Continuing my entirely unnecessary review of the theme songs from the Bond films, this time we’re looking at the 1970s…
“Diamonds are Forever” – Oh, Shirley Bassey, we missed you! The producers brought back Sean Connery for this film (after the lackluster reception of George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), so why not bring back the best Bond singer, too? This could have been another one of those shoe-horn-the-title-into-the-song efforts, but they come at the lyrics from a great angle. Diamonds are forever, and this is why they are so much better than men! (Welcome to the 70s, James.) Musically, we’re back to a regular, middle of the road production with sappy strings and pulsing brass. They threw in a funky bass, just to remind us that the 60s are over. As a love song, this is so remarkably cynical. Awesome!
“Live and Let Die” – If there was ever a Bond title that begged to be made into a song, this is it. But do we get some torch singer from the 60s to sing it? No, we get Paul Freaking McCartney. There are strings, but they’re dissonant. There are horns, but they are angry. There’s some awesome drumming. There’s even a short break where the piano and the strings sound almost like a traditional Bond song, then McCartney really throws down with a Beatlesesque explosion of sound. You can see the timelessness of this tune when you listen to the remake by Guns N’ Roses nearly two decades later… and they did’t really have to change it much. Like “Thunderball”, this song draws a picture of James Bond as a vicious man who’ll do anything for his mission. And, man, does it work. This is probably the best of all the Bond songs. Did they take such a chance with the song because they were saying fond farewell to Sean Connery and welcoming Roger Moore to the series? Dunno, but it’s a welcome change nonetheless.
“The Man with the Golden Gun” – Who is Lulu? She sounds just like Shirley Bassey. Anyway, the progressive force of Paul McCartney and Wings is gone here. We’re back to “Goldfinger” territory, with only a weak wah-wah guitar hiding in the arrangement to place it in the mid-70s. There’s been a theme of sex and violence throughout these songs, but now, in this song about the film’s villain, we get the closest thing in the series to actual raunch: “Love is required whenever he’s hired. He comes just before the kill.” Ewww! Did that mean the same thing in 1974 that it does now? I’m guessing yes. Maybe fewer references to orgasms, please?
“Nobody Does it Better” – Was Carly Simon a big enough star that she could petition for her theme song to have a different name than the film? (“The Spy Who Loved Me” would have worked, too. It’s even in the lyrics.) For this arrangement, we’re firmly in 70s ballad territory. Percussive strings, muted horns, funky guitars, simple percussion. It all works well for this song about falling in love with James Bond even though you know he’s trouble. It’s a more cynical take on love than “From Russia with Love”, but no less sweet, I think.
“Moonraker” – Not even Shirley Bassey (back 16 years after her debut in the series) can save this weird, muddled “love” song that awkwardly incorporates the word “moonraker” into the lyrics. This is also the lowest common denominator of 70s dreck. Even the Bondian horns are totally neutered. And what’s with that incessant high-pitched cymbal through the whole song. Yikes! This is one of the worst of all these songs. I hope the 80’s save us from anything else like this!