Sunday, March 3, 2013

It's A "Shaken And Stirred" Sunday in Forgotten Hits!

Did you happen to read the Yahoo comments coming in following Shirley Bassey's performance of "Goldfinger" at the Academy Awards? Nary a negative word amongst them and some of those comments came from folks who'd never heard her sing before. Reminds me of the mid-80s when Tina Turner and Patti LaBelle were both discovered by a younger generation of listeners. It doesn't happen very often to '60s artists ... and maybe Shirley Bassey will be the last one ... and so it is precious when it does.
Dann Isbell

I've seen both good and bad comments regarding having Shirley perform at the Oscars. (Originally the word was that part of the 50th Anniversary Salute to James Bond in Film would include ALL of the actors who've played 007 over the years appearing together on stage ... now THAT would have been a first ... and VERY cool to see.) Even the so-called "musical tribute" seemed to be cut short ... once you got past "The James Bond Theme" and a short instrumental version of "Live And Let Die", they went straight to Shirley Bassey and then that was it ... the "tribute to Bond in film" was over.  Some said having Shirley on the program was akin to "your grandfather's Oscar show" ... others enjoyed the Bond tribute (let's face it ... 007 is hardly an Oscars staple) ... and were pleased to see Bassey asked to perform such a classic, landmark Bond tune. But a REAL tribute should have included SO much more ... both in clips AND In music. 

There have been SO many great Bond songs over the years ... "Thunderball", "All Time High", "Nobody Does It Better", "For Your Eyes Only", "You Only Live Twice", "A View To A Kill" and Shirley's other Bond theme "Diamonds Are Forever" ... I felt a little short-changed with the way it ended so abruptly.  (They easily could have done a short montage featuring each actor ... then spotlighted The Bond Girls ... the gadgets ... the villains ... and the music from each.  In fact, it moved by so quickly that we wondered if maybe they were going to come back to it throughout the program ... they didn't.)

But I've got to say, Shirley DID sound great ... think about it ... when's the last time most of us have seen her perform anything ... probably damn near 1965 when "Goldfinger" first came out! Her voice was strong (and she didn't even have to remove her bra to hit the big note there at the end!!!)  Remember THAT story?!?! Forgotten Hits Regular Vic Flick, who played guitar on Bassey's original recording of "Goldfinger" told us how, during that session Shirley was having difficulty hitting and holding that last note. After repeated takes and more and more frustration, she simply removed her bra and then nailed it! It was great to see her perform it live 50 years later ... all "strapped in" ... and still belt it out with gusto!

Overall, I guess it's the thought that counts ... a nice gesture to salute James Bond in his 50th Year in Film ... but I feel that SO much more could have been done. (Meanwhile, I'm psyching myself up for the 50th Anniversary Austin Powers celebration!!!) kk    

How has James Bond music performed on the pop charts?

Honestly, it's been pretty hit or miss.

Counting this year's Academy Award Winner "Skyfall" by Adele, exactly TEN songs have made Billboard's Top 40 Pop Singles Chart ... which, of course, is EXACTLY enough for us to give you a Top Ten Countdown:  

#10 - "All Time High" by Rita Coolidge (from "Octopussy") #36 Peak, 1983  
DIDJAKNOW? - The song was first recorded by Laura Branigan, who was very hot at the time. (Laura scored five straight Top 20 Singles with "Gloria" [#2]; "Solitaire" [#7]; "How Am I Supposed To Live Without You" [#12]; "Self Control" [#4] and "The Lucky One" [#20]). It was Albert Broccoli's daughter Barbara who convinced her father to go with the Rita Coolidge version instead ... and, as far as I know, the Laura Branigan version has never officially been released. Branigan passed away in 2004.

# 9 - "Casino Royale" by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, #27, 1967 
A bit of a stretch here since this wasn't "officially" a James Bond film but rather a spoof that featured no less than seven different actors playing 007. Dusty Springfield's hit "The Look Of Love" also came from this film ... but we're talking title tracks here. In 2006 "Casino Royale" was remade as a REAL James Bond film, introducing Daniel Craig as the new Bond ... and it was no longer a spoof by any stretch of the imagination. It remains one of the more "hard core" Bond films ever made in terms of violence.

#8 - "Thunderball" by Tom Jones, #25, 1965 
Mr. Sock-In-The-Pants had the perfect, booming voice for this track ... which came as an after-thought. Believe it or not, the producers originally did not want to go with a title track for this film ... and instead commissioned a song to be written called "Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang", an inside joke after either an Italian or Japanese journalist (depending on which story you believe) referred to Bond this way. (I'm going with Japan on this one!) Shirley Bassey, hot on the heels of her success with "Goldfinger", recorded a version ... and then so did Dionne Warwick, which is the version that would have been featured in the film had a last-minute decision not been made to go with the title track after all. Tom Jones gave the perfect Shirley Bassey-esque performance ... and "Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" was instead delegated to instrumental status ... but used throughout the film and end credits. Both Bassey's and Warwick's versions were finally released on James Bond soundtrack compilations in the '90's.

#7 - "Skyfall" by Adele, #8, 2013 
This year's Academy Award Winner for Best Song from a Motion Picture (the ONLY Bond song ever to win this honor, although three others have been nominated.) Surprisingly, this Adele track did NOT top the Billboard Singles chart ... but, as of this week is climbing again thanks to the Oscar win. (It's currently perched at #61, up from #83 in its 19th week on the chart.  It initially peaked at #8 ... and is a GREAT Bond tune, recorded in perfect Adele fashion.)

#6 - "Die Another Day" by Madonna, #8, 2002 
Another millennium track to make the Top Ten, this film featured Pierce Brosnan as 007, perhaps the most likely candidate to ever fill the role (although not necessarily the best received).

#5 - "Goldfinger" by Shirley Bassey, #8, 1964 
Probably the best-known, best-remembered Bond track ... and it was a discussion of Shirley's performance at this year's Oscars ceremony that precipitated this whole Bond discussion. Instrumental versions by John Barry and Billy Strange also charted (at #72 and #55 respectively) ... but Shirley's is the one everybody remembers ... from perhaps the greatest Bond film ever. (Bassey has recorded several tracks for Bond movies over the years ... more on that tomorrow in Forgotten Hits.)

#4 - "For Your Eyes Only" by Sheena Easton, #4, 1981 Another "Best Song" Oscar nominee, Sheena is the only artist to actually perform her song during the film's opening credits sequence. (Usually this was reserved for some very artsy nude silhouettes against a colorful background! Somewhat disappointingly, Sheena appeared clothed, however!) This time it was Roger Moore in the lead role.

#3 - "Nobody Does It Better" by Carly Simon (from "The Spy Who Loved Me", #2, 1977) 
Yep, this one was a monster ... and was another "Best Song" nominee. (They even managed to work the film's title into the song lyric ... although it DID sound a bit "forced".) Still one of Simon's biggest and best known hits.

#2 - "Live And Let Die" by Paul McCartney and Wings, #2, 1973 
The very first Bond song to be nominated for an Academy Award (it lost to "The Way We Were") was also Roger Moore's first outing as the super spy. McCartney first premiered the track on his television special "James Paul McCartney" ... and I was hooked from the word go. Always a concert highlight, supplemented by explosions, a laser light show and fireworks, McCartney has kept the excitement going for 40 years now with this one.

#1 - "A View To A Kill" by Duran Duran, #1, 1985 
The ONLY Bond song to ever reach #1 on the pop charts. (Seriously?!?! THIS one?!?!? I'm not sure how many of our readers could even sing a verse, much less hum the melody!!!) But it's true ... between 1983 and 1985, Duran Duran would hit Billboard's Top Ten SEVEN times with "Hungry Like The Wolf" (#3, 1983); "Is There Something I Should Know" (#4, 1983); "Union Of The Snake" (#3, 1983); "New Moon On Monday" (#10, 1984); "The Reflex" (#1 for two weeks in 1984); "The Wild Boys" (#2, 1984) and this one, also #1 for two weeks in 1985. Incredibly, they'd make four more trips to the Top Ten before it was all over ... with "Notorious" (#2, 1987); "I Don't Want Your Love" (#4, 1988); "Ordinary World" (#3, 1993) and "Come Undone" (#7, 1993), giving them nearly a dozen Top Ten Hits in all.  

We like a couple of other Bond tune that never made the charts ... like Gladys Knight's "License To Kill" and Sheryl Crow's "Tomorrow Never Dies" ... and, since this IS, after all, Forgotten Hits, a couple of novelty tracks, too ... like our buddy Ron Dante's hit with The Detergents, "Double-O-Seven" (#89, 1965) and Dickie Goodman's "James Bomb". That's why we're shaking and stirring a few things up with today's featured tracks! (kk)