Hildebrandt Rarity?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Alternate Bond Themes--Blondie's For Your Eyes Only

Look, I know musical tastes are a personal thing. There's no right or wrong. One man's treasure is another man's trash. Etc.

But there are a lot of people who say that this song is better than Sheena Easton's song for For Your Eyes Only, and they are objectively wrong.

Blondie submitted this song for FYEO, and was told that sorry, Bill Conti (who was doing the score) had already co-written the theme song they were going to use. Blondie was offered to chance to sing that song, but the band said no.

They then put their song on Blondie's final album, The Hunter.

And I'm sorry, in no possible way is this anywhere near as good as the Conti/Leeson/Easton song.

Yeah, maybe I'm a soft touch for Ms. Easton...I do have it ranked as the #4 Bond theme of all time. And I'll concede that a song you hear when you're 17 sung by a gorgeous Scots lass just might have a wee bit of hormonal nostalgia in the rating.

But I'm sorry, as a movie theme, a 007 theme, Easton's version is superior musically, lyrically, and in performance.

Hey, I love Blondie. But for a theme song? Their song is mixed poorly--Debbie Harry's vocals are buried so deep in the wall of sound that they become too remote and unemotional, especially in the chorus. Yes, I know that was Blondie's style, but it was the wrong style for a movie theme--you shouldn't have to strain to hear the film's title buried under an oversampled chorus. (In fairness, some of that might have been gussied up for the movie had their song been chosen)

Easton's hit was, by contrast, lush and romantic, the slower pace more apropos of the many underwater sequences in the film, and as a contrast to the movies non-stop action. And Sheena belts the living hell out of the tune.

Blondie's version is a fair Bondie song--but seriously, would anyone even put it in their top 20 Blondie songs?--but not a great theme song.

If, however, you want a kick-ass Blondie-sung Bond song, you might try this:

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Alternate Bond Themes--Lorraine Chandler's You Only Live Twice

I've never been thrilled with the theme to You Only Live Twice.

It's not a bad song, not at all, and does a nice job of creating an Asian feel for a movie that's set entirely there.

But, in my uneducated opinion, John Barry's arrangement feels a little too syrupy, and Nancy Sinatra never seems comfortable, neither with the unusual rhythm of the song nor the slightly lower key.

Meanwhile, 20+ years later, RCA was cleaning out their vaults, and found this little ditty lying around, unreleased and forgotten:

Lorraine who, you're asking?

Fair question, as she's never been a household name. A Detroit singer, songwriter and producer, Lorraine Chandler had a fairly unknown singing career, but penned and/or produced a number minor hits for Motown artists as well as her own label, Pied Piper Records

She wrote this version of You Only Live Twice for the film, it was rejected, and buried in a basement somewhere until uncovered by RCA. They issued it as a vinyl single, and it became a hit in England's "Northern Soul" scene of the late 80s and early 90s, which in turn lead to a number of her songs being re-issued on CD. So, it didn't make her famous in the 60s, but it paid off in the 90s!!

As to the song, I can't say it's better than the Sinatra version. I don't know if the soul approach works for this particular movie, and the use of elements from the 007 theme feels a bit tacked on, maybe a bit too eager too sound Barry-ish, a little too on the nose. And the production is a little too "wall of noise," I feel, with Chandler's vocals getting a bit buried, as well as the backing vocals during the chorus.

I do like the lyrics, though..."One drink from the cup of love/And you might find/The love that you taste/Could be bitter wine/But take a second chance/You'll find love again/And because life is love/You'll be born again/You'll be born again/With a second chance/You will find love again/A new romance/(You only live twice) You only live twice..." Quite nice.

So, no major revelation here. But the discovery of a pretty good song that brought the artist some modicum of fame decades later is a nice story...

Meanwhile, here's a Nancy Sinatra song I like much better. WARNING: If you let your children watch this video, puberty might kick in early. Oh, 1960s, how I love you...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Alternate Bond Themes--The Best Quantum Of Solace You've Never Heard!!

Not all the great alternate Bond themes are by otherwise famous performers--at least, not famous to Americans.

Which is an odd way to go about introducing you to The Best Goddamned Bond Theme That You've Never Heard Before.

Now, I don't hate the Jack White and Alicia Keys joint they used for Quantum Of Solace, but it does have some fair significant defects as a Bond theme. Like many a White song, it's 95% rhythm and 5% melody, an approach that doesn't work as well for a 007 theme as it does on a White Stripes album. Keys is so much a better singer than White that it proves distracting in a duet. Not using the film's title in the song earns major demerits. And, lyrically, it seems entirely too self aware, less about the movie or plot or themes than it about White eclaiming "I'm writing a song about writing a James Bond song"...hell, Keys' last lines in the song are "Shoot 'em up/Bang bang" and "Bang bang bang bang." Seriously now...

Yeah, these guys were hip and popular. But the best choice for the movie? Not. A. Chance.

Written and arranged by Christian Wolf, lyrics and vocals by Eva Almer, allow me to present Forever (I Am All Yours)--one of the rejected themes to QoS:

Holy crap, THAT is a Bond theme!!

And look, it actually uses the title of the freakin' movie!! Was that so difficult?!?!?!

Now, it's not perfect...the use of dialogue clips from Casino Royale is kind of lame, and not terribly clear, and frankly sounds like it's there just hide a clumsy key change. The chorus is a bit repetitive lyrically; and perhaps it is tied a bit too closely thematically to Casino Royale instead of QoS.

But it's big and brassy and over the top and in your face and clearly better--at least as a James Bond theme--than Another Way To Die.

Eva Almer is a Swedish performer, and you can find the MP3 of this tune on Amazon or iTunes...but nothing else (at least in America). Christian Wolf is harder to track down info on, because there is no shortage of people named Chris Wolf or Christian Wolf (not to mention another composer named Christian Wolff, and a German philosopher and Baron on the same name...).

But that just goes to show that you don't have to be well known on the American pop charts to write a great Bond theme. To get Eon to use it, though, you probably do...

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Alternate Bond Themes--Alice Cooper's The Man With The Golden Gun?!?

Let's continue our examination of "could have been" Bond themes with...Alice Cooper?

Live And Let Die had broken open a huge barrier--for the first time a Bond song wasn't by a crooner or what many would call an "adult contemporary" star--it featured a real live rock star!! A Beatle, even!!

So Alice Cooper (!?!), no doubt along with many other ambitious rockers, submitted his stabs at the brass ring for the next 007 movie.

Ah, but you see, John Barry was back in charge of the music this time around, and, well, he obviously wasn't too big a fan of that kind of music--at least not for Bond films. It would be another 5 movies until Duran Duran broke through with another rock theme.

And of course, Barry chose...Lulu?

While this is what could have been...

Alice Cooper has claimed that his song was accepted and set to be used until it was dumped at the last minute for Lulu's. Other sources say Cooper's unsolicited track was never in the running. Since Barry composed Lulu's tune, the latter seems more likely.

It's a catchy little number, and clearly Barry would have brassed it up a bit. Perhaps, though, it's maybe a little too much of a ride-McCartney's-coattails number...Cooper is clearly pushing the edge of his range, and the inclusion of a sudden tempo change midway through sound a lot like he's trying to imitate Live and Let Die.

Alice Cooper later released the track on his Muscle Of Love album.

Regardless, it's far better than the Lulu tune, which is widely regarded amongst the worst of Bond themes. Barry himself declared it "the one I hate the most." It sounds like someone trying do an ersatz Shirley Bassey--extra-brassy, but without the panache.

Which isn't to pick on Lulu...there's only so much she could have done with a song that poor. No, let's remember her from happier days:

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Alternate Bond Themes--Johhny Cash & Thunderball!!

Well, the evening Daily 3 lottery number in Michigan on Friday was 007, which is pretty clearly a sign that I need to get off my butt and start putting something here to fill up the next 817 days until The Hildebrandt Rarity.

So how about some alternate Bond theme songs?

Let's be clear--I'm not talking about cover versions of already existing Bond themes. No, we're going to be discussing completely different, original Bond themes that didn't get used for various reasons.

Obviously, getting a Bond theme can be quite a feather in the cap for an artist, and many took the time to compose, record and submit (often unsolicited) attempts at the title song for the next 007 movie.

First up, one of those combinations that you swear wouldn't work, but kind of worms itself into your brain: Johnny Cash and Thunderball. I know...what the #$$?

But after Goldfinger, a lot of folks realized there was a lot of prestige--and money--to be gained from following in Shirley Bassey's footsteps. And Johnny Cash and his team were right in line. And rejected.

Obviously, I cannot suggest that the Cash attempt is better than Tom Jones' classic over-the-top brilliance, either as a song or as an appropriate theme for the era's Bond films.

Remember, though, that had Cash's version been accepted, John Barry would have substantially re-arranged it--at the very least--so it could well have ended sounding more like a 60s Bond theme. Certainly he would have reworked the staccato "Western" sound of the song.

Plus, the song has merits of his own. Johnny Cash singing about a nuclear blackmail scheme? Wild. "Money-hungry minds need a threat to launch a scheme"??? BEST. LINE. EVER.

And, honestly, it's a pretty catchy song.

So enjoy:

And for sure, Johnny Cash's theme would never have had this reaction from the ladies:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bond 24

The deals are done, the paperwork is signed...

Bond 24 (a.k.a. The Hildebrandt Rarity--prove me wrong!) is set for release fall 2015--10/23 in the UK (boo!) and 11/6 in the U.S.

Mendes to direct. Logan to write, Craig to star, and all of us to watch.

847 days...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What's Missing Here...?

Courtesy of Empire magazine, a handy map of all of 007's travels on missions (the movies, not books) (click to embiggen):

That's the composite map...they have 29 more maps (!), broken down by individual movie or the composite for each of the Bond actors.

But a quick glance at the above map points out one glaring, amazing fact: James Bond has never been to Australia. Or Canada.


C'mon, Eon--Her majesty still rules there!! These are places where Bond's licence to kill couldn't be questioned!! And they provide some fascinating film possibilities. Who doesn't want to see James Bond and kangaroos together? A special Q-enhanced boomerang? 007 teaming up with a Mountie?!?

So, for The Hildebrandt Rarity, guys, we'd better see Bond in at least one of these poor, neglected Commonwealth realms.

P.S. Mexico wants a word, as well...