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The best James Bond themes that never made it to the screen
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Daniel Craig as James Bond
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The James Bond movie theme tunes have become an indelible part of pop music culture.

Almost from the get-go, with Sean Connery’s industry-creating turn as the suave secret agent in Dr No, the Bond films’ producers hit upon a formula as long-lasting as the secret agent himself.

While each official Eon Productions Bond film has featured the characteristic theme tune by Monty Norman – you’re humming it now – they have also featured a secret weapon, one which makes each film as distinct as the villain the vodka-martini-sipping spy has to despatch: the theme song.

It’s impossible to think of Live And Let Die (1973) without Wings’ apocalyptic slice of rock opera, or A View To A Kill (1985) without Duran Duran’s grandiose theme song. And that’s before we even consider Shirley Bassey’s masterclasses of cinematic unsubtlety with Goldfinger.

So, spare a thought for those well-known artists who penned a Bond theme hoping for immortality, only for it to be rejected on the casting couch. As Billie Eilish prepares to unleash her Bond theme No Time To Die at the Brit Awards, BBC Music looks back at some of the Bond themes that might have been…

Johnny Cash, Thunderball

Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash

Film:Thunderball (1965)
Lost to: Tom Jones
Better than the chosen theme? Tied
Most Bond-like lyric:
Somewhere, there is a man who could stop the thing in time/ He is known by very few but he’s feared by all in crime

“Thunderball, your fiery breath can burn the coldest man!” intones The Man in Black, in a manner both outrageously camp and as stony faced as an Easter Island statue. Lyrically, Cash’s failed Bond theme follows the film’s plot faithfully – coastal city menaced by a ship containing a giant bomb – in a cinematic country style full of whooping backing vocals and booming brass. Tom Jones, of course, may have recorded the actual theme, but Cash’s effort is a champion among failures.

Alice Cooper, The Man With The Golden Gun

Alice Cooper speaks to Elizabeth Alker

Alice Cooper speaks to Elizabeth Alker

Film:The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
Lost to: Lulu
Better than the chosen theme? No
Most Bond-like lyric:
The man with the golden/Gun in his pocket/ The man with the golden/ Gun in your face

In an alternate universe, Alice Cooper could have been a perfect Bond villain – or at the very least, a scene-stealing henchman (secret weapon – a flame-throwing guitar, perhaps?). And in another alternate universe, it would have been him singing the theme to the 1974 Roger Moore film. This restrained glam-rock offcut certainly isn’t one of Cooper’s cast iron classics, and also suffers from virtually no relation to the actual film apart from the title. Less a classy cocktail lounge, more a dive bar at 2am with The Sweet on the jukebox.

Blondie, For Your Eyes Only

Blondie

Blondie

Film: For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Lost to: Sheena Easton
Better than the chosen theme? No
Most Bond-like lyric:
We both have our orders/ And a trick up the sleeve

You might have been forgiven for thinking that this track, on Blondie’s last studio album before they split for 17 years, was one of those great pop coincidences, coming just a year after Sheena Easton’s theme for the Roger Moore-starring film. But coincidence it was not. The song had originally been earmarked as the theme, but at the 11th hour the producers plumped for Sheena Easton instead. Blondie’s stab at Bond Universe immortality came to nothing.

Pet Shop Boys, Theme For James Bond #1

Janice catches up with her old friends Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe.

Janice catches up with her old friends Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe.

Film:The Living Daylights (1987)
Lost to: A-ha
Better than the chosen theme? Yes
Most Bond-like lyric:
Like the taciturn Chis Lowe, there are no lyrics

The song that eventually became This Must Be The Place I Waited Years To Leave from the PSB’s 1990 album Behaviour, was originally earmarked for Timothy Dalton’s debut as Bond – the producers had been impressed with the chart success of Duran Duran’s A View To A Kill a few years before. The choice eventually went to Norwegian pop trio A-ha, but the finished track from the “banger-crafting loveable uncles”, as BBC Culture calls them, is the very essence of the duo’s suburban ennui. a tale of rain-soaked misery at some nameless English school. It doesn’t take much to imagine this with swelling strings instead of synths in the background, its strangely Soviet grandeur just waiting to be unleashed.

Ace of Base, The Goldeneye

Ace of Base on /music

Ace of Base on /music

Film:GoldenEye (1995)
Lost to: Tina Turner
Better than the chosen theme? Neither better nor worse
Most Bond-like lyric:
The world will take us to the end/ Tomorrow's foe is now a friend

If you’ve ever wondered what a Bond theme as sung by Swedish Eurodance outfit Ace of Base might have sounded like… well, wonder no more. The band were sounded out for a possible Bond Theme for Pierce Brosnan’s 1995 Bond debut GoldenEye. A demo was recorded but then passed over in favour of Tina Turner’s offering, which had been written by U2’s Bono and The Edge. The track – you can hear the demo here – ended up becoming the track The Juvenile on their 2002 album Da Capo.

Pulp, Tomorrow Never Lies

Pulp at Glastonbury 1995

Pulp at Glastonbury 1995

For:Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Lost to:
Sheryl Crow
Better than the chosen theme? Yes
Most Bond-like lyric:
The city streets are littered/ With the casualties/ The could haves/ The should haves/ And the would’ve beens

When the producers were looking for a song for Pierce Brosnan’s Tomorrow Never Dies, they were particularly proactive, asking several bands to contribute. One on the longlist was Pulp, the Britpop band who had become national treasure in the UK thanks to 1995’s Common People. In true Bond-ticking-timer tradition, apparently, they didn’t have much time to do it, either

“It was weird. They set up a kind of American Idol situation, where they asked about nine different artists to come up with a Bond song,” frontman Jarvis Cocker told Time Out. They listen to nine different attempts of working “tomorrow never dies” into a lyric. We were told on a Wednesday that the deadline was Friday. Consequently, I was really pissed off when they went with Sheryl Crow instead.”

Muse, Supremacy

Another chance to hear Jo Whiley present Muse recorded live in concert.

Another chance to hear Jo Whiley present Muse recorded live in concert.

For:Skyfall (2012)
Lost to: Adele
Better than the chosen theme? Yes in bombast, no in actual tune
Most Bond-like lyric:
You don’t have long/ I am on to you/ The time it has come to destroy/ Your supremacy

Team Bond didn’t ask, but Muse might have been offering it anyway. In a 2012 interview with the BBC, the band’s drummer Dom Howard laughed off the thought of their histrionic rock opera gracing the titles. But was he really joking? "It's got a little whisper to the Bond vibe – it all goes a bit crazy Live and Let Die in the middle. My view is they should use it for the next James Bond film, but I don't know what's going on with that. I heard Adele was doing it!"

Radiohead, Spectre

Radiohead

Radiohead

For: Spectre (2015)
Lost to: Sam Smith
Better than the chosen theme? Yes
Most Bond-like lyric:
The only truth that I could see/ Is when you put your lips to me

Radiohead seem like the both the least likely band to hook themselves to the Bond trailer and the most natural: their bookish, literate take on rock more suited to arthouse productions than the bang-crash-explosion thrills and spills of Team Bond, yet containing within their ranks one of the best soundtrack composers working today.

This five-minute epic combines classy Jonny Greenwood classical chops with Thom Yorke’s voice at its most haunting, and a brass-and-string backing that sways like a drunken orchestra on a stormy sea. The band recorded it around the session for their 2016 album A Moon Shaped Pool; the Bond team decided, in the end, it was too dark. Though given the end result - Spectre’s opening sequence is a decidedly creepy affair, with Kraken-like octopuses and Mexican death masks – this was never going to be a job for the likes of Katy Perry.

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