No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to… sing!

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By now you’ve probably heard that Jack White and Alicia Keys are doing the theme song for the new Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. Disappointingly, the song is called “Another Way to Die” — presumably because it would be really hard to work the film’s title into the chorus. (How about “your love is lawless / the Quantum of Solace”? That totally works.) Which is probably also why the theme to Octopussy was titled “All Time High.” (Again, they could’ve sung “James is no wussy / he loves Octopussy”) Also, since the movie title this time doesn’t feature a generic combination of “live,” “die” or “kill” they sort of had to put it in the theme song. And I bet Sony execs with “Another Way to Die” was the name of the movie. But not me, I’ve grown to like Quantum of Solace. It’s better than GoldenEye.

I think having Jack White behind the controls of this first-ever Bond duet is a potentially great thing. The closest we’ve had to a good Bond theme in the last 20 years is Garbage’s “The World is Not Enough,” though it cribs so liberally from John Barry’s ouvre it sounds more like a cover to me. David Arnold has scored the last four films and he gets the Barry-but-updated vibe mostly right (though sometimes it drifts a little to far to hair salon music for my taste) but he’s not much of a songwriter. Hopefully Jack White has written a song worthy of 007 and produced it in a way that will still sound like a classic 40 years from now, the way my favorite Bond theme, “You Only Live Twice,” does. Nancy Sinatra sang the original (sampled by Robbie Williams on his 1999 hit “Millenium”), but here’s a cover by onetime Chameleons frontman Mark Burgess:

MP3: Mark Burgess – You Only Live Twice

I think that was from some aborted Imaginary Records tribute album. (The label put out a zillion of them in the late ’80s/early ’90s). Bjork also covered “You Only Live Twice” for 1997’s Shaken and Stirred: The David Arnold James Bond Project, which was a bunch of covers all produced by the man who would end up landing the job as 007’s music man a year later. It ended up being pulled from the album at the request of Bjork herself, and she later explained why: “I learned the hard way that you should never cover your favorite tunes because they are good already. Cover bad tunes and make them good.” I agree with her argument but it’s a pretty gorgeous rendition:

MP3: Bjork – You Only Live Twice

It’s removal was probably for the best, as most of Shaken and Stirred hasn’t particularly aged well, reeking of mid-’90s UK electronica (Leftfield, Big Beat stars Propellerheads who you may remember scored a hit with Bond’s golden girl, Shirley Bassey), though he did cast well with some appropriately melodramatic singers: ABC’s Martin Fry, then-hot-stuff David McAlmont, and Pulp who covered Octopussy’s “All Time High” as only they could do:

MP3: Pulp – All Time High

And one original for you, the unused original Thunderball theme song, and a great one, “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” as sung by Dione Warwick.

MP3: Dione Warwick – Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Way better than Tom Jones’ hamfisted “Thunderball” they ended up using. “He strikes like Thunderball”? Really?

9 Comments

  1. Great post!! Another great cover of "You Only Live Twice," that kicks ass was sung by Soft Cell. My favorite cover but impossible to find.

  2. I really wanted to let it slide, Bill, but I cant… flawless just does not rhyme, in any way, shape or form, with solace. Sorry.

  3. Then it must be an accent thing, Bill!
    Where I'm from 'solace' is pronounced SO-LACE, as in the lace from a shoe.
    But don't worry. I have faith in you and I think the movie studio might come knocking on your door for the next Bond instalment.

  4. Australians pronounce different than Uh-mer-uh-cuns.
    I've got full lyrics for "Quantum of Solace" but am not at liberty to share them due to pending ASCAP and BMI copyrights.

  5. speaking of australians, the scientists released a pretty good, if straightforward, cover of "you only live twice," but my favourite bond theme cover is magazine's version of "goldfinger." if we're talking melodramatic singers, you can't go past devoto!

  6. y'know, the lyrics for these things never make sense anyway, so why not "your love is lawless …"? tom jones knew "thunderball" was crap, but he made it sound really menacing. i suspect he knew the lyric would have made all the sense in the world with if the title were plural, hence, the breathless delivery.

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