Which James Bond theme songs were the biggest hits?

This morning on the drive into work (yes, those are still a thing for many of us) Rita Coolidge's "All Time High" played. That song, of course, was the theme to the 1983 James Bond disaster film Octopussy.

Here's the entirety of what I know off the top of my head about Rita Coolidge:

  1. She was married to Kris Kristofferson
  2. She performed "All Time High" which was the theme to the 1983 James Bond film Octopussy
This, of course, being 2020 it's a matter of 5 seconds on her Wikipedia page to discover a few other things like what kind of genre she's known for (jazz), that she's a singer-songwriter, still alive, half-Scottish half-Red Indian, etc etc etc. She also, minor tidbit, wrote part of Layla. She never performed it, though. She performed a cover of a 1967 R&B song called "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" which peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and I've never ever ever heard (or heard of). It turns out that's way higher than "All Time High" which peaked at #36. So that got me thinking: was there ever an artist whose theme song for a James Bond film was also their biggest hit? The back of my head hints at the answer, but I figure let's find out for sure. So a couple rules:
  1. This is about songs, not albums. We don't care about how the Bond soundtrack or the artist's album did, only the single. Few of the Bond albums charted anyways.
  2. The artist whose name is on the James Bond song has to be the same artist on the other hit song: Paul McCartney performed a James Bond song with Wings, but obviously Paul has bigger hits with his other band the Silver Beat-Alls or whatever they're called. Chris Cornell might have been 90% of Soundgarden but their hits receives no credit from us. However we will grant variations of the same artist ("Wings" vs. "Paul McCartney and Wings")
  3. The peak of each song has to be either the U.S. or U.K. charts: Billboard Hot 100 in the United States and UK Singles Chart in the United Kingdom. "All Time High" did well on the Billboard Adult Contemporary charts but that's different. And the two countries were chosen both as the major English speaking nations and also as the co-producing countries of the James Bond film series. In the same way nobody really cares if Space Cop was the top film in Uganda nobody cares if "From Russia With Love" was a big hit in Kazakhstan.
  4. It doesn't matter though which country either song did better in: a #5 on the UK Singles Chart is higher than a #6 on the Billboard Top 100 and vice versa. Also this isn't an average rating: if Tom Jones's Thunderball was #2 on one chart and #99 on the other it's a #2 song. However we will use the alternate country's rating to break a tie.
So now that we're on our way, let's take a look at the films.

Dr. No (1962): This film is a bit of an oddity, as one might expect for a comparatively low budget film. It didn't have the trend of a separate title (theme) song and this was far before major musical acts were roped into performing them. It's also the source of a bit of controversy: well into the 21st century John Barry/Monty Norman were still feuding over who wrote the immortal "James Bond Theme" and Norman will even sue you for libel if you dare claim that John Barry wrote it. It's also one of the most familiar pieces of music on the globe. It charted #13 on the U.K. charts and is, as you might expect, the John Barry Orchestra's biggest hit. He's really riding the line on our Rule #2 though: the The John Barry Seven actually had a #11 hit with "Walk Don't Run" back in 1960 which was a cover and not actually written by him (the sound you hear in the distance is Marty Norman laughing).  

From Russia With Love (1963): This film established literally almost everything abound James Bond that wasn't already established in the first film, from Desmond Llewelyn's gadget-wielding Q to SPECTRE to the "James Bond Will Return" end credits gag. It also featured an alternate "007" Bond song that isn't nearly as memorable, and also a separate hit single: in this case "From Russia With Love" as sung by Matt Monro. "From Russia With Love" didn't chart in America but it did hit #20 in the UK. However Monro's biggest hit was "Portrait of My Love" also in 1960. In fact Munro had five bigger hits than "From Russia With Love".

Goldfinger (1964): Everybody knows this song: Shirley Bassey's overpowering voice cuts through the lazy rhymes ("Goldfinger! / cold...finger") to deliver one of the most iconic Bond songs for one of the most iconic Bond movies. Crazy enough, two of the session musicians on the instrumental version of the song were Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones who also did pretty well with a band (but never recorded a Bond song). "Goldfinger" was also the first Bond song to do better in the U.S. -- it hit #8 in America but only #21 in the United Kingdom. Her biggest hit, however, was the Beatles song "Something" which peaked at #4 in the UK in 1963.

Thunderball (1965): Tom Jones' song "Thunderball" for this film was -- unlike the "James Bond Theme" from Dr. No --the source of no legal controversy whatever. It was probably the only aspect of this movie that wasn't. Ian Fleming collaborated with four other people when writing the book, mostly because by that point in the late 50s James Bond was catching on as a potential movie franchise. Kevin McClory had already directed a movie (which nobody liked) and both he and Jack Whittingham had notable screenplay writing experience. The lawsuits literally haunted the James Bond franchise from 1961 until 2013 and contributed to the death of Fleming himself. It certainly wasn't worth the hassle: the movie wasn't very good, the ripoff films weren't very good, and the song wasn't very good. Shirley Bassey originally recorded it, Johnny Cash submitted a different song with the same title that just described the plot, and the Weird Al parody is probably just as good as the original. "Thunderball" charted #35 in Britain and #25 in America, nowhere even close to "It's Not Unusual" which was #1 in the UK.

You Only Live Twice (1967): Sean Connery's last second-last third-last Bond film features 007 going to Japan and faking his own death and nevermind neither of these two aspects is important for more than 15 total minutes of screentime. "You Only Live Twice" is the haunting theme song sung by Nancy Sinatra. It hit #11 in the UK (only #44 in the US), but pales in comparison to the legendary "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" which charted at #1 in both countries. Yes, this means that an Austin Powers song did better than a James Bond song.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969): Diana Rigg was one of the most admired Bond girls. Whatshisnuts McWhatshisnutsinby is one of the most hated James Bonds. Yes, even behind Woody Allen. The theme song is equally forgettable: "We Have All the Time in the World" by Louis Armstrong. It didn't chart in either the US or UK in 1969. End of story, right? Well, not entirely. In 1994 My Bloody Valentine recorded a cover version, and when Armstrong's original was re-released it hit #3 on the UK singles chart. It wasn't enough though: "What a Wonderful World" hit #1.

Diamonds Are Forever (1971): The only Connery Bond film of the 70s, this theme song is the second of three performed by Shirley Bassey. She even recorded an Italian version for some reason. The song made the Billboard Hot 100 in 1972 but peaked at #57, it was #38 in the UK, nowhere near even her other Bond song.

Live and Let Die (1973): Ah, the Roger Moore era. While the movies would start getting awfully silly awfully fast, with the exception of the J.W. Pepper subplot this movie was actually fairly gritty: fitting with the blaxploitation genre it was emulating trying desperately to rip off. It worked, though, and for a while the Moore version of Bond seemed like a fairly tough character. Spoiler alert, it doesn't last. This is also where the Bond movies parted ways with John Barry, with George Martin doing all the music excepting the title song. Paul McCartney did that one, and "Live and Let Die" is another of the most famous Bond theme songs. It notably has been covered by Guns N' Roses; which itself was in the film Grosse Pointe Blank which also featured a brief instrumental version playing inside the convenience store during a gun battle. Speaking of Weird Al, he wanted to record "Chicken Pot Pie" as a parody which Sir Paul the fellow whiny vegetarian was opposed to. So the song was a smash hit: it was #2 on the Billboard Top 100 in the United States, #9 on the UK charts, and ended up Certified Gold in America, the first of our Bond songs to get this treatment. This is the song I said earlier hinted at the answer, but Wings actually had a lot more hits than you remember: they reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 that same year with "My Love", then again with "Band on the Run" a year later and "Listen to What the Man Said" the year after that. "Band on the Run" hit #3 in the U.K. so Rule #3 doesn't even get a workout.

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974): Christopher Lee, the midget from Fantasy Island, and a third nipple: that's how a lot of people will remember this disappointing followup which saw Bond have to battle the 1974 oil crisis and Brit Ekland's acting. This film inexplicably also features a pointless JW Pepper side plot which is notable because they literally bring back musical notes from "Live and Let Die" during those gondola-cut-in-half sequences. It's the second time the Bond film series did this (a janitor whistles "Goldfinger" during On Her Majesty's Secret Service which was equally embarassing), and like cringe-worthy Roger Moore moments we aren't at the end of it either. The title track for this one is by Lulu. Who-lu? Well in 1969 she won the Euro-Vision song contest with "Boom Bang-a-Bang" which John Barry fan Mark Steyn lambasts as a prime example of how the EU which brought us such immortal classical composers is now only capable of hit songs that feature nonsense ramblings nonwords. Despite this I must say I sort of like "The Man with the Golden Gun" for its rockabilly style and constant rhymic interruptions. I'm one of the few people who enjoy the song though: John Barry thought it was one of the weakest he ever wrote, Alice Cooper still insists they should have used his "The Man With The Golden Gun" (which he released the year before to no fanfare whatsoever), and this was the first Bond theme song to not chart on either the UK or US charts. So Lulu doesn't have to worry: we don't even need to look to "Boom Bang-a-Bang" and its #2 UK hit: she had a #3 in 1974 with another song starting with the text string "the man w*the*": her cover of "The Man Who Sold the World".

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): Another film that was plagued from the get-go. Saltzman ended up having to sell off his Bond rights for cash, then there was a desperate search for a director (Spielberg was busy, and that's not a joke), and finally endless legal fights with Kevin McClory over Blofeld. Things mostly came together though with Barbara Bach surprisingly outperforming Maud Adams as a Bond girl (Goodnight doesn't count) and a tight caper of international intrigue where Bond isn't fighting a global economic system. The film even got some Oscar nominations and a popular soundtrack by Marvin Hamlisch. Hamlisch wrote the theme song "Nobody Does It Better" which was one of the Oscar nominations, though it lost to the theme song from the film You Light Up My Life. Nobody remembers the film but it and the song were popular: "You Light Up My Life" was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. "Nobody Does It Better" couldn't quite make it there: it peaked at #2 in America and #7 on the UK Singles Chart. It too has been covered for (numerous) other movies, such as Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Lost in Translation: Brittany Murphy sings the song in Little Black Book and Adam Sandler did a (self-indulgent, if you can believe it) cover version at the 2008 MTV Movie Awards. However even with all this success it can't compete with Carly Simon's 1972 hit "You're So Vain" which was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #3 in the U.K.

Moonraker (1979): This is the third of the Shirley Bassey themes. Was it written by John Williams? No. Should it have been written by John Williams? Probably: after all this was the Bond film that decided to rip off Star Wars and failed as hard as any film should when they use ADR dialogue to explain why they shot at a French castle and pretended it was Southern California. The only thing the film got right was the bizarre cut halfway through between Aztec Castle moments and space shuttle laser battle moments -- it's jarring as hell but that's how the book went from Bond catching a cheater at a card game to climbing up steam pipes to stop a nuclear missile from destroying London. The theme song had an equally rocky ride: Johnny Mathis changed his mind and turned it down last minute because the song sucked. Kate Bush and Frank Sinatra didn't return their calls. "Make Bassey do it" was apparently the fallback position. It's her weakest Bond song and it didn't chart at all. Again, we've covered her. Bond wasn't her biggest hit, and if it was it certainly wouldn't be "Moonraker".

For Your Eyes Only (1981): This film opens with the notoriously lame greenscreened "chimney drop" where Moore's Bond mourns the death of Diana Rigg. It gets better, though it's also noteworthy for suffering the loss of Bernard Lee's "M". It had fewer gadgets, better stunts, and probably the second best Moore-era plot. It also visits the Monastery of the Holy Trinity in Greece which was the inspiration for the mountaintop temple in Batman Begins. The song was written by Bill Conti of Rocky fame after John Barry had to back out for tax reasons (that's a thing, just ask Sean Connery and his non-independent Scotland), and performed by Sheena Easton. Like "The Man with the Golden Gun" and "Thunderball" this also had another version by another artist: Blondie's version was released in 1982. Like "Nobody Does It Better" this song got an Oscar nod (it lost to Burt Burt Bacharach's "Best That You Can Do" from the movie Arthur, and also was a huge hit reaching #4 in the U.S. and #8 in the U.K. But yet again it can't compare to its artist's previous #1 hit -- this time from 1980: "9 to 5 (Morning Train)" which of course was later used in the movie EuroTrip.

Octopussy (1983): Here's where we began. "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" charted much higher than "All Time High". Let's move onto the next film. Fabergé egg. Fabergé egg. Keep thinking about the Fabergé egg.

James Bond dresses up like a clown.


A View to a Kill (1985): Say goodbye to increasingly silly Roger Moore (keep trying to only think of the Fabergé egg) and hello to the more Daniel-Craigy original tough and emotionless James Bond in Timothy Dalton. Bond has to face off with Christopher Walken's line delivery and play off the ever-cheery Patrick Macnee just to keep the Bond-Avengers links strong. This film also features a brief Dolph Lundgren cameo, Grace Jones as the Bond girl you immediately think of when you find out one of them was a tranny (it's Barry "Caroline" Cossey who has Klinefelter syndrome and was in For Your Eyes Only), and General Gogol giving Bond the Order of Lenin for some reason in (almost) his final role. The "A View to a Kill" was performed by Duran Duran and again was a huge hit. It reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 (our first Bond song to do so) and #2 on the UK Singles Chart. So is this it? Is this our first case of a band's biggest hit being their Bond song? Nope! Duran Duran's "The Reflex" reached #1 on both charts, giving us our first need to look at the tiebreaker established in Rule #3. "A View to a Kill" narrowly holds onto second place, with "The Wild Boys" charting #2 on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Living Daylights (1987): This was to be Walter Gotell's big role as KGB head Alexei Gogol, but his illness required a new character come in to replace him. The most Cold-War-y of the Bond films sees 007 help the adorable Maryam d'Abo's Kara escape her KGB ex-boyfriend and defect to America. Along the way he has to outwit a boisterous American played by the actor who would later play a different boisterous American in Goldeneye, join forces with Gimli, and defeat the Soviets with the help of Ossama bin Laden. It also features the first non-Maxwell non-brunette Moneypenny and the final Bond score by John Barry. The theme song "The Living Daylights" by Norwegian pop band A-ha was the first to feature an artist not from the UK or USA: the band and Barry hated each other and only had to collaborate when the Pet Shop Boys backed out and The Pretenders were rejected by the producers. "The Living Daylights" hit #5 in the UK but didn't chart in America. As you might suspect, "Take On Me" was a bigger hit reaching #1 in America and (after two previous failed attempts) #2 in the UK.

Licence to Kill (1989): The grittiest of the Bond tales until the Craig reboot, Felix Leiter is crippled by Benicio del Toro with help from a televangelist and an angry Bond teams up with Q and that girl from Law and Order who was married to Richard Gere to stop him. The soundtrack was done by X-Men composer and future Metallica collaborator Michael Kamen, with a new Barry-inspired theme song originally pitched to the aforementioned Eric Clapton. Instead Gladys Knight performed "Licence to Kill" which didn't chart in the US but fared significantly better in Britain where it hit #6 on the UK Singles chart. Gladys Knight herself, known (apparently) as the "Empress of Soul" has won multiple Grammys as part of the group "Gladys Knight & the Pips". Uh-oh...is her solo career dominated by James Bond? [sounds kinky! -ed] Yes and no: her other major solo hit "That's What Friends Are For" reached #1 in the United States but was actually performed by "Dionne & Friends" as an AIDS charity song. "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" was a bigger hit but that was Gladys Knight & the Pips. So congratulations to Gladys Knight, the first Bond theme singer to have the biggest hit be the Bond song. Gladys Knight is also the first Mormon on our list. Coincidence? Probably.

GoldenEye (1995): Goldeneye was a very important and groundbreaking film in the James Bond film series. The first film after the fall of the Berlin Wall (Licence to Kill was released in June 1989, the wall came down in November), the first film after the Soviet Union collapsed into the Commonwealth of Independent States (which is still around, surprisingly), and the first film featuring charming Irish rogue Pierce Brosnan who was originally supposed to replace Moore but found he was already playing a charming spy on TV and couldn't get out of the contract. It also featured the first of eight performances by Judi Dench as "M", putting her fourth after Desmond Llewelyn (17), Lois Maxwell (14), and Bernard Lee (11) for most Bond films: ahead of Moore (7), Connery (6? 7?), Craig (5), and Brosnan (4). The soundtrack, mostly by Éric Serra who did The Fifth Element (John Altman rewrote some of the overly-electronic tracks, most notably the tank chase), is pretty good but probably one of the weaker aspects of the film. It also suffers from not having the so-bad-its-great "Stand By Your Man" cover by Minnie Driver. The title track (beating out the Ace of Base submission) was written by U2 and performed by Tina Turner, and while it reached #10 in the UK and was very popular in Europe it failed to chart in America. Tina Turner of course is famous for beating Ike Turner to death (bah-bum-dump!) and being in a few movies of her own including Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Like Gladys Knight she's an American negress who may not have a lot of hit singles as a solo artist, so maybe we can start a trend? Uh, nope: in fact, "Goldeneye" is not only not her biggest hit ("What's Love Got to Do with It" was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100), it's not her biggest hit from a movie soundtrack: "We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)" was #2 in America and #3 in the UK.

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997): An American actress is horribly wooden as a love interest to Pierce Brosnan's Bond, Michelle Yeoh is an overhyped addition to a longrunning franchise, and Jonathan Pryce plays a ridiculously hammy villain. Oh, and the theme song to a Bond film sung by a popular 90s female singer that can accurately be described as "garbage". Tomorrow Never Dies wasn't the first overly nostalgic Bond movie but it was starting to creak under the weight: "a bad guy just like Red Grant". "The most evil industrialist since Max Zorne". "First asian Bond Girl since Connery made orgasm jokes in Japan". That pretty accurately describes "Tomorrow Never Dies" by Sheryl Crow the toilet paper prophetess as well. She's going full Shirley Bassey on us which doesn't work when your vocal range is more Janis Joplin. Originally this was supposed to be sung by dyke vegan and exhiled Albertan Kathryn Lang, but she got booted to the backend which of course meant everybody and their dog said that her song was better and should have been the title track. "Surrender" didn't even get released as a single though, and "Tomorrow Never Dies" reached #12 on the UK Singles chart. As you may expect, "All I Wanna Do" was #4 in the UK and #2 in the US, so again not her biggest song.

The World Is Not Enough (1999): The final James Bond film released in the 20th century returns to Istanbul (the last time the series would visit it before I would make it there, by the by) with a plot that would make every Albertan tear up a little: an oil pipeline will make tanker traffic obsolete and nefarious agents are for once saving the pipeline (though still unfortunately listening to whiny locals). Starting with one of the most epic opening sequences in Bond history (and the first major action scene ever taking place within the UK, which would become a hallmark of the Craig era) that even featured the real MI6 building in Vauxhaul, the film takes Bond skiing (without a gun for some reason) and riding Denise Richards through a pipeline (which isn't quite as sexy as it should be) before dropping a Russian nuclear sub right into the Bosporus (a sight I tragically never got to see)). The song was recorded by Garbage which a friend of mine couldn't stop giggling about during the film but I already made that joke. Interestingly enough the song is written from the villain's perspective. "The World Is Not Enough" reached #11 on the UK Singles chart and the music video got regular rotation on music video channels back when they were still around. It's not Garbage's biggest UK Singles hit though: "Stupid Girl" was #4 in the UK and #24 in America, and later "Why Do You Love Me" ranked #7 in the UK.

Die Another Day (2002): Forty years after Dr. No the Bond franchise decided to pay respect to the previous 19 films in the franchise by referencing every single one of them in an over-the-top CGI yuckfest that called back to the worst excesses of the Roger Moore era despite opening with the grittiest and most visceral opening theme sequence to date. We haven't really discussed the visuals that went along with the theme: during the 60s it was neat and interesting and iconic but with today's digital effects just can't be as impressive. Unfortunately, the gritty visceral opening was contrasted with the ridiculous Madonna pop song. Madonna herself appears in the film (the first theme singer to do so) and was nominated for a Razzy both for her performance (she won) and the song (Britney Spears "beat" her). Just like Duran Duran before it though, the crappiness of the song didn't dissuade audiences: it was #3 on the UK Singles Chart and #8 on the Billboard Hot 100. Obviously though she's got a lot of hits to her name, "Into the Groove" along was a #1 UK chart topper, and it isn't even a famous Madonna song.

Casino Royale (2006): Brosnan and goofy gadgets are out, Daniel Craig (who needed a stunt double to drive a standard transmission) and gritty Bourne Identity/Batman Begins inspired realism are in. This reboot of the series and the first Eon production to carry the title (Sony had the rights even since 1967 and flipped them to MGM in return for Spiderman), Casino Royale featured Bond playing a high stakes poker game to bankrupt a financier of Ugandan terrorist groups (who may or may not be responsible for Space Cop). After a long run of female singers (and ever since Tom Jones the male singers were Duran Duran and A-ha) Chris Cornell was picked to do the gritty opening theme song "You Know My Name". Only #79 on the Billboard Hot 100, it did chart #7 in the UK. As noted above, Cornell was more famous for Soundgarden and Audioslave which don't count: "You Know My Name" was in fact his only solo song to crack the Billboard Hot 100 (he had better luck on the Mainstream Rock chart), and while he had a few UK hits like "Can't Change Me" (#62) Chris Cornell is the second person who's biggest hit was also his James Bond song. Maybe let the boys run the show more often, Cubby...

Quantum of Solace (2008): Starting within seconds of where Casino Royale left off, this Bond film (sharing its name with one of the strangest written James Bond stories) was considered a massive letdown and mistake after the critical and financial success of its predecessor. Trying to get revenge over the killing of Vesper Lynd, Bond travels from Austria to Bolivia to the Russian city of Kazan murdering more people than a Liam Neeson movie before finally just screwing Olga Kurylenko and getting over it. The song "Another Way to Die", the first duet in the history of Bond opening themes, features White Stripes frontman Jack White with Alicia Keyes. The song, which hit #9 in the UK and #81 in the United States, is the only collaboration between the two which means we now have a third entry in the biggest hit (and indeed only song) being for a Bond film: Jack White and Alicia Keyes. Crazy enough, this song is generally considered one of the worst Bond theme songs (as a Bond theme song, critics seemed to be generally positive to the song itself).

Skyfall (2012): It's the 50th anniversary and that means another throwback Bond film (like I said, it's happening a lot) opens with Bond faking his own death (You Only Live Twice), adventures in Istanbul (From Russia With Love, The World is Not Enough), a quartermaster without fancy gadgets (Dr. No, From Russia With Love), and finally ends with throwing the hat on the rack (Goldfinger) and a stern male "M" who don't take no sass (Dr. No, Diamonds are Forever, The Man with the Golden Gun). It even features the legendary Aston Martin DB5 (Goldfinger) and brings back the gun barrel sequence (From Russia With Love). The title song by Adele (the woman who looks less like a Bond girl and more like Piece Brosnan's wife and yes I went there) was extremely popular and well received: the first Bond song to win Best Original Song as the Oscars it also won a Grammy, a Brit Award, and a Golden Globe. It reached #2 on the UK Singles chart, #8 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was certified Double Platinum with 2M sales. It's not her top song though: "Rolling in the Deep" had already hit #2 in the UK and #1 in America, with two other pre-"Skyfall" and one post-"Skyfall" #1 hits as well.

Spectre (2015): The famous criminal organization is back, and this time Django Unchained star Christoph Waltz plays Blofeld: since the Thunderball legal battle was finally settled in 2013, it was again safe to reference the character. One of the most expensive films ever, even after you watch the movie and have the plot written out in front of you it's hard to remember what it was: a Mexican festival is staged for Bond's benefit and Ralph Fiennes is about to be phased out as MI5 and MI6 are merged as a cost cutting measure. Bond is phased out, Spectre turns out to be in charge of the secret new merged organization, some other stuff I can't remember, and then it ends I think. [FYI, this last sentence was literally copy-pasted from the Wikipedia page. -ed] The title song, "Writing's on the Wall" is by Sam Smith, so the trend of having a male singer really only lasted 1.5 movies [originally this was written as a joke but it turns out Sam Smith has officially turned his back on his actual sex, which probably should be considered a mutual breakup.. -ed]. The sodomite that you've probably never heard of has had numerous hits, apparently. By the well established Freddie Mercury rules all of them are about being a uranist. "Stay With Me" was his #1 UK hit (#2 in the US) in 2014, so by the time "Writing's on the Wall" came out (heh) the bar was raised pretty high (for some reason). "Writing's on the Wall" was also a #1 UK hit, but Rule #3 comes into effect because it only hit #71 on the Billboard Hot 100.

No Time to Die (2020, maybe?): Currently scheduled for a November release (it was an April release until the COVID-19 crisis shut everything down), the 25th Eon Bond film features Léa Seydoux (the first ever returning Bond girl, she was also in Spectre). It's supposed to be Craig's final role, and be the first #MeToo-era Bond which sounds about as riveting as a kick to the kidneys. But while the film's release has been pushed back and may get pushed back again (November is about when the dreaded "second wave" is going to hit) the title song by 18-year-old Billie Eilish has already been released. It hit #1 in the UK and #16 on the Billboard Top 100. As such a young singer you'll guess that Eilish doesn't have enough time to release other larger hit songs, and you would be incorrect. The psychotic vegan's 2019 song "Bad Guy" was #1 in the UK and #2 in America: her 2019 album that nobody knew about had four different platinum-certified singles.

So there you have it, of all the Bond films these are the...um, wait, do you hear that? It sounds like the joyously soulful trumpt playing of Herb Alpert. Oh wait, it is Herb Alpert! I don't think I've ever had my blogging interrupted by a celebrity playing out in front of my window...not even John Cusack did it when I made fun of him for being a cowardly loser on Twitter. Give me a second, I'll see what he wants.





So Lani Hall is a musician who is best known as the lead vocalist of the band Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66, and also for being the wife of Herb Alpert. I'm told she's a lovely lady and also a 2013 Grammy award winner who was an unfortunate victim to the 2008 Universal backlot fire which destroyed over 110,000 audio master tapes (the same fire which destroyed the original masters of The Office and I Love Lucy). She also sang the title track on the "anachronistic and misjudged" soundtrack to...

Never Say Never Again (1983): This film from the director of The Empire Strikes Back stars Sean Connery as...James Bond. You see, with the horrible Thunderball fiasco Kevin McClory had the rights to the story from the novel and was allowed to make his own film based on the characters anytime after 1975. So therefore the film features James Bond chasing down a Spectre agent only to discover there's a plot by the agency to steal nuclear weapons and extort billions from NATO. To try to stop it Bond gets into a high stakes contest with top Spectre agent Largo who escapes on a yacht and eventually with the help of Felix Leiter, Largo's sexy assistant Domino, and the U.S. Navy defeat Largo who dies at Bond's hand with a speargun. In other words, basically the plot to Thunderball. With the exception of the 3D Tron-with-tasers game it holds much closer to the original novel than the 1965 film did almost by necessity. It couldn't contain a lot of the Bond stuff from the movies: so no gun barrel sequence, no Marty Norman theme, no gadgets: many of the same restrictions a Canadian James Bond movie would have to follow. Eon's Bond movies didn't originate the idea of a hit title song, obviously, so that was something that could be kept: unfortunately Hall's "Never Say Never Again" never hit the UK or US charts, it only peaked at #22 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary. Hall's "Where's Your Angel" actually did make #88 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1981, so another bust on that front.

Casino Royale (1967): Herb tells me if I'm going to include Never Say Never Again I might as well also include the 1967 film that kept the novel "Casino Royale" from being adapted into a film for half a century. This film stars, as mentioned above, Woody Allen as James Bond. Total screen time for Woody Allen? About 2 minutes. That's okay though, it also reunites The Pink Panther costars David Niven and Peter Sellers...both of whom play James Bond. Rounding out the cast are Terence Cooper (as James Bond), Joanna Pettet (as James Bond), Barbara Bouchet (as James Bond), Daliah Lavi (as James Bond), and former Bond girl Ursula Andress (who plays...let me check my notes here...James Bond). So if you hadn't already figured it out, the film is a comic farce where the British Secret Service decides to rename all of its agents as James Bond in order to defeat terrorist financier Le Chiffre (Orson Welles, one of the few actors not to play James Bond). It wasn't particularly good or successful, and the only good bits are the first half hour where David Niven does his best upper crust Connery impersonation. It's more notable than good (David Prowse and Anjelica Huston make their film debuts in uncredited roles). The bright spot of the film is the soundtrack by the legendary Burt Bacharach (it's in fact the reason he's in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery) who spent more time crafting the album than the production teams for Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again spent crafting both films combined. The title song was done by none other than Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, who never themselves had a Billboard Hot 100 hit (Herb did with "Rise" as a solo artist) but they did have a #3 hit in 1965 with "Spanish Flea" in the UK. "Casino Royale" didn't chart. The mistake was not going the Rita Coolige/Chris Cornell route: Dusty Springfield did what k.d. lang could not: "The Look of Love" from that album was a 1968 Oscar nominee and peaked at #22 on the Billboard Hot 100. It can't compete with "I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten" at #4 on the UK Singles chart anyways.

Okay are there anymore movies to worry about? There was a 1954 TV movie Casino Royale starring (American) Barry Nelson as (American) James Bond, with Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre and Michael Pate as (British) MI6 agent Clarence Leiter, but it didn't have a theme song. It was actually a TV movie anthology series called Climax! and that has a theme song, but it didn't chart. But you can listen to the theme song and then indeed the entire 52-minute "film" below.

That's it though. No more James Bond films, no more James Bond songs. So we have three entries in our canon (one on a technicality), not the ones I would have necessarily guessed:

  • Gladys Knight: "Licence to Kill"
  • Chris Cornell: "You Know My Name"
  • Jack White and Alicia Keyes: "Another Way to Die"