The "Bond Music Style" is so familiar to people, that it sometimes seems as though it was always there. But in fact it took a lot of effort to establish all the recognisable facets of this style. Monty Norman had scored most of the first movie "Dr. No" but neither he nor the film-makers were completely satisfied that they had captured the essence of Bond. John Barry was brought in and orchestrated one of Norman's songs on electric guitar, and the unmistakeable Bond Theme had arrived. Barry was asked to score the next film "From Russia with Love" which had a theme tune and incidental music incorporating elements of the Bond theme and its style. The theme song for the next film Goldfinger was written to be larger than life and Shirley Bassey was asked to sing it in her powerful voice.
By now all the elements of the Bond Style were fully established and that format continued throughout the series, with John Barry staying on as composer for many years. A few other composers did one-off stints with Bond films, and there were several attempts to update the format and introduce pop songs and artists. It wasn't until the late 90s that David Arnold successfully updated the mix by introducing techno beats into the high-octane chase sequences, and Arnold remained as the resident Bond composer for several movies. The recent Daniel Craig movies have reinvented the series and the music has also gone Back to Basics. Skyfall saw another change in direction with music by Thomas Newman and an oscar-winning title song by Adele. The same team have largely returned for the latest Bond film Spectre, and Sam Smith sings the title song for Spectre called "Writing's on the Wall" composed by Smith with regular collaborator Jimmy Napes.
Let's now look in more detail at the origins of the James Bond Sound:
The Bond Theme is such a vital part of the overall Bond sound that it is essential to look at its genesis first. Monty Norman had already scored much of the first Bond film "Dr. No" but was struggling to capture the essence of Bond with a suitable main theme. "Under the Mango Tree" was even considered as the title theme at one point! The producers liked some of the John Barry's existing work so they asked him to help out, and to cut a long story short Barry arranged an existing melody of Norman's to create the main theme. The credits for Dr. No read "music composed by Monty Norman" and the James Bond theme "played by John Barry and Orchestra". So John Barry didn't receive a credit for the arrangement, but as a consolation price he had got his foot in the door of this major franchise and was to score many subsequent Bond films.
Of course the story doesn't quite end there, and there have been two court cases concerning the matter when newspapers published articles claiming that Barry had written or substantially written the theme. Both courts ruled that Monty Norman composed the theme and that John Barry arranged it. To some people there is a lingering feeling of injustice, not just in this instance but in many instances where the creativity of an arranger is not recognised. To take an extreme ficticious example, a song-writer can write a simple melody with some lyrics. An arranger is employed to flesh out the song, writing intros and outros, beats and basslines, harmonies, bridges and hooks that make the song distinctive. Yet the arranger gets a flat fee and the song-writer receives all the royalties earned by the song. This can seem unfair but it is the way the music industry works, and certainly UK copyright law works that way.
Back to the Bond theme, and John Barry recorded this with his Band. Vic Flick played the famous guitar riff in the first recording, and Barry's small band of saxophones and brass gave that distinctive jazz sound. It was that sound which became one of the defining features of the Bond Sound. The theme has been re-recorded and re-arranged many times since 1962, though it remains as a cornerstone of the Bond films. The Bond theme is most often associated with the gunbarrel element of the opening titles, but it appears in whole or in part in most of the Bond films. The James Bond Theme is just one element of the overall Bond sound. That sound has evolved over time and we will look at its key characteristics during three main phases of the Bond films starting with the 1960s.
After the James Bond Theme the other key component of the Bond Sound is the Title Song. Of course the title song is different for each film and gives the film its own individual character, but nevertheless the best Bond Songs have certain qualities which help them to complement the Bond Sound. As previously noted, Dr. No didn't have a Title Song but all the films starting with "From Russia With Love" have had a main song of some kind. The producers have always preferred to have the title of the song match the title of the film, so that the song helped to market and support the film. However some of Ian Fleming's stories had very awkward titles which were virtually impossible to use for the lyrics of a song. For this reason "On Her Majesty's Secret Service", "Octopussy", "Casino Royale" and "Quantum of Solace" have had songs with alternative titles, and the song "Nobody Does It Better" at least managed to include the words "The Spy Who Loved Me" within its lyrics.
Although many Bond Songs have a certain darkness to them, often talking about dying or killing, and many are in a minor key and may be musically related to the James Bond Theme, there seems to be considerable flexibility in the mood of the song. Some of the Bond Songs are very bombastic and forceful in nature (e.g. "Goldfinger", "Thunderball" or "The Man With the Golden Gun") but others are far softer and romantic (e.g. "You Only Live Twice", "We Have All the Time In The World", of "For Your Eyes Only"). Provided the song has a good melody and memorable lyrics, and refers to some aspect of the Bond film or to Bond himself, then it will probably work as a Bond Song. When the Bond song is also included within the film in instrumental form as John Barry and other composers have done, then it seems to work particularly well, helping to give the film a unique musical identity and bring coherence to all the film's music. In such instances you could even describe the soundtrack as a small symphonic poem.
For the last 2 or 3 decades the Bond Song has been increasingly provided by a guest artist, and there has been considerable competition among songwriters and recording artists to provide the Bond Song for a film. Just as a good Bond Song helps to promote the corresponding film, the film is an excellent vehicle to promote a song, and many Bond songs have done very well in the charts. Apart from the inimitable Shirley Bassey no other singer has performed more than one Bond Song, and for many singers a Bond Song can become a cornerstone of their concerts or even their careers. However musical tastes are evolving and diverging rapidly, and there are no guarantees in the music business. Some recent Bond Songs have not been particularly well-received but "Skyfall" by Adele and "No Time to Die" by Billie Eilish seem to have been well-recieved.
The First Decade of the Bond films quickly established the James Bond sound and made it such that it became familiar across the globe. John Barry was the man largely responsible for creating this sound, but it is important to understand that it is not a single sound or theme but a number of elements which together make up the music of a Bond film. In this initial period those key elements were:
Dr. No is the first film to recreate Ian Fleming's character on the big screen. Many things worked well but some things were changed for subsequent films. As previously explained the James Bond theme finally came together after a shakey development. The theme is repeated to fit the opening titles, and then some Caribbean percussion introduce Monty Norman's Jamaican version of Three Blind Mice which moves us neatly from the opening graphics to the film's live action. The Caribbean feel is quite prominent in the film which is almost entirely set on Jamaica, and Norman composed the song "Jump Up" which is performed live in one of the local bars as well as some Calypso and Jazz tracks. "Underneath the Mango Tree" is the most famous song in Dr. No and it is heard several times in the film, mostly as source music. Although the Bond theme is tracked in certain parts of the film, Monty Norman's underscore works fairly well in the movie and in places he incorporates hints of the Bond theme. The movie ends with Mango Tree again followed by a short version of the Bond theme. Overall you could describe the music for 007's first outing as functional but, with the exception of the James Bond theme itself, not particularly distinctive.
From Russia with Love (Bond no.2) of course retains the Bond theme but is otherwise scored by John Barry. The Title Song (both lyrics and music) was written by Lionel Bart of "Oliver!" fame. The song seems to fit the movie well, being a dark and mysterious Russian-sounding love song, and John Barry uses the title song in instrumental form within the movie itself. A short version of the Bond theme accompanies the famous gunbarrel sequence which introduces a pre-credits sequence. Then very James Bondesque rapid chords introduce the Title Song, though only in instrumental form at this stage. Hints of the title theme and Bond theme appear throughout the film, and seem to sit very comfortably together. Barry proves adept at scoring the action and suspense sequences in a recognisably Bond style, neatly suggesting train sounds for the train sequences, and introducing us to Bond's secondary theme called "007" which reappears in several subsequent Bond films. Lionel Bart's title song is heard in full at the end, as sung by Matt Monro. Overall the impression is that the music on From Russian with Love is much better integrated than Dr. No, and the Bond sound is almost complete.
Goldfinger (Bond no.3) was John Barry's personal favourite score. In many ways it was the Title Song which was the last piece in the jigsaw. Barry composed it himself with Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newley, so he was better able to include hints of the Bond theme, and of course Shirley Bassey's voice blasting out those lyrics was perfect for the job. On this occasion the title song was rightly sung on the opening (and closing) credits, and the graphics and lyrics both suggesting the golden girl all help to give the film a strong focal point. While very much using the Bond sound, Goldfinger nevertheless has its own distinctive feel, and Barry again uses the title song to great effect within the score. The incidental music is true underscore at times, particularly during some of the nail-biting suspense sequences, but then you have little touches which remind you that this is Bond in action when the music bursts out for the big moments. For the extended action sequences during the attack on Fort Knox, Barry's music sustains the momentum using a set of ostinatos based on the title song, all the time building towards the climactic scenes. In the US the Goldfinger album famously knocked The Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night" off the top of the album charts.
For Thunderball (Bond no.4) Barry originally wrote "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" as the title song, recorded it with Shirley Bassey and Dionne Warwick and as before included the melody within the fabric of the film's incidental music. (The title "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" is the Japanese knickname for James Bond.) However at the last moment the producers realised that the Title Song did not contain the Title of the Movie, like From Russia with Love and Goldfinger, so they asked for a new song called Thunderball. Very quickly Don Black wrote some ambiguous lyrics, and Tom Jones recorded it famously nearly passing out on the final note. For the extended underwater fight scenes leading up to the final battle, Barry reused and expanded his secondary "007" theme which was first used on From Russia with Love.
For You Only Live Twice (no.5 in the films but not the 5th book) Barry kept all the action music, but gave new emphasis to the location (the story being set in Japan with several scenes commenting on the cultural differences). Barry includes some Japanese instruments in his score as an ongoing reminder of the location, especially for Bond's wedding, but it is his title song which seals the deal. It is wonderfully evocative and romantic, with those strings which introduce the melody becoming yet another icon of the Bond sound. These were famously sampled by Robbie Williams in the song Millenium. The actions scenes in the air and in the volcano are also iconic, with Barry reworking some previous tracks and creating the Space March for the space scenes.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service is No.6 in the film series, and has some elements which are quite unusual compared with other Bond films. Famously the music for the opening title sequence is an instrumental, John Barry's "007" getting pride of place. While Bond has always had an eye for the ladies, in this film he actually falls in love and marries the lady of his dreams only for those dreams to be cruelly shattered. While we have a different actor on screen (George Lazenby) John Barry still rules the music and does so with panache. Given that love plays a major role in the plot it seems only fitting that the Bond song should be a love song rather than the usual Bombastic title song, and what a love song Barry gives us. "We Have All the Time in the World" seems to sum up falling in love, and memorably sung by Louis Armstrong, but the lyrics (penned by the late Hal David) are especially ironic given the outcome. There are some dreamy scenes for the happy couple often accompanied by instrumental versions of We Have All the Time in the World, and Barry writes an equally dreamy song about "Christmas Trees" since the scenes in Switzerland are set before Christmas. Despite the love scenes, the film also has plenty of action with some legendary ski chases expertly scored by Barry particularly "Escape From Piz Gloria" using a variation of "007". There are also some brief hints of earlier Bond movies, and a spinet is added to the orchestration of the James Bond theme. One of the very best Bond soundtracks.
With Diamonds are Forever (Bond no.7) the production team seem to want to return to the previous success of Goldfinger, using all the same ingredients but simply substituting Diamonds for Gold. Sean Connery returns to the title role, as does Shirley Bassey to sing the exquisite Title Song. Barry's introduction to "Diamonds are Forever" seems to sparkle too, one of the most recognisable song intros ever, and his incidental music also takes some interesting turns. Although everything fits the established form perfectly including instrumental versions of the theme song, Barry was also trying new ideas and his incidental music includes a short motto which recurs throughout the film usually ending with a downward glissando on flutes. A nice idea which gives the film its own unqiue sound, and seems particularly suited to the sleazy setting in Las Vegas, though the effect is perhaps overused in 60s/70s spy thrillers and Barry didn't retain it for later films.
The next two decades of Bond films represent a "middle period" with its own characteristics. On screen we had Roger Moore for the first 12 years of this period, with more overt comedy and more elaborate stunts. Naturally the music needed to follow these changes, but the Bond sound experienced its own set of changes. John Barry scored about half of the films from this period, but the other half saw other composers in the driving seat for a variety of reasons. Timothy Dalton assumed the lead role in "The Living Daylights" and then Pierce Brosnan became 007 in "Goldeneye" with the producers aiming to redefine the franchise with each change in lead actor. The other composers had varying degrees of success, so you could view this period as experimental or transitional, perhaps looking to update the Bond Sound for new younger audiences but at the same time not wanting to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Because of the frequent changes in composer and format it is not so easy to characterise this period but it consisted of:
Live and Let Die (no.8) was the first to feature Roger Moore in the title role. John Barry wasn't available because he was working on his musical Billy, so Beatles producer George Martin stepped into the breach. The title song by Paul and Linda McCartney certainly captures the feeling of Bond, and it has become as successful and iconic as the best of John Barry's songs. As demanded by tradition George Martin includes the title song and the Bond theme (in whole and in part) within the film, adding his own counter-melodies to the Theme, and including sufficient elements of the Bond sound to make this film seem a part of the same series. However there are many parts where the music is quite different, with Martin incorporating Latin, Jazz, African and Caribbean elements. Some of the action cues sound like 70s TV cop shows, but this seems entirely appropriate for those sections based in the US. As a whole the score works very well - one of the best non-Barry scores. It is different but we have a new Bond on the screen (Roger Moore) so it seems right to update the sound while still remaining true to the Bond traditions.
The Man With the Golden Gun (no.9) has John Barry back in the scoring seat but due to other commitments he had only 3 weeks to score it. Given those constraints this is a good effort. The theme song is OK but not one of the best, and Barry himself had reservations. Lulu certainly belts out the song in her own inimitable fashion but it doesn't quite gel, perhaps because her voice sounds too young and innocent for the suggestive lyrics (certainly in comparison to Shirley Bassey whose sultry voice seems to put lots of meaning into the words). On the plus side Barry creates several good instrumental variations on the theme song, the music for the location settings (particularly Thailand) seem appropriate, and the Bond theme, its variations and the underscore seem to work well.
The Spy Who Loved Me (Bond no.10) was scored by Marvin Hamlisch, an established hollywood composer and songwriter, since John Barry was unable to work in the UK for tax reasons. At the time Hamlisch was romantically attached to the singer and songwriter Carole Bayer Sager, and the couple wrote several songs together with Hamlisch as composer and Sager as lyricist. For The Spy Who Loved Me they wrote the Bond song "Nobody Does It Better" emphasising Bond's key charm with women. Unusually the title of the song is not the same as the title of the film, but the song includes the words "The Spy Who Loved Me" in its lyrics and the phrase "Nobody Does It Better" has become something of a catchphrase for Bond. The song was oscar-nominated and a big hit for singer Carly Simon. For the score Hamlisch includes an instrumental version of the song, and stays relatively true to the Bond Sound with variations on the Bond theme including the funky "Bond 77" apparently inspired by the disco sound of the Bee Gees. Listen carefully for 2 quotes from the music of Maurice Jarre: from "Doctor Zhivago" and "Lawrence of Arabia".
With Moonraker (no.11) the filmmakers seemed to want to return to tried and tested formula which had worked with previous films, however it seemed to go a little too over the top in several respects. John Barry had returned after the previous film had been scored by Marvin Hamlisch, and the music too seemed determined to stick to established formula with Shirley Bassey returning to sing the title song. The title song itself is quite different from the bombast and suggestive lyrics of Goldfinger and Diamonds are Forever. Instead it seems to get its inspiration from the romantic elements of You Only Live Twice. Barry uses strings just like the earlier theme and captures the weightlessness of space with a lighter more dreamy style of song. The Boat sequence is the last appearance of the "007" theme though played slower than before, and many sequences seem to be more relaxed in tempo adding to the overall dreamy effect. There is a disco instrumental version of the Title Song, a musical quotation from Elmer Bernstein's "The Magnificent Seven", the 5-note motif from John Williams's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", though perhaps things get a little silly when Jaws meets the love of his life to the romantic strains of Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Overture.
For Your Eyes Only (Bond no.12) was composed by Bill Conti with John Barry again unable to work in the UK for tax reasons. At the time Conti was best known for his music to the Rocky films and perhaps the filmmakers saw a connection with the bombastic music of the Rocky soundtracks. Nevertheless the key element of the film's soundtrack is the title song "For Your Eyes Only", which is one of the most romantic Bond songs and includes a distinctive downward leap in the melody which serves as a motto used sparingly throughout the score. Conti co-wrote the song with lyricist Michael Leeson, and Sheena Easton actually performs the song amid the traditional silhouettes of the opening titles. Conti clearly understands the Bond Sound and his score seems to fit the mould well and he includes a great instrumental version of the title song. Some of his action tracks are pure Bond, though other tracks seem to adopt the more funky style previously heard in Marvin Hamlisch's "The Spy Who Loved Me". There are some nice flugelhorn solos and Conti includes a brief hint of John Williams' Jaws theme.
Octopussy (Bond no.13) brings back John Barry as composer for his final run of 3 Bond films. It may be that Barry and the filmmakers recognised that Bond songs of a Romantic nature had been just as successful as the earlier style Bombastic songs. The Octopussy song with its Tim Rice lyrics sung by Rita Coolidge certainly fits into the romantic category, though "All Time High" is another example of a Bond song with a different title to the film. The song itself was reasonably successful as a single, though it doesn't quite hit the mark as a Bond song. Barry includes some lush string versions of the song in his score, and overall the composer seems to be more adventurous with his orchestrations in this film, particularly in some of the many romantic and suspense tracks. In fact the whole score seems quite laid back in tempo, with even the action tracks being taken at a slower pace than on other films. A solid backbone of brass still underpins the sound, but some of the Bond magic seems to be missing in this score.
A View to a Kill (no.14) is the last film starring Roger Moore and John Barry's penultimate Bond score. The song "A View to a Kill" was written by John Taylor of Duran Duran who got on very well with the composer, and Barry helped him to shape the song. Nevertheless the song is not a typical Bond song with its rock feel and disco-style bass. Some effort was therefore required to make the overall soundtrack gel. Barry took the basic rock song as performed by Duran Duran and added orchestral stabs and other embellishments to Bondify it. Barry also used the song's melody in some dreamy tracks with flute accompanied by harp and strings, and sometimes used short hints of the melody. The other thing that helps integrate the score is the use of a rock lead guitar, rather than Vic Flick's 60s guitar sound on the original theme. Overall the score works very well, and the title song was a hit in both the US and the UK. There are even some musical jokes when you hear the Beach Boys' California Girls as Bond "surfs" on one ski, and more subtly when the orchestra play "Dance into the Fire" when Bond is doing just that on screen.
The Living Daylights (Bond no.15) is Timothy Dalton's first outing as Bond. There is clearly a desire to move away from some of the comedy elements used during much of Roger Moore's era, and make the new Bond tough and gritty. Dalton certainly does this on screen, and John Barry toughens up his music for his final role as Bond composer. Barry worked with Norwegian band "a-ha", and particularly with their chief songwriter Paul Waaktaar, to create the title song "The Living Daylights". Reports suggest that there were some creative differences but the resulting song is a stylish take on the Bond sound, with some nice mood and chord changes and Barry adding strings and brass stabs for the soundtrack. There are also 2 songs performed by "The Pretenders" with lyrics by their lead singer "Chrissie Hynde" and music by John Barry. For the score Barry includes some great orchestral versions of the title song, and he also introduces an electonic percussion track synchronised with the orchestra, which is the first hint of the future trend which would be picked up by David Arnold a decade later. Certainly with "The Living Daylights" Barry bows out of Bond Music in epic style, a full 25 years after he helped to launch it.
For Licence to Kill (Bond no.16) Barry wasn't available for health reasons but he is also reported to have said that he was growing tired of Bond. The producers hired composer Michael Kamen who had created very successful action scores for "Die Hard" and "Lethal Weapon", and had a track record of successful collaborations with Rock artists such as on "Pink Floyd The Wall" and "Highlander" where he wove Queen's "Who Wants To Live Forever" into the score. The title song however was written for Gladys Night by Narada Michael Walden, Jeffrey Cohen and Walter Afanasieff, and fits well into the Bond mould and serves the film nicely. Michael Kamen was not involved in any of the film's main songs, but uses the Bond Theme and various Bondisms throughout the score. He is also happy to introduce several new elements including a Spanish guitar (which fits well with the Central American scenes) and castanets in the track "Pam". Unfortunately the soundtrack album seems to be missing significant parts of Kamen's score and his contribution is sometimes undervalued for this reason. Dalton delivers a gritty realism in his on-screen performance and Kamen's score is equally gritty and realistic. Musically and visually this is a much more serious Bond.
GoldenEye (Bond no.17) was the first film to feature Pierce Brosnan in the title role, and the producers were keen to take the opportunity to modernise the film franchise once more. For the music they chose composer Eric Serra who had scored a few distinctive French films. His previous film music had included a number of song tracks and some electronic elements, and the filmmakers were no doubt hoping that these skills would help to modernise Bond's music. The title song was written by Bono and The Edge and well delivered by Tina Turner whose vocals resemble those of Shirley Bassey at times. Although there are romantic moments with strings and some recurring themes, Serra's score uses a lot of electronic effects. Sometimes this worked well with the film giving an eerie atmosphere, and he created an unusual percussive version of the Bond Theme. However for many fans this was too much of a departure from the Bond Sound, with very little of the customary orchestral brass. The producers must have realised the music wasn't working well, since for the famous Tank Sequence they brought in composer John Altman to create a replacement cue. This is mentioned in part 8 of the James Bond's Greatest Hits documentary.
The 1970s and 1980s was a new golden age for cinema, with many new and inventive filmmakers developing new cinematic styles and techniques, and launching many highly successful film franchises. This meant far greater competition for the Bond films and, although Bond had a good reputation and retained a loyal core of fans, it struggled at times against this increasing competition. However in the late 90s and the naughties, Bond started to fight back to gradually reclaim its position as a major film force, with a format that could be moulded to keep its relevance in the modern world. With the exception of the latest Bond "Skyfall", David Arnold has scored all the Bond films for this period. So musically this represents a new period of relative stability for the Sound of Bond. Arnold is clearly a great admirer of John Barry's original sound and has used this as the basis of his own. Nevertheless Arnold also understands the film scoring techniques sought by filmmakers today, and he has a good understanding also of popular music production. He is therefore the perfect composer for the job. The key elements of this 3rd phase of the Bond Sound are:
Tomorrow Never Dies is the 18th main Bond film and David Arnold's first, and therefore his first attempt to establish what was to become the modern Bond sound. The film has a good song written by Sheryl Crow and Mitchell Froom, and the score hits the ground running with all the elements listed above fully in place. Particularly noticeable is the new style of action track. Although David Arnold's action tracks can seem "generic" at times (like those of many contemporary composers), he succeeds in "Bondifying" them with brief flashes of jazzy Brass or hints of the Bond theme. So in this way Arnold keeps a balance between the sounds typical of today and the long tradition of Bond film scores with their distinctive sound. The track "Backseat Driver" for the famous car chase, with Bond controlling his car from the back seat, was written and performed by David Arnold and Alex Gifford of Propellerheads. There's a version of the James Bond Theme by Moby, and another song "Surrender" written by Arnold, with David McAlmont and Don Black, and sung by k.d. lang.
The World is Not Enough (no.19) is David Arnold's second Bond film, and the composer shows that he is a traditionalist at heart by going again to Don Black for the lyrics to the title song. Black had previously worked with John Barry on Thunderball, Diamonds are Forever, and The Man with the Golden Gun, and with Arnold on the song "Surrender" used in "Tomorrow Never Dies" so he knew what was required of a Bond Song. Arnold and Black sketched out the song and went to Shirley Manson of Garbage, who made some small tweaks before it was performed by Garbage. The song was very successful, smoldering during the verse and rising in Bond style for the chorus with an accompaniment dominated by the orchestra but including layers of Garbage's playing and electronics. For the film score Arnold expands his style of percussive action tracks used on Tomorrow Never Dies with some great Bondisms, and he includes hints of the Title song within the score. Some of the action tracks seem to change gear into pure Techno at certain times, and in the End Titles the Bond Theme does the same before reverting into a more familar form.
Die Another Day (Bond no.20) has a Title song from Madonna, which on paper seems like a great choice since she is one of the world's most successful recording artists, and Madonna was also given a cameo role in the film in recognition of her status. Unfortunately her song "Die Another Day" doesn't hit the mark, and seems over-processed in terms of electronic effects. In contrast David Arnold's score works fine with a wide range of moods and some different arrangements of the James Bond Theme. Interestingly Arnold also uses electronic processing in his tracks, but this supports broad melodic lines which seems to be much more Bond-like than their use on Madonna's song. Arnold's range of moods includes some choral music for the space scenes, a nice Latin track for the scenes set in Cuba (morphing into the Bond theme), and even some romantic music for the relationship with Halle Berry's character Jinx (cleverly suggesting "You Only Live Twice").
Casino Royale is the 21st in the main line of Bond films, but you can also view it as the first in a new series because it is a reboot of the entire series, effectively an "origins" film showing how James Bond earned his license to kill to become 007. Musically it deviates from David Arnold's new Bond Sound since it doesn't fit the pattern completely, but it does very effectively support the reboot concept by establishing the pattern for the new series. The title song "You Know My Name" is not the most memorable song of the series, but it provides some melodic material used frequently in small doses throughout the score. The action cues have the same David Arnold style as his earlier movies, except they avoid any overt references to the theme. However there are stylistic similarities and subtle hints of the theme with some clear musical Bondisms, but the Bond Theme itself is saved for the score's climax. It says that Bond has arrived in this prequel and we can look forward to new adventures with the rebooted character in films to come.
Quantum of Solace is the 22nd Bond film and David Arnold's 5th Bond score. The song for "Quantum of Solace" is called "Another Way to Die", written by Jack White who performs it on the soundtrack as a duet with Alicia Keys. Although White has clearly added some Bond characteristics to the song, the result is not particularly memorable as a Bond Song. The film's plot and Arnold's score do indeed seem to follow on from Casino Royale. Again the Bond theme is only used in the briefest of hints for most of the film, and makes a definitive appearance at the end accompanying a new version of the gunbarrel sequence. In this instance the director Marc Forster asked Arnold to write the music before seeing the film, based on his impressions from the script. Forster then edited the resulting tracks into the film. This approach seems to have worked very well with a strong score by Arnold, often dark and moody, and including some Latin elements in keeping with the Bolivian setting. The score seemingly looks to a range a film genres and employs various techniques (including some nice sound design elements) which seems to work well as a Bond film despite the fact that the Bond signature sounds are quite rare and often quite subtle in nature.
After a gap of a few years, allowing Skyfall to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Dr. No, Daniel Craig returns to play James Bond for the third time. The filmmakers have decided to largely put the "reboot" concept on the backburner for a story with a strong focus on "M" played by Judi Dench. David Arnold was not available to score Skyfall, since he was committed to his role as musical director for the London 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony and the Paralympics. Instead the composer role for Bond no.23 has gone to Thomas Newman who had worked with director Sam Mendes on several successful films (including American Beauty), and with Adele contributing the Title Song. Newman's approach to most scores has always tended to subtlety and that has continued on Skyfall, though with plenty of action sequences demanding uptempo tracks. Newman's use of the James Bond Theme seems minimal, but those places where it is used work very well in the film with associations to iconic Bond symbols. For some strange reason (probably related to sales revenue), Adele's title song is not included on the soundtrack album, but Newman has one track which references the song in instrumental form.
"Skyfall" was then followed by Spectre with the same principle cast (with the exception of Judi Dench being replaced by Ralph Fiennes as "M") and crew returning to work on the new film. In particular Sam Mendes returned to the Director's chair and Thomas Newman once again took up film scoring duties. Newman's approach to the score was broadly as per the previous film with his trademark instrumental quirkiness blending with the high octane demands of an action score. Indeed some elements from Skyfall have been re-used and further developed in Spectre. If anything, Newman's use of motives from the James Bond theme has become more obvious in the new film and this seems to be in keeping with the film's return to traditional Bond values. The title song for Spectre is called "Writing's On The Wall" sung by Sam Smith, and written by Smith with Jimmy Napes. Th song itself is less bombastic than Skyfall but it works very well with the film's title sequence.
With Sam Mendes and Thomas Newman leaving the franchise, a new director (Cary Joji Fukunaga) came in. The first composer assigned to Bond 25 left due to creative differences and Hans Zimmer was then appointed and the film's title confirmed as No Time to Die. The film's theatrical release was significantly postponed due to the Covid pandemic, and it wasn't until September 2021 that it was eventually released. With this being Daniel Craig's final film in the role of Bond, the film aimed to wrap up the story arc of his portrayal. Zimmer is well-known as a composer experienced in action scoring with many bombastic movie scores in his CV, so he seems like a reasonable fit for the role. He has certainly delivered all that was expected of him in these terms, and his inclusion of many hints from the James Bond Theme (and its "vamp" in particular) has pleased fans. As is fairly traditional, the score also includes elements of the Billie Eilish "No Time to Die" Theme Song. The further use of quotes from "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" and "We Have All the Time in the World" in particular are the icing on the cake for this score.
The 1967 film Casino Royale was never intended to be a "Bond film" as we understand the term. It is more of a light comedy spoof with David Niven playing James Bond and Woody Allen playing Jimmy Bond, and it includes several in-jokes such as the original Bond girl Ursula Andress. The film was only able to be made because Cubby Broccoli's film rights excluded Ian Fleming's first Bond novel. Composer and now legendary Song-writer Burt Bacharach supplied some underscore and a number of songs including "The Look of Love" and "Have no Fear, Bond is Here" both with lyrics by his main song-writing partner Hal David. Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass also perform a version of "The Look of Love" and the title track "Casino Royale Theme" which is repeated at various points. Since the film treats Bond in a completely different way to other Bond films no-one would expect the music to conform to the Bond Sound, and the album is a good stand-alone collection of tracks with a fun 60s feel. Certainly the music seems to have inspired Mike Myers' Austin Powers films which also included Dusty Springfield singing "The Look of Love", and Burt Bacharach made cameo appearances in all three Austin Powers movies.
The title of "Never Say Never Again" is not one of Ian Fleming's stories but a reference to Sean Connery saying he would never again play the role of James Bond. The 1983 film was able to be made because one of the original co-writers of "Thunderball" retained rights to the story, so the film was essentially an alternative version of Thunderball. However the independent company who made it had no rights to the James Bond Theme or any other music belonging to the film series. Michel Legrand was brought in to provide the film score. Although Legrand's background included experience in jazz and song-writing (like John Barry), the score is completely different to the rest of the Bond series. Viewed as a stand-alone film the score is functional, but to anyone familiar with the other Bond films (which includes most people!) the music just seems wrong. The title song "Never Say Never Again" was co-written with acclaimed lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman with whom Legrand had worked on his oscar-winning song "The Windmills of you Mind" from "The Thomas Crown Affair" and musical "Yentl" starring Barbra Streisand. The title song works in a Burt Bacharach sort of way with Herb Alpert even playing the Trumpet solo, and "Bond Back in Action" certainly introduces Bond in percussion-heavy style, though a lot of the soundtrack consists of stand-alone instrumental numbers in a range of styles. From the rest of the score classical fans will certain enjoy Legrand's pastiche of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring in "Plunder of a Nuclear Missile" and other tracks.
Spy thrillers in general and James Bond in particular have had a distinct influence on our culture, and the style of James Bond Music has certainly entered the popular consciousness. We mentioned the Austin Powers films above which have fun with the James Bond concept, with the Dr. Evil character clearly modelled on Blofeld. However the music of the Austin Powers series is much closer to the swinging 60s and the cameo appearances by Burt Bacharach suggest a musical influence from the comedy film "Casino Royale". The most recognisable track in the Austin Powers films is Quincy Jones' psychedelic "Soul Bossa Nova" and Jones also makes a cameo in the 3rd Austin Powers film "Goldmember". To hear the influence of the true Bond sound you should look towards a series of television adverts starting in the 1960s with "Milk Tray". This had a Bond-like character risking life and limb to deliver chocolates to a woman ending on the catchphrase "all because the lady loves Milk Tray". The music for the advert was composed by Cliff Adams and here is a youtube video from the 1970s showing one of the many ads from the series. Another advert in a similar vein was for "Black Magic" though this series of ads was shorter lived. The Black Magic adverts had music by Christopher Gunning and here is a youtube video of one of these.
Other television spy series emerged in the 60s and 70s with their own feel, and often these had distinctive jazz tracks. Lalo Schifrin composed the memorable theme for "Mission Impossible" and Jerry Goldsmith composed the theme for "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." with both these themes curiously having 5 beats in the bar. Lalo Schifrin was also the composer for the 60s spy film called "The Liquidator". The title song for this movie was so closely modelled on the James Bond concept that they even got Shirley Bassey to sing it in her familiar "Goldfinger" voice. Here is a youtube video of Shirley Bassey introducing and singing The Liquidator at a live show, though Schifrin avoided the Bond sound in the filmscore. More recently we have now seen two "Johnny English" films with Rowan Atkinson playing a completely inept special agent. For the first film Edward Shearmur did a wonderful pastiche of John Barry's James Bond sound complete with 60s guitar sound - here is a youtube compilation from the film. For the film soundtrack they even got the all-female string quartet called "Bond" to play the title theme composed by Ed Shearmur and Howard Goodall. The soundtrack also featured Robby Williams performing his own lyrics for "A Man for All Seasons" with music by Hans Zimmer. For the sequel "Johnny English Reborn", composer Ilan Eshkeri creates some variations on the main theme from the first movie, and here is his version of the main theme on youtube.
Other films to lean heavily on the Bond Sound are films like The Incredibles and Incredibles 2 both scored by Michael Giacchino, and Kingsman: The Secret Service scored by Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson. In the late 1990s, the concept of video games as film tie-ins began to emerge. From a James Bond perspective, video game tie-ins started with "Goldeneye" and, being part of the overall Bond franchise, these used the James Bond Theme.
In no particular order, here are a few items of trivia associated with the music of James Bond and the people who have created it.
Here are the score composers for all the Bond films to date in order of their release. We've numbered the main films 01 to 23 and also included the "alternative" Bond films "Casino Royale (1967)" and "Never Say Never Again" as A1 and A2 respectively since both these films were made by different groups outside of the main franchise.
The Bond Song is a vital part of the overall package, and more often than not the Song has the same Title as the film, or includes the film's title within its lyrics. We have listed the title or main songs of all the Bond films below, with composers, lyricists and performers, but several films have other secondary songs used to accompany the End Titles or as source music in the middle of the film. Notable additional songs include "Underneath the Mango Tree" from "Dr. No", "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" from "Thunderball", and "Do You Know How Christmas Trees are Grown" from "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". Many Bond Songs have done very well in the music charts, but others have failed to hit the mark. The older mainstream soundtracks were re-released on CD in 2003:
Many of the older James Bond soundtracks were originally released on vinyl, but these have all since been remastered and re-issued on CD, and usually including additional bonus tracks. So if you're looking for the older Bond albums we recommend you seek out the CDs which say "James Bond 007 Remastered" near the spine at the front, and on the back have a line drawing in blue and black of the 007 logo with "Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" along the top. The bonus tracks are always added after the previously released tracks, so the tracks are not in the same order as the film. We believe that the following links are for the most complete official versions of each soundtrack generally available:
Some other collections of Bond songs and themes:
And some alternative spy albums:
Here are various links associated with James Bond music on the mfiles web-site, including score composer biographies and soundtracks reviews.
Here are a selection of external links to sites associated with the music of the James Bond films.
Although we've included a lot of information in this article, in many ways this is just a brief summary of a very complex and yet fascinating story about the music of James Bond. A definitive book by Jon Burlingame has been released to commemorate Bond's 50th anniversary. Jon Burlingame is a well-known film music historian and highly respected author, and regular contributor of articles about film music for Variety Magazine. Burlingame has researched his subject well, and the book goes into much more detail about the composers, the artists, the lawsuits, and the songs, including some songs that never made it onto a Bond film. The book is positively brimming with anecdotes and lavishly illustrated with lots of photos. It is called "The Music of James Bond" and is available from these links at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.
Here are some James Bond soundtrack CD covers signed by the relevant composer. Our thanks to Petr Kocanda for permission to use his collection of autographed CDs. Click any thumbnail below to see the image full size in a separate window.
As a boy in the 1960s I was in the lucky position that my parents had different tastes in film. So my father took me to the cinema to see all the James Bond films and my mother took me to see all the film musicals. Needless to say the music of those films made an indelible impression on me and kick-started a fondness for soundtracks of all types. In those days film theatres sometimes showed "double bills" with two feature length films in a single programme, and my first taste of Bond was a double bill consisting of Goldfinger plus Thunderball! I was hooked and it wasn't too long before I had acquired tapes/CDs and sheet music of Bond theme and songs.