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The seven iconic pop songs that defined Roger Moore’s James Bond era

Roger Moore, the British actor best known for playing the most tongue-in-cheek of James Bonds, has died at the age of 89. For music fans, it’s impossible to think about James Bond movies without recalling the epic theme songs that accompany each film. Moore was Bond in seven films (1973-85), a longer tenure than any other actor in the role.

Since the inception of the film series in 1962, each movie has featured a high-profile pop artist in the opening credits, along with experimental visuals. While acclaimed for their cinematography, the opening sequences are often filled with problematic undertones concerning gender and race — much like the entire series. Still, many of the songs have achieved iconic status. The most recent artists invited to record Bond themes, Adele in 2012 and Sam Smith in 2015, each won Academy Awards.

Here are the seven songs that defined Roger Moore’s Bond era.

Paul McCartney and Wings – “Live and Let Die” (1973)

After reading the Ian Fleming novel on a break from recording Red Rose Speedway, McCartney wrote the song the next day. As Wings drummer Denny Seiwell has recalled: “He sat down at the piano and said, ‘James Bond… James Bond… da-da-dum!’, and he started screwing around at the piano. Within 10 minutes, he had that song written. It was awesome, really.” McCartney later collaborated with his wife, Linda, and Beatles producer George Martin for a song that was nominated for an Academy Award and topped the charts in the United States and the United Kingdom. It’s still a staple of McCartney’s live shows, with pyrotechnics.

Lulu – “The Man With the Golden Gun”(1974)

Earlier this year, Lulu told Dylan Jones of her James Bond theme, “I think mine was probably the worst one ever — mine was not a great song.” The sentiment was also echoed by the song’s composer John Barry. Still, the track did its job with a campy drama that matched the tone of the blockbuster movie. Alice Cooper has claimed that he was originally considered for the song, with his own version appearing on his album, “Muscle of Love.”

Carly Simon – “Nobody Does It Better” from The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

As the story goes, producer Richard Perry convinced songwriters Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager to submit this to the James Bond producers — and to have Carly Simon sing it. It was later reworked to fit the movie, and received nominations for Academy and Golden Globe awards. It’s been covered by several artists, including Radiohead, whose frontman Thom Yorke once declared it “the sexiest song that was ever written.”

Shirley Bassey – “Moonraker” (1979)

Having recorded the themes for two other Bond movies, including 1964’s Goldfinger — one of the franchise’s best-known theme songs — Shirley Bassey returned in 1979 to grace us with another heartfelt ballad. She’s repeatedly said she disliked the track, and that she only stepped in as a favor for John Barry (after they couldn’t get Kate Bush or Johnny Mathis). While the movie was the highest-grossing of the series at the time, the single didn’t chart, while the LP reached just #159.

Sheena Easton – “For Your Eyes Only” (1981)

Having caught the attention of songwriters Bill Conti and Mick Leeson with her hit single “Morning Train,” the Scottish pop star Sheena Easton reached the top of the U.S. and U.K. charts with this track. It was also nominated for Best Original Song at the 1982 Academy Awards.

Rita Coolidge – “All Time High” from Octopussy (1983)

Several years after Coolidge made waves with four hit singles in 1977 and ’78, she returned to the mainstream again with “All Time High,” written by John Barry and Tim Rice. The track reached #36 on the Billboard Hot 100, and soared to #1 on adult contemporary radio stations, according to the magazine. It also was widely successful in Austria, Finland, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland, though it tanked in the U.K.

Duran Duran – “A View To a Kill” (1985)

Released at the peak of the band’s Reagan-era fame, this track became one of Duran Duran’s biggest hits. As bassist (and James Bond fan) John Taylor recalled in his memoir, he approached movie producer Cubby Broccoli while drunk at a party and asked him, “When are you going to have a decent theme song again?” The next day, Taylor was on the phone with composer John Barry. The track, which was nominated as Best Original Song for the 1986 Golden Globes, marked the last time the original Duran Duran members recorded a song together until their 2001 reunion.

  • monica

    Carly Simon’s ‘Nobody Does It Better’ is my favorite of these.

  • Jodie

    This is as an eclectic mix of artists as the essentials list. View to a Kill is one of my favorite Duran Duran songs and Bond themes. For the longest time I used it for trivia as it was the only theme to hit #1.

    He was my first Bond – so suave and posh. Which led me to watching The Saint. Rest in peace, Sir Moore. You will be missed.

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