As we wait for Skyfall, the latest film in the fifty year old James Bond franchise, to hit theaters, let's review some of the greatest James Bond movie theme songs.
Goldfinger. This one set the (ahem) gold standard. From the brassy opening notes to Shirley Bassey's bold vocals to the interpolated bass line of the James Bond Theme, this song almost single-handedly defined the James Bond sound.
Live and Let Die. Ushered James Bond into the seventies with style. Paul McCartney's song (despite some awkward lyrics) scored with critics and audiences.According to Jon Burlingame's excellent The Music of James Bond, the film's producer, Harry Saltzman, had this reaction after hearing the song for the first time: "Very nice record. Now tell me, who do you think we should get to sing it?"
Nobody Does It Better. Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager came up with a song that not only tapped into the zeitgeist, becoming a breakout hit, but also seemed to perfectly describe James Bond himself. Carly Simon's vocals perfectly match the lush orchestrations to make a pop classic.
A View To A Kill. Duran Duran's scorcher remains the only James Bond song to hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Legendary composer John Barry (as quoted in Burlingame's book) described his collaboration with the pop group as "a totally alien way of working...but I think we came up with a very strong song."
Surrender. What's that, you ask? You've never heard of this one? Intended to be the opening song for Tomorrow Never Dies, the song was, instead, relegated to the end credits in favor of a rather tepid Sheryl Crow tune. It's a shame, because this song, belted out by k.d. lang, is simply fantastic.
You Know My Name. Chris Cornell's opening song for Casino Royale practically bursts into life, helping introduce Daniel Craig with a real kick. Divisive among Bond music fans (as is the Daniel Craig era in general), I've always thought it a spiritual successor to Live and Let Die - a way of helping revitalize the franchise through music.
Skyfall. And speaking of divisive, the latest Bond song has got critics and fans split. Some call it flat and derivative, while others praise Adele's vocals and the lush orchestration. For me, it immediately sounded like something that should accompany the opening credits of a James Bond film. I love it. I hope the movie is just as good.