(Note: As I worked on this piece, word came down that No Time to Die’s release, set for early April, is being delayed until November because of the Coronavirus and the complications it is creating worldwide. That being said, I didn’t see the point in sitting on this piece for several months. So here it is.)
The next James Bond adventure, No Time to Die, will be upon us soon. I, for one, can hardly wait. Few provide quality escape movies like 007. They have just about anything I could ask for in an adventure movie: Tons of action; great suits; cool cars; lovely ladies; clever dialogue; and gadgets galore.
And then there’s the music. Bond movies tend to have pretty cool music. Few movie characters have a theme as iconic as 007’s.
Every movie is known for having its own distinct theme. Some use the movie’s title, some don’t. But as time goes on, the franchise seeks out bigger and bigger popular stars to sing them. For the upcoming No Time to Die, the artist du jour is Billie Eilish.
I don’t hate this, even if it is a little slow. Then again, the Daniel Craig Bond has been a lot darker and grittier than past films. So maybe this fits better than I’m giving it credit for. It doesn’t help that I’m not a Billie Eilish fan, per se. But not having a particular artist in my collection hasn’t stopped me from liking a couple of theme songs.
With that in mind, here are seven (or 007) of my favorite Bond themes. I don’t know that they’re the best theme songs, but they are the ones that stick out in my mind. And I always get a little kick out of them.
Pound for pound, Goldfinger is my all-time favorite Bond movie. It’s legendary theme song, sung by Shirley Bassey, is the (ahem) gold standard for 007 theme songs.
Sean Connery is my favorite Bond (followed by Daniel Craig). I was never over the moon about Roger Moore, though he certainly wasn’t bad. I probably need to spend more time with his movies. That being said, Paul McCartney provided my second favorite theme, which happened to be Moore’s first film. That’s one hell of an intro for this music freak.
Pierce Brosnan wasn’t a bad Bond, either (even if he did get the role a few years too late, I think). He had a boyish charm about him that fit the times nicely. And he could wear the hell out of a good suit! His first film was Goldeneye, released in 1995. The theme was sung by Tina Turner, with some instrumental help from U2. I don’t have any Tina in my record collection (something I should rectify), but I know a good theme when I hear it. It sounds very much of its time.
Let’s be honest: Quantum of Solace is a weak entry in the Bond cannon. Reportedly, the massive writer’s strike that took place in the middle of script development is the main culprit here. Too bad. There was potential there. That aside, I think it has a killer theme song. I wouldn’t have imagined Jack White and Alicia Keys performing together in a million years, but there they are performing what sounds like the most modern of all the Bond themes. White’s lo-fi riffing combined with Keys’s sweetness and the orchestra’s urgency makes for a really unique and cool combination.
Quantum was Daniel Craig’s second movie. His debut is my second favorite Bond film, Casino Royale. Fans definitely gnashed their teeth over the Blonde Bond and the complete story reboot. They needn’t have worried. It was very well done, much more gritty and realistic than previous films (with the understanding that it is a Bond a Bond movie). And it contains one of the best foot chases you’ll ever see! The theme was sung by Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, who’s raw and gritty voice was indeed the perfect fit. The song’s title is also right on the money.
One thing is certain: Timothy Dalton is far and away my least favorite Bond. (Nothing personal, buddy. It just didn’t work for me.) The best thing I can say about his tenure is it produced a theme song I rather liked. My sister was a Duran Duran fanatic in the 80’s. I didn’t go out of my way to get any of their records, but I was known to borrow one of hers from time to time. Their Bond theme is absolutely steeped in the 80’s, and probably sounds the most like any band offered the chance to create a theme song.
I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a Madonna fan. I thought “Vogue” was charming in its day, and I may have lingered over “Like a Prayer” once or twice at the height of MTV’s video heyday. But I wouldn’t be caught dead with one of her records in my collection. Call me all the snob you want. So imagine my surprise when I found her Bond theme … well, catchy. For some time, it wouldn’t leave my head. Congratulations, Madge. You actually created an ear worm.
There are a couple of other good ones. “Nobody Does it Better” from Carly Simon (The Spy Who Loved Me) and “Thunderball” from Tom Jones leap to mind. But everyone has his own point of view on these songs. As the man says, your mileage may vary. Here’s hoping you don’t find my list too shocking. Positively shocking. (wink, wink)
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Coincidentally, I recently published my own post on 007 title tracks, and there’s some overlap between our selections.
I’m with you on Sean Connery and Goldfinger. He was the ultimate cool dude, and that movie also featured my favorite bad guy played by the brilliant Gert Fröbe. You also can’t beat the title track performed by Shirley Bassey. Her strong vocal performance still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. I also like the title tracks she sang for “Diamonds Are Forever” and “Moonraker”, though nothing quite matches “Goldfinger.”
Roger Moore is my second favorite Bond. Connery had the coolness, Moore had the better jokes, in my opinion.
Next I would put Pierce Brosnan. I never warmed to Timothy Dalton, and I’m still getting used to Daniel Craig. His character and pictures are times a bit too violent for my taste. That being said, I’m bummed they pushed back the opening, though I guess it’s understandable.
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I hadn’t knowingly heard a Billie Eilish song before reading this but the video you gave us here is really rather good. It prompted me to have a listen to more of her songs and they’re not so bad, either. So thanks, Ced, you have furthered my education and maybe even improved my street cred a smidgeon.
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Your post makes me smile. I was never a fan of James Bond movies til the Daniel Craig ones, somehow they are edgier. And I have always loved the theme songs (well, most of them, there are a few duff ones, to be sure). My favourite themes are for Goldeneye, Goldfinger and Skyfall (even though I’m a fan of Adele, I love that song).
I remember going to the Finsbury Park Astoria in London (it became The Rainbow theatre and is now used as a church) to see Thunderball when it came out. (I’m a Brit, originally from London).
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Sorry that should have read ‘not a fan of Adele’.