Does the title song of a Bond movie really matter?

New SPECTRE poster

New SPECTRE poster

In the past few days, there have been reports, speculation, etc., about who may be perform the title of SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film.

Here’s a question that isn’t being asked much: Does the title song, or the selection of a title song performer, really matter that much for a James Bond movie?

For example, the 2006 Casino Royale got a lot of good reviews and is held is high opinion by a lot of fans. But very little of that has to do with “You Know My Name,” the song played over the main titles.

Meanwhile, the title song to 1967’s You Only Live Twice, written by John Barry and Leslie Bricusse and performed by Nancy Sinatra, is considered one of the best 007 title songs.

Yet, a lot of fans feel the film You Only Live Twice isn’t up to the standards of the first four Bond films made by Eon Productions. Part of that stems from how it was the first movie to throw out the main plot of an Ian Fleming novel.

For that matter, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is another highly regarded Bond film. It didn’t even have a title song. Instead it had a Barry instrumental for the main titles. It was the last time the main titles didn’t feature a song.

Yes, a good title song can enhance the movie (“Nobody Does It Better” for The Spy Who Loved Me being an example), but it’s rarely make or break. In the 21st century, however, the sort of perspective is in short supply.

An announcement may be coming Tuesday. Meanwhile, over at the MI6 JAMES BOND WEBSITE there’s an attempt to make sense of the latest news.

Mad Men meets 007 (not once, but twice)

Mad Men, the popular drama on cable network AMC, had its season finale on June 10, which included not one, but two, James Bond references.

The most noticeable was how the episode ended with Nancy Sinatra’s rendition of You Only Live Twice, written by John Barry and Leslie Bricusse. The fifth 007 film made by Eon Productions premiered premiered 45 years ago this month.

However, there was an earlier Bond reference, albeit a brief one. Near the episode’s conclusion, Jon Hamm’s Don Draper was in a movie theater. While no images of the movie were shown, the first several notes of Burt Bacharach’s main theme to the 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale, could be heard. That film had its 45th anniversary in April.

The Sinatra song has an interesting back story, familar to many, if not most, 007 fans. Namely, Barry and Bricusse wrote two versions. The first, performed by Julie Rogers, was deemed not good enough. The second, the Nancy Sinatra version, is a 007 fan favorite though Sinatra was so nervous, the song had to be cobbled together from multiple takes. If Mad Men fans are curious (and don’t already know the story), a 2006 special on U.K. television about the 007 theme songs provides the details:

This isn’t the first time Mad Men referenced 1960s spy entertainment. In 2010, the popular show included a clip from a first-season episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

UPDATE: Time magazine’s review of the episode picks up the You Only Live Twice connection and runs with it.

A modest proposal for any official 007 50th anniversary gala

James Bond fans worldwide have been chatting this week since Tom Jones performed the title song from Thunderball at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts 2012 awards show the other night. Most readers of this blog have already seen it plenty, but just in case, here it is again:

Jones really made an impact with the audience of celebrities. What could possibly top that?

Well, how about if there really is a 50th anniversary gala — particularly if such a gathering could really bring the six 007 film actors together — having Jones perform with Shirley Bassey and Nancy Sinantra? That way you could bring the surviving performers of the major James Bond title songs from the first decade of the 007 film series. Bassey’s performance of Goldfinger (written by Barry, Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley) set the standard. Jones’s Thunderball (Barry and Don Black) was a worthy follow-up and You Only Live Twice (Barry and Bricusse) is one of the most memorable of the series.

We have no idea if this idea is practical. But if it could be pulled off having that trio would make a 50th anniversary gala special. Bassey performed last year at a memorial concert for John Barry. Jones showed at BAFTA he’s going strong. We don’t know if Sinatra would be interested, but it would merit an inquiry if a big 007 gala takes place.