The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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James Bond theme songs: What's the best one?

November 13, 2008 |  5:10 pm

BondWhen I was young and fancy free, I once went out with a girl whose major criteria for granting a guy a second date (and trust me when I say there was always a long line of potential grant recipients) was whether we could offer a persuasive answer to the question: What is your favorite James Bond theme song? (I could identify--in high school, I once bailed on a girl after it became apparent that I was going to be subjected to a steady stream of Cat Stevens and Three Dog Night songs from her LP collection.)

But I digress. Outside of arguing over who's the best baseball player or the worst president of all time, what could be more emotionally satisfying than debating the merits of the amazing array of James Bond theme songs? So kudos to Drew Kerr at TotalMusicGeek, who came up with the great idea of doing a Top 20 ranking of the themes--along with a YouTube link allowing us to watch all of the film's title sequences while listening to the themes.

I'm not sure I agree with all of Drew's rankings--he puts Nancy Sinatra's steamy rendition of "You Only Live Twice" (covered not so long ago by Coldplay) at No. 1, which strikes me as a bit high. But puzzling over the entire Bond aesthetic is half of the fun of playing the game. I agree with Drew that the new Jack White-Alicia Keys theme, "Another Way to Die," is, well, dreadful, almost as bad as Madonna's dreary "Die Another Day" and Garbage's dismal "The World Is Not Enough." On the plus side, I'd forgotten how good Tina Turner sounds on "GoldenEye" (co-written by Bono and the Edge) or how classic Carly Simon's "Nobody Does It Better" feels today, perhaps because it was co-written by the one and only Marvin Hamlisch, who's still enough of a brand name to get name-checked in "Role Models."

Anyway, go see for yourself--and don't miss the wonderfully kitschy title sequence from "On Her Majesty's Secret Service." As for my favorite theme? If you must know, I'm going with Tom Jones' brassy gals-toss-your-panties-on-stage version of "Thunderball." But don't take my word for it. Watch it for yourself:

Photo of Eunice Gayson and Sean Connery in "Dr. No" from UPI