As James Bond celebrates 50 years of films, here in the UK it’s been hard not to get drawn in to both the glitz, escapism and the great music the series has come to represent. Music producers need continual inspiration to produce great music. Bond is always a source of that. The James Bond theme music is almost as famous and anticipated as the stories. Singing and composing one is possibly one of the hottest music production gigs going.
After watching ‘Skyfall’ the latest James Bond epic at the cinema, I couldn’t help but get hooked again. So much so, I have even started reading the books. Currently, Casino Royal, which is an exceptionally well written read. Captures your imagination and keeps you turning the page. Just like a great music production should draw you in and keep you wanting to hear it…repeatedly.
Here are 5 great James Bond theme songs and advice on how to compose theme songs yourself, from a master – Angelo Badalamenti.
5 Great James Bond Theme songs
1. Goldfinger by Shirley Bassey
Gold standard at all levels. The song which more than any other has set the benchmark for music on the James Bond films. Strong vocal, clever lyrics, catchy music. This music production has it all. If ever there was a song for every music producer to analyse it’s this.
2. On her majesty’s secret service by David Arnold / Propellerheads
Possibly one of my all-time favourite music productions. It introduced me to brilliance of both David Arnold and the, now sadly defunct, Propellerheads. I remember buying the 12” single to this and been mesmerized by the sounds the depth and the beats. It’s not actually an official song, this was produced for a tribute album.
3. The world is not enough by Garbage / David Arnold
4. Nobody Does It Better by Carly Simon
Another Bond classic that has taken on a life of its own outside of the film. A song parodied for numerous TV adverts and comedy routines. A sign of a surefire classic when the music captures and expresses so many varied situations.
5. You Only Live Twice by Nancy Sinatra
An exceptionally cool song from sixties siren, Nancy Sinatra. Think how many songs you have since heard these delightful string riffs sampled in… answers via the comments below please!
So you how do you go about composing a theme tune?
Composing theme music is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, after developing themes for several art installations. It is very different skill to making music for the dance-floor, or music to satisfy your own creative muse. Often you are composing music to enhance someone else’s visual story. In the industry, this is often referred to as writing to spec. To do this successfully it is vital you understand what they are trying to express. Then capture the essential of this emotion in your music production.
The video below features the master producer Angelo Badalamenti discussing how he composed the classic, and much sampled, twin peaks love song theme.
Three steps to help guide your composing
a) Visualise the story - how it feels, the tensions and emotions. Put yourself in the scenes.
b) Experiment – play with notes and chords till they create the tensions the story intends.
c) Tempo – vary the tempo of your composition to enhance the music’s impact and tension. Unlike pop and dance music, many great themes increase tempo to a climax and then bring the listener suddenly or slowly down. Before rising again.
Good luck and share your music production results in the comments below, it’s always great to hear what the blog inspires…