Shaken, Not Stirred

I often call for the arrest and prosecution of the bods in MI5, MI6, et al. because they are complicit in the fascist madness that’s happening in the West. It ain’t like James Bond, folks; talking of which, in a literary sense, Ian Fleming was a very good writer and his Bond books are much more gritty and emotional than the films that followed them. The Bond movie franchise is good entertainment, though, with some excellent music; so, by way of pure indulgence here’s my five favourite Bond theme songs, starting with The Spy Who Loved Me. The book was published in 1962 and was the tenth of Fleming’s Bond series. It got the worst reviews of any of the Bond books, mostly because The Spy Who Loved Me completely departed from the more standard thriller format that Fleming had used in the previous books. It is the shortest and most sexually explicit of the Bond series. The story is told in the first person by a young woman, and Bond does not put in an appearance until two thirds of the way through the book. The Spy Who Loved Me movie was released in 1977 and used nothing from the book except the title. The theme song is called ‘Nobody Does It Better’, sung by Carly Simon. Here she is performing it at Martha’s Vineyard in 1987…

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was published in 1963 and is the eleventh Bond book. It’s the middle part of the ‘Blofeld trilogy’ and sold in huge numbers. It was as though Fleming tried to make up for the previous year’s flop, The Spy Who Loved Me. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service contains some surprises, in that Bond falls in love and gets married, and on the very last page of the book his bride is murdered. The movie was released in 1969 and is one of the few that sticks very close to Fleming’s original plot. The theme song is ‘We Have All the Time in the World’, sung by Louis Armstrong (‘We Have All the Time in the World’ is the title of the last chapter in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)…

Published in 1964, You Only Live Twice is the twelfth Bond book and final part of the ‘Blofeld trilogy’. The book holds the distinction of being the last novel by Fleming to be published in his lifetime, with subsequent works published posthumously (ie, bits and pieces shackled together to make money off the Bond brand). You Only Live Twice is another unusual one, in that it deals with Bond’s grief over the murder of his wife, a bout of amnesia which results in Bond living humbly in a Japanese fishing village, and a final showdown with Blofeld in the ‘Garden of Death’. The movie was released in 1967 and discarded most of Fleming’s plot, using only a few characters and locations from the book as the background for an entirely new story. This is a pity, because You Only Live Twice is a brilliant book and could have been adapted into an equally brilliant film. Incidentally, it’s obvious – or so it seems to me – that the writers of these theme songs were just as inspired by Fleming’s original plots as they were by the often very different movie story lines. Frank Sinatra was originally going to sing the You Only Live Twice theme, but Frank then bowed out and his daughter Nancy took on the job…

I’ve just noticed that quite by chance my first three movie theme picks are based on Bond books that were published concurrently, and they are the final ones of the series. Live and Let Die, on the otherhand, is the second Bond book and was published in 1954. It’s a tale of American gangsters and smuggling, mixed in with the Cold War and the Soviet secret service. Fleming’s development as a writer can be seen by comparing the early books like Live and Let Die, which have a cartoonish feel to them, to the emotional sophistication of the final books, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice. The Live and Let Die movie was released in 1973, and it did keep a lot of elements of Fleming’s original plot. George Martin wrote the score for the film, and the theme song was written by Paul and Linda McCartney. The Live and Let Die song did very well in the charts, and was the first real rock song to be used as a Bond theme…

Goldfinger is the eighth of the Bond books and was published in 1959. The story is about a gold smuggler called Auric Goldfinger and his plan to rob the bullion reserves at Fort Knox, with the evil Soviets thrown into the mix, of course. The book contains some notable characters, such as a lesbian gangster leader called Pussy Galore, and a psychotic Korean bodyguard called Oddjob. Goldfinger is a notable turning point from the earlier cartoonish feel of the Bond books, as Fleming gives more depth to the characters and their situations. The movie was released in 1964 and kept a lot of the original plot. It was the first Bond movie to have a lengthy opening title sequence. The theme song was sung by Shirley Bassey, and she did such a good job of it that she got the gig on two later Bond movies…

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