This week’s Top 10 + 1 post is the best ever James Bond Opening Themes over the franchise’s history. I missed the live awards and had to watch online the next day to see Shirley Bassey and Adele singing their Bond songs at the Academy Awards and it was then that it brought back a flood of memories for me over the past 30 years.
The Top 10 + 1 is something new I wish very much to add to my website on a regular weekly basis. I will pick a category on any topic and how I list what is the Top 10 + 1 based on my personal preference. The + 1 indicates the one ranking that was close but didn’t make the cut to reach the Top 10. For this first post I spent a tremendous amount of time doing research on each. I give thanks to Wikipedia, IMDB, You Tube and numerous other links and user comments for obtaining as much as accuracy as possible.
The titles are hyperlinked to take you to their IMDB origin if you so choose. But the really special part of this post is I inserted (ok, Chris showed me how to do it thank gawd) a video of each one. That way you can click on each and listen to it as you read each brief synopnis. It’s amazing how much of the theme music I can hear still to this day that has me not only refelct back on the films but numerous periods in my life. I hope you like it!
+1 Didn’t Make The Cut - GoldenEye (1995) by Tina Turner
There are many people who feel that Tina Turner sings one of the best theme songs in Bond history written by Bono and the Edge. This became an immediate classic after a very dark period when the Bond franchise desperately needed a reboot of their best known spy. Pierce Brosnan fit the role perfectly at the time in a movie that right from the start had a spine-tingling bungee jump off a dam and then a terrifying free fall in a plane that Bond flies to avert from disaster. Tina Turner’s steamy, seductive singing as a backdrop to the appearance of apparently naked female dancers was intoxicating. They continue to destruct statues of Russia’s Lenin and Stalin as a portend of what we were about to watch.
10) Dr. No (1962) by Monty Norman and John Barry.
Composers Monty Norman and John Barry collaborated to give us the very first ever listen to the James Bond Theme. We see the classic view through a gun barrel of a mysterious man in a hat firing a shot back at the gun barrel. A view we would come to know for decades with the Bond franchise. It’s amazing to go back and look at it’s simplicity of flashing neon orbs as the actors and actresses names are displayed. And one name comes up, Ursula Andress, that we could not fathom at the time of the things that would become with the huge popularity of the Bond women. The mysterious spy music makes way to an African-esque drum beat of colored, silhouetted dancers and then ends with three men walking single file to some reggae music. Does this mean we will be taken on a journey around the globe? Oh yes, we will.
9) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) music but no lyrics by John Barry
There was quite a bit of trivia to come out of this 6th film in the series for Bond aficionados. This was the first Bond film to deviate from the tradition of using lyrics in the opening theme song. John Barry composed, arranged and conducted the instrumental only music for this opening song. He also composed the love song “We Have All the Time in the World” sung by Louis Armstrong. It became Armstrong’s last ever recorded song as he died of a heart attack two years later. There was never much impact from the song until years later it became very well-known in a Guinness advertising campaign. It’s considered one of the finest songs in Barry’s franchise. This was the Bond debut for George Lazenby and it ended up being his quick demise in that he was no Sean Connery. We start off with his classic line, “This never happened to the other fellow.” There are lots of blue and purple hues as we see the British flag. Who is this Telly Savalas person we see a credit for? And then the promise of more hot babes, a possible villain and car chases. You tried your best George but it was not your calling.
8) Goldfinger (1964) by Shirley Bassey
This was another is a series of classics composed by John Barry and written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse. Shirley Bassey got our attention with her powerful, dramatic voice as our hero’s face appears. Obviously as he was melting the hearts and bringing sighs of delight from every female in the theater audience. All of the characters and images are uniquely put in a gold tint throughout. The album reached No 1 on the Billboard 200 and spent a total of 70 weeks on the chart. It was wonderful that Bassey was able to revive this at the 2013 Academy Awards.
7) Die Another Day (2002) by Madonna
This remains easily the most controversial of all the Bond themes to date. Composed by David Arnold and written and sung by Madonna (who also had a awesome cameo) who had a steamy video version of this song also. Many fans felt her song and the Clash’s “London Calling” (a favorite song of mine in general, by the way) were inappropriate matches for the Bond tradition. I did not share in any of such controversy as I enjoyed the upbeat pop music. The opening theme also takes us right into the beginning of the film’s storyline which was new. Hundreds of creepy black scorpions are crawling on the floor of a dark room making us cringe. Lordy, that will give me bad dreams. We see the head of our hero (played by Pierce Brosnan) being submerged into ice water as he is obviously struggling. As the spicy theme song continues we see a woman engulfed in flames having Bond restrained in shackles with his arms strung up above his head. Beautiful, sexy dancing females are shown in both an electricity ridden format and also in flames. As the credits wind down things appear very grim for James.
6) Skyfall (2012) by Adele
Composed by Thomas Newman and written and sang by Adele who won the 2013 Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Original Song. We see our hero Bond (played by Daniel Craig) descending deep into water without resistance. The beautiful, haunting music continues to take us on a journey of an underwater graveyard. Then everything turns to red and it ominously looks like the gates of Hell. There are evil Chinese dragons slithering through the water that gives you an extra pause to wonder. He shot at himself several times in adjoining mirrors bringing on an ominous feeling of could this be the end?
5) Octopussy (1983) by Rita Coolidge with “All Time High”
This was difficult to find an original of this so I had to use a compilation. You can forward to the 5 minute, 23 second mark to start Octopussy.
Composed by John Barry, written by Tim Rice and sung by Rita Coolidge. Obviously Rita Coolidge’s “All Time High” was just that for me back at that time. Lots of laser lighting in a really dark format running over a woman’s body that begins with a 007 and switches to the outline of an octopus. Women appearing to be jumping and spinning off of a trampoline in a some sort of psychedelic worm hole. Maud Adam’s character is the beautiful, intoxicating “Octpussy”. This was one of the five musical themes or songs that are not named after film’s title, the others being “Nobody Does It Better” from The Spy Who Loved Me (Although the film’s title is referred to in the song’s lyrics); “We Have All The Time In The World” from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969); “You Know My Name” from Casino Royale (2006); and “Another Way to Die” from Quantum of Solace (2008). Cool trivia, huh?
4) View To A Kill (1985) by Duran, Duran
Composed and written in a collaboration by John Barry and Duran, Duran who sang the song. The exciting upbeat music begins showing a woman outlined in black light with fluorescent red nails. This spills over into seeing more women with the same lighting, wearing seductive long eyelashes with fluorescent red lipstick. I will always remember seeing the names Tawnya Roberts, Grace Jones and Christopher Walken flashing across the screen and getting goose bumps thinking to myself, “This should be good.” The segway moves of lighting transfers over to numerous brief shots of women silhouetted and snow skiing. Again, a foreshadowing of what we will see at some point and time or many times over the next two hours on the screen. Duran, Duran and Barry were nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. It’s a song I love listening to still to this day and my brain has attached it forever to this movie. The title song from A View to a Kill is the only Bond theme to hit #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
3) Live And Let Die (1973) by Paul McCartney and Wings
Composed by Paul and Linda McCartney and sung by McCartney and Wings. This was the first Bond film not to involve John Barry. It was the first time rock music was used to open a Bond film. Ironically there were absolutely horrible theatrics in the theme opener as it inspired mostly a yawn. It opens with a woman in dark back lighting and flames, pointing a gun. Then one woman who’s eyes grow really big and becomes a skull in flames. There are suggestions of voodoo, witchcraft and zombies. A young 22-year-old girl by the name of Jane Seymour was just coming onto the acting scene. To this day she is one of my fav all time celebrity crushes. The song hit No 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
2) For Your Eyes Only (1981) by Sheena Easton
Composed by Bill Conti, written by Michael Leeson and sung by Sheena Easton. For Your Eyes Only marked the only time the singer of the theme song appeared in the opening sequence. There are lots of pretty dancers and swimmers silhouetted along with Bond in a posture to fire his Walther PPK. We see the beautiful Ms Easton being framed in numerous shots as she sings her intoxicating love ballad. Of all the love songs in the Bond franchise this was easily my favorite of all time. “For Your Eyes Only” reached #4 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for an Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Original Song.
1) The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) by Carly Simon with “Nobody Does It Better”
Composed by Marvin Hamlisch, written by Carole Bayer Sager and sung by Carly Simon. This video starts off at the end of long chase scene on skis where James Bond (played by Roger Moore) jumps off a cliff, the skis come off his boots and his parachute opens up a full canopy revealing the Union Jack. It is still to this day one of the most bad ass opening segments ever in the Bond franchise. Also it is possibly one of the best segways ever into a Bond opening theme along with the lyrics being the best description the character, James Bond. This is the debut film for the terrifying henchman, Jaws (played by Richard Kiel). “Nobody Does it Better” reached #2 on US Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for Academy Award for Best Original Song. It remains to this day as one of my all time favorite songs.
It epitomizes that nobody does it better. There are two people that I will forever reflect on when I hear this. Soon after his death there was an awesome film compilation done on an NFL player named Walter Payton set to this very song. I will always remember that and you can watch it here. The second, and most important, is it always reminds me of my Uncle Glen who, 30 years ago, changed my life for the better…forever.
So, what was your favorite James Bond Opening Theme?