The new James Bond film Spectre, is released in UK cinemas a week today! To celebrate, here is the first of two special Bond blogs!
As well as the fast cars, gadgets and girls, the Bond films are also known for their theme songs. So here is my ranking of all the Bond themes so far*.
- “Die Another Day” – Madonna (Die Another Day, 2002)
Whoever allowed Madonna to besmirch the good name of James Bond by churning out this utter bullsh*t, which fails in every single aspect in it’s attempts to masquerade as an acceptable excuse for a Bond theme, needs a serious talking to. I absolutely hate it in case that wasn’t obvious already! It is hard to decide what is worse, the film or the theme. Can we just pretend this song and film don’t exist and never speak of them again?
- “Writing’s on the Wall” – Sam Smith (Spectre, 2015)
The Daniel Craig era themes have been more up and down than a rollercoaster, and this latest offering is definitely a trough rather than a peak. I’m not a big fan of Smith’s falsetto vocals at the best of times, and they lack the punch needed for a memorable Bond theme. That being said I do like the track without his vocals, but it is not enough to save this otherwise dire theme.
- “Another Way to Die” – Jack White & Alicia Keys (Quantum of Solace, 2008)
With the talent behind it, this should have been a lot better than what it actually is. The voices don’t go together at all, and it barely even sounds like a Bond theme. Skip it.
- “The Man with the Golden Gun” – Lulu (The Man with the Golden Gun, 1974)
Possibly one of the worst Bond films, with an equally terrible theme to match. Lulu doesn’t have the greatest of voices, and the lyrics are so terrible!
- “All Time High” – Rita Coolidge (Octopussy, 1983)
Continuing the theme of terrible Bond films having terrible themes, there is this woeful Roger Moore era theme. So unbelievably cheesy, nothing “Bond-like” about it whatsoever, and sappy romantic power ballads just do not work as Bond themes.
- “For Your Eyes Only” – Sheena Easton (For Your Eyes Only, 1981)
Boring. Bland. Bleh. Moore era themes were as patchy as the films themselves, and this one is easily one of the weakest. Again cheesy 80s power ballads and Bond themes are not a good mix.
- “Tomorrow Never Dies” – Sheryl Crow (Tomorrow Never Dies, 1997)
Brosnan era Bond films were pretty patchy as well, and the same goes for the themes. I for the life of me could not remember how this theme went until I relistened to it again. Then I did and remembered it was rubbish and will never listen to it again. Next!
- “Licence to Kill” – Gladys Knight (License to Kill, 1989)
Do not be lured in by that classic Bond sounding intro. It’s a cheap knock-off of Goldfinger with sub-par vocals, but it is one of the better 80s Bond themes; although this was not a very competitive era for excellent Bond theme songs!
- “Moonraker” – Shirley Bassey (Moonraker, 1979)
Shirley strikes again with easily my least favourite of the ones she sung. It is so forgettable in fact, that my Mum was once dead convinced she knew how the tune went, but instead sang the Goldfinger theme but replaced the words with “Moonraker” and I had to remind myself that that wasn’t actually how it went! Try it yourselves. It works surprisingly well.
- “Goldeneye” – Tina Turner (Goldeneye, 1995)
I love this film, and I don’t hate this song, but I am not a fan of Turner’s voice at the best of times. However, it is a lot better than some of the other ones so it deserves its place in the middle of this list.
- “Nobody Does it Better” – Carly Simon (The Spy who Loved Me, 1977)
Altogether now, “nobodyyyyyy does it better”! I feel like I should hate this song but I don’t, and also it reminds me of Alan Partridge** which is only a good thing.
- “From Russia With Love” – Matt Monro (From Russia With Love, 1963)
In the 1960s heyday of Bond films, there is some pretty stiff competition amongst the themes. Arguably one of the best Bond films, From Russia With Love has a pretty average theme song that most people probably don’t remember, but give it a listen again and you’ll agree there may be better, but there are many more that are worse!
- “The Living Daylights” – Aha (The Living Daylights, 1987)
I had to give this three listens before I decided where I would put it in this list, and it changed position at least twice. Contrary to everything I have said about terrible 1980s Bond themes, this one is so 1980s that it borders on the terrible, but weirdly I like it. One of the few that works as a standalone song regardless of it being attached to a Bond film or not.
- “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” – The John Barry Orchestra (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, 1969)
An instrumental seemed like a slightly odd choice for this film (which a lot of people dislike), but it is so good. Instantly recognisable and so catchy!
- “You Only Live Twice” – Nancy Sinatra (You Only Live Twice, 1967)
You’ll instantly recognise the hook in this one, even if you have to jog your memory with how the rest of it goes. A lot softer than some other Bond themes, but a good song, albeit one of the slightly weaker ones out of the Connery era. Ranks highly on this list due to its memorability.
- “The World is Not Enough” – Garbage (The World is Not Enough, 1999)
The verses aren’t spectacular but the chorus is so great it makes up for it. Love that classic score in the background as well; easily makes the top 10 and unquestionably the best of the Brosnan era.
- “You Know My Name” – Chris Cornell (Casino Royale, 2006)
Casino Royale is a great film and added some much needed life back into the franchise. This is a great rock track with a powerful voice, and a modern take on the classic Bond theme sound. Easily one of the best recent themes.
- “Thunderball” – Tom Jones (Thunderball, 1965)
Again, has that classic James Bond sound, with brassy background trumpets, but that voice! Tom Jones famously passed out after singing the final booming and lingering note. Disclaimer: unless you are Tom Jones, don’t try singing that note at home.
- “Diamonds are Forever” – Shirley Bassey (Diamonds are Forever, 1971)
In total, Bassey sung 3 Bond themes; they clearly knew they were onto a winner with that amazing voice. One of the most recognisable Bond themes and one of the best.
- “Skyfall” – Adele (Skyfall, 2012)
I have so much love for this song that I in fact did a last minute switch with “Diamonds are Forever” after listening to it again. Adele’s beautiful voice was made for a Bond theme, and this sounds like it could have been one of the themes from the classic Bond films of the 60s, yet it doesn’t sound out of date at all. A modern classic!
- “Live and Let Die” – Paul McCartney & Wings (Live and Let Die, 1973)
I mean having one of The Beatles doing a Bond theme was always going to be great right? Regardless of whether this is a Bond theme or not, it is such a great song! I love the way it builds, and it is also ridiculously catchy.
- “Goldfinger” – Shirley Bassey (Goldfinger, 1964)
The definitive classic Bond theme, and I reckon for a lot of people it would be number one; however for me it just misses out on the top spot. It is utterly iconic and set the bar for all themes which would follow. Show of hands how many people have walked around singing this song just like this?
- “A View to a Kill” – Duran Duran (A View to a Kill, 1985)
Despite all my slandering of 80s Bond themes, it is in fact one from this era which I think deserves the prestigious number 1 spot in this list! Strange that the best song should precede probably the worst Bond film but there we go! It incorporates some classic Bond theme traits, but is also an excellent standalone song which is kind of what you want, and it fits the era perfectly!
Agree with everything I’ve said, or am I a terribly misguided idiot who has got it all wrong? Please let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to share as well. I promise I won’t react like this if you disagree with me…
*the eagle-eyed among you would notice that Dr No is missing from this list. It doesn’t have it’s own theme song per se as it uses the classic Bond music that we all know and love. This gives it an unfair advantage I believe, so it is not included.
**if you watch any video in this blog, make it this one. Partridge + Bond = MAGIC.