The Bond Song Rejects: Eric Clapton, Johnny Cash among those that didn’t make the cut
Eric Clapton lost out to Gladys Knight. Amy Winehouse was ditched for Alicia Keys. Find out why, and check out the rejected tracks, most of which are available online.
Why does the Bond song matter? Well, the theme songs have always been more about marketing than artistic vision, and, therefore, the more dated and musty the Bond franchise got, the edgier its singers and title tracks became.
The songs, essentially, became the only way to get the film into the news, on to people’s timelines; the only way to get awards nominations.
The last two Bond theme songs — Adele’s Skyfall (2012) and Sam Smith’s Writing’s On The Wall (from Spectre, 2015) — both won Oscars, and were the first Oscar nominations for a Bond film since 1979, and the first wins since 1966.
The songs have become a way to appeal to an audience that may not know of Ian Fleming, and have likely never come across any of his novels. So it makes sense that this year’s Bond singer is Billie Eilish, the edgy 18-year-old that everyone’s talking about. Her No Time To Die was released on February 13 and has since had 31.5 million views on YouTube alone.
She’s the youngest artists to ever do a Bond theme song, and she was approached at a time when fans of Beyoncé and Dua Lipa were hoping those divas would be asked instead.
So exactly how cool do you have to be to make the cut? It turns out several music legends, over the years, have submitted tracks for consideration and been bluntly turned down — including Eric Clapton, Johnny Cash, Alice Cooper, Amy Winehouse, Blondie and Radiohead.
Here’s a looks at why, who was picked over them, and where you can watch the rejected tracks for free.
Eric Clapton lost out to Gladys Knight
Bond producers had initially turned to rock giant, Eric Clapton, for the title track for Licence To Kill (1989). But nothing he and guitarist Vic Flick put together would please the production house, EON. The resulting collaboration was never released, and remains a secret treasure in the EON archives. The makers then roped in seven-time Grammy winner, Gladys Knight.
Amy Winehouse ditched for Alicia Keys
Amy Winehouse was picked to create the Quantum of Solace (2008) theme song after the success of her multi-award-winning 2006 album, Back to Black. But Winehouse — who was already battling the addictions that would lead to her death in 2011 — couldn’t finish the song by the deadlines she’d been given, so the Bond franchise pulled out midway and the gig was handed over to Alicia Keys and Jack White. Winehouse was reportedly so upset, and enraged, she decided to release her song the same day as Keys.
Tom Jones over Johnny Cash
After a whole lot of artistic disagreements with other artists left Thunderball (1965) without a theme song, American country singer, Johnny Cash, threw his hat in the ring. He wanted to branch out beyond his country music fan base, so he submitted a Western-themed number for consideration. Apparently, it didn’t pair well with the personality of the reigning Bond, Sean Connery. The makers said they wanted something “sexy and British”, and picked Tom Jones, who was then riding high on the success of It’s Not Unusual. Cash’s title track is available on YouTube and Spotify.
Lulu picked over Alice Cooper
Alice Cooper wrote a song for Man with the Golden Gun (1974), starring the gentlemanly Roger Moore. It’s not clear whether he was approached because his 1973 studio album, Billion Dollar Babies, was No 1 on the Billboard that year, or whether he put the song together on impulse. Either way, it was so far from the crooning that the producers had envisioned — having more of a moshpit-at-2am vibe, that he was informed that it was slightly too scary, and the producers approached Scottish pop sensation, Lulu, instead. Cooper’s version eventually appeared on his 1973 album, Muscle of Love, and is available on YouTube.
Sam Smith over Radiohead
When Radiohead was asked to record the theme song for Spectre (2015), they offered up Man of War — a track they had recorded in the 1990s, as a tribute to the Bond theme, but had never released. When the producers realised it hadn’t been composed and recorded for the film, and so would not be considered for an Oscar, they turned the band down. So Radiohead went back to the drawing board, stopping sessions on their ninth studio album to conceive an original track for Spectre. Which the producers then told them was too melancholic. Sam Smith was roped in instead. The Radiohead original was eventually released as a free download on Christmas Day, 2015.