"Spy Season" is upon us. With another OO7 film soon debuting, I'm watching more Bond than usual and noticing how one of the biggest parts of my undying fandom for this film series is the music. As a child, I would listen to my uncle's "Best of Bond" soundtrack CD. Those classic theme songs form their own genre of beautiful spy pop ballads - big, brassy, dark and a little dangerous. I think every Bond fan has at least one dream choice to be added to Bond's musical oeuvre. These are mine.
Debbie Harry's pop-punk group were offered the theme to 1981's For Your Eyes Only. But they didn't like the song, which would ultimately go to Sheena Easton, and recorded their own version. The Bond producers didn't accept Blondie's song, but Blondie included it on their album The Hunter anyway. Here it is edited together with the credit sequence from FYEO. This would have been amazing to hear in a theater, waiting for Bond to off killers.
The Bond franchise was on hiatus from 1989 to 1995, which is a pity because there were so many Bondian musical artists out at the time. Bond fans typically agree that British synthpop group Depeche Mode were the perfect fit for whatever Timothy Dalton film we could have had. They ooze cool, darkness, romantic sex and secrets. The Bond franchise had already used similar artists Duran Duran and a-ha, so The Mode would have fit in perfectly. Still together and releasing albums occasionally and revered in Britain to this day, I think they would be a fine choice for a future theme if EON were to back away from poppier artists and return to their more mature musical roots. They have plenty of Bondian songs like "Enjoy the Silence" and "Policy of Truth", but I think the music video for "Strangelove" evoke OO7's world nicely.
Björk is a versatile, powerful vocalist who is no stranger to tragic lyrics and classical production. Her song "Bachelorette" practically sounds like a James Bond demo. Listening to it, you have to imagine Björk was listening to a lot of Dame Shirley Bassey, singer of themes for Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever and Moonraker. In fact, it sounds just like those three songs specifically.
1985's License to Kill originally cast rock music genius and sometimes actor David Bowie as Bond villain "Max Zorin", which Bowie politely turned down. But what if he signed on? Instead of Duran Duran, would he have provided the music as he had many of his other films like Labyrinth and The Man Who Fell To Earth? There's a good chance that we would have been given a Bowie-Bond collaboration in song as well as film. I always imagine Bowie's collaborations with super producer Niles Rodgers being perfect driving music for oo7's playlist when taking the Aston Martin out for a spin.
James Bond must have influenced so many young British men in the 1980s as the reverence in New Wave music is massive. Spandau Ballet have acknowledged their hit song "Gold" was written as their own James Bond theme song. The music video wears oo7 all over its sleeves and features the famous gold-painted girl from Goldfinger. These boys would have fit in the Bond musical canon just fine.
Has there ever been a pop song more evocative of Sean Connery swagger, Ian Fleming novels and 1960s British bachelors than Edwyn Collin's hit "A Girl Like You"? It fits in so well with Tom Jones' theme for Thunderball and Matt Monro's theme for From Russia With Love. In fact, the production on this song is more retro and true to classic Bond scores than many of the Bond themes from the past 25 years.
Because there were no James Bond films in the first half of the '90s, the Bond franchise skipped the Europop craze that took over the world. Maybe too trendy for Bond purists' musical taste, but I'm sure the series would have produced a theme song in that style as they commissioned Lulu to record the funk/disco-inspired theme for The Man With The Golden Gun. And if Bond went in that musical direction the perfect group would have been La Bouche. Their technopop was a little moodier and more classical than the rest of the genre and their lead vocalist is pound-for-pound one of the most soulful singers of her era, reminiscent of Bond theme veterans Gladys Knight, Tina Turner, Alicia Keys and of course Shirley Bassey.
The number one dream singer for the series is Amy Winehouse. She came and went from the music world so fast that it never happened. Such a terrible shame because she had everything to deliver an incredible Bond theme, maybe the best ever. She had the voice, the soul, the pain, the British heritage and a legendary pop star status surrounding her to create a hit song to be remembered and cherished.
She was approached, along with producer Mark Ronson, to do the theme for Quantum of Solace but things didn't work out. Ronson and James Bond composer David Arnold recorded the musical track and waited for Amy to write the lyrics and come up with a title. She refused what they created and instead wanted to record her own version but, because of scheduling (and perhaps Winehouse's personal problems), EON producers gave the title tack to Jack White and Alicia Keys. In the words of Amy Winehouse:
"I do think they could have waited a bit. If they want a worldwide hit I have them all up here (pointing to her beehive)”
“I guess they are going for clean-cut and boring. When I do release mine - and I am tempted to do it on the same day - this would be the bigger hit.”
Nothing was ever released. The Arnold/Ronson track was later given to Dame Shirley Bassey (who, at quite a senior age, does a good job) but it was rejected. In deed it was a bit slower and more traditional than what Amy wanted. But ironically the Bond series had returned to this style to great praise. Adele and Sam Smith (two artists modeled after Amy Winehouse) found themselves recording Bond themes we can easily image going to Amy had she survived. Here is "No Good About Goodbye", the closest thing to Amy's Quantum theme.
Here is the theme from the Blood Stone OO7 video game. This may be the best example of what Amy Winehouse wanted to sing for the James Bond franchise. Its a rocking, soulful ballad produced by the Eurythmics' David A. Stewart and sung by the amazing Joss Stone.
In conclusion, the Bond series has been attached to many great musicians and not all of them sung officially for the series. I hope we won't have so many missed opportunities in the future of the franchise. But that's hard when the Bond themes are such a coveted part of both the worlds of music and movies.