Welcome to the final part of my worthy travail through the 007 soundtracks, which includes choice themes, interludes and suites from The Living Daylights, Licence To Kill, Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough.
Asked to write the theme song for Bond’s fifteenth outing, a-ha duly produced a grandiose pop tune that didn’t sit well with the films composer, John Barry. He subsequently fattened it out and added a luxurious suite of strings for the drama and impact, and so made this more of a collaboration piece. The original version was discarded from the film, though a-ha released it themselves on their 1988 album, Stay On These Roads. A storming track regardless of the tinkering, ‘The Living Daylights’ is almost the companion to Duran Duran’s A View To A Kill, both sharing many traits, though a-ha’s song has a certain broody Scandinavian tone of introspection.
042: ‘The Living Daylights Suite’ John Barry (Warner Bros) Recorded in 1987.
John Barry’s orchestral suite strips away all the rock and pop accompaniment for a more serene and lavish travail through the film. Swishing and swirling through the opening credits; the archetypal love interest scene; and all the timpani rolling dramatics, Barry delivers a commanding “best of” selection. This would mark the end of Barry’s relationship with the 007-film franchise. An operation on his throat the following year made it impossible for him to complete work on the next score for Licence To Kill. After that his majestic touch was never felt again on the Bond films.
043: ‘Licence To Kill’ Gladys Knight (MCA) Recorded in 1989.
Minus her “Pips”, the class soul legend that is Gladys Knight, croons and soars on the Narada Michael Walden/ Jeffery Cohen/ Walter Afanasieff composed ‘Licence To Kill’ theme tune. Bookending the most soulful adorned soundtrack yet – Patti LaBelle sings us out at the end -, Knight adds a sense of occasion to the, mostly, under par movie: a take on the Miami/Columbia drug war explosion that takes its cue from Miami Vice. Eric Clapton and one-time member of John Barry‘s 50s group, The John Barry Seven, Vic Flick (that’s his famous licks you hear on The James Bond Theme) were originally asked to perform an instrumental variant of the pro to-007 riff, but were dropped in favour of knight.
044: ‘Licence Revoked’ Michael Kamen (MCA) Recorded in 1989.
A sort of cheat, this full gambit musical suite from the movie, runs through all the central themes and incidental passages and introduces us to the American composer, Michael Kamen. The New York born arranger and musician has a pretty extensive and impressive resume, working with bands such as Pink Floyd, Queen and Kate Bush, as well as providing film scores for Brazil, Highlander, Die Hard and Lethal Weapon: a pretty good choice you could say. Taking on the biggest movie franchise in the world, and replacing Barry (undergoing throat surgery at the time, he never returned), Kamen didn’t exactly change the template; rather he added a certain contemporary fusion of cabaret and bombast to the underlying basics. In fact, technologically speaking, Kamen didn’t fall into the trap of adopting the latest gadgets or trends, except for the ill-conceived Wedding Party tune, which is a pained attempt to hark back to, and reinvigorate the Jump Up anthem from Dr.No. Despite this, you could say, that Licence To Kill is actually quite conservative and old-fashioned in some ways.
045:‘Goldeneye’ Written by Bono and The Edge, sung by Tina Turner (EMI) Recorded in 1995.
Essentially returning to the core musicality and melodies of a past era, the ‘Goldeneye’ theme tune is a bombastic old school production, fronted by the salacious Tina Turner. The return of the 007 franchise needed a statement, and this was it. Sung elegantly and seductively, like silk caressing a leather-backed armchair, Turner controls those song-belting dynamics with style and restraint. Of course, Goldeneye can’t help but be compared to the Shirley Bassey wailed anthems of the 60s and 70s, especially as the co-writing partnership of U2‘s Bono and Edge have made such obvious allusions to those cherished and acclaimed songs – no shame in that, and it sounds better for it. Instead of following a particular trend or adding a misconceived backing of new technology, the U2 boys have kept it simple and timeless; in a way out of kilter with the Eric Serra conceived synthesiser and awkward Art Of Noise mashing soundtrack.
046: ‘A Pleasant Drive In St.Petersburg’ Eric Serra (EMI) Recorded in 1995.
Known in the film business for his musical contributions to the French director Luc Besson‘s varying surreal movies, Eric Serra was a strange choice for the 007 series. However, his bemusing production of cutting, staccato electronica and moody synthesizer seems to fit the job, though the reliable duo of John Altman and David Arch were brought in to tone down some of the more experimental and grating passages, and to add those accustomed Bond-style strings to many of the tracks. In fact, this particular cut-up reworking of the gun barrel theme was dropped in favour of Altman’s own orchestral led sequence. This version is still listed and available on the soundtrack, but doesn’t feature in the film.
047:‘The Severnaya Suite’ Eric Serra (EMI) Recorded in 1995.
Attributed to Serra, this particular suite is a dreamy, evocative orchestral movement more attune with the work of Altman and Arch. For all the lovers and romantics out there…but hang-on…what’s that on the horizon?! It’s a moody ominous spike designed to jerk us out of our glaze-y eyed stupor. We got work to do, and the world to save for Christ sake!
048: ‘White Knight Suite’ David Arnold (A&M) Recorded in 1997
Impressing the producers with his Brit-pop lit tribute album to the 007 franchise, Shaken And Stirred, David Arnold already knew how to reboot and remix those infamous Bond themes enough to relish the chance of getting his hands on the top job of composing an original score. A fine balance between tradition and the retro-fervor that had gripped the music scene during the mid to late 90s – still in much evidence today – Arnold’s understated “White Knight Suite” is probably the best example of his classical meets subtle electronica template; a tour-de-force of the gun barrel theme, opening set-up and action sequences.
049: ‘Surrender’ David Arnold and David McAlmont/ Lyrics by Don Black, sung by K.D Lang (A&M) Recorded in 1997
Put out to tender, so to speak, the opening theme tune saw submissions from the likes of Pulp, St.Etienne, Marc Almond, Sheryl Crow and David Arnold all roll in. Arnold together with David McAlmont and Don Black had composed/written one of those sassy, return to the 60s brassiness of Bassey-esque, orchestral behemoths so beloved of the public, for Tomorrow Never Dies. The odd conjuncture of plaintive edgy country crooner, K.D Lang, added a certain dimension of broodiness, depth and soul to the tune. As it turned out the more commercial country pop tones of Sheryl Crow saw her submission replace Lang’s at the eleventh hour as she was deemed a more popular and appealing star – a decision that proved very shortsighted in the long run.
This change in the populist direction had a rippling effect on the soundtrack as a whole. Crow’s version, dropped in at the very last minute, jarred with the Arnold soundtrack, which had already been produced to incorporate the Lang original. That song was renamed ‘Surrender’ and added to the closing credits, it’s melody permeating throughout the movie, whilst Crow’s bland swan song remains ill-at-odds with Arnold’s bespoke, with-strained score.
050: ‘Only Myself To Blame’ David Arnold and Don Black, sung by Scott Walker (MCA) Recorded in 1999.
You can’t really hold poor old David Arnold responsible for the techno-streaked Bond musical updates; after all here was the man who’d originally persuaded K.D Lang to try her hand at a theme tune on the previous film, Tomorrow Never Dies. The impression is that he dragged 007 into an unwelcoming electronica world of clashing synths and indecorous clutter-beaten effects, yet it was Arnold who stuck to the John Barry template by integrating those orchestral suites and horn sections into his modern soundtracks. Even Arnold’s – alongside the lyricist Don Black – theme tunes were a throwback to the golden age. On all fronts the producers chose a more trendy and marketable status quo every time, over-ruling Arnold’s adroit attempts.
That K.D Lang song may have at least made the end titles, but the Scott Walker plaintive lament, ‘Only Myself To Blame’ proved to be far too introspective and thoughtful to even make the closing curtain call; failing to make the movie entirely, though Madonna‘s warbling, vocoder bollocks did. Oh well, listen to what could have been. Hell the way they’re are going with this “new fella” (Daniel Grieg) – turning him into a grittier and more reflectively emotional figure – they may very well need master Walker back.