Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Licence To Sing: The Lost James Bond Themes By Johnny Cash, Blondie, Pulp & More

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist October 4, 2012 at 2:20PM

Among the many things that make the James Bond franchise unique -- the sheer longevity, the way it's only become more prestigious and successful as it goes on, its ability to survive actor changeovers -- is the music. Not just the unforgettable theme by Monty Norman and the great scores by John Barry, but the way that every film since the second installment, "From Russia With Love," has featured a theme song over the abstracted, dancing-naked-lady-filled opening credits.
11

"This Must Be The Place I Waited Years To Leave" - Pet Shop Boys ("The Living Daylights")
As Roger Moore's tenure came to an end and Timothy Dalton took over, Bond themes had long since shaken off the brassy vibe of the early songs, and "A View To A Kill" by Duran Duran, turned out to be one of the most successful themes in the franchise's history (the first to be a No. 1 single in the U.S.). As such, producers were keen to keep other contemporary artists involved, and the first act approached were British synth-pop stars Pet Shop Boys. The duo began work on some music, but pulled out after they realized they were only being asked to do the theme song, not the score. Still, they continued to fill out their demo, and the song, now titled "This Must Be The Place I Waited Years To Leave," appeared on the band's 1990 album Behavior. After that, The Pretenders were approached (the band ultimately contributed a closing credits track, the first time a second song had appeared in the closing credits, with another heard briefly on a Walkman in the film), while Swedish pop band A-ha ended up with the opening song (much to the derision of their co-writer John Barry, on his final Bond assignment).

"Tomorrow Never Dies" -- Pulp and Saint Etienne ("Tomorrow Never Dies")
When Pierce Brosnan came in and the franchise was revived after a lengthy gap, the themes turned out to be a mix of old and new -- U2 frontman and guitarist Bono and The Edge wrote "Goldeneye" for Tina Turner. Two years later for "Tomorrow Never Dies" the field was opened a little wider, with some surprising choices emerging. One of the artists asked to write a song for producers was Soft Cell frontman Marc Almond, who penned a song described as a "pastiche-y, Shirley Bassey-type" number. Meanwhile, Britpop favorites Pulp were also approached, although it's hard to imagine their very B-sidey, very Jarvis-y track actually making the cut (it later surfaced as "Tomorrow Never Lies" on an actual B-side). Chill-out specialists Saint Etienne came closer with their "Tomorrow Never Dies," with singer Sarah Cracknell confessing that "We thought we had it in the bag." It was rejected by producers, but when it cropped up on the band's Built On Sand album, they suggested in the liner notes that it was the personal favorite of Brosnan himself, who kept the master tapes. Others who submitted tracks included Swedish band The Cardigans and forgotten Britpoppers Space, but in the end it came down to a David Arnold-penned track sung by K.D. Lang (used in the closing credit) and the Sheryl Crow-sung version kicking off the movie.

"Only Myself To Blame"/"No Good About Goodbye" -- Scott Walker/Shirley Bassey ("The World Is Not Enough"/"Quantum Of Solace")
From what we've heard of Adele's "Skyfall," it's a refreshing return to the sound of classic Bond themes, especially given the dirge-y soft rock of the last two, Chris Cornell's "You Know My Name" for "Casino Royale" (arguably the worst Bond theme ever), and Jack White and Alicia Keys' "Quantum Of Solace." But the retro sound is something that producers seem to have been flirting with for some time. As far back as 1999, David Arnold was looking for a more old-fashioned vibe, writing a song called "Only Myself To Blame," sung, in a now-rare excursion from more experimental fare, by the great Scott Walker. The song was rejected for use in the film, but does appear as a bonus track on the soundtrack release. Producer Mark Ronson worked on a demo with his muse Amy Winehouse (the two worked together on her best-selling record Back in Black), but Winehouse's drug use had already taken off, and Ronson later said that "she wasn't ready" for the task or recording properly (sadly, she passed away in 2011, so we'll never get a Winehouse Bond theme). But we could also have seen the artist most associated with the franchise returning, as the film's composer David Arnold teamed up with lyricist Don Black (who wrote the themes for "Thunderball," "Diamonds Are Forever" and "The Man With The Golden Gun") to write a song called "No Good About Goodbye" -- which features multiple uses of the word "solace" in the lyrics -- for Shirley Bassey to sing. Somehow, a new track from the woman who sang two of the greatest Bond themes was rejected in favor of the White/Keys duet, but the song ultimately surfaced on Bassey's album The Performance, which was produced by Arnold.
 

This article is related to: Features, Skyfall, Alice Cooper, James Bond 23