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Image source: Maven Rose

itcher’s Guide to James Bond Songs – Part 1

Andy Harmon itcherIn my opinion, when discussing James Bond, there really is no other place to start than Roger. As Alan Partridge put it, “no one could wear a safari suit with the same degree of casuality.” ~ Andy Harmon

itcher’s Guide to James Bonds’ Songs: The Roger Moore Era

As he was busy working on television series The Saint, Roger wasn’t available to play Bond in the early years, not that there is any evidence to show he was even considered, as Sean Connery was firmly in place anyway. It wasn’t until after Connery came back for a brief stint to replace the one-and-done George Lazenby that Moore was offered the role.

Moore provided a slightly more humorous take on Ian Fleming’s 007 character. He was able to deliver a witty one-liner or innuendo with a subtle flamboyance. All it took was a raise of the eyebrow; it could be argued Dwayne Johnson owes his entire career to this technique.

Roger played Bond from 1973 to 1985 and was joined along the way by some great Bond movie hit songs – and, it has to be said, some not so great ones. Serve yourself a Vodka Martini and get ready for itcher’s Guide to James Bond Songs.

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`Live and Let Die´ (Paul McCartney & Wings, 1973)

There’s no sense in going off half cocked.

Bond producer Harry Saltzman is said to have hated the previous film’s song, Diamonds are Forever, so regular composer John Barry was nowhere to be found on this one.

Instead Paul McCartney was approached to write the song, and that he did with the help of his wife Linda – and so the song contains no meat whatsoever.

It was the first theme to venture away from the orchestral style to more contemporary rock. From a traditional intro, McCartney kicks up the pace like a chase sequence, you can imagine Moore racing through the Louisiana bayous in a speedboat.

Even though the producers originally wanted a soul singer to fit with the New Orleans theme of the film, they undoubtedly made a wise choice in McCartney as the song reached number two in the US charts.

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`The Man with the Golden Gun´ (Lulu, 1974)

I am now aiming precisely at your groin. So speak or forever hold your piece.

“It’s the one I hate most… it just never happened for me.” Even composer John Barry didn’t like this one. It seems like an in-office joke where they tried to fit as many innuendos into one song as possible. It starts with “He has a powerful weapon…” and you can already see where this is going; penis references. “Who will he bang? We shall see…” Lulu unashamedly belts this number out with vigour.

Alice Cooper claims his song of the same name was originally to be used for the film, but the producers opted for Lulu instead. In my opinion, Cooper’s song is infinitely better and more interesting than Lulu’s Ode to a Cock. In fact, I think Scaramanga’s third nipple could’ve written a better song.

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`The Spy Who Loved Me (Nobody Does it Better)’ (Carly Simon, 1977)

How does that grab you?

“Nobody does it better.” If I wrote a song for my beloved Roger Moore, it would open exactly the same way. It’s possibly one of the most well-known and most covered Bond songs, often appearing in other films (Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004), Lost in Translation (2003)). Performed by Carly Simon, it ended up being arguably her biggest hit. And it was a blessed relief for everyone to have a classy power ballad this time around.

We first see Bond canoodling by the fire in a log cabin as he receives a hilariously long message printing from his watch (modern technology, eh?). Quick as a flash he throws on a yellow and red ski suit and hops on the piste looking like Ronald McDonald. After some amazing special effects (really, you wouldn’t even notice) and despatching some henchmen, he flies off the cliff face like Eddie the Eagle and deploys his Union Jack parachute. Cue titles.

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`Moonraker´ (Shirley Bassey, 1979)

Why did you break up the encounter with my pet python?

I discovered it had a crush on me.

When you think of Bond songs and singers, you think of Shirley Bassey – and the Queen of Bond themes returns with Moonraker – a gentle, serene and impeccably performed ballad, perfectly capturing the ‘Bond in Space’ premise of the film.

It may not be as recognisable as Goldfinger, but that’s probably due to Bassey only recording it just weeks before the film’s premiere.

Frank Sinatra was first considered for the vocals, before Johnny Mathis was approached. Mathis then withdrew from the project and producers were left scrambling for a late replacement. After Kate Bush was approached and declined the opportunity, John Barry had to call up old trusty Shirley to save his bacon. Richard Kiel offered to sing it but they considered him too long in the tooth.

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`For Your Eyes Only´ (Sheena Easten, 1981)

You get your clothes on, and I’ll buy you an ice cream.

Bill Conti, most associated with the themes from the Rocky series, was brought in to compose the tune as John Barry was exiled from the UK due to tax reasons.

Blondie were originally asked to perform, and they wrote and produced their own song of the same name. But it was rejected by the studio; instead they wanted to use Conti’s song. Blondie refused to sing it and instead the company offered it to young Scottish singer Sheena Easton.

Easton performs the song, seemingly naked, in the opening title sequence. What’s that? Naked women in a Bond title sequence? Never. This was the first and only time the artist of the song performed it during the opening credits, and is to date the largest amount of silhouette-boob Sheena Easten has ever seen.

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`Octopussy (All Time High)’ (Rita Coolidge, 1983)

Having trouble keeping it up, Q?

If playing the ‘Bond Theme Quiz’, you might choose this as your most obscure answer. John Barry returns to the fold with a pretty mundane and uninspiring paint-by-numbers ballad sung by Rita Coolidge. It’s one of the few songs in the Bond series to not refer to the title of the film at all. What are the others films in this category you ask? Dr. No, On Her Majesties Secret Service, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

I guess it isn’t easy writing a song called Octopussy, but I like to imagine if it did exist, it’d be sung by Ted Nugent to the theme of Cat Scratch Fever. Oc-to-pussy, dun duh dun duh. Oc-to-pussy, duhduh dunduh. C’mon don’t be shy, sing it with me.

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‘A View to a Kill’ (Duran Duran, 1985)

Well my dear, I take it you spend a lot of time in the saddle.

Duran Duran bassist John Taylor reportedly approached Bond producer Cubby Broccoli at a party, and under the influence of alcohol and whatever else (who knows? It was the 80s) asked when they’d get someone decent to play the theme. Cubby must’ve liked the cut of his jib because along with John Barry, they were approached to write and perform the song to Roger Moore’s final film as Bond; A View to a Kill.

By 1985, Roger Moore had just about enough of lugging that Walther PPK around and decided to call it a day. He was 58 by the time the movie came out and looked every bit of it.

Whilst Duran Duran were singing about dancing into the fire, Roger was looking for a fire to sit by with his pipe and slippers. Fighting an axe-wielding Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) on the Golden Gate Bridge was probably the point at which Moore channelled his inner Danny Glover and said “I’m getting too old for this shit”.

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Hungry for Moore

Roger Moore is the longest serving Bond to date, playing the character for twelve years spanning seven films in a row. During those wonderful twelve years we were blessed with a few classic songs and a couple of duds too.

Disagree with some of my opinions? Let me know. Maybe you like Lulu’s The Man with the Golden Gun. Maybe you think Live and Let Die isn’t so great after all. Then again, maybe you need your head checked out, Mr Big.

But James I need you…
“So does England.”

Liked this article? Check out itchers Guide to James Bond Songs – Part 2!
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