My buddy over at stageright-stageleft challenged me to write a post ranking my favorite Bond themes of all time, with a description of why I rated them where I did. So here it is.
#1: Goldfinger. The orchestra hits in this piece evoke Bond from the get-go, and Shirley Bassey’s raw, emotional voice is perfect for the theme. Everyone knows this theme too, so thats a testament to its brilliance.
#2: Nobody Does It Better. Marvin Hamlish and Carly Simon team up for a beatiful,yet slightly edgy theme. A pop cultural gem, it is also widely known. Its also one of my favorite Bond films of all time, so I’m sure that’s coloring my placement.
#3: James Bond Theme and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (tie). These are the orchestral backbone of most Bond films done originally by the John Barry Orchestra. How can you NOT love these themes- the guitar vamp alone is one of the most recognizable elements on the entire Bond franchise.
#5: The Man with the Golden Gun. There really wasn’t much that redeemed this bond film- except the theme. I love the 70’s vibe to it, and LuLu singing the line “who will he bang…we shall see” is just wonderful and typical of the double entendres used in the movies.
#6: Diamonds Are Forever. Shirley Bassey belts out another brilliant theme. It is sparkly and dreamy and suits the ‘space themed’ movie very well.
#7: Live and Let Die: Wing’s and paul McCartney make a theme that rocks and had the potential to be higher on the list– if the film hadn’t sucked as much as it did. Plus there was one negative point for the ska-beat break in the middle of the song.
#8: For Your Eyes Only: Sheena Easton’s voice never sounded better than in this theme. And the easy flow of the theme worked very well with the underwater nature of the movie.
#9: License to Kill: I enjoy this theme purely for its quotation of (and hommage to) Gold Finger. Very good theme overall- and has that great trumpet restatement of the Gold Finger theme in a major key at the end. Plus, Gladys Knight is awesome.
#10: Thunderball. Tom Jones voice lends a strident urgency to this theme. The lyrics are cheezy as hell, but the theme is solid overall.
This concludes my top 10- the rest start to delve into various degress of suckitude. Here are places eleven through the rest.
#11: You Only Live Twice. Nancy Sinatra sleeps her way through this treacly theme. Its good,but not very bond-ish. The best thing about it is that Robbie Williams quoted the string theme in his pop song “Millenium”.
#12: Moonraker. I can’t believe I’m rating this theme where it is. I love Shirley’s voice in it, and its a gorgeous piece, but the lyrics are horrid! And once again- how does this theme evoke the Space theme of Moonraker??
#13: View to a Kill. Good dance song, not a good Bond theme. Duran Duran is a great 80’s band, but the fact that their lyrics are unintelligible did not help this Bond theme.
#14: Die Another Day. Once again, good dance song, good electronica stuff from Madge- but not a good Bond theme. At least the lyrics sort of evoked the “die another day’ theme- but I don’t think it captured the feel ofthe film.
#15: Goldeneye. This theme may have been better had Tina not sung it. I put this one in the Moonraker theme with respect to lyrics.
#16: All Time High. Rita Coolridge, what were you thinking making this a Bond theme? Not only does it not evoke any sense of the Bond film it was used for (Octopussy), it just falls flat a bit lyrically. It would have made a great theme for some cheesy love story instead.
#17: From Russia with Love. At least the theme had the title of the film in it and had some semblance of a Russian feel- but very little feel other than a balalaika in the background. Plus I didn’t like the guy’s voice. But it gets points for being part of the John Barry orchestra.
#18: Living Daylights. Not only did the film suck,but the theme sucked as well. A-ha doing a Bond theme?? What a throw-away piece it turned into.
#19: Tomorrow Never Dies and The World is Not Enough (tie). Both of these themes were bad enough that they didn’t even jog my memory as to how they went. One was by Sheryl Crow and the other by Garbage… but I can’t remember who’s garbage is whos. How bad is that? At least I can hum the A-Ha song’s hook.
Notice I did NOT rate the newest Bond theme: You Know My Name. I have to live with this theme a bit first, see how the film does, etc before I can place it in its place. I will say that it won’t crack my top ten– or if it does, it may displace Thunderball. But that’s it.