You're dead, mate!


Having a song stretched across the opening titles is a time-honored tradition in the James Bond franchise.  It’s something that fans, both casual and fanatical, look forward to with each upcoming installment.  In fact, I’m willing to bet anything that chatter about who might croon the next Bondian tune for the currently-untitled Bond 24 begins shortly after Skyfall hits theaters…if it hasn’t already.

As Renn told you earlier this week, the band Muse is pushing hard for their song “Supremacy” to become the opener for Skyfall.  Aside from the fact that Adele is basically a given at this stage and there is no way on Earth that EON will agree to using a song that already features on Muse’s new album, it’s still a fun piece of music and I can’t help but respect them for trying.  They aren’t the first to do so and I’m sure they will not be the last to vie for the chance at being immortalized in a 007 adventure.

What’s that?  There are more unused and rejected Bond themes out there?  In a franchise that is celebrating its 50th year on the silver screen, of course there are.  Some are pieces commissioned by the filmmakers themselves.  Others were done on spec and were turned down.  All are interesting pieces of cinematic history and odd little capsules from their moments in time.  What do you say we explore them together?  I knew you’d say yes!

Goldfinger is first on the list.  It was the third film in the series and, as fantastic as the previous two are, it’s the one that really set the stage for the rest of the franchise.  Shirley Bassey’s classic opener is considered by most to still be the best song the series has produced to date.  It wasn’t the first version, however.  Initially, the song was recorded by co-writer Anthony Newley and here it is…

Did it feel a bit odd for you to hear someone else singing it?  It did for me too.  It’s easy to see why they decided to take things in another, more bombastic direction…and we are all the better for that wonderful decision.  Thunderball was the next entry and things were even crazier behind the scenes on this one.  Composer John Barry and lyricist Don Black concocted a fantastic son in the form of “Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” that was intended to be the film’s opening tune.  While an early demo was recorded by a returning Shirley Bassey (which you can listen to here), the final version was belted by Dionne Warwick.  Late in the game, the producers decided that they wanted a song centered around the title of the film itself and the iconic Tom Jones theme was born.  An instrumental version of the Warwick song is still used throughout the film itself and the tune has always been highlighted on soundtrack and compilation releases throughout the decades; thankfully never being forgotten.  It has always been among my absolute favorites of the series and here it is laid over the opening titles of the film…

Remember how I said Muse wasn’t the first to offer up a song on spec for the producers?  As far as I can tell, the first artist to do so was Mr. Johnny Cash.  Here is The Man In Black’s submission for Thunderball, once again laid over the opening credits for dramatic effect…

You Only Live Twice actually went through two earlier iterations before landing on the Nancy Sinatra classic.  The first is a more rockin’ tune that utilizes a bit of the Bond theme and was recorded by Lorraine Chandler…

The second took things slower and had Julie Rogers providing the vocals.  While both are interesting, once again, I happiest with what we were given.  Here is the Rogers’ version:

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service doesn’t have an alternate version.  The existing song is an instrumental and perhaps my favorite piece of music in the entire franchise.  It DID, however, have lyrics at one point in time.  This was ultimately abandoned before recording though, as director Peter Hunt decided that he wanted the film to open with an instrumental just like the first two films.  Yes, even From Russia With Love.  It’s a common misconception that the film opened with the Matt Munro song, which doesn’t actually feature until the end of the film.  We don’t come to another alternate theme until 1974’s The Man With The Golden Gun.  For Roger Moore’s second outing as 007, Alice Cooper thought he was the man with the golden tune, if you will.  I love you, Alice Cooper, but in this instance it is YOU who are not worthy.  Care to see for yourself?

Yikes!  No wonder the producers passed.  We only have two more “almosts” from the Moore era.  The second one, Laura Branigan’s version of “All Time High” has unfortunately never been released.  We do have access to Blondie’s rendition of “For Your Eyes Only” though.  Debbie Harry had agreed early on to do the song, but ended up backing out once she found out she’d be collaborating with composer Bill Conti.  Bill went on to do a song for the film with Sheena Easton, but Blondie pushed ahead and recorded their own odd little song anyway…which you can listen to here.

Dalton’s first Bondscapade, The Living Daylights, had a great deal of musical shuffling as well.  The Pet Shop Boys recorded a demo that was ultimately unused and later reworked into “This Must Be The Place I Waited Years To Leave”.  In the meantime, John Barry had begun work with The Pretenders on two original songs.  The second, “If There Was A Man”, ended up playing over the end credits of the film.  The first, “Where Has Everybody Gone”, was originally intended to be the main theme for the film and the music for both songs run rampant throughout Barry’s score (his final for the franchise).  The song itself is also present in the form of henchman Necros’ Walkman.  Here it is in all its badass glory…

Ace of Base was brought in early on to craft a song for Goldeneye.  While the production ultimately went a different way, the band eventually released the tune in a slightly reworked form in 2002 as “The Juvenile”.

Brosnan’s Tomorrow Never Dies also played musical chairs.  Saint Etienne recorded a piece for the film that went unused, but is still praised by Pierce.  That one can be heard here.  Other bands, including Pulp tried their hands at a theme and were similarly rejected.  It is the song that composer David Arnold wrote with k.d. lang that is the real loss.  While it still ended up over the end credits, it is clearly the better tune when held up against Sheryl Crow’s.  It is a crime that it wasn’t chosen and here is “Surrender” in its rightful place…

Madonna and Chris Cornell were always the choices for Die Another Day and Casino Royale, respectively.  It wasn’t until Quantum of Solace that we had another musical shake-up.  David Arnold and the producers had spoken early on to Amy Winehouse, but that never panned out.  Arnold went off on his own and began working with Shirley Bassey to potentially grant her a fourth time at bat for the series.  In the meantime, EON and Sony scrambled to get something going, ultimately landing on a duet between Alisha Keyes & Jack White.  While I have nothing against either artist, the resulting “Another Way To Die” is incredibly half-baked and the worst effort to date in my eyes.  Had they been given more time I’m sure they could have crafted something worthwhile, but such is life.  While it didn’t pan out for the film, Arnold & Bassey ended up finishing their song and it was included on Dame Shirley’s next album.  Here is the product of their collaboration, “No Good But Goodbye”…

Now that’s more like it, Mr. Bond!  Artist Eva Almer submitted a piece for Quantum of Solace on spec, “Forever (I Am All Yours)”, that was also rejected…

I flip-flop back and forth between which one I would have rather ended up with to open Daniel Craig’s second outing.  Neither is perfect, but both are infinitely better than what we were given (sorry, Jack!).  And that brings us up-to-date with the latest 007 adventure, Skyfall.  While rumors shortly after Quantum of Solace had The Killers pegged as a possible collaborator for David Arnold on Bond 23, it is Adele that has been the singular name attached to this film since it began shooting.  While still not “officially” confirmed, the songstress is pretty much a lock at this point.  All signs point to her collaborating with composer Thomas Newman on the theme.  Rumor has it that it will intend carry the same title as the film itself and that it is most similar to a-Ha’s “The Living Daylights”.  Whether either tidbit ultimately pans out, we’ll know soon enough!  I think we can safely say that Muse’s “Supremacy” won’t be making the cut though.  Sorry fellas!  Maybe next time?

What does the future hold for Bond musically?  It’s hard to say.  Will director Sam Mendes be coaxed back for Bond 24?  He certainly doesn’t have anything lined up yet and by all accounts everyone has got on really well on the new one.  And if he does, will series newbie (and Mendes regular) Thomas Newman return with him?  Or will David Arnold return to the fold and recapture the throne that he has held since 1997?  And if so, will he finally give Daniel Craig and the fans a new Bassey classic?  Only time will tell.  I hope all of you have enjoyed taking this little jaunt through alternative Bond history with me.  I’ll be returning at the end of next week with another piece on the franchise and will continue to do so until Skyfall his screens in the U.S. on November 9th.  See you next week!

Addendum – As an added bonus, here is an alternate song for 1983’s Never Say Never Again.  I didn’t include it above because it is an unofficial entry in the series (and a remake of Thunderball!).  The film was Connery’s last turn as Bond and the byproduct of a long-going legal battle against the producers.  We’ll get into that more later on though.