Almost as famous as the Bond films are their respective title songs. While the early films made use of them during titles and credits, the later ones broke with tradition.
Bond music is both varied and versatile – musical score and title song often go hand in hand. Beginning with the third Bond film ‘Goldfinger’ (1964), each film had its own title song performed by a well-known artist. Prominently featured during the iconic opening credits sequence, legendary performers like Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones and Nancy Sinatra belted out the signature tunes which subsequently became famous around the globe. The exception was ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ (1969) which went back to using an instrumental theme like the first two films had done.
Back and Forth
With the above mentioned formula not yet in use, the second Bond thriller, ‘From Russia With Love’ (1963), moved the title song by Matt Monro to the final scenes of the film and end credits. The title sequence featured a rich instrumental version of the song composed by John Barry, segueing into the famous James Bond Theme.
In 1964, the all-time-favourite ‘Goldfinger’ by Shirley Bassey appeared in both the title sequence and end credits whereas the follow-up ‘Thunderball’ applied the equally popular James Bond theme to end the film in 1965.
Two years later it was Nancy Sinatras ‘You only Live Twice’ which would again be used over both the title and end credits. Another two years later, the producers once more switched to the Bond theme. What looks like a deliberate pattern changed in 1971 when ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ and all seven subsequent films until 1985 also saw their respective title songs reprised during the end credits.
On occasion, however, the end credits theme would be an alternate version. This first occured in ‘Diamonds are Forever’ with a slightly funkier version of the John Barry/Don Black tune and again in ‘Moonraker’ (1979) where cinema audiences were treated to a disco version of Shirley Basseys hit. At the end of ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ (1977), the producers even added a nifty, Broadway-styled male choir version of the films title song ‘Nobody does it better’ before fading into Carly Simons original track.
The secondary attack
Twelve of the twenty-four James Bond films feature the so called ‘secondary song’, sometimes even more than just one. With ‘Jump Up’ and ‘Kingston Calypso’, the very first film ‘Dr. No’ (1962) already featured two secondary songs. Seven years later, it was one of those songs that actually outshone the title theme. Louis Armstrongs romantic ballad ‘We Have All The Time In The World’, composed by John Barry for ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’, stole the show and is still a favourite today.
While many other Bond films featured songs in the film, you have to be careful with the secondary song label. Not all of them are. A notable case, however, was ‘The Living Daylights’ in 1987. Two songs were recorded additionally by English-American rock band The Pretenders. The first, entitled ‘Where has everybody gone’, was utilised by composer John Barry as a common theme throughout the films score. The second, ‘If there was a man’, accompanied the end credits.
The next installment and second film of Timothy Dalton, ‘Licence To Kill’ (1989), featured the Diane Warren ballad ‘If You Asked Me To’ which was performed by Patti LaBelle. Three years later, Canadian singer Celine Dion covered the song and topped the Canadian charts, peaking at number four on the Billboard Hot 100. LaBelles version had only made it to number 79. Following Dions successful cover version, ‘If You Asked Me To’ won an ASCAP Pop Award for most performed song in the United States.
In addition to composing the controversial, avant-garde score for Pierce Brosnans first Bond outing ‘GoldenEye’ in 1995, French musician Éric Serra also delivered the secondary song ‘The Experience of Love’ which was used for the end credits. Written in collaboration with British songwriter Rupert Hine, the smooth pop ballad with its compelling lyrics did not go down well with many Bond fans. It feels odd at the end of the film which catapulted Bond back to the silver screen after a six year hiatus.
The following film, ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ (1997), scored far better with a lush end title theme in true Bond fashion. ‘Surrender’ by k.d. Lang stunned with a big, thundering orchestra and powerful vocals by the Canadian pop and country singer. Written by five-time Bond composer David Arnold in collaboration with David McAlmont and lyricist Don Black, the Barry-esque theme was heavily influenced by the traditional sound of Bond. The hint of Bassey is distinctive. No wonder it rapidly grew on fans througout the years.
After four Bond thrillers with secondary songs playing during the end credits, it was director Michael Apted who decided not to end ‘The World Is Not Enough’ (1999) with David Arnolds jazzy ballad ‘Only Myself To Blame’, performed by British singer-songwriter Scott Walker. Apted found it “was too much of a downer for the end of the movie” after which Arnold replaced it with a Techno remix of the James Bond Theme. It was the first time after 30 years that the iconic theme reappeared for the end credits. Although featured on the soundtrack of the film, ‘Only Myself To Blame’ never received significant attention or acclaim. Unjustly – as it is a perfectly moody, almost film-noir like piece that gains significance when bearing in mind that it was inspired by the failed romance between Bond and Elektra King.
It is common knowledge that Pierce Brosnans final film ‘Die Another Day’ (2002) is not everyones favourite Bond film. The title theme by pop icon Madonna certainly did not help to make the film rank higher. Instead, it did exactly the opposite. Written and produced by her together with Mirwais Ahmadzaï and French composer Michel Colombier, the electroclash theme with stuttered editing of Madonna’s voice is frowned upon within the Bond fan community. Making matters worse was the remixed version of the end credits.
With ‘Casino Royale’ and the introduction of Daniel Craig as the new James Bond in 2006, the series was reinvigorated once again. After a bumpy road, Bond was brought back in style. But although the classic Bond ingredients were retained, there were also many changes. The gunbarrel had suddenly changed position and we had to understand, that Bond was shown at the beginning of his career. Not an easy task with his superior being the same ‘M’ as in the previous four films.
Feeling the need for a strong male singer to underline the dramatic new direction, the producers chose Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell to write the title theme together with composer David Arnold. The result was a song as gritty and bold as the film, appropriately entitled ‘You Know My Name’. Incorporated into the musical score throughout the film, it is only reprised in the last two minutes of the end credits. Unlike previous films, there was no secondary song. Instead, the James Bond theme finished the film for the first time since ‘The World Is Not Enough’ in 1999. Setting in when Daniel Craig delivers his rendition of the famous “Bond, James Bond” introduction, the Bond theme was supposed to underscore the end of his character arc.
For the next Bond, ‘Quantum of Solace’ (2008), the secondary song was back for the first time since ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’. At least in an instrumental way. Composed by David Arnold and Four Tet (also known as UK electronic musician Kieran Hebden), the track, entitled ‘Crawl, End Crawl’, was described by Hebden as “kind of remix of stuff from the score of the film”. Taking whatever sounds he wanted from David Arnolds multitrack sessions, Hebden then compiled the end credits track in just a day.
After four years off the screen, Bond returned in the highly stylized and almost artistic thriller-epic ‘Skyfall’ in 2012. Along with director Sam Mendes came composer Thomas Newman – a drastic change away from the consistent Arnold sound. Although featuring the Oscar-winning title theme ‘Skyfall’ by British singer Adele, there was again no reprise or secondary song over the credits. Instead, following the James Bond theme, a compilation of soundtrack pieces was selected. The same applied to the most recent Bond film ‘Spectre’ (2015).
The significance of end credits
With many cinemagoers jumping up from their seats at the very second the end credits begin to roll, one could raise the question if any particular attention must be paid to the music selection. Secondly, would anyone notice the possible relation of the song to the film?
It has been a full twenty years since the last secondary song was recorded and performed in a James Bond film. Maybe the end credits will return?