Saturday, 2 August 2008

Nobody Does it Better

Just what is it about Bond themes that compels me to listen when I hear one – well, some of them, anyway? There is definitely something in their musical make up that leaves a hook in your brain that never leaves.

There may be some truth in the contention that, at least in the early days, all Bond themes had parts of the original ‘007’ theme injected into them, which gave them a certain family resemblance. It also meant that the great chromatic chord sequence that typifies Bond is always lurking ready to grab you by the throat. My particular favourite by a considerable margin is ‘You Only Live Twice’, written in 1967 by the incomparable John Barry and it still gives me goose bumps, even now.

It just seems to ooze ‘1960s’ from every note and although it is not brilliantly sung by Nancy Sinatra (it’s a bit wobbly in places, Nancy was very nervous apparently) it has an inescapable aura of its time, which is alluringly attractive. Perhaps it’s just my age, but the sixties still have a very powerful pull – whether it be music, fashion, or culture generally. It is the decade that has aged gracefully and although it shows its wrinkles it still has class - unlike let’s say the tasteless 1970s or even the brash 1980s.

Nothing can diminish the splendour of ’You Only Live Twice’, even Robbie Williams lifting the main string figure for his song, ‘Millennium’. Its languid, melt-in-the-mouth highly ‘vertical’ melody rises and falls with ultimate precision over that unforgettable riff played, unusually for an orchestral score, by one of those new fangled electric guitars and typifies the old-meets-new philosophy of the 1950s and 1960s.

In this respect, Bond themes were actually a good barometer of what was happening at the time they were fashioned. They start with the great crooners and divas of the post war period (Matt Monro, Shirley Bassey) and end with the pop icons of the 1980s and 1990s (Madonna, Tina Turner, Gladys Knight).

Although my vote goes wholeheartedly with ‘YOLT’ as the best theme, there is no doubt who embodies the Bond spirit and it can only be Dame Shirley Bassey. She was born to sing Bond themes, as her overblown, dramatic renditions of ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Diamonds are Forever’ testify. They suit the overblown, dramatic movies to a tee. In fact the latter tune would be a good second in my list of best Bond Themes Ever for its sheer exuberance alone but ‘YOLT’ still wins by a mile.

Any other votes?


Barbara(aka Layla) said...

Well if I am honest I will have to say my faves are:
Live and Let Die
For Your Eyes Only
Nobody Does it Better

musicobsessive said...

Barb - I see you've gone for a more 70s feel! I like these as well, but then as I say, I like most of the Bond songs - it's just that 'You Only Live Twice' has something extra about it that gives me the shivers.

Jayne said...

Before even doing a quick youtube tour of Bond themes, I have to say Live and Let Die has my vote. I loved it as a child, and still it is my favourite Bond theme. I even like the G n R cover :)

Second... well that would be a Shirley Bassey - I have to say 'Goldfinger'. I totally agree with the 'overblown, dramatic renditions suiting the overblown, dramatic movies' - great description!

musicobsessive said...

So that's 2 votes for LaLD. Blimey, I'm outnumbered already. I do like 'Goldfinger' so I'd go with you on that one.

I should've named the worst as well - my vote going to Duran Duran's 'A View to a Kill'. Dire!