The Radiohead James Bond Song That Got Rejected (Plus 7 More That Didn’t Make The Cut)
By now, you’ve probably already heard the magnificent, haunting track by Radiohead that was rejected in favor of Sam Smith’s version. While Smith does a fine job and his voice fits well with the tone of SPECTRE, Radiohead’s chilling composition is a remarkable piece of music. Lead singer Thom York’s already ethereal voice is like a touch of magic while set against the Bond opening credits. If you haven’t yet, take three minutes and nineteen seconds and watch this video. It’ll take your breath away.
Radiohead isn’t the first group of course to have their music rejected as a theme for the popular spy series. Many artists submit work for the honor of being the movie’s signature song but not all make it. Since the Bond franchise first began, some very impressive musicians have had their work sent back. Here’s a list of some popular singers and their vetoed tunes.
The opening song for the fourth Bond film is one of the most bombastic and memorable themes, sung by Tom Jones and written by John Barry. The original title for the song was called Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and a song was written and recorded by Shirley Bassey, who had song the previous Bond film song, Goldfinger from the film of the same name. Dionne Warwick got in on the action and recored the song as well, but a lawsuit by Bassey put both versions in the can until the 1990s. But the story doesn’t end there. Legendary country singer Johnny Cash wrote and recored a song as well, an up-beat tune that didn’t quite fit the tone of the Bond universe but is still a good spin. Rockabilly Bond.
You Only Live Twice (1967)
Nancy Sinatra’s sweeping rendition of the theme for the fifth James Bond is iconic, but there are some surprising choices that didn’t make it. Lorraine Chandler, Motown soul singer with a giant voice, recorded a very “Bond-ish” tune with the same name, that, while feeling close tot he tone of the 60s era films, was a little too bombastic for the opening, especially after seeing what we thought as a dead Bond. Take a listen.
But like with Thunderball, a surprising name dropped his hat (kind of) into the ring. Beach Boys singer/songwriter Brian Wilson wrote a song called Run James Run, which he thought would make a great Bond opening song, but officially never submitted it for consideration. It would eventually be reworked and renamed Pet Sounds, the title track for what is widely considered the Beach Boys greatest work.
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
Next up is the classic Sean Connery Bond film, which has one of the more generic opening songs in the franchise with a lot of retreading of older tunes in the series. But interestingly, the makers originally had a different direction in mind, offering metal pop star Alice Cooper a chance to perform, but when, as Cooper claims, delivered the song one day late, the producers signed Lulu instead. It’s a stylish bit of 70s “metal” that would have really changed the focus of the opening tunes before the 80s did all that.
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Sheena Easton’s iconic version of the fifth Bond film starring Roger Moore is a wonderful slice of pop fluff that was a huge radio hit and part of a pattern that was popular in that era of easy-breezy ballads. Trying to take the music back to its roots, the Bassey-influenced, 80s synth-heavy tune by rock goddess Blondie didn’t wow producers and her song was passed over. It’s kind of understandable as it doesn’t exactly inspire and it’s easy to hear why Easton took the crown.
The Living Daylights (1987)
By 1987, Bond movies had abandoned the sappy ballads for more upbeat pop songs with more radio-friendly artists. A-Ha, fresh off their huge MTV-friendly hit “Take on Me” got the call and produced a somewhat forgettable piece of drub that is one of more bland offerings in the franchise. Not much higher on the scale is a rejected song by The Pet Shop Boys they eventually turned into This Must Be the Place I’ve Waited Years to Leave. This was a low-point in the Bond music library.
Tina Turner, who was on a huge comeback roll in the mid-1990s, belted out a terrific theme song for the long-awaited reboot of the series. Turner’s raucous, powerful song was a hit and a fitting entry in the kick-started franchise. A rejected tune was one by Swedish pop band Ace of Base, who had a string of hits leading to this rather emotive piece of music that actually feels kind of right, but compared to Turner’s, is the weaker of the two. They reworked it into “The Juvenile” a bit later, changing some of the lyrics.
Quantum of Solace (2008)
Skipping ahead to the second Daniel Craig outing, “Another Way to Die,” by Jack White and Alicia Keys was a modest hit that mixed some great musical themes and is considered one of the better elements of the film itself. It’s a hard-driving piece of guitar and piano that didn’t quite fit the uneven film. While producers went with a more modern take for the opening song, they almost went in the other direction. Legendary Bond singer Shirley Bassey, who made Goldfinger a timeless classic, recorded a version for this film called “No Good About Goodbye,” a beautiful piece of nostalgia-laced that is so much like those of the early Bond films it is spine-tingling.
There you have it. The Bond films have long been a place for popular artists to try something new. What do you think about these rejected songs? What is your favorite Bond song? Let us know in the comments below.