One of the most important aspects of any Bond movie is the opening song but several have been unfairly neglected.
When combined with the sort of lavish title sequence for which the series is renowned (Maurice Binder in the past; Danny Kleinman in the present), it can set the tone for the adventure to follow. Adele’s brooding, foreboding number for Skyfall has seen a positive response (and is a massive improvement over the Jack White/Alicia Keys drunken karaoke effort for Quantum of Solace) but here are some of the more underrated songs in the franchise.
You Only Live Twice
This may be a somewhat controversial choice but You Only Live Twice gets overlooked when placed alongside peppier efforts such as Goldfinger and Nobody Does It Better. The lush combination of John Barry’s sweeping Oriental strings (nobody did it like Barry, that’s for sure) and Nancy Sinatra’s gentle yet impassioned tones prepares the audience for Bond’s Japanese adventure before they’ve even got there.
Shirley Bassey famously wasn’t the first choice for Moonraker but after Johnny Mathis dropped out and Kate Bush proved unavailable, the Welsh diva was tapped to record the song with only weeks to spare. Bassey subsequently dismissed the effort which is a shame as it deserves to be held up there with Goldfinger and Diamonds are Forever, her voice in this insistence possessed of a glacial, fragile beauty which, when combined with John Barry’s rippling strings and tinkling triangle, speaks of the romantic loneliness of deep space.
All Time High (from Octopussy)
It proved difficult to get anything to rhyme with the eponymous monicker so Octopussy when thence named All Time High. An unashamedly cheesy number that broke with the classic tradition of previous John Barry numbers, All Time High reflected the burgeoning pop aesthetic that held increasing sway over Bond songs throughout the 80s. However, Barry’s underlying theme for strings and saxophone is gloriously romantic, and well complemented by Rita Coolidge’s soothing vocals.
Tina Turner’s sultry tones blew away six years of cobwebs during Goldeneye’s striking credits sequence. The film was of course the first Bond movie since financial troubles had derailed the franchise after Licence to Kill (1989) but Turner’s delivery of lyrics by Bono and The Edge (which actually pertains to a character in the film) made it feel like 007 had never been away. Danny Kleinman’s brilliant hammer and sickle iconography further announced that Bond had emerged, triumphant, from the Cold War era.
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Surrender (from Tomorrow Never Dies)
John Barry’s heir apparent, David Arnold, came up with a blistering title number for Pierce Brosnan’s second Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies. Performed with thunderous energy by k.d. Lang, Surrender is a terrifically ballsy homage to Shirley Bassey’s glory days, and the melody is used by Arnold to tie the score together in sassy fashion. Sadly, it was relegated to the end credits, and replaced by a decent but inferior Sheryl Crowe number. A pity as this is by far and away the best song to emerge from the Brosnan era.