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Top 10 James Bond Title Songs
Top 10 James Bond Title Songs
Bond, James Bond
Although more widely known for beautiful and exotic women, high performance cars, and incredible stunts, Ian Fleming's super spy has also been accompanied by some of the best, and most recognizable title songs in film history.
Multiple James Bond title songs have been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and many more have charted in both the US and UK (with only 1 song ever actually topping the charts at number 1 - I'll tell you which later on).
Starting on October 5, 1962, with the release of Dr No, the world was introduced to 007, Britain's most famous secret service agent and his signature license to kill. Today, 22 missions later (not counting spinoffs, spoofs and made for TV episodes), Bond is still thrilling us with his exotic women, impeccable style, and some of the best soundtrack music ever recorded.
What follows are, in my opinion, the 10 best James Bond title songs. Upon seeing my list it should be fairly obvious that I prefer the early Bond Films. It should also be noted that the list in no way reflects my favorite James Bond Films.- my top two are From Russia with Love (1963) and Casino Royale (2006), but the title songs from both films do not make my list. So check it out, and let me know what you think...
What's your favorite James Bond Title Song?
10 - All Time High (Octopussy - 1983)
Rita Coolidge sings the romantic title song, who's lyrics reflect the movies relationship between Octopussy (Maud Adams) and Bond (Roger Moore). In fact, one of the songs lines is lifted directly from the film's dialogue - We're two of a kind.
Although it was the lowest charting Bond song to date in the UK (peaked at #75), in the US it rose as high as #36 on the Billboard Hot 100, while airplay on adult contemporary radio pushed i to #1 for 4 weeks (Billboard Magazine).
9 - Nobody Does it Better (The Spy Who Loved Me - 1977)
A power ballad performed by 70's Grammy Winner Carly Simon, it is also the first title song to be named differently than the film (technically the second, but Dr No didn't have a lyrical song, simply the instrumental James Bond Theme). As a single, the song spent 3 weeks at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 (US) and reached #7 on the UK Singles chart.
Nobody Does it Better was not only nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song, but was also honored as the 67th Greatest song by the American Film Institute in 2004.
So why does it come in at #9 on my list? Simple, I like Carly Simon's voice.
8 - For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Aside from Sheena Easton's sultry voice, For Your Eyes Only is the first Bond title song to be more of a love song than an introduction/summary of the movie plot (the only previous love song/theme is We Have All the Time in the World - which is the secondary theme song for On Her Majesty's Secret Service).
Visually, as part of the opening film credits, sequence artist Maurice Binder liked Easton's appearance so much he included her in the credit sequence (the only artist to appear in a title sequence).
Peaking at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #8 on the UK singles chart, For Your Eyes Only was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
7 - Diamonds are Forever (1971)
Shirley Bassey has sung the most (3) James Bond title songs, and Diamonds are Forever (her second theme song) is the first of her recordings to appear on my list.
What I love most about the Bassey songs is how well composer John Barry highlights here voice with subtle strings while she's singing, then adds punch to the end of a verse with powerful horns.
I also like this song because it sounds as though the lyric/sentiment that Diamonds are Forever, refers to the return of Sean Connery as Bond who retired 4 years earlier after You Only Live Twice (after which George Lazenby was selected to portrayed 007 in the next film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service).
6 - A View to a Kill (1985)
Being a child of 80's music, it should be no surprise that the title song performed by one of the 80's premiere New Wave bands, lands on my list. A View to a Kill was recorded by Duran Duran as a stand alone single created for the movie of the same name.
To this day, A View to a Kill remains the only James Bond title song to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, but stalled at #2 (for 2 weeks) on the UK charts.
This may be the only instance in which the artist (specifically Bond fan, bassist John Taylor) asked the producer (Cubby Broccoli) to perform a theme song (he actually asked when Broccoli was going to hire someone decent to perform on of his theme songs).
Although not nominated for an Academy Award, it was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.
5 - You Only LIve twice (1967)
These boots may have been made for walkin' Nancy Sinatra up to #1 in 1966, but in 1967, the title song for the 5th film in the James Bond franchise was only able to climb as high as #44 on the Billboard charts (US) and as high as #11 in the UK. Although there are two distinct versions of the title song (one for the soundtrack and one as a made for single release).
Played during the opening title sequence, the sweeping grandeur of the backing symphony and Oriental inspired instrumentation of the music provides the perfect introduction to the first Bond (and only) film to shot almost exclusively in Japan. The combination of Oriental influence and orchestral backing make You Only Live Twice one of my top 5 favorite Bond title songs.
4 - The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
The first Bond movie I ever saw, with another powerful female voice belting out the title song; and how could you forget the singers name - Lulu.
Even though Sean Connery is my favorite James Bond, with the inclusion of The Man with the Golden Gun, half of my favorite title songs come from movies in which Bond is portrayed by Roger Moore. Probably due to the fact that they're the first Bond movies that I saw and am most familiar with. Also doesn't hurt that I like a wide variety of music, especially powerful female vocals with a strong horn section (more evidence of that when you get to #3).
Regardless of the details why, Man with the Golden Gun is my #4 favorite Bond title song.
3 - Goldfinger (1964)
Shirley Bassey has sung more James Bond title songs than any other artist, but as soon as she belts out 'Goldfinger', followed by that great horn section, an instant classic was born. It also didn't hurt that Goldfinger was the first Bond movie to combine all the elements that would become pattern for all Bond films to follow (great title song with intro montage, great villain & sidekick - OddJob, awesome car, cool gadgets, and of course beautiful women - with 'suggestive' names).
But let's be realistic, even if you know nothing about the movie, Bassey's powerful voice, supported by a fantastic horn section, combine to provide a chilling description of the evil Auric Goldfinger. Additionally, it turns out that the song was produced by George Martin (producer for The Beatles), and one of the session musicians was an up and coming guitarist named Jimmy Page (Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin).
2 - Live and Let Die (1973)
Considering that the first James Bond film I ever saw in a theater was The Man With the Golden Gun (released in 1974), and that I was a Beatles fan before ever hearing of James Bond, I'm pretty sure I heard Live and Let Die before I knew it had anything to do with a movie. A few years later, as I started viewing (and reading) my way through the entire James Bond catalog, I soon found my second favorite title song.
The Jamaican instruments, the change in tempos, the lyrics, simply everything about the composition creates the perfect atmosphere to draw you directly into the movie.
For all of Paul McCartney's popularity, the song peaked in the US at #2, and in the UK at #9. It was however RIAA certified Gold (sales in excess of 1 million copies), and also became the first Bond title song to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song (lost to Barbara Streisand with the theme to The Way We Were).
1 - James Bond Theme (Dr No - 1962)
I almost didn't include this on the list, simply because it's so synonymous with the James Bond franchise that I no longer associate it with just a single movie. After doing a little research however, it turns out that one of the most recognizable movie themes of all time was actually the title song for 007's cinematic debut, Dr No. Once that was verified, there was no doubt that this would be my number one James Bond title song.
There are very few songs that you only need to hear the opening notes, and immediately recognize it. What is also unique about the James Bond Theme (among all other title songs) is that it is only one of three complete instrumentals (the others being James Bond Returns - From Russia with Love, and On Her Majesty's Secret Service).
Aside from the vodka martini, shaken, not stirred, nothing is more quintessentially James Bond than the music, and the best of the best is still the original theme, from Dr No.