Licence Denied: The Bond Themes You Didn't Get To Hear

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It's official: Sam Smith has nabbed the theme song for the 24th James Bond film, and Spectre's titles will roll to his 'Writing's On The Wall'. The smart money was on Radiohead or Ellie Goulding, but the smart money, it turns out, isn't always that clever (Radiohead revealed their rejected submission in December, 2015). But as a quantum of solace for Ellie and Thom, here are a dozen other Bond themes we never got to hear - at least in the context they were originally intended.


Johnny Cash (1965)

Tom Jones ended up with the iconic fourth Bond theme, but it was a last-minute decision and other submissions were considered. Country legend Johnny Cash didn't make the cut, for reasons lost to the archives of Eon Productions. But you'd have to assume it's because it sounds much more suitable for a Western than a Bond movie.


Dione Warwick (1965)

Also abandoned for Thunderball was this collaboration between composer John Barry and R&B diva Dionne Warwick, 'Mr Kiss-Kiss Bang-Bang'. Choicest lyric: "Like a shark he looks for trouble / That's why the zero-double". It wasn't ditched to quite the extent of the Johnny Cash track, however. Its melodies and even its title were recycled within Barry's score.

You Only Live Twice

Lorraine Chandler (1967)

Hitting on the final version of Bond 5's theme took a while. This early attempt at the song that would ultimately belong to Nancy Sinatra has similar words, but a completely different tune and arrangement. John Barry and lyricist Leslie Bricusse considered it a demo, but soul singer Chandler was under the impression it was finished.

You Only Live Twice

Julie Rogers (1966)

Another early version, even heavier on the oriental vibe and sharing only the title and the lyric "you'll pay the price" with the final cut. "It was usually the producers that said, 'This isn't working; there's a certain something that it needed,'" said John Barry of the trial-and-error process. "If that energy wasn't there, if that mysterious kind of thing wasn't there, then it wasn't going to work for the movie."

The Man With the Golden Gun

Alice Cooper (1974)

A fan of the Ian Fleming novels since childhood ("There was a lot of sex in those books!" he enthused in his autobiography), shock-rocker Alice Cooper seized the chance for a shot at Bond (with, bizarrely, Liza Minnelli on backing vocals), but ultimately lost out to Lulu's string of double entendres. "Ours was a car chase; you could picture what was happening," Cooper later recalled. "When we listened back to our version, everybody in the music business went, 'Aww, that's so dead on!' [The producers] said it was great and thanked us... and then they picked Lulu's, which was just nothing! I heard it and said, 'They picked that?'" It ended up on the seventh Alice Cooper album, 'Muscle Of Love'.

For Your Eyes Only

Blondie (1981)

As one of the hottest acts around at the time, Blondie were an obvious choice for For Your Eyes Only, but it soon became clear that the producers only really wanted Debbie Harry. "They just wanted me to play on their track," she explained. "To use the name Blondie, Blondie has to play. We wrote our own version and submitted it." Composer Bill Conti was unimpressed. He wanted a collaboration between Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer. He got Sheena Easton. The Blondie song found a home on their 1982 album 'The Hunter'.


Ace Of Base (1995)

Enjoying a time in the international sun with number one hit 'All That She Wants', Swedish popsters Ace Of Base began work on a GoldenEye theme, only to have the idea nixed by their American record label Arista. Hard to remember now, but Bond was on his uppers after a six-year hiatus, with no guarantee that GoldenEye would be a success. Arista simply thought Bond wasn't big enough for Ace Of Base. 'The GoldenEye' was reworked as 'The Juvenile' (the above version with the original lyrics is a demo) for the band's 2002 album 'Da Capo'. GoldenEye reached the screen with a more traditional Bassey-ish theme by Bono and The Edge, performed by Tina Turner.

Tomorrow Never Dies

Pulp (1997)

MGM opened up Tomorrow Never Dies for submissions, leading to an unprecedented scrum for the theme song. Sheryl Crow eventually won out. k.d. Lang had her song (composed with David Arnold) retitled 'Surrender' and used on the end credits. But there were others, among them this, by indie darlings Pulp, which you'd have to assume Jarvis Cocker submitted for a laugh. Undeterred, Pulp covered the Octopussy theme 'All Time High' for David Arnold's 'Shaken And Stirred' project instead. Cocker also programmed a night of John Barry music at the Royal Festival Hall when he curated Meltdown in 2007. 'Tomorrow Never Dies' ended up as the B-side to 'Help The Aged'.

Tomorrow Never Dies

Swan Lee (1997)

Then there was this, by Danish band Swan Lee, who were reportedly rejected for not being famous enough (the opposite of the Ace Of Base situation, just a single film later). Hard luck, Swan Lee. They put the song on their 2001 album 'Enter', and it also showed up in the Hitman videogame Blood Money in 2006.

Tomorrow Never Dies

St Etienne (1997)

And still with Tomorrow Never Dies, here's Croydon's indie-dance sensations Saint Etienne. "We thought we had it in the bag!" recalled the band's Sarah Cracknell. "Little did we know there were about a dozen other people presenting songs. We tried our hardest. We were rejected! But I have heard that someone else, who shall remain nameless, has got his rejection letter framed. Afterwards there were loads of bands that suddenly had B-sides called 'Tomorrow Never Lies' or 'Tomorrow Never Flies'..." According to Saint Etienne's own CD liner notes, this was Pierce Brosnan's personal favourite of the whole lot.

The World Is Not Enough

Straw (1999)

David Arnold finally scored a majestic Bond theme in collaboration with Garbage for The World Is Not Enough. Poor Straw didn't stand a chance. The short-lived Bristol Britpop band were, like Ace Of Base, signed to Arista, but the label, at this point, would surely have been delighted if they'd landed something with a profile as high as this. It wasn't to be, and Straw's version became a track on their EP 'Soundtrack To The Summer'. At least it was the soundtrack to something.

Quantum of Solace

Shirley Bassey (2008)

Another David Arnold composition and, to be clear, one he insists was never a rejected Bond theme. But c'mon: its opening strings are recognisably from Arnold's Quantum Of Solace score; the most famous Bond diva of them all sings it; and it has the word "solace" in the lyrics. We call shenanigans, but Arnold says 'No Good About Goodbye' is just an homage that he was tinkering, but nowhere near finished with, by the time Jack White and Alicia Keyes found 'Another Way To Die'. It's on Dame Shirley's 2009 album 'The Performance'.