Exclusive: 007 Director Reveals Which Rock Stars Have Secret James Bond Songs
Documentarian Mat Whitecross talks all things James Bond music, including the never-released Coldplay and Radiohead 007 songs.
The music of James Bond, in some ways, is even more resilient than the movies. For example, everyone knows Paul McCartney's banger “Live and Let Die,” but it’s not like the Roger Moore film it accompanies is near as popular or as good. For documentary filmmaker Mat Whitecross, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While a James Bond film can become outdated, the music remains immortal. “The music is, in a sense, the moral code for the viewer,” Whitecross tells Fatherly. “Those early films might be questionable to a modern audience, but the music is so good.”
Whitecross’s new documentary The Sound of 007 hit Amazon Prime on October 4, 2022, the 60th anniversary of Dr. No, the very first James Bond movie, ever. And the documentary is a must-watch for music fans and Bond fans alike.
The documentary charts the entire history of the music of Bond, starting with Monty Norman’s theme, to John Barry’s propulsive scores, as well as amazing stories behind several James Bond theme songs, from Shirley Bassey singing “Goldfinger,” to Tom Jones passing out while singing the high note in “Thunderball,” to Duran Duran getting into fights with Barry about the recording of “A View to a Kill.” Make no mistake, this isn’t a puff piece, The Sound of 007 gets into the not-so-great Bond songs, and behind-the-scenes conflicts, too.
“When I talked to [Bond producers] Barbara [Broccoli] and Michael [G. Wilson], I told them it might be fun to explore the times when it doesn’t work,” Whitecross explains. “And they were very keen on that.”
In terms of a song that may not have been everyone’s favorite, Jack White humbly appears in the documentary to discuss his duet with Alica Keys for the song “Another Way to Die,” which featured in nobody’s favorite Daniel Craig movie, Quantum of Solace. And even if it’s not the best Bond song ever, White reveals that he was able to slip in an utterly unorthodox guitar solo because the song was done on such short notice, which meant, according to White it let him put things in the song “they would never have approved of had they had a year to think about it.” White also notes that Prince told him that he loved “Another Way to Die,” telling saying that he felt the song was “real strong.”
Whitecross also wanted to make sure the documentary included a ton of “non-canon Bond music,” in other words, rock stars and bands who almost did a James Bond theme song, but for whatever reason, never did. Some of this stuff didn’t even make the cut of the documentary. “We had the story of [Frank] Sinatra, who was supposed to sing ‘Moonraker.’ And then we had the Johnny Cash music up against the Thunderball open credits,” Whitecross says. “But some of it we couldn’t afford, and some of it had to be cut.”
But, the documentary does illuminate the full story of both of Radiohead’s attempts at doing the theme song for the 2015 film Spectre. There’s also a somewhat hilarious and raw demo version of the song “GoldenEye,” written by Bono and the Edge, hastily recorded by U2, and then sent to Tina Turner. In the doc, Turner amusingly says “Bono sent me the worst demo,” and she’s not wrong. Still, it’s pretty awesome and more than a little subversive to see and hear U2 singing “GoldenEye.”
Finally, in terms of under-the-radar stories of songs that were never even recorded, the documentary lingers on the moment that Amy Winehouse took a meeting with Barbara Broccoli, to possibly write and record the song for Quantum of Solace, but ultimately never finished the project, and tragically died a few years later.
And, there is a pretty long list of other pop stars, rock stars, and bands that recorded James Bond songs that, for a variety of reasons never made the cut. In the documentary, we learn that Alice Cooper, Blondie, and Ace of Base were all in the running at various points in history. But Whitecross also reveals that in directing a different documentary on the band Coldplay, he learned that frontman Chris Martin has recorded a “trunkful” of possible James Bond demos. “Chris is the biggest Bond fan on the planet,” Whitecross explains. “Some of those demos are really good. I asked him if I could use them in this documentary, but he said no. But those demos are actually really amazing.”
Although you won’t find that Coldplay tidbit in The Sound of 007, you will find plenty of other wonderful revelations, including the moment when Johnny Marr — guitar legend from The Smiths and Modest Mouse — comes in to record the iconic Bond guitar solo while Hans Zimmer conducts. And, if you’re itching for even more cool Bond music, there’s also a new live concert film The Sound of 007: Live From Albert Hall, which awesomely features Hans Zimmer himself playing guitar to that iconic theme song.