The James Bond 007 themes that didn’t make it

Here are the songs that were considered for James Bond themes but ultimately rejected. Some of them aren't half-bad, too...

Bond title songs are an intrinsic part of the series. But did you know that there were often unused tracks that were considered but rejected? Some of them are damn good too. This is bound to lead to comparisons and what if… discussions, and that’s what we are here to encourage today.

As soon as we try to define what makes a great Bond song, we run into the problem that dogs any criticism of the series – every aspect of it is extremely divisive. Whatever element you nominate as a high point, best actor, score or film, for example, is someone else’s least favourite and vice versa. The same goes for the Bond theme songs: some people like a bouncy pop song with a nice brass arrangement. For others, it’s not a proper Bond theme unless it’s a slow ballad with soaring strings.

As for judgement on the songs below, for some of them we’ll leave it for the reader to decide, on others we’ll venture an opinion. Turn up the sound system in your hollowed-out volcano, and in each case, decide whether you would have commended the decision or had the individuals responsible liquidated.

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

The contender: Blondie – “For Your Eyes Only”

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The song that made it: Sheena Easton – “For Your Eyes Only”

Blondie wrote a song called “For Your Eyes Only” and submitted it for consideration, but it was rejected in favor of a song co-written by Bill Conti who was doing the score for the film itself.

The Blondie song is a rock song, and as with many of these rejected songs, we have to do some guesswork as to what it would have sounded like if dressed up with the orchestrations that are typical of a Bond title tune. The version that we have features some twangy guitar riffs that would have fitted in with the Bond sound, and keyboard strings fill in the rest.

Another important part of assessing a Bond title tune is to see how well it integrates with the overall score. Conti (Rocky, The Karate Kid) is one of the greats, but his soundtrack to this film has aged poorly, relying as it does on synthesisers, giving it a cheesy sound that’s definitely stuck in the early 80s.

Was it the right choice?

What about the Sheena Easton song that was used? Eh… there’s no accounting for taste, and it performed well in the pop charts, but it’s an easy listening lounge song, a bit like “All Time High” from Octopussy. However, that song would be elevated, in terms of soundtrack integration, thanks to John Barry’s genius for spinning off romantic and action themes from the title tune. The Sheena Easton song is competent, but I don’t think that many people have sung it to themselves in the shower. We go with the Blondie song that’s exciting and catchy.

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Goldeneye (1995)

The contender(s): Ace Of Base – “The Goldeneye”

The song that made it: Tina Turner – “Goldeneye”

An Ace of Base song surfaced in finished form in 2002, retitled “The Juvenile,” but it was originally written in 1995 as a possible title song for Goldeneye. Rumor has it that the record company itself didn’t believe that the Bond franchise could ever make a comeback and pulled the plug on the project, not wanting to tarnish the reputation of the band.

The grainy sounding original demo of “The Goldenye” has slightly different lyrics that make reference to the passing of the cold war. Although the lyrics differ in places, both versions of the song sound similar, even in terms of the instrumentation including an opening with a Russian sounding balalaika.

Was it the right choice?

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Overall, “The Goldeneye”/”The Juvenile” is a nice song that would have fit it well with a 1995 Bond movie, particularly as Eric Serra’s score made a lot of use of synthesizer sounds. As good as it is, the Tina Turner song, which was written by Bono and The Edge from U2, is also very strong, with a sound that evokes some of the other classic Bond tunes.

The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)

The contender: “The Man With The Golden Gun” – Alice Cooper

The song that made it: “The Man With The Golden Gun” – Lulu

Alice Cooper threw his hat into the ring with this original rock number. In actual fact, stylistically it’s not a million miles away from the Lulu song that was eventually chosen, both songs relying on rock guitar. That said, it’s not an outstanding tune, and it suffers from making practically no specific references to the movie.

Comparing it to the Lulu song that was used highlights the difficulty in assessing most of these rejected potential Bond tunes. For the track that was eventually used, John Barry wrote the music, worked with a lyricist who was in on the story and then orchestrated and arranged the entire soundtrack, making references to the title tune throughout his score.

Was it the right choice?

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The Lulu song has a mixed reputation, as does the film, which seems harsh on both counts. The song features a bouncy vocal delivery by Lulu and lots of ’70s rock guitar. The reprise used on the end titles takes things up a notch. The Alice Cooper song sounds a bit average, really.

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

The contenders: Pulp – “Tomorrow Never Lies”, KD Lang – “Surrender”, Saint Etienne, “Tomorrow Never Dies,” Swan Lee – “Tomorrow Never Dies”

The song that made it: Sheryl Crow – “Tomorrow Never Dies”

Jarvis Cocker delivers his signature crooning on “Tomorrow Never Lies,” a song that was submitted for consideration. The name change could have come about to simply avoid copyright complications once the song was rejected, but it had also been the intended title of the film at an early stage of its production. Cocker had already collaborated with David Arnold on an album of Bond song covers (singing “All Time High”), and it was that project that won Arnold the job of scoring the actual films.

Musically, it’s indie rock with a slow, varying tempo. Perhaps, it could have been reworked for actual use in the movie, and the lyrics make a reasonable stab at at the general Bond malaise of lost loves and painful decisions, but no one would hear this in its released form and guess that it was a potential James Bond tune.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kh1C_AbFoNc

KD Lang worked with David Arnold, who was scoring the film, and Bond veteran lyricist Don Black (Diamonds Are ForeverThe Man With The Golden Gun and others) to create a title song. Typical EON skittishness seems to have come into play towards the end of the production; a Sheryl Crow song was chosen instead and the KD Lang song was retitled “Surrender” and relegated to the end titles.

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Lang’s song is terrific and harks back to traditional Bond themes of old, benefiting from the bombast of David Arnold that always shows John Barry’s legacy the proper respect. KD herself is in towering form. To be critical for a moment, it perhaps adherers to the formula a little too closely at a time when EON were desperate to keep Bond fresh and modern.

British indie band Saint Etienne submitted a tune called “Tomorrow Never Dies.” The song has a jazzy feel that moves between dance-indie and ’70s pop. It’s an interesting tune that warms up towards the end, and it features some references to Bond’s relationship with Paris Carver, but it doesn’t scream James Bond for most of its running length.

Danish pop group Swan Lee had a stab at creating the title track. Their “Tomorrow Never Dies” is a good tune that hits some Bondian notes in the chorus. Tempo is significant for a Bond song and this is slow number that would have worked well with the title sequence. But is it ever close enough to what we expect from a Bond song

Was it the right choice?

A difficult one. The Sheryl Crow song is a good one and fits in very well with the style of ’90s Bond and probably had the potential to be the bigger hit outside of the Bond fandom, and the style gelled with some of the technology themes of the plot, but it doesn’t have much connection to the film beyond the title. The KD Lang song could probably hold its own on any poll of classic James Bond theme tunes, if it were better known.

Thunderball (1965)

The contenders: Shirley Bassey – “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” Dionne Warwick – “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” Johnny Cash – “Thunderball”

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The song that made it: Tom Jones – “Thunderball”

Following on from the success they had experienced with the Goldfinger theme tune, John Barry teamed up with Shirley Bassey again for the fourth EON James Bond film, “Thunderball.” Every Bond fan will be already familiar with the brassy sounds of “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”; the first time they hear the song as most of the musical cues are heavily integrated into the score of the finished film. The song itself is very much about the Bond character but doesn’t specifically mention any part of the film’s plot. Being critical, it’s a bit corny, even by the standards of the time.

As Bassey went on to become strongly associated with James Bond title songs, it seems like a surprising decision now, but the producers decided to re-record the song with Dionne Warwick as she was experiencing a career high at the time. This version runs along the same lines as the Bassey one.

Johnny Cash’s song Thunderball is an intriguing oddment, and it’s a great song to boot. Lyrically, it’s on point, mainly as it specifically references plot points from the story with lines like: “The power of her engines is now drowned in the sea/but the deadly force from within her is now somewhere running free” in reference to the nuclear equipped Vulcan bomber that is hijacked and crashed into the sea. Where the song falls apart is that, musically, the version we have sounds like a Spaghetti western theme tune rather than a Bond song. Quentin Tarantino, if you’re reading this, obtain the rights to this tune immediately!

Despite having two very good versions of a decent song, the producers decided to change tack again, partly because they were worried that the existing song didn’t mention the title of the film. The result was the hastily produced John Barry and Don Black composition “Thunderball”, featuring Tom Jones as the singer. Lyrically, the focus of that song sounds like it may be Largo rather than Bond. Ironically, if so, it injects more of a sense of excitement into the character than the steady plotting of the film itself manages. It’s a competent song that encapsulates a lot of the classic Bond sound, but it didn’t go on to become a pop-culture touchstone like some of the other songs did.

Was it the right choice?

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All four songs that we know about are nice tunes, but the Johnny Cash one doesn’t have much of what we now think of as a “James Bond sound.” Of the remaining three tunes? It probably comes down to personal preference.

The World Is Not Enough (1999)

The Contender: Straw – “The World Is Not Enough”

The song that made it: Garbage – “The World Is Not Enough”

Short-lived British band Straw made a decent effort with their tune “The World Is Not Enough.” All of the elements are present: twangy arpeggiated guitar lines, brass stabs (albeit sampled) along with a lyrical references to the Bond milieu and a singable chorus that repeats the title. Lyrically, the song takes the same approach as the music by throwing in all of the expected elements.

However, here it suffers from the same problem as some of these other tunes, as it doesn’t sound as though the band had access to a story outline or a script. That said, a reference is made to the title being the Bond family motto, along with mentions of other events in the Bond timeline such as the death of Tracey Bond. It’s not an amazing tune, but it’s certainly a Bondy one.

Was it the right choice?

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8C5NLfYdZaE

The Straw song ticks off most of the expected Bond tropes, lyrically and musically, but the Garbage one (written by Don Black and David Arnold) mixes in a bit of the Bond sound with a good, modern-sounding song and a towering vocal performance by Shirley Manson. Of course, score-meister David Arnold’s involvement in the finished Garbage song means that it can never be an entirely fair fight, in terms of the orchestrations, but the Straw track just doesn’t have the same epic quality to it.

You Only Live Twice (1967)

The contender: Julie Rogers – “You Only Live Twice”

The song that made it: Nancy Sinatra – “You Only Live Twice”

’60s pop star Julie Rogers was the first person approached to perform a title song for You Only Live Twice. Julie has a powerful and expressive voice that suits the series well, and the song is a good one. This isn’t a mere demo as it was recorded by John Barry with a 50-piece orchestra, and it was obviously intended for use in the finished film. As you would imagine, it sounds not dissimilar to other Barry arrangements in the series. However, it’s a completely different song from the one that we’re familiar with.

Apparently, EON weren’t quite satisfied with the song and decided to try again with another singer. The story goes that they approached Frank Sinatra and he in turn suggested that they try his daughter, Nancy Sinatra who had just had a hit with “These Boots Are Made For Walking.”

Was it the right choice?

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The Julie Rogers song is very good, but the eventual song that was chosen, also called “You Only Live Twice,” sung by Nancy Sinatra has gone on to be one of the most iconic of the entire series. Musically, it has a bit of extra oomph, with a more memorable string motif and the inventive use of scratchy sounding harmony guitars throughout. Although, the two songs are probably on a par lyrically. If they’d stuck with the original attempt, it would probably still be regarded as a rather good Bond song.

Quantum Of Solace (2008)

The contender: Shirley Bassey – “No Good About Goodbye”

The song that made it: Jack White and Alicia Keys – “Another Way To Die”

Apparently, singer and songwriter Amy Winehouse intended to create the the title track to EONs 22nd James Bond film. It seems that she was collaborating on it with English musician Mark Ronson, and some music may have been produced, but nothing ever surfaced publicly.

It’s difficult to find official confirmation linking it to the film, but it seems that “No Good About Goodbye” was written for Quantum Of Solace, even if the finished version that we now have was recorded later. The song itself reteams David Arnold and lyricist Don Black and features legend Shirley Bassey.

Beginning with the vocals, Bassey was, by this point, in her ’70s and still sounds fantastic on the track. The lyrics concentrate on Bond’s perspective post-Casino Royale as he continues to lament the death of Vespa, but it beyond that, it doesn’t specifically mention any plot points from the film. Sound-wise, Arnold knows his way around a Bond track; strings introduce the track and continue to soar during the chorus as guitars twang in the background and the brass section stabs authoritatively. It’s a Bond track all right and some of the cues are present in the finished score for the film.

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Was it the right choice?

The track that was chosen for the finished film, “Another Way To Die” by Jack White and Alicia Keys is, unfortunately, one of the most heavily criticized by the Bond fandom. It may have been that EON, once again, rejected a song that had been specifically written for the film and embodied the traditional Bond sound in favour of something that had a greater chance of being a hit or attracting a younger crowd to the franchise. It’s hard to argue a case for “Another Way To Die” when “No Good About Goodbye,” a great song that respectfully fits into the 50-year Bond film cannon, was floating about for the taking.

Never Say Never Again (1983)

The contender: Phyllis Hyman – “Never Say Never Again”

The song that made it: Lani Hall – “Never Say Never Again”

1983 was a crazy year for Bond fans as Never Say Never Again, a remake of Thunderball, that starred Sean Connery himself, was placed into direct competition with the official EON James Bond release that year, Octopussy. Songwriter Stephen Forsyth, collaborating with worked with singer Phyllis Hyman to create a piano-led synth-rock ballad “Never Say Never Again.” It’s a good, if not outstanding production with an appropriate sounding vocal delivery, that would have worked well in the film. From what we can tell, it had been accepted as the official song, but the person scoring the film, Michel Legrand asserted his legal right to pen the theme song, so it was ultimately rejected.

Was it the right choice?

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The finished song, “Never Say Never Again,” regularly tops lists of most hated Bond theme songs. Dare we say ’70s porno soundtrack’? Whatever – in terms of style, it’s a lounge track at a slow pace that doesn’t make one think of James Bond films. Interestingly, it’s not a million miles away from the style and tempo of “All Time High,” the theme tune of that year’s official James Bond. That track is a fair bit better, and besides, John Barry is able to save it. 

“Never Say Never Again” is generally regarded as one of the worst James Bond films. If they’d been able to use the original composition, at least it would have a decent song attached to it.

Honorable Mentions

1987’s “The Living Daylights” was John Barry’s final James Bond score and followed the successful Duran Duran title track of A View To A Kill with another similarly energetic pop song, this time “The Living Daylights” by a-ha. Word has it that John Barry and the members of that band didn’t get on, and that’s probably why the song had only a minimal impact on the score. Unusually for a Bond film, a total of three original songs were written.

Barry had a much better working relationship with the members of The Pretenders, and the love ballad, “If There Was A Man” and the rock song Where Has Everybody Gone feature the music of Barry mixed with the lyrics and vocal performance of Chrisie Hynde. The latter features in source form within the movie, blaring out of a Walkman, the former plays over the end titles, and both crop up, instrumentally, in some of the romantic and action cues in the film score. We didn’t put these into the main list as they were never intended to be title tunes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OLocm8AVMM

Apparently, the Pet Shop Boys song “This Must Be The Place I’ve Waited Years To Leave” was originally conceived to be a James Bond title track, but the finished song was then heavily reworked and doesn’t sound particularly Bondian. The Beach Boys instrumental “Pet Sounds” from the 1966 album of the same name was originally intended to be a Bond theme, and it was at one time called “Run James Run,” but the idea was abandoned. It’s an usual sounding track, but it does have some twangy guitar.

Getting back to insiders’ world of Bond, there is another abandoned Bond track called “Only Myself To Blame” that had been written as a potential end title track for “The World Is Not Enough.” It’s yet another collaboration between David Arnold with Don Black, but this jazzy ballad, that reflects on the relationship between Bond and Elektra, was deemed too downbeat by the director of the film Michael Apted.

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There you have it – that is everything we know about the forgotten, misplaced and rejected James Bond title song. Of course, if you have MI6 clearance and know about other significant contenders for the top spot in a Bond movie, let us know below in the comments.