FRIDAY FUN: Bond Theme Trivia!

So…. the Internet kind of blew up over the past couple of days since Adele’s “Skyfall”, the theme to the new James Bond film of the same name, leaked on the Internet (hear it for yourself here). Of course, this got me thinking about Bond themes… and I found a bunch of nifty trivia I thought I’d share:

– Duran Duran’s “A View to a Kill” is the only Bond theme to reach #1 in the music charts in either the US or UK.

– Amusingly, Duran Duran became involved with the theme after bassist John Taylor approached Albert Broccoli at a party and drunkenly asked when he was “going to get someone decent to do one of [his] theme songs” (after Dr. No was an international hit, American film producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli started a company called Danjaq, which owns the copyrights and trademarks to the Bond properties; its subsidiary, Eon Productions, actually produces the Bond films).

– New Wave group Blondie really wanted to do the theme for 1981’s For Your Eyes Only, and sent the producers a tape of a song they’d written for the film. Producers preferred another song written by Bill Conti and Mike Leeson, but offered to let Blondie perform that song on the film. The band refused, and the song ended up on Blondie’s 1982 album The Hunter:

– Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better”, the theme to 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, was the first Bond theme to not share a title with the film. Simon does, however, include the title as a line in the song:

I wasn’t lookin’ but somehow you found me,
It tried to hide from your love light;
But like heaven above me,
The spy who loved me,
Is keepin’ all my secrets safe tonight.

– “All Time High”, the theme to 1983’s Octopussy, is the only other theme to not share a title with the film in the pre-Daniel Craig era. In fact, it’s the only Bond theme to not mention the film at all (perhaps not surprising, as it would be kind of hard to work “Octopussy” in normal song lyrics).

– Conversely, Adele’s “Skyfall” is the first Bond theme of the Daniel Craig era to share the title of the film. Casino Royale’s theme was “You Know My Name” by Chris Cornell and Quantum of Solace’s theme was “Another Way to Die”, by Jack White and Alicia Keys.

– Scottish singer Sheena Easton, who sang the theme to For Your Eyes Only, is the only artist to actually appear onscreen singing the theme during the film’s title sequence:

– Two other Scots have sung Bond themes: Lulu (The Man with the Golden Gun) and Shirley Manson (The World Is Not Enough).

– When composer David Arnold (who wrote the scores for all Bond films from Tomorrow Never Dies through Quantum of Solace) called Manson to ask if she was interested in singing a Bond theme song, she reportedly screamed (in joy!) at being asked.

– “Live and Let Die” was the first Bond theme to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song in a film. Strangely, the song is credited to “Paul McCartney & Wings” on the soundtrack album and in the film, but just “Wings” on the single.

– Producers originally wanted British singer Mari Wilson to sing “All Time High”, but ultimately decided that she was too unknown in the United States (with good reason: average Americans have never heard of her; only Anglophiles who watched the British sitcom Coupling know her from the theme song, a cover of “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps”). They then approached Laura Branigan, whose 1982 single “Gloria” spent 36 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, a record for a female artist at the time. However, for whatever reason, negotiations with Branigan fell apart. Barbara Broccoli (daughter of Albert and also a producer) decided to see if she could get her father to hire her all-time favorite singer, Rita Coolidge, to sing the theme. She played Coolidge’s records any time her father was around, until one day he asked who the singer was. She told him, and Coolidge was soon signed to sing the theme.

– Tina Turner’s “GoldenEye” (from the 1995 film of the same name) was one of the singer’s biggest all-time chart hits in Europe, hitting the Top 5 in France, Poland, Finland, Austria and Switzerland, the Top 10 in Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Germany, Norway and the UK and the Top 15 in Spain, Ireland and the Netherlands. Incidentally, the song was written by Bono and The Edge.

– In most Bond films, the tune of the theme song is repeated or referenced by the orchestral soundtrack throughout the film. Madonna’s “Die Another Day” was not.

– Speaking of, Canadian singer k.d. lang originally sang the theme to “Tomorrow Never Dies”. For some reason, producers then brought in Sheryl Crow, who wrote and sang a completely different song of the same name. Lang’s version was renamed “Surrender” and moved to the film’s closing credits. However, it’s lang’s version, not Crow’s, that is referenced by the soundtrack. Most music critics think lang’s version is the better of the two.

– Eleven Bond themes were co-written by English composer John Barry, who also wrote the score to those films. Barry worked with several artists over the years, and the one he liked least was a-ha. Apparently the band was unaware that Barry usually had a big hand in writing the theme songs, and so they wrote their own version before meeting him in person. When they found out that Barry had written his own version, they refused to perform it. After much arguing, a-ha eventually agreed to sing Barry’s version in the film, while a-ha’s version appears on their 1988 album Stay on These Roads. According to keyboardist Magne Furuholmen, Barry compared them to the Hitler Youth; on a late night talk show, Barry called the whole process of working with a-ha “exhausting”.

– British singer Julie Rogers was hired to sing the original theme song to You Only Live Twice. However, the song just “didn’t work”. Albert Broccoli wanted his close friend, Frank Sinatra, to sing a new and improved version of the song, but Frank insisted that his daughter (who had the then-current smash “These Boots are Made for Walkin'”) sing it instead. Barry wanted to have Aretha Franklin sing the new version of the theme, but Broccoli insisted on using Nancy Sinatra. Incidentally, “You Only Live Twice” just might be the most covered Bond theme.

– Although Welsh singer Shirley Bassey has had a long, successful career in her native UK, her only Billboard Hot 100 hit was “Goldfinger”, which peaked at #8 on the US charts. Bassey is also the only singer to sing multiple bond themes: Goldfinger (1964), Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and Moonraker (1979).

– Singer Chris Cornell thought of his Bond theme – “You Know My Name”, from Quantum of Solace – as his, and refused to allow it to appear on the film’s soundtrack album. Thus, it is the only Bond theme to not appear on the film’s official soundtrack.

– The very first Bond theme – Monty Norman’s “James Bond Theme” from Dr. No – has been used in some capacity in every subsequent Bond movie. Norman has been collecting royalties from the song – which was based on the “surf rock” craze of the early 1960s – since 1962. There are at least 70 known cover versions of the “James Bond Theme”.

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