How gay is James Bond?

PinkNews Staff Writer November 22, 2006
bookmarking iconSAVE FOR LATER’s Ben Leung takes a shot at the campest James Bond theme tunes

When listening to the new James Bond song, ‘You Know My Name’, you can’t help but feel the beginning of a new era in the long and illustrious history of songs which has accompanied the iconic franchise.

Chris Cornell’s modern day effort for ‘Casino Royale’ is a world away from the trademark John Barry brass, or the Bassey-esque oomph, and is much fresher, more masculine sound – very much reflecting the singer’s grunge roots in late 80s/early 90s Seattle.

But whilst there’s no denying Cornell’s quality offering, sentimentalist would inevitably argue that ‘it ain’t like what it used to be’.

That’s a fair comment, but in truth, do we really want another Bond songs in 2006, a la Barry-Bassey? Furthermore, would Daniel Craig?

The surprising thing about Bond films is that despite their masculine constitution, virtually every gay icon bar Liberace, Kylie and Cher have been approached or associated with a Bond theme at one point or another.

A trawl through the back-catalogue – as revealed in Channel 4’s recent poll to find the nation’s favourite Bond theme – has found that whilst Bond is the quintessential British gentleman, his music accompaniment off-screen is somewhat less macho. So much so that, here, we’ve come up with the top five campest Bond songs of all time:

‘Diamonds Are Forever’ – Shirley Bassey (1971)

Undoubtedly, the campest of them all. The prolific trio of composer John Barry, lyricist Don Black and Shirley Bassey – the team behind ‘Goldfinger’ – reunited for the seventh Bond film, which also saw Sean Connery reprising the title role. It is unfortunate that the most macho of all Bonds should have a theme which is laden with innuendo and double entendres.

Black remains adamant that he wrote the lyrics with diamonds in mind. However, unsure of the meaning behind his words, the always-theatrical Bassey sought advice from Barry, the man responsible for eleven Bond songs, who suggested to the Welsh diva, “think ‘penis’ rather than ‘diamonds’.” This heralded the beginning of 35 years of Bassey ‘caressing, touching, stroking and undressing’ the microphone on stage.

Initially vetoed by the film producer Harry Saltzman for its filthy content, this iconic number was voted second in Channel 4’s poll – beaten only by ‘Goldfinger’.

The Man With The Golden Gun – Lulu (1974)

Universally acknowledged as the worst Bond theme of all time – even John Barry hated it – this song was initially offered to Alice Cooper, who then enlisted the help of Liza Minelli in backing vocals.

However, the movie producers deemed Cooper’s shock rock image as inappropriate, and quickly replaced him with another song, and featuring Lulu.

An outraged Cooper was left to include his discarded track on his 1973 album, ‘Muscle of Love’, as Lulu belted out the lyrics which included ‘He has a powerful weapon/ He charges a million a shot / His eye may be on you or me / Who will he bang? / We shall see’.

Yes, it’s that lyricist again – Mr Don Black! He can’t blame it on diamonds this time!

Die Another Day – Madonna (2002)

The most recent Bond theme, and the most divisive. Some critics argued that by having an electronic rhythmic track to accompany a film where Bond is captured then tortured was, to put mildly, inappropriate.

The controversy didn’t end there, with Sir Elton John laying into Madonna by branding her effort the worst Bond tune ever.

She had the last laugh though, for not only did she bag a part as Verity, the lesbian fencing instructor opposite Pierce Brosnan, her terrific record in film soundtracks (Evita, Desperately Seeking Susan, Austin Powers) ensured its commercial success, and marked a new direction in Bond themes as the franchise moved into the 21st century.

Tomorrow Never Dies – Sheryl Crow (1997)

A surprising choice, you might think, as there’s nothing in Sheryl Crow or the lyrics to suggest this is camp in any way.

But it was the dog-fight to record the theme which is where the camp-o-meter reached bursting point. MGM, who distributed the film, invited submissions from various music companies for the 18th Bond song. The likes of Marc Almond (who composed a Bassey-like version), St Etienne, David McAlmont, Pulp, Sheryl Crow and KD Lang were all vying for the prestigious gig.

In the end, Crow got the nod ahead of Lang as the latter was not deemed to be ‘famous enough’. Lang’s version, also written by David Arnold, closed the film instead.

Arnold, touted as heir apparent to John Barry’s crown, was roped in as music producer of the film as he had earlier produced a Bond tribute album, ‘Shaken and Stirred: The David Arnold James Bond Project’ which featured a drag McAlmont’s singing ‘Diamonds are Forever’ in the video.

For Your Eyes Only – Sheena Easton (1981)

The first Bond of the 1980s, and a song which could’ve featured Blondie, Donna Summer or Barbra Streisand but ultimately went to a Scottish lass named Sheena Eaton.

Blondie was initially approached to do the score due to the closeness of the band’s name to Bond. On learning that, the New York outfit politely said ‘no’ as music producer Bill Conti approached Barbra Streisand to pen the lyrics, and had Donna Summer in mind for the vocals for a new version.

However, the former was busy filming ‘Yentl’ whilst the latter show no interest whatsoever, which led to Easton being brought into the project, and a cameo appearance in the opening credits of the twelfth Bond film. She was, however, last seen desperately trying to revive a flagging career by performing 1970s hit at G.A.Y. in 2001.

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