10 Best James Bond Theme Songs (You’ve Probably Never Heard)

Despite mixed reviews, Sam Smith won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song for Writing’s On The Wall. However, the now famous Spectre theme song was almost much different. Many James Bond fans may not realize that there is actually a laundry list of unused Bond themes, some of which are much better than the versions we actually got.

1. Spectre by Radiohead

Before Sam Smith was chosen to record the theme song for Spectre (which he admitted to writing in less than 20 minutes), Radiohead was a finalist for the highly sought after opportunity. On Christmas Day 2015, Radiohead released their version of the theme song, simply titled Spectre, to much praise.

We have no idea why Spectre was passed over in favor of Writing’s On The Wall, but Radiohead frontman and known amnesiac Thom Yorke seems at peace with the situation, writing on Twitter, “It didn’t work out … but became something of our own which we love very much.”

2. 24 by Lana Del Rey

Radiohead weren’t the only alternative artists in the running for Spectre though. Lana Del Rey was heavily rumored to record the follow up to Adele‘s Skyfall. While there’s no official confirmation, many speculate that the song 24 was originally written as a theme song for Spectre.

Bond fans and counting aficionados will point out that Spectre is the 24th Bond film and that the song as a whole seems to be sung from the perspective of a Bond girl (“There’s only 24 hours in a day/And half of those, you lay awake/With thought of murder and carnage”).

However, Del Rey insists she was never in the running, telling NME, “I would’ve done it if I was asked but I wasn’t asked. I love all of the Bond music that’s been put out over the years and I love soundtracks in general. There are a couple of songs on this record [Honeymoon] that have a Bond feel like ’24’ and ‘Swan Song’.”

3. Supremacy by Muse

Adele’s Skyfall is considered one of the greatest Bond songs of all-time, becoming the first Bond theme song to win a Golden Globe, a Brit Award, a Grammy, and an Academy Award. Daniel Craig even admitted that he broke down in tears the first time he heard the song.

However, before Adele was chosen to record the theme song for Skyfall, Muse considered submitting a song of their own. Drummer Dominic Howard suggested that their song Supremacy would have made the perfect Bond theme, “It’s got a little bit of a Bond vibe – it all goes a bit crazy Live And Let Die in the middle. My view is they should use it for the next James Bond film, but I don’t know what’s going on with that.”

4. Tomorrow Never Lies by Pulp

For Tomorrow Never Dies, MGM received about a dozen theme song submissions from artists including Swan Lee, Saint Etienne, Marc AlmondPulp, and Sheryl Crow. Crow’s version was eventually chosen, but Pulp’s rendition would have been one of the best Bond themes ever. The track was later released as the b-side on the 1997 single Help the Aged, which reached number 8 in the UK.

5. Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang by Dionne Warwick/Shirley Bassey

The original theme song for Thunderball was the brilliantly titled Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. The track’s title was a reference to the nickname given to James Bond by an Italian journalist. Versions were recorded by both Dionne Warwick and Shirley Bassey, but producer Albert Broccoli hated the fact that the song didn’t mention the film’s title so he canned it. Instead, the film’s title track was sung by Tom Jones, who almost fainted while recording the song.

6. Thunderball by Johnny Cash

After Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was given the axe, Johnny Cash submitted his own version of Thunderball to Eon Productions, but unfortunately the song wasn’t used. Cash’s Thunderball later appeared on the 2011 album Bootleg, Vol. 2: From Memphis to Hollywood. However, that wasn’t the end of Cash’s soundtrack career. After being rejected by Bond, Cash recorded a similar song for the John Wayne Western, The Sons of Katie Elder.

7. The Man with the Golden Gun by Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper‘s The Man with the Golden Gun from the 1973 album Muscle of Love was originally written for the James Bond film of the same name. However, the studio went with Lulu‘s version of the theme song instead.

In an interview with the AV Club, Cooper admitted he was shocked by the decision, saying his version was “Perfect for The Man With The Golden Gun. It had helicopters, it had machine guns—it had the Pointer Sisters, Ronnie Spector, and Liza Minnelli doing background vocals!” According to Cooper even Christopher Lee (who played Francisco “Man with the Golden Gun” Scaramanga) was surprised and asked “Oh, man, why did we take the Lulu song? This song is the one!”

James Bond composer John Barry considered the Lulu track one of his worst compositions saying “It’s the one I hate most… it just never happened for me.” It was the only Bond theme song that failed to chart in either the US or the UK.

8. For Your Eyes Only by Blondie

Blondie‘s For Your Eyes Only was originally composed for the Roger Moore film of the same name. However, the movie’s producers preferred another song written by Bill Conti and Michael Leeson and asked Blondie to record that version instead. Blondie declined so the song was given to Sheena Easton and Blondie used their song for the 1982 album The Hunter.

9. Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys

The Beach Boys‘ Pet Sounds is considered one of the most influential and progressive albums of all-time, but did you know it contains a hidden James Bond theme song? The title track was initially composed for You Only Live Twice and was originally called Run James Run.

Songwriter Brian Wilson wanted to pen a Bond theme, however, he was too nervous to actually submit the track to Eon Productions so the song was repurposed for the Beach Boys’ next studio album instead.

10. Quantum of Solace/Skyfall by Amy Winehouse

Before her death in 2011, Amy Winehouse was rumored to have worked on a theme song for the Daniel Craig film Quantum of Solace. Producer Mark Ronson told BBC 6 Music, “They asked Amy, and I think Amy said that if she did it, she’d want to do it with me. So hopefully something will come of it. The demo sounds like a James Bond theme, hopefully. But I don’t know if it’ll get used.”

The gig eventually went to Jack White and Alicia Keys, but Winehouse remained a top candidate for Skyfall as well until her passing. After her death, Bond producer Barbara Broccoli honored her saying, “[Winehouse is] an enormous artist still today. It’s a tragic ending to her life but she’s with us forever.”

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