Listed: No Deals Mr. Bond: 7 Rejected Themes In The 007 Franchise

The James Bond franchise has been one of the most successful and longest running film series in cinematic history. Spanning five decades, six actors have famously portrayed the MI6 agent. Once the title of a new upcoming 007 film is announced, one of the first questions to follow is “who’s going to sing the song?” There isn't another franchise in history where the opening song causes as much excitement as the film itself. Greats such as Tina Turner, Paul McCartney, and Shirley Bassey have all lent their voice to the now iconic Bond opening credit sequence, scoring Billboard, Grammy, and Academy Award nominations as a result. With such a long history, many well known artists have submitted songs over the years. Ultimately there can only be one, leaving behind a handful of rejected themes. 

Johnny Cash - Thunderball

The baritone voiced country icon submitted a song for Thunderball. The fourth film in the franchise followed Goldfinger, and Shirley Bassey’s theme arguably set the standard for Bond songs to follow. Goldfinger was such an influence, Cash used a horn section in his tune to accompany his signature train track guitar rhythm. Recorded in 1965, Cash sings about the events that take place in the film. The song was eventually rejected for Tom Jones’ now classic tune of the same name. 

Does it work? No. The song is classic Cash with an epic intro, but it seems more fitting for a Clint Eastwood western. While it didn’t fit the 007 franchise, the song is so good it’s a shame it never got reworked for a more appropriate film. The song sat dormant for decades and was eventually released posthumously on Cash’s 2011 album Bootleg, Vol 2: From Memphis to Hollywood.

Alice Cooper - The Man with the Golden Gun

Shock rocker Alice Cooper submitted a song for Roger Moore’s second film as Bond. Following Paul McCartney’s Live and Let Die, another rock inspired theme seemed to be a good fit. Cooper incorporated the now standard brass horns in his jam, and even added a spy music interlude in the middle of the song. The song was ultimately passed over and Scottish singer LuLu was contacted to sing the opening theme penned by song writer Don Black. Cooper added his song to his next album Muscle of Love [1973]. 

Does it work? Yes. There is a swagger to the song that mirrors Roger Moore’s portrayal of Bond. Cooper does an impressive job incorporating John Barry’s classic musical elements and molding them to fit his ‘70s rock style. 

Ace of Base - Goldeneye

Ace of Base was one of the biggest pop acts of the ‘90s. At the height of their success the Swedish quartet recorded a song for Goldeneye, Pierce Brosnan’s first outing as Bond. Strangely enough it was the bands label Arista Records that pulled the band out of the project. The label feared the potential negative impact the band would suffer if the film flopped. It was a bizarre move that luckily left the door wide open for Tina Turner’s impressive performance.

Does it work? Musically yes, lyrically no. Ace of Base’s Goldeneye is an oddity. It isn't a stretch to imagine this song in the opening credits (taking into consideration the film was released in 1995), but lyrically it's off target and tries too hard. Luckily U2’s Bono and The Edge penned a more appropriate song and gave Tina Turner and the film a solid billboard hit. Ace of Base eventually reworked the song under the title The Juvenile. It was included on their 2002 album Da Capo. 

Blondie - For Your Eyes Only

For Your Eyes Only was a metaphoric reboot to get the series back on track to Ian Fleming’s original novels. Following the over the top film Moonraker, producers wanted to bring Bond back to earth (pun intended) and focus on a more realistic approach. Initially American New Wave/ Punk band Blondie were choosen to sing the opening theme. The band was excited for the opportunity and wrote and recorded a song titled For Your Eyes Only. Film composer Bill Conti and Michael Leeson also wrote a song for the film. Blondie backed out when they learned producers wanted them to record Conti's song instead. The song eventually went to Sheena Easton, and become a worldwide hit. Easton also became the first (and only) artist to appear in an opening credit sequence singing along to the theme song. Blondie's song would appear on their following album, The Hunter [1982].

Does it work? Yes. Wiping the slate clean and removing Easton's performance, it's not hard to imagine Blondie's song pulling viewers through the opening credits. It was a progressive song that would have acted as a bridge to the changing musical demographic the franchise would experience throughout the '80s. Taking nothing away from Easton's performance, it's a shame producers passed on this song.

Amy Winehouse - Quantum of Solace

Of all the would have, could have, should haves, this might be the biggest bummer of them all. Following the success of Casino Royale, the world was abuzz and waiting for Daniel Craig's follow up performance as Bond. That same year Amy Winehouse scored a massive hit with her second (and sadly last) studio album Back to Black. Teaming up with Black producer Mark Ronson, the two began work on the theme for the upcoming film Quantum of Solace. Ronson began to layer tracks for a '60s style tune which he felt would work well with Winehouse’s style. He envisioned the song as a throwback to the big sounds of original composer John Barry. Unfortunately Winehouse's well publicized personal problems carried over into the studio. After an erratic recording session that lead to a very rough unfinished demo, Ronson and Bond producers both agreed it just wasn't meant to be, much to Winehouse's publicly vocal displeasure. In the end, producers used the Jack White and Alicia Keys tune Another Way to Day, the first duet used in the franchise. 

Would it have worked?  There is no way to know, but judging by Winehouse's catalog and vocal style, it's not hard to image her producing something fantastic. Take her song I'm No Good for example, it has all the qualities of some of the best tunes in the franchise.

Pet Shop Boys - The Living Daylights

When Timothy Dalton was chosen to replace Roger Moore as Agent 007 it marked a new era in the Bond franchise. While Moore's last outing A View To A Kill was a critical and financial failure, Duran Duran's theme was a giant success, making it all the way to number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 - the only song in the franchise to do so (Adele’s Skyfall peaked at #8 in case you’re wondering). Fellow English band Pet Shop Boys were quick to express interest for The Living Daylights. The Boys went to work on a synth heavy theme, and began working on an accompanying score piece. Producers had already contacted legendary Bond composer John Barry to score the film. Barry wanted to blend synch and orchestra music together to modernize the Bond score. Ultimately this lead Pet Shop Boys to pull out of the project entirely. Eventually the Norwegian band A-ha were chosen for the theme. In an interesting twist, The Pretenders were also given the rare opportunity to record a second song for the closing titles. The Living Daylights became the only film in the franchise to open and close with different songs.

Does it work? Not really. The synth only element has the tension, but without lyrics (granted the recording is only a demo), and an orchestra to back it up, it falls a little short. The score piece, title Theme #2, is an upbeat dance track that is reminiscent of a John Hues film montage where a group of outcast teens put their differences aside to overcome an ‘80s dilemma. Under no circumstances should you listen to it. It's not Bond worthy, and it's dangerously “stuck in your head” catchy.

Radiohead - Spectre

Radiohead was commissioned by producers to provide the theme for Spectre. The band submitted an unreleased song from their OK Computer sessions titled Man Of War. The song was quickly rejected because it had not been written specifically for the film, making it ineligible for an Academy Award nomination. The band then went to work and wrote a song titled Spectre. Producers passed on the song, calling it too moody and depressing, which begs to question what producers were expecting when they asked a band known for their melancholy music to record a Bond theme. After rejecting the theme producers moved on to Sam Smith who recorded the song Writings On The Wall. The song would go on to win an Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Original Song In A Motion Picture. 

Does it work? No. It’s got all the makings of a great Radiohead song but it just doesn't fit. The slow moody pacing may be the biggest factor, but it does lack the classic tension most themes are known for. Man of War on the other hand would have been a perfect fit, even more so than Sam Smith’s Writings On the Wall. Sadly it was passed over for potential award opportunities. Radiohead included Man of War on the 20th anniversary reissue of OK Computer in 2017. 

-Lee L. Lind