Your Daily Dose of Christmas!

OK, let’s go down a geeky rabbit hole! Today I’m posting a Christmas selection, if I can find one, from every singer who has ever performed the theme song to a James Bond movie!

We’ll start with the glorious Shirley Bassey (Goldfinger, Diamonds are Forever, Moonraker), who doesn’t mess around! No buildup at all. She knows what people want to hear from her, and she gets right down to work.

Next, a pretty song is given a 70s vibe. Here’s Matt Monro (From Russia With Love). But this reminds me of a story: I was with my parents on one of our many roadtrips from the Southern Tier to Buffalo (I don’t recall if this was high school or during college, obviously before I got married), and at the time they discovered a wonderful AM station out of Canada that played old vocal music from the mid-20th century. It’s the stuff that’s often filed away as “Easy Listening”, which is a label that seems dismissive to me…but anyway, a song came, and my parents loved the voice of the guy singing but they couldn’t place who it was. Then I said, from the back seat, “I think that sounds like Matt Monro.” My parents were astonished that I even knew who Matt Monro was, much less that I’d recognize his voice, but then the song ended and the radio announcer confirmed Mr. Monro as the singer. Mom asked how in the hell I knew that was Matt Monro (she may have even phrased it precisely that way), and I replied, “He sang the song from From Russia With Love, and I know it by heart.” So that was cool.

Interestingly, that song seems to have also been recorded a number of times by our next singer…but we’ll present something else. Here’s Tom Jones, keeping it a bit more low-key than the vocal fireworks he had to summon up to do Thunderball:

Next up is Nancy Sinatra (You Only Live Twice). This is from an album Ms. Sinatra released in 2013, nearly 50 years after she sang for Bond in 1967. That’s longevity! This is a nicely effective version of this song, by the way.

Now we come to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, whose theme song is instrumental…but the film also features Louis Armstrong with “We Have All the Time In the World”, so here’s Satchmo.

Next we skip to Live and Let Die‘s Paul McCartney, since we already have Shirley Bassey on record. Now…I really don’t like this song much at all, and this is pretty much the only context in which I would present it on my site. Here it is:

Of all the James Bond theme song performers, the one I probably know the least about is Lulu, who did the song for The Man With the Golden Gun. Her Bond song is, I think, the shortest of all the Bond songs, so it’s fitting that this is really short, too.

As I’m searching all of these, I’m noticing that almost every one of these vocalists has recorded “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, but at this point in my searching, it turns out that every one of them records it with the wrong lyric in it (longtime readers know this is, as the kids say, a hill I will die on), so as good as some of those performances are, I can’t share them here. Alas! But there are other things too, like this from Carly Simon (The Spy Who Loved Me):

Skipping Moonraker we land on For Your Eyes Only. I’ve never heard this song before playing it just now. Apparently it’s from the 1985 film Santa Claus: The Movie, which was produced by the same folks who had previously made Superman: The Movie. I’ve never seen the Claus flick, but I have it on good authority that it is not something I need to prioritize. This song is perfectly nice, being basically a typical 80s ballad about Christmas.

Up next? Rita Coolidge, who performed “All Time High” for Octopussy. (It’s always amused me that the producers made no attempt to get that film’s title into the song.) I’ve always thought that Coolidge’s husky alto was underrated.

And this brings me to my first strike-out on this post! As far as I can tell, Duran Duran, who turned in a huge hit with their song for A View to a Kill, never recorded a specifically Christmas song. So I’ll include this, because they participated. No, I don’t like this song much, mainly because the lyrics are so godawful in their “White Savior” nonsense, but hey, as Mr. Clark might say, “It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.”

And that’s followed by another “Close but no cigar”: Norwegian band a-ha did the song for The Living Daylights, and the closest thing I can find is a single by their lead singer, Morten Harket, when he went solo, called “A Kind of Christmas Card”, and even that’s a stretch, so I’m not featuring that one. But! a-ha’s title song wasn’t the only song in that movie; The Pretenders turned in two songs, one of which was used for the love scenes and the closing credits. And they most certainly did do some Christmas work.

Thankfully for Licence to Kill the Bond producers got back to established singers with long catalogs! Enter Gladys Knight (here with the Pips):

Now we enter the Pierce Brosnan era, starting with Goldeneye and Tina Turner. Unfortunately, Ike Turner has to come along for the ride, but that’s the way of it.

The title song from Tomorrow Never Dies was sung by Sheryl Crow, and here she is:

Now, the Tomorrow Never Dies song situation is actually a bit muddy. Composer David Arnold was supposed to write the theme song himself, which he did; this allowed him to incorporate the theme into his score, just as John Barry had done in his years composing Bond scores. But then MGM interceded, wanting a bigger name for the theme song, which is how the movie ended up with a song that feels (because it is) thematically unmatched to the rest of the movie. The song Arnold wrote was performed by k.d. lang, and it did get used during the film’s end credits.

That being the case, here’s k.d. lang. I’m not really a big fan of this, but you work with what you can find:

Now another strikeout, as I haven’t found anything useable by Garbage or singer Shirley Manson (The World Is Not Enough), so onto Die Another Day and Madonna:

And now we reach the Daniel Craig era! Did Chris Cornell of the song for Casino Royale ever record a Christmas song? Indeed he did! Now, I don’t personally associate “Ave Maria” with Christmas, but I’m in a minority on that, since you do hear it every year during this season.

Quantum of Solace featured a duet as the title song, by Jack White and Alicia Keys. So here’s something by White, which was written for the movie Cold Mountain. IS this a Christmas song? Well, the word “Christmas” is in it….

And here is Alicia Keys. I should listen to her more; whenever I’ve heard her I’ve been impressed by her voice.

After this came Skyfall. Song by Adele. Who does not seem to have any recorded Christmas music available. Maybe Sam Smith, who did the song for Spectre? Why, yes!

And finally we come to No Time To Die. Has Billie Eilish done any Christmas music? Again, why, yes! I like this one a good deal:

Finally, I’ll close this out by returning to the great On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which includes a Christmas song composed by John Barry and heard in the film as diegetic music during Bond’s escape from Blofeld in the Swiss village:

And there we have it: Christmas from the James Bond title singers! Merry Christmas, Mr. Bond! And remember:


This entry was posted in On Music and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Your Daily Dose of Christmas!

  1. Roger says:

    So many links: IDK Monro’s voice but I do know Monro was on Capitol, the Beatles’ label.

Comments are closed.