Bond’s Symphony

The musical score in Bond movies has been as distinguishable as the character himself

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– Charu Chauhan / ChaT, Jaipur

After 50 years and 24 films, the James Bond franchise is inarguably the most successful and steadfast in film history. Based on a canon of novels by Ian Fleming, a World War II fighter and journalist, James Bond was already a household name in the United Kingdom for a decade before reaching the movie screens, but it was Sean Connery’s performance that turned 007 into one of UK’s largest cultural exports. After Fleming’s death in 1964, authors such as Kingsley Amis, Christopher Wood, John Gardner, Raymond Benson, Sebastian Faulks, Jeffery Deaver, William Boys, and Anthony Horowitz took over writing about Bond. The character has also been featured in a number of TV programs, radio shows and video games.

The most recent film in the Bond franchise is Spectre, which will hit the theatres on 20th November in India. With the theme song by rising artist Sam Smith, Spectre follows Daniel Craig as Bond as he tries to uncover the truth about a secret organisation and put an end to their sinister deeds. With so much success on different mediums, James Bond has become a cultural icon whose legacy will live on for centuries to come. James Bond theme songs have become almost as popular as the film series itself, creating their own unique niche in pop music. With the extraordinary pop culture reach of the Bond franchise, it seems only natural that it would extend its way into the world of music. With the recording talents of some of the biggest names in the industry, that reach has only become bigger over the years.

The musical connection with James Bond began in 1962 with the very first Bond movie, “Dr. No.” It was for that film that composer Monty Norman created the instrumental “James Bond Theme” which has appeared in almost every film since then and become as recognizable as the secret agent himself. The first two movies featured a combination of themes played over the opening and closing credits, but it was the third film, “Goldfinger,” in 1964, that gave birth to the genre that would become known as James Bond theme songs. The “Goldfinger” theme was performed by Shirley Bassey, who would later record two other Bond themes, “Diamonds Are Forever” and “Moonraker”. Over the years, many composers have taken a turn at producing themes for the Bond movies. Everyone from John Barry, Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse to Marvin Hamlisch has popped up on the musical charts with Bond themes. While “Goldfinger” first brought James Bond theme songs to the pop charts, it soon became a familiar move to have each film tied in to music’s top sellers. Tom Jones had a hit in 1965 with “Thunderball,” while Nancy Sinatra provided the vocal talent for the 1967 hit, “You Only Live Twice.” 1973 saw arguably the biggest link to pop superstardom when Paul McCartney wrote and performed the theme for “Live And Let Die.” Carly Simon had the biggest cross-over pop success in 1977 with a Bond theme with her version of Hamlisch’s “Nobody Does It Better” from “The Spy Who Loved Me.” This was also one of the rare times when a Bond theme did not include the name of the movie in its title. The popularity of James Bond theme songs has continued from Duran Duran’s “A View To A Kill” in 1985 to Tina Turner’s “Golden Eye” in 1995. More recent Bond movies have seen contributions from Madonna, Sheryl Crow, Alicia Keys and Adele. All of them have provided a unique musical backdrop for the suspense and style that is James Bond. Mention the title of a Bond film and you can probably hum at least a few bars of its theme. Almost no other film franchise can make such a claim, but the James Bond name keeps drawing in top musicians and composers and leaving listeners both “shaken and stirred.”

1962: James Bond Theme- John Barry and his orchestra.

1963: From Russia with Love -Matt Monro

1964: Goldfinger – Shirley Bassey

1965: Thunderball – Tom Jones

1967: Casino Royale – Herp Alpert and The Tijuana Brass

1967: You Only Live Twice – Nancy Sinatra

1971: Diamonds Are Forever – Shirley Bassey

1973: Live and Let Die – Paul McCartney and Wings

1974: The Man With The Golden Gun – Lulu

1977: Nobody does it better – Carly Simon

1979: Moonraker – Shirley Bassey

1981: For Your Eyes Only – Sheena Easton

1983: All Time High – Rita Coolidge

1985: A View to Kill – Duran Duran

1987: The Living Daylights – a-ha

1989: Licence to Kill – Gladys Knight

1995: Golden Eye – Tina Turner

1997: Tomorrow Never Dies – Sheryl Crow

1999: The World Is Not Enough – Garbage

2002: Die Another Day – Madonna

2006: You Know My Name – Chris Cornell

2008: Another Way to Die – Jack White and Alicia keys

2012: Skyfall – Adele

2015: Writing’s On The Wall – Sam Smith

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