I hadn’t planned to do this after writing individual reviews of all 15 James Bond themes that have charted on the Billboard Hot 100 but as I’ve continued to binge through the series and feeling like it’d be right, here’s my epilogue to this series where I review the other 10 Bond themes that didn’t chart on the Hot 100 all at once. Enjoy!
“James Bond Theme” by John Barry (1962)
If you’re at any all familiar with James Bond then you have heard its main theme. Once you hear that orchestra blast, the ominous progression, and that attack of surf-rock-inspired guitar riffing the image of James Bond comes immediately rushing into your head. It’s been used in almost every film since in different variations and its chord progression has been incorporated into many of the individual themes. Each time the “James Bond Theme” comes on, it’s a certifiable banger.
“From Russia With Love” by Matt Monro (1963)
Technically, the John Barry title instrumental was used for the opening credits with the lyrics sung by British crooner Matt Monro appearing throughout the movie but considering the lyrical version was a hit in the UK, I’ll be covering that instead. As a theme, it’s OK sounding like a lot of the romantic old-school crooner pop music of the time. From the lyrics to the way Monro sings them, “From Russia With Love” comes across as a pretty standard love song and not in the James Bond way. This old-school crooner music isn’t exactly my cup of tea which is why I wouldn’t consider it among the best themes but when it’s on it’s a pleasant listen.
“We Have All The Time In The World” by Louis Armstrong (1969)
The sad irony of the song is that Louis Armstrong didn’t have much time in the world left when he recorded the theme to Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Armstrong was 68 and in ill health with his death only two years away. Despite that, his gravely and weary singing goes really well with the guitars and orchestra that it creates this wistful vibe of looking back at life while looking forward. As a Bond theme, “We Have All The Time In The World” has lingered on so much so that it was included in the recent movie No Time To Die where it plays during the end credits.
“The Man With The Golden Gun” by Lulu (1974)
This is one of those songs where it has the elements of something good but just doesn’t get there. I like the fast-paced opening and the gurgles of electric guitar but outside of that, there isn’t much. Everything feels rushed like they were recording just before a deadline as Lulu sings about the titular villain leading to a messy theme overall.
“Moonraker” by Shirley Bassey (1979)
Shirley Bassey’s third and ultimately least successful and recognizable Bond theme. Even if “Moonraker” hasn’t ascended to the iconic level of “Goldfinger” or even “Diamonds Are Forever,” it’s still a nice listen regardless. Bassey still delivers a great performance amid the lush orchestration and very ‘70s sounding phaser guitar effects.
“The Living Daylights” by a-ha (1987)
After charting worldwide with “Take On Me,” a-ha teamed up with John Barry for a theme that sounds like if Duran Duran’s “A View to a Kill” wasn’t so annoying and cluttered. Like with “A View to a Kill,” “The Living Daylights” sounds pure ‘80s with the shiny feel of the production but not in a way that grates on me with how much better it sounds.
“License To Kill” by Gladys Knight (1989)
The title theme to the 1989 film comes primarily from Narada Michael Walden and Walter Afanasieff who are mainly known for their work with artists like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey and you can tell. The production sounds like the type both artists would have performed at the time. The opening cymbal fill even reminds me of a certain Mariah Carey hit. As a Bond theme, “License To Kill” doesn’t really work but as a late ‘80s pop song, it’s pretty solid and Gladys Knight performs the song as well as you’d expect a legend like her to perform.
“Goldeneye” by Tina Turner (1995)
For Pierce Brosnan’s very solid debut as Bond, we have Tina Turner and the franchise doing their best to emulate the old Shirley Bassey themes with the way the orchestra and Turner’s voice sounds. For what it is, it’s fine but not a top tier Bond theme even as a fan of Turner’s singing and the plucked strings that introduce the song.
“Tomorrow Never Dies” by Sheryl Crow (1997)
My problem here is the same problem I had with Sheena Easton’s “For Your Eyes Only” which is that Sheryl Crow just is not the right singer for this kind of Bond theme. It has your classic intense action feel and I like the guitar playing but like Easton when Crow tries to hit the high notes on the chorus, it’s a rough listen.
“The World Is Not Enough” by Garbage (1999)
As someone who has no experience with this group, I wasn’t sure what a Garbage Bond theme would sound like but after listening to it, I was impressed. From the production to Shirley Manson’s singing, it really nails that combination of intensity, action, and sexiness you come to expect from watching a Bond movie.