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Rix Roundtree-Harrison

  September 5, 2011

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Life Is Music
James Bond 007: Nobody Sings It Better
By: Rix Roundtree-Harrison

In widescreen, with Technicolor and stereophonic sound, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer made the finest Hollywood musicals of the 1950’s. As excellent as these films are they can’t begin to compare with the real life musical extravaganzas that make up our own personal lives. Our lives are journeys filled with music. The music flows from radios, cars, family & friend gatherings, offices, schools, stores, movies, airports, bus & train stations and that stereo inside your head. The times of your life, the best, the worse, the marvelous and the mundane, are stories woven into a musical soundtrack, because as the Ritchie Family sang, “Life Is Music”

Life Is Music:
James Bond 007: Nobody Sings It Better
by Rix Roundtree-Harrison

The Mayans say that the year 2012 will bring about the end of the world. But Mayer (as in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) says that 2012 will bring about the 50th anniversary of the world's most famous British secret agent, James Bond 007. Yes, in November 2012 a new James Bond film will hit theatres. This yet untitled 23rd 007 film is sure to filled with high-octane action, massive carnage and thundering explosions (that's almost like the end of the world). The film will no doubt feature the 007 staple of curvaceously beautiful Bond girls, maniacal villains and gadgets galore.

The films of 007 have kept me in Bondage for years, so naturally I can't wait for the next 007 flick. I'm ready for any and everything 007 can throw at me. But you know what else I’m ready for? I'm ready for the exciting theme song for this upcoming James Bond 007 adventure.

I find 007 theme songs to be interesting and intriguing. Each Bond theme is composed of beautiful strands of music matched with powerful vocals that sing a story of action, adventure, incitement, suspense and danger in exotically beautiful locals. I have all of the theme songs from the 22 James Bond 007 films. Some are incomparable, others are extremely exciting, some are just so-so, and one is just plain dull, but all of them in their own way are unique little musical tales.

Of all of the 007 themes my favorite is from the 1964 Bond film Goldfinger. Sung by Shirley Bassey, “Goldfinger” is the song that is the template and prototype of all the Bond themes that would come after it. Like the wonderful film it represents, this sexy, thrilling, over-the-top Bond musical joyride is filled with suspense, glamour, intrigue and just a touch of danger. With her dynamic vocals Shirley Bassey warns all "pretty girls” to beware of "Mr. Goldinger,” he may possess a “heart of gold,” but his is "the kiss of death.” Yet, as with gold, Bassey makes “Mr. Goldfinger” sound alluring and irresistible.

The song Goldfinger sets you up for an exciting spy caper. It’s the song and the film that set the whole spy genre aflame. After this film came the copy cat secret agents films of Our Man Flint, and Matt Helm. On television came the spy-themed shows, The Man From Uncle, The Wild Wild West, and It Takes A Thief. Even the cartoon character Fred Flintstone got into the spy game with the Flintstone's thrilling "Madame Yes" episodes.

Not only was the song Goldfinger a template for all spy oriented songs that followed so was the film itself. The film Goldfinger is, in a word, fantastic. There is so much to like in that film. I still chuckle with delight when the captured and strapped down 007 (with a laser ray pointed at his privates) asks Auric Goldfiger, "Do you expect me to talk?” and Goldfinger answers with annoyed acidity, "No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!” And you know Goldfinger means that because as Shirley sang in the theme song, he's "Such a cold finger.”

Like Goldfinger, Tom Jones' 007 theme "Thunderball,” from the film of the same name, also contains that wonderful sexy element of danger. Of the film's villain, Largo, Jones seductively croons, "Any woman he wants he'll get,” but so does Largo's nemesis 007, and Bond sets his sights on Largo's woman, Domino. Smitten by Mr. Bond, Domino is a bit taken aback, yet fascinated with the fact that 007 has read her name which is engraved on her anklet and exclaims to 007, "What sharp little eyes you have.” 007 hungrily growls under his breath, "Wait until you get to my teeth.”

The Thunderball theme is interesting because with the way that Tom Jones delivers it, you're not quite sure if he's singing about Largo or Bond. Certain lines throughout the song could fit both characters, lines like, "But he thinks that the fight is worth it all,” "They call him the winner who takes all,” and of course, "And he strikes like Thunderball.”

So culturally influential was Thunderball that Marvel comics created a super villain named Thunderball. He possessed a giant steel wrecking ball that was attached to a thick iron chain. The villain would hurl his "thunderball" like a thunderbolt at opposing superheroes, striking them, sending them flying to and fro. One of the comics he was featured possessed a title that came straight from the Thunderball theme song, "And He Strikes Like Thunderball.”

With Thunderball I stated that Tom Jones could have been singing about Largo or Bond, that's not the case with Gladys’s Knight's "Licence to Kill.” "Licence To Kill,” from the film Licence To Kill is all about 007's relationship with his friends and how he looks out for them, or even seeks revenge for them when they’ve been harmed. It's a singing telegram to all who would dare hurt a friend of 007's, a message that says, you mess with my friends, I'm coming after you, and you will be sorry. When Gladys sings, "You need a friend to stand here by your side,” "You can depend on me to make things right,” and "They'd better know why I’m gonna make them pay,” she is telling Bond's friend and CIA Agent, Felix Leiter, who was hurt by the villain and his wife killed, that 007 is going to get the villain responsible for his tragedies. Gladys sings to the bad guys, "Please don't bet that you'll ever escape me,” and they don't, as 007 does indeed catch up with them and brings them all to a grisly end.

In "Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney and Wings, they sing "If this ever changing world in which we live in makes you give in and cry, live and let die.” This was so "right on brother," as the post Civil Rights era had begun and African Americans were no longer relegated to supporting servant roles in film. In the ever changing world and times of 1973, in the film Live And Let Die, African Americans make up the majority of the cast. These black men and women are good guys and bad guys. Some are crime busting FBI and CIA Agents and others are criminal masterminds with aspirations of world domination. 007 even slept with a duplicitous black female agent who was working for both sides, talk about the ever changing world.

From 1977 to 1983 those intriguing elements of danger and excitement had all but evaporated from the 007 theme songs. But in 1985 Duran Duran, put those spy genre elements back with their theme song from the film A View To A Kill, titled "A View To A Kill.” Now, I must confess that even though D2 returned the danger element of the Bond theme, when listening to the song I have no idea what they are singing about. I can't take any line from the song and match it to anything going on in the film.

Though I don't think the Duran Duran’s “A View To A Kill,” theme song is about villainess Grace Jones, who plays the evil henchwoman for the films villain, Max Zoran, many of the outrageous get-ups that she wears in the film makes for quite a view. When Jones' wildly dressed character is introduced, 007 is told that her name is May Day, and he quips, "She's certainly dressed for the occasion.” In another scene that takes place on Zoran's dirigible, Jones is dressed in an elegant tailored business suit, looking every bit the efficient administrative assistant. She girlishly leads one of Zoran's associates to his doom with a demure, "This way,” and then gleefully watches him fall from the dirigible and into the San Francisco bay and his demise. But I think that it's Jones attempt to capture the Bond girl euro accent that is most hilarious. When trying to get Bond girl damsel Stacy Sutton away from 007, the elaborately dressed Jones informs Sutton that, "Your hilly-cop-tor will be here in twent-T minutes,” then turns and menacingly hisses to 007, "Some-one will take kare auf-you.” Wonderful in all of her scenes Miz Jones, as the funny, colorful and deadly May Day, is definitely an exciting view that can kill.

"On Her Majesty's Secret Service,” from the film of the same name is the only 007 movie theme song instrumental. The theme is a vigorous, adventurous, dangerous, thrilling, and pulse pounding musical chase scene through snow covered mountains. Every time I hear the tune I want to run out and take skiing lessons.

Casino Royale's "You know My Name” by Chris Cornell is another song all about 007. With Casino Royale being a reboot for the 007 series this makes sense. Cornell sings about the lessons James Bond learns on the way to becoming a 00 agent, one of the most important lessons being, "Arm yourself because no one else here can save you.’ Then there are the lessons learned about life, death, good and bad guys, "I've seen angels fall from blinding heights, but you yourself are nothing so divine, just next in line.” Then there is the lesson the villains ultimately learn about 007 when they foolishly underestimate him, "If you think you've won, you never saw me change, the game that we have been playing.”

During the opening credits of the film Die Another Day, 007 is being severely and savagely tortured by the opposition. The theme song for this painful to watch montage of physical abuse is unique because it is all about the action taking place during those credits. The will of the tortured 007 is strong and he is determined to not tell the enemy anything, but he is also determined to survive the torture. Though his body may want to succumb to the terrible pain being inflicted upon him, he will not give the enemy the satisfaction of bringing about his death, so as Madonna sings, "I guess I'll "Day Another Day.”

Lulu sings, "He has a powerful weapon, he charges one million a shot. For a price he'll erase anyone, “The Man With The Golden Gun.” The Man with the Golden Gun theme song gives you a pretty accurate synopsis of the film. But the song itself is brash, loud and totally unappealing to me, just like the film. Lulu loudly belts out the song like a turn of the 20th century music store singer, trying to put over a song in order to get customers to buy the sheet music. It’s way over the top, and not in a good way.

Like Lulu's "The Man With The Golden Gun,” Tina Turner's "Goldeneye” does nothing for me. It has all the trapping a 007 theme song requires, mystery, suspense, intrigue and danger, but for whatever reason, the song does not resonate with me. I can't explain it, but, it’s as if the producers of this song pulled together all the right elements, but forgot to add the spirit needed to bind it all together, thus the song is uninteresting. Then on top of that, none of the elements work together to form a cohesive mental picture of what happens in the film. Now having said that I must say that Goldeneye is a wonderful film, too bad the theme song isn't.

Now, Shirley Bassey's "Diamonds Are Forever” is one hot 007 theme song, it is soooo good. The lyrics, the music, it all works together so well creating the most beautiful yet ominous image of diamonds that you could ever image. This music makes African blood diamonds sound like harmless marbles. Of diamonds Shirley Bassey sings, "You can see every part nothing hides in the heart to heart me,” "I don't need love for what good would love do me, diamonds never lie to me, for when loves gone, they last luster on,” "They won't leave in the night I've no fear that they might desert me.” The way Bassey sings about diamonds one would think that they are the most wonderful, beautiful, and exciting things to come along since, well, diamonds. But the menacing music that supports Bassey's lyrics delivers quite a different story. The music screams, beware, beware, beware! Don't be fooled by the glittering hypnotic luster of diamonds, they will bring you nothing but unhappiness and death. It's a most wonderful musical contradiction.

"The Living Daylights” by a-ha is delicious. It’s all about Bond girl Kara Milovy's adventure with 007. When 007 first encounters Kara, in his own words he said, "I think I scared the living daylights out of her,” and gave the film its title The Living Daylights. a-ha sings, "Where're we going? I swear, my nerves are showing,” and Kara's nerves do show as the clueless dumb blonde shrieks at every danger. The clueless beauty dizzyingly exclaims, "James we're free!” when they break out of a desert prison. Then 007 gave her a pitiful look and tries to make her see the danger of their situation when he explains to her, "Kara, we're on a Russian airbase in the middle of Afghanistan,” free? More like out of the frying pan and into the fire. But 007’s assessment of the situation went over the head of the beautiful but clueless Kara.

There is another good song included in The Living Daylights' soundtrack, it’s the Pretender's danger filled and exciting, "Where Has Everybody Gone?” This captivating tune is played when an evil KGB agent makes his kill. "Where Has Everybody Gone?” They're being strangled and killed off by a cold as ice KGB agent using the cord of a walkman's headphones as his murder weapon of choice, talk about killer tunes.

007’s first film, 1962's Dr. No did not have a theme song. But in 2008 the eurodance band Systems In Blue decided to rectify that oversight and recorded an unofficial theme for the film titled, what else, "Dr. No.” Systems In Blue's song is outstanding; it’s a fun filled, danceable and dangerous romp through the film. Systems In Blue sing about the good Doctor No himself, his island Crab Key, when 007 meets the very first Bond girl, Honey Rider, "Close your eyes Honey Rider, keep quiet, he will rule the world.” SIB also sings about Dr. No's fire breathing dragon whose existence 007 is skeptical of, until that deadly night when 007 sees for himself that, "In the twilight time, a dragon creeps around.” To make this song even more exciting, SIB includes bits of dialog from the film, specifically the warnings issued when Dr No's nuclear powered facility is about to explode. The song “Dr. No” is great fun, but throughout the song Systems In Blue continuously reminds the listener, "Dr. No has a plan, he's a dangerous man.”

For years Dr. No was one of my least favorite 007 films. But after hearing SIB’s “Dr. No” theme song I decided to revisit the film and discovered that it’s quite good. The story is engaging, the acting wonderful and visually, the film is outstanding, as the cinematography and color are rich, lush and beautiful. So I owe Systems In Blue for making me take a second look at Dr. No and in doing so, discovering a truly wonderful and enjoyable film.

Like Tina Turner's Goldeneye, Quantum Of Solace's "Another Way To Die” by Jack White and Alicia Keys doesn't do a thing for me, it seems rather musically disjointed, plus it’s not very interesting. But I do like one line that they sing, "Someone that you think you can trust is just another way to die,” which sort of sums up a day in the life of 007.

007's Tomorrow Never Dies has two very nice songs associated with it, Sheryl Crow's theme song for the film, "Tomorrow Never Dies,” and K.D. Lang’s “Surrender.” Crow's song is sung from the perspective of Bond girl Paris Carver. The lyrics don't paint a rosy picture of having the world's most famous super spy for a lover, there are just too many negative aspects to deal with. As if channeling Paris’ reservations about a relationship with Bond, Crow sings, "It's no fun, martinis, girls and guns.” But Bond girl Paris has hope in tomorrow and waits for the day when 007 realizes that, "You're not the only spy out there,” so "Until you say there will be no more good-byes, tomorrow never dies.”

K.D. Lang's "Surrender” is the song that plays during the film’s end credits. This song is far superior to Crow’s; it’s sung from the perspective of Paris Carver's maniacal villain husband, Elliott Carver. Carver is a master manipulator and like News World Corporation’s Rupert Murdock, he feels he can build you up or destroy you with his media empire. Lang makes this clear when she sings, "You'll relish the world that I create,” "The news is that I'm in control,” "I have the power to make you surrender.” Carver feels he controls tomorrows and destinies, and by his hands you may die, but, "Tomorrow never dies, tomorrow will arrive, on time,” you just may not be around to see it.

"The World Is Not Enough” by the band Garbage is another wonderful 007 theme song. Just like both "Tomorrow Never Dies,” and "Surrender,” it is sung from the perspective of one of the film's characters, in this case the manipulative self absorbed oil heiress and film villainess, Elektra King. Ms. King is full of her own self importance and everything is hers; "It's MY oil, MINE,” she screams at 007. And with Ms. King, if she can't have what she wants, then no one can. There is no doubt about this when Garbage sings, "If I can't have it all then nobody will,” and "No one ever died from wanting too much;” yes it’s all about Elektra King. I also love how the dripping oozing oil girls work well with the song during the film's opening credits.

"From Russia With Love,” "All Time High,” "You Only Live Twice,” "For Your Eyes Only,” and “Moonraker” are five ballads that do not possess the 007 theme movie trademarks of intrigue, excitement and danger. Another similar trait about them is that I cannot see what any of them have to do with the events taking place in the films they represent. Rita Coolidge's "All Time High,” from the film Octopussy is a cheesy dead in the water bore. Nancy Sinatra's "You Only Live Twice,” and Sheena Easton's "For Your Eyes Only,” from the films of the same name are just okay, they do not move me. Matt Monro's "From Russia With Love,” is really quite good, and I find myself singing along with Monro. I'll tell you a secret about that song. If you listen to it with headphones or ear buds, right at the point where Matt sings, "Oh how you haunted me so,” you will hear some strange studio noise, a sort of sped up chatter in the background that is obviously not a part of the song. Shirley Bassey's "Moonraker” is a beautiful gem. Though I can't figure out what it has to do with the film Moonraker, it matters not; the song is so beautiful that I find myself getting lost in its dreamy elegance over and over again. Oh, let me also tell you that on the Moonraker soundtrack album Shirley Bassey sings a bouncy disco version of the theme song. This version does contain the spy trademarks of suspense, intrigue and danger…but in a disco version? It’s definitely strange (but it works).

Of all the 007 ballads, Carly Simon's theme song for the film The Spy Who Loved Me "Nobody Does It Better,” is superb. The song is not at all about the film, it's about the man, James Bond 007. The song is a musical performance appraisal of 007 telling him, "Nobody does it, quite the way you do, why'd you have to be so good?” But 007’s touch is not subtle, he’s brash, rash and definitely destructive, but the man gets results, so to 007's boss M’s chagrin, "Nobody does it better, though sometimes I wish someone could.” In the film, 007 kills the film’s villain Carl Stromberg, defeats Stromberg’s metal mouthed henchman, Jaws, and takes out all of Stromberg’s other evil employees. But 007’s best villain disposal occurs when Stromberg’s beautiful but evil helicopter pilot Naomi, winks at 007 and waves a deadly final goodbye to him as she fires a barrage of machine guns bullets at his car from her copter. She never realizes that it would be she going bye-bye in an explosive ball of hellish flame, courtesy of missile from 007. I also love the opening credits, while as Simon sings, a string of marching Russian communist girls try to foil the silhouetted 007. A great film, with a great song, that illustrates that 007 is indeed the absolute best.

So I eagerly await the theme song for 2012's yet untitled 23rd James Bond 007 film. Since it will be a 50th anniversary celebration I expect the theme will be a bombastic, over-the-top, exciting danger filled tribute to all the wonderful 007 themes of the last half a century. Happy 50th anniversary 007! You are the best.

© 2011 Rix Roundtree-Harrison

Written by Rix Roundtree-Harrison

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