From Dame Shirley Bassey to Billie Eilish, it seems every music business favorite wants to write a James Bond theme. The ongoing franchise attracts a range of talent wanting their track to shake and stir audiences.
Competition is fierce and not everyone makes the cut. Even the biggest names find themselves saying “Oh-Oh No” when producers give the thumbs down.
See who failed in a mission to score (so to speak) with Bond in our 007-strong countdown.
Alice Cooper – “The Man With The Golden Gun”
Alice Cooper was going to rock on with Roger Moore’s 007 for his legendary 1974 battle with thrice-nippled terror Scaramanga. Despite banging out a classic, he lost out in favor of Scottish songstress Lulu.
Quoted by MI6: The Home of James Bond 007, Cooper commented: “everyone in the movie business said ‘that’s so dead on’. And then they picked Lulu’s.” He later added the original approach “gave the song some balls.”
Composer John Barry was also less than thrilled with the chosen theme.
Radiohead – “Spectre”
Bond leads a miserable and lonely existence. But did he need his woes added to by having Radiohead sing a song about him? Apparently not. Thom Yorke and co supplied this offering of “Spectre” (2015), much to the approval of director Sam Mendes.
Yet producers had another Sam in mind – Sam Smith. Inside Hook quotes Mendes, who said: “We had this beautiful song and we weren’t able to use it”. The director reconciled the loss by concluding it was “somehow cooler” that the eerie track didn’t get used.
Pet Shop Boys – “The Living Daylights”
Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe submitted two instrumental demos to the 007 production team in 1987. If they sound a bit Pet Shop Boys’y, then what do you expect? They are the Pet Shop Boys!
Rejection of the themes aside, there may have been other factors behind this mission being aborted. “Some sources claim that Tennant and Lowe wanted to provide the film’s entire score rather than just the main theme,” writes Empire. May as well shoot high, but in the end, the job went to A-ha.
Timothy Dalton’s debut “The Living Daylights” didn’t get the sophisticated pop treatment. But waste not want not. Tennant and Lowe reworked the track into “This Must Be the Place I Waited Years to Leave” (1990).
Pulp – “Tomorrow Never Dies”
Idiosyncratic band Pulp hail from the Yorkshire city of Sheffield. They and their frontman Jarvis Cocker were about as far from the universe of 007 as it’s likely to get. However, they wanted a shot at recording the title theme for Tomorrow Never Dies with Pierce Brosnan in 1997.
The result, which eventually became “Tomorrow Never Lies,” was rejected as Sheryl Crow took the mic. Cocker described the experience as a “kind of American Idol situation” with a lineup of hopefuls. He did manage to contribute to another major movie franchise, care of 2005’s Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire.
Blondie – “For Your Eyes Only”
Who better to sing a Bond theme than glamorous pop-rocker Debbie Harry? Her group Blondie were reportedly not assigned to the mission. Radio X writes that Harry “wasn’t best pleased when she realised that she was being employed to front a Bond tune alone.”
Proving that teamwork makes the dream work, Blondie intended their track to accompany Roger Moore’s 1981 romp For Your Eyes Only. Unfortunately, producers only had eyes for one candidate – Sheena Easton.
Amy Winehouse – “Quantum Of Solace”
Alicia Keys and Jack White’s theme for Quantum of Solace is generally regarded as less than vintage Bond. One singer who could have really injected some old-school class into the franchise is Amy Winehouse. She worked with producer/performer Mark Ronson on a track. However, her personal issues reportedly led to the idea being abandoned.
Quoted in the book Some Kind of Hero: The Remarkable Story of the James Bond Films by Matthew Field and Ajay Chowdhury, composer David Arnold said: “It was all the more upsetting when she couldn’t finish it, because I think it would have been something really special.”
Winehouse spoke about releasing her take as a rival to the Keys and White single. This never transpired, though it’s available to listen to in all its retro glory.
Johnny Cash – “Thunderball”
Is this Sean Connery’s movie or John Wayne’s? The unmistakable tones of Johnny Cash are rich, masculine and… probably not quite right for a tuxedoed super spy. This track is catchy but lacked the punch of Tom Jones’ official release.
Not that the Welsh wonder was a shoo-in. Empire commented that he was “a last-minute decision and other submissions were considered.”