A Theme For Our Times?
Have you ever noticed how every James Bond title track reflects its time? ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Thunderball’ hit the sublimely brassy, sexy peak of the sixties, McCartney’s ‘Live And Let Die’ captured the escapist mood of the otherwise grim early seventies, A-Ha’s ‘The Living Daylights’ matches the watered-down sounds of the selling-out 80s that were also encapsulated by Timothy ‘Run Like A Girl’ Dalton’s lacklustre Bond, and finally we reach Jack White’s gruesome rock track for ‘Squantum of Qualice’ or whatever it was called, a numbingly dull Bond which almost beat Roger Moore being dressed as a circus clown in the inappropriately wooden performance stakes.
I was on set when Tina Turner belted ‘Goldeneye’ out from a raked black stage she could barely walk about on in her heels, and later sat in with the 007 orchestra when they recorded the Bond theme in a studio on Islington’s Upper Street. Barry had gone, upset that his title tracks were now chosen by a US studio instead of being a part of the film, and then, thanks to Sam Mendes, Adele brought back shiversome memories of Shirley Bassey and became a true legacy-holder to the 007 themes.
So now we reach Sam Smith’s ‘Writing On The Wall’ for ‘Spectre’. Smith has terrific pipes and the song is certainly pleasant enough in a drippy, weepy way, but the chorus repeats without building and no crescendo is ever reached. Instead it dribbles off, like one of those chillout tracks built around a sample with nowhere else to go, leaving behind the impression of something pleasant, safe, conformist and a bit bland and wimpy instead of having the confidence and sheer ballsiness of a Bond theme. It can’t be played here because, you know, rights.
Could it be that this, too, is another reflection of the times, when we’re told that the next big movement to replace hipsters will be Yuccies – Young Urban ‘Creatives’ with smoother faces and very short neat hair? After all, hasn’t Smith reinvented himself from a slightly portly ballad singer to a toned-down, scrubbed-up Yuccie? Is that why the song is heading for Bond’s first-ever No.1 spot?