Saturday, October 03, 2015

License to Trill

The theme for the anxiously awaited James Bond film SPECTRE has been released and elicits nothing morethan polite golf applause. Sam Smith's "Writing's on the Wall" is underwhelming to say the least, but certainly not the worst to say the most. It's a wisp of a tune that actually should have been something to blow the doors off an Aston Martin. Instead, there's this B-side ballad and unfortunately, the Writing on the Wall reads:
Here I sit,
Came to shit,
but only farted.

To be frank, the opening theme song for Bond films has always been a dicey proposition. The franchise tends to cater to current pop music trends and with mixed results since it is so ephemeral. It began in the Connery era when, after the one two knockout punches delivered by Shirley Bassey on GOLDFINGER and Tom Jones with THUNDERBALL, the singer chosen for YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE was...Nancy Sinatra, undoubtedly due to "These Boots Were Made for Walkin'". Thank goodness the song itself was decent enough and the production covered up many of her flat tones. Many times the gamble paid off, but for every Paul McCartney, Duran Duran and Tina Turner, the landscape is littered with a-ha, Rita Coolidge and worst of all, Sheryl Crow, badly in need of Auto-Tune for her flat rendition of TOMORROW NEVER DIES, making Nancy Sinatra sound like Maria Callas in comparison. But my favorite song credit has to be "THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH performed by Garbage". I couldn't agree more.

But I'm no fan of Adele's Oscar winning theme for SKYFALL either. I find it mid-range and rather unremarkable. Sure, I predictably go for the undeniable classics such as the aforementioned Bassey and Jones numbers. In Bassey's case, it stops and ends with GOLDFINGER. DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER is acceptable if deriviative and the less said about MOONRAKER the better.I find Gladys Knight's rendition of LICENSE TO KILL underrated just as I do Tina Turner's GOLDENEYE. I'm also a sucker for both Lulu's MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN and Jack White/Alicia Keys' "Another Way to Die" from QUANTUM OF SOLACE. And every time I hear "Nobody Does It Better" from THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, Carly Simon wins my heart every single time.

You'll notice I'm not mentioning the composers here. Need I mention John Barry, Marvin Hamlisch, David Arnold, et al? I suppose I should but I am concentrating on the finished product.

But while we're on the subject, Carl Davis' instrumental renditions of the 007 theme songs on the album BOND FOR ORCHESTRA transforms many of these otherwise piss poor songs into something quite magical and decent offerings even better. Chris Cornell's "You Know My Name" from CASINO ROYALE just knocks it into the cheap seats and "We Have All the Time in the World", even without Louis Armstrong's melancholy raspiness, is still a wonderful melody from ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE. Madonna's mediocre electronica effort,  DIE ANOTHER DAY, actually gets to live a little while longer.

Naturally,the songs  have no bearing on the film themselves. When the two coincide, it's serendipity. When it doesn't, it's not a total loss. No matter how I feel about Smith's half-hearted SPECTRE theme, it will be aided by yet another brilliant title sequence created by Maurice Binder's worthy successor, Danny Kleinman, a rarity in this day and age.

Of course, one could only imagine the themes and artists that could have been, such as this previously lost recording of Johnny Cash's take on THUNDERBALL

Yippy-ky-ay, Mr. Bond!
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