1. Goldfinger – Shirley Bassey
Chances are that if you were told to sing a Bond theme song on the spot, the three notes of “Gold-fin-ger” will instantaneously pop in your head. But it didn’t start covered in gold, with Shirley Bassey’s first Bond theme initially dismissed by producer Harry Saltzman as the worst song he’d ever heard.
Nevertheless, it has proved to be the definitive Bond theme tune, entrenched in our musical lexicon. It also gave Bassey her sole US Top 10 hit and defined her career as the Bond diva. But most importantly it has chiefly outlined the classic Bond theme, something that Adele amongst others has taken from ever since.
2. Live And Let Die – Paul McCartney and Wings
It was the early 70s and another British institution, The Beatles, had not yet crossed paths with the Bond franchise over the previous decade. Unfortunately, they had split three years prior, so it turned to Macca and his new band Wings to write the theme to Roger Moore’s first outing as Mr. Bond.
The result, Live And Let Die, is a schizophrenic song. “When you were young and your heart was an open book,” swoons Macca through a sweet piano ballad, before the drums crash after “live and let die!”
The song then switches to a fast paced chase that brings us the Bond we know. Macca’s masterpiece brought in all the elements of 007: romance, drama, action, danger. It did this without sounding like a conglomeration of parts, and has stood the test of time – being covered famously by Guns’N’Roses, and even Shirley Bassey herself.
It was also the first Bond song to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song and was the highest charting to that point; it has also become a staple in every Macca concert. In all, one of the finest points in the Bond song canon, and one of the finest hours for the most successful songwriter in history.
3. We Have All The Time In The World – Louis Armstrong
George Lazenby is generally viewed by Bond aficionados as the worst 007. However, the one film he starred in as everyone’s favourite British spy is considered by many to be the best in the Bond canon. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is given this consideration partly thanks to not only one of the best themes, but also one of the most iconic songs ever written.
Louis Armstrong puts his warm heart and gravelly voice into We Have All The Time In The World, a slow-swinging love song that beautifully reflects the loving rapport and subsequently tragic marriage between James Bond and Tracy di Vicenzo. “There’s no hurry, you see. We have all the time in the world,” 007 grieves over his newlywed’s body in the finale. Armstrong’s theme reveals a Bond of utter intimacy, a rare feat.
4. Goldeneye – Tina Turner
Entering a new era in the Bond franchise is a tricky business: pushing the suave agent into new territory while still remaining loyal to such a long-running institution. It turned to Tina Turner for Pierce Brosnan’s debut as 007.
She was the perfect choice, her music doting back to the classic divas whilst still bearing relevance to the mid-1990s. “Goldeneye no time for sweetness, but a bitter kiss will bring him to his knees.” It’s classic Bond, but is given a profound pragmatism given Turner’s abusive relationship with Ike Turner. It proved to be a truly strong addition to the Bond canon.
5. Nobody Does It Better – Carly Simon
The Spy Who Loved Me: the Bond that introduced us to Jaws, the Lotus and “where’s Fekkish?’”In addition to Roger Moore “keeping the British end up” with Mrs. Ringo Starr, Carly Simon’s Nobody Does It Better proved a landmark in the Bond series.
Despite lacking the drama of Shirley Bassey or the intrigue of Paul McCartney, it has endured as a seductive anthem that has stood the test of time, being covered by everyone from Radiohead to Alan Partridge (albeit in “Clang. Lang-a-lang-a-lang-a-lang-a-lang-a-lang” form), and so has earned its place as one of the great Bond themes, as well as a truly great love song.