An Important Ranking Of The James Bond Theme Songs - 8 to 1 - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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An Important Ranking Of The James Bond Theme Songs - 8 to 1

Nobody does it better than these James Bond theme tunes...


We've counted down the bottom 8, then we did the middle section, now we're ranking the 8 best Bond themes. Is your favourite in the mix...


8. Thunderball - Tom Jones
There's a reason he's called Jones The Voice. This theme tune is simply superb, and it has itself a rather interesting back story.

The original main title theme to Thunderball was going to be "Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang", which was written by John Barry and Leslie Bricusse. Barry had thought he could not write a song about a vague "Thunderball" term or the film's story, so his song was a description of James Bond instead. It was even recorded by Dionne Warwick, but there were concerns with Warwick's delivery so  it was later rerecorded by Shirley Bassey and put into the rough cut of Thunderball as the proposed finidhed theme tune.

The song was removed from the title credits after United Artists requested that the theme song contain the film's title in its lyrics. (It was then planned to use the Warwick version in the end titles but Shirley Bassey sued the producers with the result being that neither version was heard in the film). With no time to spare, Barry teamed up with lyricist Don Black and wrote "Thunderball", drafting in Tom Jones to sing the new theme song.

Fun fact: Tom Jones fainted in the recording booth after singing the song's final, high note. Jones said,
"I closed my eyes and I held the note for so long when I opened my eyes the room was spinning."


7. Licence To Kill - Gladys Knight
Gladys Knight, sans Pips, provides an absolute belter of a theme. And a return to the classics. Yet surprisingly it's a theme that comes from a new team as the usual James Bond composer John Barry was not available at the time as he was undergoing throat surgery.

The score for the film Licence To Kill was composed and conducted by Michael Kamen, and he gives this Bond outing a more upbeat and suspenseful soundtrack, which always made it stand out quite a bit for me - in a good way. The theme tune, though, was composed by Narada Michael Walden, Jeffrey Cohen and Walter Afanasieff, based on the "horn line" from Goldfinger (which required royalty payments to the original writers), and featuring a guitar riff by Vic Flick who had played the original riff for the James Bond theme back in 1962.

The tracks got a great emotive bridge as Miss Knight delivers one her best pieces of work.


6. Goldeneye - Tina Turner
I've never previously been a fan of Tina Turner but what she did here was very comfortably slip into the Shirley Bassey shoes for, what was, a new era for James Bond, whilst converting me to her soulful tone. I felt quite certain she'd be back to sing another Bond theme, maybe not for the next film but one or two after that - a la Miss Bassey. Obviously I was proved totally wrong but that doesn't change the fact that Goldeneye is still a wonderful, atmospheric corker of a theme tune.


5. James Bond Theme/Kingston Calypso - John Barry Orchestra/Byron Lee & The Dragonaires
Two for the price of one. But, let's face it, it's the James Bond Theme that puts this in the top 5. The original "James Bond Theme" was written by Monty Norman. John Barry arranged the theme, but was uncredited (except for the credit of his orchestra playing the final piece, as listed above).

Some portions of the theme Norman claimed were based on music he composed for a never staged musical several years previously, but John Barry later claimed he, not Norman, originated the theme. This argument has been the subject of two court cases, the most recent in 2001. Vic Flick, the guitar player on the James Bond Theme states:
"Norman is famous for writing the music to the first James Bond movie Dr No, and has been credited with writing the "James Bond Theme", the signature theme of the James Bond franchise. Norman has received royalties since 1962 for the theme, but it was arranged by John Barry after the producers were dissatisfied with Norman's music. Barry claims that he actually did write the theme, but nevertheless, Mr. Norman won two libel actions against publishers for claiming that Barry was the composer, most recently against The Sunday Times in 2001. During the trial, Barry testified on the stand that he had composed the James Bond Theme, but that Norman was contractually obligated to receive credit for the score"
So there you go.


4. A View To A Kill - Duran Duran
By far and away the best thing about Roger Moore's final Bond outing A View To A Kill is the theme tune by Duran Duran. The track manages to work both as a Bond theme and as a Duran Duran single, and this is something that many of the other songs on the list never achieved. The staccato elements have that grab-you-by-the-balls-ness, much needed in a Bond theme tune.

There's a very famous oft-told story of how Duran Duran were chosen to do the song. It all happened after bassist John Taylor (a lifelong Bond fan) approached producer Cubby Broccoli at a party, and somewhat drunkenly asked,
"When are you going to get someone decent to do one of your theme songs?"
Not able to find anyone, Duran Duran were chosen (ba-da-bing!).

Just kidding. I love this song, and it hold the title of being the only James Bond theme to reach no. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100, so clearly I'm not the only one.


3. Nobody Does It Better - Carly Simon
The feels! Oh, the feels.

The power ballad to end all power ballads accompanies one of the truly great Bond pictures, The Spy Who Loves Me. The song opens with an instantly recognisable piano melody and grows and grows to an emotional sweeping finale. This is the element that was missing on tracks like Skyfall and The World Is Not Enough, but Carly Simon absolutely nails it.

Let's make it three in a row for Roger Moore themes, shall we?


2. Live And Let Die - Paul McCartney
What the hell was that?

I was 3 when Live And Let Die was released, so I don't remember a time not knowing it. But I would've loved to have been old enough to have heard this new Bond theme on the radio for the first time. McCartney's Live And Let Die sounds very much of the era yet also entirely timeless. Like Cornell's later You Know My Name, it commands your attention. You can't help but listen as it sweeps through various peaks and troughs. Also like Cornell's, it's the perfect way to usher in a new Bond, in that it's uniqueness tells you things are going to be different - even though they're actually remarkably similar.


1. Goldfinger - Shirley Bassey
This was never in doubt, surely? I mean Shirley.

It's the icon of Bond themes, isn't it? It's the one you'd most likely get in response if you asked a random stranger to name a James Bond theme. But they'd name it in song, because you simply just can't help yourself - "Go-old finger, da, da, daaaa"

Legend has it our Shirls had issues reaching that climactic final note. In the end she slipped behind a studio partition between takes to remove her bra! Feeling more comfortable, Bassey would recall of the final note:
"I was holding it and holding it - I was looking at John Barry and I was going blue in the face and he's going - hold it just one more second. When it finished, I nearly passed out."
Just like Tom Jones had said above. Clearly that John Barry was something of a taskmaster! But, my, what final results he achieved, eh?

Legend also has it that Bassey's title theme was almost taken out of the film because producer Harry Saltzman hated it, saying,
"That's the worst *** song I've ever heard in my *** life".
However, there was not enough time for a replacement song to be written and recorded so it remained., and the rest is history.

Miss Bassey once again finishes up this part of the countdown, just as she did with the bottom and middle sections. Can this Bond theme tune ever be topped? Time will tell.

What's your favourite Bond theme and how would you rank then? Let us know in the comments below.

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