‘Nobody does it better,’ Carly Simon sang over the opening titles of The Spy Who Loved Me – and few would argue that the original version of most James Bond theme songs in invariably the best.
That said, there’s a whole library of fascinating remakes, remixes and reinterpretations in existence, and here we highlight seven of the best…
Arctic Monkeys: ‘Diamonds are Forever’
The idea of Alex Turner wrapping his larynx around notes that only Shirley Bassey and David McAlmont had previously aimed for with any success sounds like an act of grand idiocy. Thankfully, this cover version from the 2008 Domino Records compilation All the Rage maintains the charm of the original without straying from the Monkeys’ swaggering comfort zone.
The Atlantics: ‘Goldfinger’
A guitar-led instrumental reprise of the main theme appears on the Goldfinger soundtrack, but this looser, tremolo-heavy garage version from 1965 is even better. Australian surf band the Atlantics make the famous tune jaunty and ominous at the same time, like the ghost of Carl Wilson.
My Bloody Valentine: ‘We Have All the Time in the World’
Kevin Shields and company celebrated signing to Island Records with this engaging cover of the Louis Armstrong classic for the label’s Peace Together compilation in 1993. The final ethereal hurrah of the shoegazing era, the band perhaps took the title too literally. It was to be their last recording for 20 years.
Bjork: ‘You Only Live Twice’
Originally intended for the 1997 David Arnold compilation album Shaken and Stirred, Bjork and Arnold attempt to recreate the soaring heights of their 1993 collaboration ‘Play Dead’ – one of the great James Bond themes that never was – and almost achieve it. Sparser and more haunting but no less engaging, this might be one of the few occasions where a cover is superior to the original.
Perry and the Harmonics: ‘From Russia with Love’
The only album by mad mod Hammond organ combo Perry and the Harmonics was a warped 1965 tribute to James Bond featuring several familiar 007 tunes in distinctly unfamiliar guises. This sax-heavy version of ‘From Russia with Love’ is a proto-acid freak out that Frank Zappa would be proud of.
Moby: ‘James Bond Theme (Moby’s Re-Version)’
Taken from the soundtrack for Tomorrow Never Dies and a Top 10 UK single in its own right, Moby’s 1997 remake of Monty Norman’s original Bond theme is a pulsing, electronic canter through the familiar ebbs and flows that transcends the tedium of the film from which it came.
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings: ‘Goldfinger’
Recorded for the soundtrack to the 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street, this cover version treads the thin line between meticulous recreation and innovative remake without ever falling into either camp. What really makes it sparkle, however, is Jones’s sumptuous vocal. It’s almost enough to make one forget the Shirley Bassey version ever existed.
What’s your favourite cover version of a James Bond theme? Let us know below…