the Bond’s songs.  Bassey’s performance, full of drama, helped drive “Goldfinger” to worldwide acclaim.