After an extended hiatus I have decided to restart this project. I did not ever really explain why I stopped, and so true to form, I will not indulge to present the details on why I have started again. It just is.
There are a number of small pleasures that I have been partaking of during the enforced pandemic isolation. Mostly involving eating and drinking and the results are becoming increasingly apparent through the expansion of my corpulent form.
It is fair to say that television has been high on the list of entertainment choices in our household. With a vast array of terrible programming, it has been a good chance to revisit some old classics. As a British male born in the 70’s I consider James Bond to be part of my cultural heritage. I’m an unashamed fan of the genre. Danger, exotic locations, beautiful people, extravagance, gadgets, cars, and the cunning and reckless determination of a flawed hero putting Queen and country above self.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t aspire to be Bond, I just enjoy the idea of it all… and maybe I want to be Bond just a little bit..
I think when I was younger I actually had more of an aspiration to be Q. The backroom inventor creating laser watches, ejector seats, submarine cars and exploding pens all whilst sporting a nice tweed suit and a furrowed brow. Strange hero for a boy but maybe it had more influence over my academic choices than I realised. I was more than a little disappointed to find out that in-house weapons technician at MI6 was not a career option on the list.
Now, for certain there is a lot in there to be concerned about. Fleming’s original writing was chauvinistic and at points, bluntly racist. Bond was clearly an alcoholic and a womaniser with an uncontrollable violence which certainly led to the deaths of more people than was necessary to his cause. Some animals were clearly harmed along the way and Roger Moore’s Bond in particular, would these days be required to sign some sort of offender’s register. HR at MI6 would be so completely overwhelmed with paperwork over the inappropriate workplace behaviour that I doubt any “spying” would actually get done.
In a modern world it is correct that modern values should be reflected in film and the arts. A heightened level of respect should be injected here, as it should indeed be injected everywhere. There is no “but” here. It is actually quite refreshing to watch the movie series from the first film and see how the films developed to reflect the evolution of social thought, without losing any of the drama, excitement or humour.
Should the older movies be erased from history because of their faults? Personally, I would hope that we arrive at a place where we can recognise our past for what it was, learn from it, and not forget why we moved on. But as we well know, it is the decisions made in our future that will dictate which parts of our history we choose to remember and how. That narrative has been going on since people started to paint pictures on walls.
Nothing maybe dates the films better than the Bond Theme itself. Nowadays its quite a quaint premise that a recording artist would be commissioned to write a piece of music for the credits of a film. What seemed like the ultimate merchandising opportunity of the latter half of the 20th century has virtually disappeared in the digital streaming age. With the exception of the Bond Franchise, which in the latest incarnation, despite, or maybe because of, the “Boomer” cultural reference, has even managed to entice a partnership with the unelected leader of the millennial uprising, Billie Elish.
Here I have prepared for you 4 covers of Bond themes that I thought stood out from quite a mediocre crop (of covers that is). No, I’m not going to let you have Guns ‘n’ Roses Live and Let Die here either. McCartney’s version was heroically superior, and using the original is against the rules I just made up. So let me begin.
The name’s Monkeys, Arctic Monkeys. Not the first time they have made it onto a list. Last time for their brazenly splendid Sheffield accents, this time for this rather cheeky cover version of the title song to 7th Bond, Film Diamonds Are Forever. Written by John Barry, penned by Don Black and of course originally performed by Shirley Bassey. This re-creation is apparently Alex Turner’s idea of a joke when they performed it at Glastonbury prior to Dame Shirley giving her own performance. It actually came out rather well and is well worthy of a mention in this quartet.
Number 2 is a cover of the theme from the fifteenth movie in the series, The Living Daylights. Again the original from the mind of composer John Barry and a somewhat fraught collaboration with Aha’s Pål Waaktaar, resulting in two versions of the same tune. This cover is by a bonafide Danish Jazz master Niels Lan Doky. Also known as the “Knight of Jazz” (presumably due to him being knighted by Danish Royalty in 2010) Doky is prolific. With over 40 albums released he has also worked as a Film Director, an author a public speaker a bus conductor and a fish monger (some of that last sentence may be untrue). This track was part of a collection of tributes to Scandinavian composers and it’s a bit more refined than the shoulder pad and perm version by AHA.
Third is my personal favourite in the list and possibly my favourite bond theme too. From the fifth outing for mister bond, You Only Live Twice. This tune was again composed by the genius John Barry and performed by Nancy Sinatra after her father passed on it. One thing I didn’t know about this film was that the screenplay was written by Roald Dahl. Dahl apparently didn’t like the original book and basically made most of the story up. This cover is by Bealahbelle, a musical collaboration between sisters Kaitlyn and Mady Dever. Kaitlyn being better know as an actress. Their dreamy style lends itself well to this record which stands strongly on its own without needing bond to support it.
Finally some a capella. It is a bit of a marmite sound. For those who associate it with smug American college students in chinos and twinsets, with faces that you never tire of slapping, I apologise. I understand your general issue with the genre. But it has to be said, the human voice is the only instrument we can play that we were born with (easy there tiger..) and it is an incredibly versatile tool. If your singing voice, like mine is more like a broken piano full of racoons, then you will appreciate this too in small doses. If the style is not for you but the concept is interesting, then you could do worse than to check out Reggie Watts who is an undisputed genius of beat boxing. From the 23rd Bond film the title track written and performed by Adele is Skyfall. This version is performed in the a capella style by Cloud 9 A Capella from University of California Santa Cruz.