5. Live and Let Die, Paul McCartney & Wings (1973)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that however talented and brilliant a songwriter/musician he may be, Paul McCartney is not cool. He does not even trouble the coat-tails of cool, so far out of reach of cool is he. And yet his entry into the Bond Theme canon, Live and Let Die is … cool. With bitter, nihilistic lyrics, a sweeping sense of scale, and a raging guitar riff, it is indubitably cool, and manages the neat trick of being both contemporary to its era and oddly timeless, the way the best Bond tunes always do. (The Red Curtain’s significant other insists The Red Curtain is banned from mentioning the Guns’n’Roses cover)
As to the film … it adopts the questionable tactic of trying to be ‘topical’ and ‘hip’ by abandoning the usual megalomaniac-tries-to-destroy-the-world-in-a-preposterous-fashion plot in favour of focusing in on drug trafficking and zzzzzzzzzzz … As Moore Bond outings go, it is not the worst of the lot, and does feature both Jane Seymour looking sultry and Bond running across the backs of crocodiles to escape his captors. So it can’t be written off as a complete waste of time.
4. Nobody Does It Better, Carly Simon (1977)
The Red Curtain may call you a liar, sir, if you try to claim that secretly, deep down, you don’t hold out hope that someday someone winsome will sing a breathy, impassioned rendition of this song dedicated solely to you in a crowded nightclub whilst many many people watch on. Unhealthy fantasies aside, this power ballad is a really rather sexy lamentation on the obsessive nature of sexual infatuation.
It claims the dubious privilege of being the theme song for the best Roger Moore Bond film, the Spy Who Loved Me, discernible for being a) surprisingly tolerable, b) featuring a little Jaws action, and c) Bond banging a hot Russian spy. It is also auspicious for being the Bond film the Broccolis initially wanted Steven Spielberg to direct, but then decided not to hire him until they saw “how that fish picture turned out.”
3. Goldfinger, Shirley Bassey (1964)
The ur-Bond song. And the stuff of legend. Written by John Barry, produced by George Martin, featuring Jimmy Page as a session guitarist, with the divine Shirley Bassey providing vocals even more brassy than the epic horn flourishes throughout – it packs a tremendous amount of grandeur and bombast into 2 minutes and 48 seconds.
Which is only apt, as Goldfinger itself is the ur-Bond movie. Jill Masterton, draped naked, covered in gold paint, Connery spread-eagled with a laser slowing inching up betwixt his thighs, Pussy Galore (no matter what Sick Boy says in Trainspotting, the name alone makes the character iconic), Oddjob – the film is crammed with some of the most indelibly Bondian-imagery in the whole franchise. Let us not ponder then how brilliant it might have been to see Orson Welles take on the role of Auric Goldfinger had his fee demands not been too high, and revel purely in Bond at its most gloriously Bondy:
2. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, John Barry (1969)
It is a joy to note that in the past few years more learned Bond acolytes have become vocal in pointing out that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is one of the finest of the series. Previously unfairly derided for George Lazenby’s take on the sexy spy (he’s a happy mixture of glib and saucy), the film boasts a spectacular ski-slope chase set-piece (recently paid homage to/ripped off wholesale by Chris Nolan for the problematic Inception), a bemusing turn by Telly Savalas as Blofeld, and, in the comely form of Diana Rigg, arguably the classiest Bond Girl Ever. The end song, We Have All The Time in the World, is genuinely poignant, (and scorchingly good), but for sheer Bondsian swagger and bravado you can’t go past the legendary John Barry at his finest:
Top Tip: listen to it whilst working out. You’ll feel 87% cooler than you actually are.
1. You Only Live Twice, Nancy Sinatra (1967)
You Only Live Twice, the film, is a queasy, camp excursion into the excesses of Connery’s latter outings as Bond. From the sight of Bond maxing and relaxing with a gaggle of geisha girls in a giant hot tub, to his flawless “transformation” into a Japanese gentleman by brushing his fringe forward and taping his eyebrows back, it epitomises the cultural cringe of late 60s Orientalism (NB: late 60s Orientalism is not actually a thing, more a conflation of two ideas The Red Curtain has a passing academic knowledge of, Orientalism, and the existence of the late 60s. But let’s not quibble, gentle reader). It is also an utter delight.
The song, from its faux-eastern string-swell beginning, to the decadently romantic lyrics (sung by the divine Nancy Sinatra), is all glamour and glorious excess: everything wonderful about Connery’s Bond. It survives even the indignity of being sampled by Robbie Williams on his risible track Millenium with its dignity intact.
This isn’t the theme song for Quantum of Solace, but it should have been:
Do you agree? Let the Red Curtain know where they’ve gone horribly wrong, or why they’ve got it so so right …