Cinema Reservoir
Breaking Cinematic Opinion and Observation

The James Bond Theme Songs That Never Were…

If you are, as I am, a die hard James Bond Fan, then it may interest you to know that there are almost as many Bond themes that went unused as there are actual Bond themes.  I realize that that is quite the confusing sentence, so let me clarify…  For every title sequence you watch during a Bond film, with accompanying song, there are several songs that artists made for the film that were rejected by the Broccoli family of producers.

There are probably several reasons for there being several songs produced for a James Bond adventure.  One reason is that the producers, in conjunction with the composer (most frequently John Barry), initially choose an artist and work with him/her and then realize that the song doesn’t fit with the tone of the film, therefore they hire somebody else, repeat the process… and so on, and so on until they get the desired result.  Another reason could be that they give several artists a chance at singing the theme, listen to them all and decide who made the best one, then reproduce the song to mesh with the Bond score.  In several cases, the answer is simple:  most of the early Bond films ended with the exciting proclamation that “James Bond Will Return in…..”  so everyone could guess what the title of the next song would be.  What artist wouldn’t dream of singing a Bond song?  It’ll be heard by practically everyone in the civilized world, so why not just make a song up with the name of the new film and send it to the producers?  (this probably didn’t work so well with tricky titles such as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service or The Man With The Golden Gun) Either way, the producers don’t usually speak about such matters publicly, so it really is a mystery as to why some of these alternate themes were never used, sometimes replaced by much much worse themes.

Let’s start with one of the most famous Bond tunes.. GOLDFINGER.  John Barry composed the song, while Anthony Newley (then husband of Joan Collins, and her “favorite” ex-husband) and Leslie Bricusse provided the lyrics with Newley on vocals.  Probably due to his working with Welsh singer Shirley Bassey, she was called in to re-do the vocals and an instant classic was made.  Newley’s version can be heard on the 30th anniversary cd “The Best of Bond… James Bond,” listen to his whispery version compared to the take no prisoners voice of Bassey and you can see why a change was necessary.

THUNDERBALL was, in the end, sung by Tom Jones.  However the original title of the song was “Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” and John Barry had such success with the lyrics of Leslie Bricusse and the vocals of Shirley Bassey, they brought her in again to do the title song.  A short time late, for no apparent reason other than that she was a fresher name, they brought in Dionne Warwick to do a version of the song.  This version lasted throughout the scoring process, therefore a lot of the musical cues from “Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” can be heard all through the film.  At the very last minute Cubby Broccoli  and Harry Saltzman got worried that people wouldn’t associate the song with Thunderball unless it shared the same title, hence a hasty recording with Tom Jones on vocals with lyrics by Don Black.  Legend has it that Tom Jones passed out after sustaining that final note a second too long.

with Dionne Warwick:

With Shirley Bassey:

In an interesting side note, undoubtedly roused by the prospect of singing a Bond tune, none other than The Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash, recorded an interesting take on the title Thunderball.

Perhaps John Barry’s most beautiful song is “You Only Live Twice” made famous by Nancy Sinatra, who Barry reported that it took 25 takes to record because Sinatra was so nervous and thought she sounded like Minnie Mouse.  Before Sinatra there was a singer named Julie Rogers who made an attempt at the song, but her version lacks the amazing wispy opening bars and main theme that made Nancy Sinatra’s so iconic.

In the mid 90’s an alternate track was discovered at RCA records sung by Lorraine Chandler:

With The Man With The Golden Gun it’s probably the case that Alice Cooper saw at the end of Live and Let Die what the next film was going to be called and created his own version of it for consideration by the producers.  Cooper claims that it was the song that was going to be used until the producers had LULU preform it.  Who knows, but the song appeared in Coopers album “Love Muscle”:

With Moonraker we again find Shirley Bassey singing the theme song, but she was apparently called in at the last minute by producers after their first choice, Johnny Mathis, was unable to complete the recording with John Barry for undisclosed reasons.  Unfortunately Mathis never finished the song for release on any of his subsequent albums.

For Your Eyes Only has the distinction of being the only title sequence to feature the singer, Sheena Easton.  But it would probably have been a much cooler title sequence had they put their original choice, Blondie, in the title sequence.  Blondie’s version differs significantly from the final version and ultimately appeared on the Blondie album THE HUNTER.

Goldeneye features many a soundtrack discrepancy… Bono and the Edge scored a version of the main theme, while Eric Serra composed the rest of the soundtrack.  In the final cut of the film, this disconnect between the main theme and the rest of the score was widely criticized.  Whether it was due to the long and well documented financial trouble at United Artists, causing Timothy Dalton drop out of playing Bond a third time, or some other obscure reason, Ace of Base recorded a version of Goldeneye before Bono and Tina Turner had their go at it.  Retitled “The Juvenile”  instead of “The Goldeneye” and released as a single, though you can still catch several elements from the plot in the song, such as “Tomorrow’s foe is now a friend”:

When David Arnold was chosen as a permanent replacement for John Barry he decided to hold a competition to see who would sing the title song for Tomorrow Never Dies. Artists that bid for the honor included Swan Lee, K.D. Lang, Pulp, Saint Etienne, and Sheryl Crow.  Though Crow eventually won out, I can’t help but think that the decision came down to who the producers thought had the widest appeal and reputation.  Otherwise they would have ignored Crow’s anemic theme and gone for either Swan Lee’s trippy tune or K.D. Lang’s very Bassey-esque ballad.  Swan Lee went on to release the song as a single with a video mimicking Maurice Binder’s famous “projected on gold” title sequence from Goldfinger and K.D. Lang’s was so close to the composer’s heart that he scored the whole movie around her version and, while she didn’t get the title spot, he put her over the closing credits.

Swan Lee’s “Tomorrow Never Dies”:

K.D. Lang’s “Tomorrow Never Dies” or “Surrender”

Here’s an unused Theme for The World is Not Enough performed by the band STRAW, probably submitted for consideration to the producers.  It has many themes found throughout the Bond series, most notably “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” and the lyric “we’ve got all the time in the world” from the famous Louis Armstrong tune from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service .  Ultimately Garbage won out and did a pretty decent Theme.

Recently Amy Winehouse announced she was recording a demo for Quantum of Solace, but that song, unfortunately never surfaced.  It would have surely been better than the song we got via the vocal mismatching of Alicia Keys and Jack White.

So, in the end, what do we get out of all this?  I suppose what really surfaces is that a lot of people want to do James Bond themes, and a lot of them go ahead and make one, but only a handful actually make it into the exclusive club of BOND SINGERS.


7 Responses to “The James Bond Theme Songs That Never Were…”

  1. Interesting. How were you able to find out all of that stuff?

  2. I hadn’t thought about it before. Very interesting!


  3. Re “Goldfinger”, Newley was nice, as always, always a good voice, but Bassey exuded a hot sexuality despite being slightly strident… that hot Brit sexuality, don’t you know. J. Cash made TBall sound like the prelude to a western, so bye-bye. Sheena and Ace of Base, always good music. I must add this caveat: I have not seen a Bond film not starring Connery. The throw-off music you present here is very extraordinary. It must have rquired a bit o’ research, to say the least. Always fun and educational to see your work.

  4. Ear Force PX5…

    […]The James Bond Theme Songs That Never Were… « Cinema Reservoir[…]…

  5. What about The Divine Comedy and Tom Jones singing ‘All Mine’ – That is surely a demo for The World Is Not Enough? Or Muse’s ‘Supremacy’ for Skyfall?

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