The Top 10 James Bond Theme Songs
The James Bond series has undergone many changes over the decades, but the films’ producers have never stopped asking the biggest pop stars of the day to record theme songs. Adele is the latest member of the club, with her new title song for Skyfall. Many of the Bond themes that came before her have become classics, while others were quickly forgotten. Which way will her song go? While we wait to find out, here’s a look back at the 10 greatest James Bond theme songs.
By Andy Greene
Listen to the top 10 James Bond theme songs:
Tom Jones, ‘Thunderball’ (1965)
Just months after Tom Jones broke onto the charts with "It's Not Unusual," the producers of Sean Connery's fourth Bond film signed him up. Jones wasn't their first choice: Shirley Bassey, Dionne Warwick and Johnny Cash also submitted songs for Thunderball, but at the last possible minute they opted for the Welsh singer. It became Jones' third Top 40 hit in America, and has been part of his Las Vegas show ever since.
Louis Armstrong, ‘We Have All the Time in the World’ (1969)
James Bond title songs, as a rule, have the name of the movie in the chorus. That was a bit of a challenge with On Her Majesty's Secret Service, so producers opted to go with an instrumental in the opening sequence. Hal David and Burt Bacharach were brought on board to write another song for the movie, and they brought in Louis Armstrong to sing it. The 68-year-old jazz great was sick at the time, but he nailed the song in just a single take. He died less than two years later.
Matt Monro, ‘From Russia With Love’ (1963)
Matt Monro never made a big splash in America, but in Europe the smooth crooner made the ladies swoon – at least until the Beatles came and destroyed his career. It was in those final pre-Beatlemania months of 1963 that Monro was hired to sing the From Russia With Love title theme. It's an old-school approach to the title song, but it's aged quite well and is a great time capsule of the era.
Madonna, ‘Die Another Day’ (2002)
For Pierce Brosnan's final run as James Bond, producers called in Madonna, who was hot after the back-to-back success of Ray of Light and Music. She hired hip French producer Mirwais (who had worked on Music) to help her craft the edgy electronic track. It was a huge hit all over the world – the biggest Bond theme in years.
Duran Duran, ‘A View to a Kill’ (1985)
Duran Duran were one of the biggest bands in the world when they signed on to write "A View To A Kill" in 1985. The Timothy Dalton movie is largely forgotten, but the song has become a 1980s classic. It's the only Bond song to hit Number One on the charts, and it is a regular part of the band's setlist to this day. The song also marked the last time the original five members of Duran Duran worked together for 16 years.
Shirley Bassey, ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ (1971)
To American audiences, Shirley Bassey is known almost entirely for her James Bond title songs. 1971's Diamonds Are Forever was Sean Connery's final Bond flick (at least until the non-canon entry Never Say Never Again), and for the occasion they brought Bassey back to belt out the title song, just as she had done for 1964's Goldfinger. They brought Bassey back one more time in 1979 to sing the Moonraker theme, but she couldn't quite recapture the magic. Decades later, "Diamonds Are Forever" returned to pop culture when Kanye West sampled the song for "Diamonds From Sierra Leone."
Nancy Sinatra, ‘You Only Live Twice’ (1967)
Nancy Sinatra was fresh off her breakthrough hit "These Boots Are Made For Walking" when the producers of You Only Live Twice recruited her to sing the title song. The haunting tune has had a long afterlife, being covered by everyone from Coldplay to Bjork.
Carly Simon, ‘Nobody Does It Better’ (1977)
Carly Simon's 1977 hit "Nobody Does It Better," written for The Spy Who Loved Me, was the first James Bond title song to be titled something other than the name of the movie. (Songwriters Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager did manage to work "the spy who loved me" into the lyrics, at least.) The song shot to Number Two on the charts and remains one of Simon's signature tunes. Many people don't even realize it's from a James Bond movie.
Shirley Bassey, ‘Goldfinger’ (1964)
Shirley Bassey already had a number of U.K. hits under her belt when she sang "Goldfinger," but the Bond theme became her first true international hit. This song and "Diamonds are Forever" became so famous that she had a hard time establishing a separate pop career outside of England. But Bassey remains a popular touring act, and "Goldfinger" brings down the house every night.
Paul McCartney and Wings, ‘Live and Let Die’ (1973)
Paul McCartney reunited with Beatles producer George Martin to record the title song for Live and Let Die, and wound up scoring one of his biggest post-Fab smashes. He's played the bombastic rock tune at practically all of his concerts over the past 40 years – often with pyrotechnic explosions during the climatic moments. Guns N' Roses gave the song a second life when they released their own even more over-the-top cover in 1991.
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