by Amy Gold
James Bond theme songs have become almost as popular as the film series itself, creating their own unique niche in pop music. With the extraordinary pop culture reach of the Bond franchise, it seems only natural that it would extend its way into the world of music. With the recording talents of some of the biggest names in the industry, that reach has only become bigger over the years.
The musical connection with James Bond began in 1962 with the very first Bond movie, "Dr. No." It was for that film that composer Monty Norman created the instrumental "James Bond Theme" which has appeared in almost every film since and become as recognizable as the secret agent himself.
The first two movies featured a combination of themes played over the opening and closing credits, but it was the third film, "Goldfinger," in 1964, that gave birth to the genre that would become known as James Bond theme songs. The "Goldfinger" theme was performed by Shirley Bassey, who would later record two other Bond themes, "Diamonds Are Forever" and "Moonraker."
Over the years, many composers have taken a turn at producing themes for the Bond movies. Everyone from John Barry, Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse to Marvin Hamlisch has popped up on the musical charts with Bond themes. While "Goldfinger" first brought James Bond theme songs to the pop charts, it would soon become a familiar move to have each film tied in to music's top sellers. Tom Jones had a hit in 1965 with "Thunderball," while Nancy Sinatra provided the vocal talent for the 1967 hit, "You Only Live Twice."
1973 saw arguably the biggest link to pop superstardom when Paul McCartney wrote and performed the theme for "Live And Let Die." Carly Simon had the biggest cross-over pop success in 1977 with a Bond theme with her version of Hamlisch's "Nobody Does It Better" from "The Spy Who Loved Me." This was also one of the rare times when a Bond theme did not include the name of the movie in its title.
The popularity of James Bond theme songs has continued from Duran Duran's "A View To A Kill" in 1985 to Tina Turner's "GoldenEye" in 1995. More recent Bond movies have seen contributions from Madonna, Sheryl Crow and Alicia Keys. All of them have provided a unique musical backdrop for the suspense and style that is James Bond.
Mention the title of a Bond film and you can probably hum at least a few bars of its theme. Almost no other film franchise can make such a claim, but the James Bond name keeps drawing in top musicians and composers and leaving listeners both "shaken and stirred."
The main themes for each James Bond movie are listed below in chronological order. Most of them became chart hits in both the US and the UK and, unless otherwise indicated, are the title songs for their respective movies.
- James Bond Theme - John Barry And His Orchestra
(This signature theme as performed by John Barry and His Orchestra has been played in almost every James Bond movie since "Dr. No," typically in the opening credits. The "James Bond Theme" became a chart hit for Billy Strange in 1964.)
- From Russia with Love - Matt Monro
(The opening credits of "From Russia With Love" use an instrumental version of the title song. Matt Monro's sung version, which is the one best remembered today, is played about 15 minutes into the movie and and also during the closing titles. This song became a chart hit for the Village Stompers in 1964 and was also a minor hit for Al Caiolo that same year.)
- Goldfinger - Shirley Bassey
("Goldfinger," the title song for the movie, became a Top 10 hit for Shirley Bassey in 1965 and also charted that same year for Billy Strange, John Barry, Jimmy Smith, and Jack LaForge.)
- Thunderball - Tom Jones
- Casino Royale - Herb Alpert And The Tijuana Brass
("Casino Royale," the title song for this hilarious James Bond spoof, became a Top 40 Pop/Rock hit for Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass and also topped the Adult Contemporary charts. The movie closes with a sung version of this song by Mike Redway.)
- You Only Live Twice - Nancy Sinatra
- Diamonds Are Forever - Shirley Bassey
- Live and Let Die - Paul McCartney And Wings
("Live and Let Die," the title song from the movie, reached #2 on the Pop/Rock charts and later also charted for Guns N' Roses in 1991.)
- The Man with the Golden Gun - Lulu
- Nobody Does It Better - Carly Simon
("Nobody Does It Better" is the main theme for "The Spy Who Loved Me." This song reached #2 on the Billboard charts and also topped the Adult Contemporary charts.)
- Moonraker - Shirley Bassey
- For Your Eyes Only - Sheena Easton
(This song became a Top 10 Pop/Rock hit.)
- All Time High - Rita Coolidge
("All Time High" is the main theme for "Octopussy." This song became a Top 40 Pop/Rock hit for Rita Collidge and also topped the Adult Contemporary charts.)
- Never Say Never Again - Lani Hall
(This song reached #22 on the Adult Contemporary charts.)
- A View to a Kill - Duran Duran
(This song topped the Pop/Rock charts.)
- The Living Daylights - a-ha
- Licence to Kill - Gladys Knight
(This song became an R&B chart hit.)
- GoldenEye - Tina Turner
(This song became a minor hit on both the Pop/Rock and R&B charts.)
- Tomorrow Never Dies - Sheryl Crow
- The World Is Not Enough - Garbage
- Die Another Day - Madonna
- You Know My Name - Chris Cornell
("You Know My Name" is the main theme for "Casino Royale" (2006).)
- Another Way to Die - Jack White and Alicia Keys
("Another Way To die" is the main theme for "Quantum of Solace" (2008).)