60 Years of James Bond Theme Songs: Part 001 of 007

(AP Photo, File)

I’ve been a fan of the James Bond movies for as long as I can remember. TBS Superstation used to show them often, and that’s where I became a fan. I’ve seen all 25 of them — yes, even the Timothy Dalton ones — multiple times, and I still enjoy the ones I’ve watched over and over.

This year marks 60 years since the debut of Dr. No, the first film in the series, and it’s worth remembering the highs and lows of such a terrific movie franchise.

Yesterday my esteemed PJ Media colleague VodkaPundit debuted his series ranking the Bond movies, and I’m starting a companion series on one of the most important aspects of the series: the theme songs.

Before I launch, Casey Kasem style, into my countdown of all of the Bond themes, I want to highlight the two films that don’t have theme songs per se.

Dr. No (1962)

Since Dr. No was the first film in the series, it stands to reason that the producers didn’t have all of the elements that fans would associate with the series in place. That includes the iconic opening credit sequences — and exciting theme songs.

For Dr. No, the credit sequence does feature Monty Norman’s unforgettable instrumental “James Bond Theme” while patterns of dots fill the screen. That theme changes over to a calypso beat while silhouetted dancers come on and off the screen.

Norman established the patterns that John Barry and other composers would emulate throughout the series: music that moves the action along, sets the stage for drama, and combines contemporary music with traditional orchestral scoring. It’s an unforgettable combination.

Even though Dr. No doesn’t have a theme song, Norman put some terrific songs on the soundtrack. Since the movie takes place in Jamaica, the soundtrack captures the time when calypso was beginning to modernize and change into rocksteady (one of my favorite genres of music) and ska.

Byron Lee and the Dragonaires appear in the film, performing “Jump Up” in the nightclub scene along with “Kingston Calypso,” the “Three Blind Mice” parody that establishes the plot.

Diana Coupland, Norman’s wife at the time, sings “Under the Mango Tree” for Ursula Andress, who played Honey Ryder. We even get to hear Sean Connery sing “Under the Mango Tree” himself a little bit.

Dr. No went a long way in establishing what we expect from the music in the James Bond series, and the ensuing films built on the standard that Monty Norman set.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

Plenty of things changed right before On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Sean Connery was out as 007 — though he would come back for one more go at the character. George Lazenby does a serviceable job as Bond in his one shot at the character. James Bond would fall in love in this outing and marry, but let’s face it: what red-blooded man wouldn’t fall for the radiant Diana Rigg?

Composer John Barry and director Peter R. Hunt wouldn’t have a title song for OHMSS either. It wasn’t for lack of trying; Leslie Bricusse tried to come up with something, but the phrase “on Her Majesty’s Secret Service” just doesn’t translate well as a song lyric. Barry also feared that a song with that title would have to sound operatic to work.

So OHMSS proceeded with an instrumental theme. But to “fast forward” the sequence where Bond and Rigg’s Tracy di Vicenzo date, grow closer, and fall in love, Barry introduced one of the best songs in the series. “We Have All the Time in the World” featured Louis Armstrong in the last song the great Satchmo ever recorded (he was reportedly so weak that he couldn’t play trumpet on the solo).

Since OHMSS takes place at Christmastime, earning a place on my list of alternative Christmas movies, the film also includes the only Bond Christmas song, “Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown?” Didn’t I tell you some things were different in this movie?

Stay tuned as I count down the Bond theme songs from worst to first, because…



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