Craven Lovelace

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November 15, 2012
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CRAVEN: Musical Bond-age

By now, you may have already become one of the several million moviegoers who helped push "Skyfall" into a nearly $90 million opening weekend in the U.S. The film is a critical and commercial success, expected to generate over a billion dollars at the box office before its run is finished.

And you can count Craven as one of its fans, thanks to its taut suspense, masterful performances by Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes and Judi Dench, and sly nods to the 50-year history of that astonishing super spy, James Bond.

You can also add Craven to the list of those who think Adele's titular theme song has demonstrated a distinct license to thrill. As a brooding, minor-key slow builder, "Skyfall" pays rightful homage to Shirley Bassey classics like "Goldfinger" and "Diamonds are Forever."

The same cannot be said of every Bond theme since the late 1970s. While some songs became rightful classics - like Marvin Hamlisch's "Nobody Does It Better," which Carly Simon turned into a Top Ten hit in 1977 after its debut in "The Spy Who Loved Me" - others, like Sheryl Crow's lackluster "Tomorrow Never Dies," have passed with a whimper, not a bang.

Perhaps the nadir of Bond themes came in 1987, when Norwegian one-hit wonders A-ha recorded the theme to "The Living Daylights," the first Bond film to star Timothy Dalton in the role of 007. Lead singer Morten Harket's keening tenor and the band's overuse of then-trendy synth drums make "The Living Daylights" pretty unlistenable nowadays.

Other notable stars who have taken their turns at providing musical accompaniment to the world's most famous spy are Madonna, Duran Duran, Chrissie Hynde, Gladys Knight and Jack White.

One musician who has made a huge contribution to the Bond musical oeuvre is David Arnold, the British composer who was recommended by none other than John Barry himself to score "Tomorrow Never Dies" in 1997. Arnold subsequently also worked on "The World is Not Enough," "Die Another Day," "Casino Royale" and "Quantum of Solace," making him the most important composer in the history of the film franchise after Barry. (Arnold has also crafted television theme songs for shows which will be familiar to Anglophiles, like "Little Britain" and "Sherlock.")

Director Sam Mendes chose to use the well-known film and television composer Thomas Newman for "Skyfall." Newman (the scion of the film composing "royal family" that also produced Alfred Newman, Lionel Newman and Thomas' cousin, Randy Newman) had earlier worked with Mendes on virtually all of the director's previous films, including "American Beauty" and "Revolution Road." He also wrote music for "The Shawshank Redemption," "Finding Nemo" and television's "Six Feet Under," among many other credits.

With "Skyfall" having set new box office records, there can be little doubt that the world won't have to wait long for the 24th film in the James Bond series. And when it arrives, it will no doubt be heralded by a memorable theme song. Because, Nancy Sinatra to the contrary, when you're James Bond, you only live at least 24 times.

Notes is supported by the Gay and Lesbian Fund, helping the Hilltop Community Resources enrich quality of life for families across the western slope.

Craven Lovelace produces Notes, a daily cultural history of popular music, for KAFM 88.1 Community Radio, kafmradio.org. You can visit cravenlovelace.com for more of his musings on the world of popular culture.


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The Post Independent Updated Nov 15, 2012 12:33PM Published Nov 15, 2012 12:32PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.