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...