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

by Oliver Lyttelton
October 4, 2012 2:20 PM
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"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.

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  • Lucas | March 3, 2013 4:54 PMReply

    You Know my name worst theme ever? Or for christ sake, it is great! Chris Cornell is awesome.

  • cara | January 25, 2013 2:33 PMReply

    This song by Alice Cooper is so much better than the horrible song they used for The Man With The Golden Gun.

  • SlyFox007 | November 14, 2012 12:37 AMReply

    How could you forget to mention Ace of Base's version of the "GoldenEye" theme. I think I like it better than Tina Turner's.

  • Ernst Blofeld | November 13, 2012 11:47 AMReply

    "You Know my Name" the worst Bond Song? Get over yourself you blowhard, what about the man with the Golden Gun, Goldeneye, Die Another Day, Moonraker?

  • Brie | October 5, 2012 7:56 AMReply

    Sorry, but David Arnold has publicly rejected the notion that "No Good About Goodbye" was meant as a possible "Quantum of Solace" theme song:

    Danish pop act Swan Lee also contributed to the glut of "Tomorrow Never Dies" contenders:

  • CR | October 4, 2012 5:12 PMReply

    Don't forget Duffy's unused gem 'Rain on Your Parade' for Quantum of Solace - Saint Etienne also recorded an unused 'Tomorrow Never Dies'.

  • James | October 4, 2012 4:38 PMReply

    That version of 'No Good About Goodbye" is at the wrong speed. The guy who did the video had to speed up the song to make it fit the opening credits.

    He uploaded a corrected version later, it can be found in his YouTube profile and at this link:

  • James | October 4, 2012 4:10 PMReply

    Unfortunately the Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang video above is out of synch, the song has a number of stings, etc, that hit moments in the credits, but whoever put together that video has the music late by about 3 seconds. I believe the correct version is on the DVD.

  • James | October 4, 2012 4:06 PMReply

    How could you forget GoldenEye by Ace of Base, lol. (Retitled The Juvenile when they re-recorded it later)

  • Christopher Schobert | October 4, 2012 2:46 PMReply

    Note for the completists: Pulp's "Tomorrow Never Lies" can be found on the two-disc deluxe edition of "This is Hardcore" that came out in 2006. (It can be bought on iTunes, too.)

  • cunterman | October 4, 2012 2:45 PMReply

    Good fuckin' article, Oliver. Very enjoyable. I always thought David Arnold was auditioning for the Bond job when he produced 'Play Dead' for Bjork - always struck me as a great potential Bond theme.

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