"Skyfall" enters this week's Hot 100 at #8. The elegant ballad is the seventh (let's say 007th) opening-titles song from a James Bond movie to reach the top 10. It's the first to crack the top 10 since Madonna's "Die Another Day" 10 years ago. It's also the first to debut in the top 10.
Even casual fans know that opening-titles sequences are often the best part of Bond movies. They're sexy and clever. The opening songs, too, have been generally good, and have covered a broad range of pop and rock styles.
Thirteen opening-titles songs from "official" Bond movies (those produced by Eon Productions, the company founded by Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli and Harry Saltzman) have reached the Hot 100. Another has "bubbled under" the chart. Yet another failed to register on the pop chart, but cracked the R&B and adult contemporary charts.
Here are those 15 songs, listed in order of chart impact. Adele's song may continue to move up this list. Stay tuned.
1. Duran Duran, "A View To A Kill." This is the only Bond song to date to reach #1 on the Hot 100. Duran Duran teamed with long-time Bond composer John Barry to co-write the song, which topped the chart for two weeks in July 1985. It was the group's second #1 hit, following 1984's "The Reflex." Chic alumnus Bernard Edwards produced the smash. Barry also scored the film. In 1989, Duran Duran charted with another movie song, "Do You Believe In Shame?," from Tequila Sunrise. This was Roger Moore's seventh and final Bond film.
2. Carly Simon, "Nobody Does It Better." This is the only Bond song to receive a Grammy nomination as Song of the Year. It was the third Bond song to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Song. (The sexy and stylish song lost both awards to the deadly dull "You Light Up My Life.") Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager co-wrote the song, which was #2 for three weeks in October and November 1977. Richard Perry produced the smash. (Lyricist Sager gets bonus points for the clever way she integrated the title of the movie, The Spy Who Loved Me. Hamlisch also composed the score, which remains the only Bond score to receive an Oscar nomination.) Simon was 32 when the song was a hit. This was her first hit movie song. She later charted with "Why" from Soup For One, "Coming Around Again" from Heartburn and the Oscar-winning "Let The River Run" from Working Girl. Little Known Fact: Aretha Franklin sang "Nobody Does It Better" on the Oscars in March 1978. This was Roger Moore's third Bond film.
3. Paul McCartney & Wings, "Live And Let Die." This was the first Bond song to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Song. (It lost to "The Way We Were.") It was also the first Bond song to crack the top five on the Hot 100 and the first to incorporate elements of rock. It's the only one that was released as the follow-up to a #1 single ("My Love"). It's also the only one that was a top 40 hit twice. A Guns N' Roses cover reached #33 in 1992. Paul and Linda McCartney co-wrote the song, which was #2 for three weeks in August 1973. George Martin, who scored the movie, produced the smash. Paul McCartney was 31 at the time. He later charted with three more movie songs: "No More Lonely Nights" from Give My Regards To Broad Street (in which he starred), "Spies Like Us" from the movie of the same name and "The World Tonight" from Father's Day. Little Known Fact: Connie Stevens performed "Live And Let Die" on the Oscars in April 1974 (!). This was Roger Moore's first Bond film.
4. Sheena Easton, "For Your Eyes Only." Easton was just 22 when this song was a hit, making her the youngest artist to have a Bond hit. She was also the only artist who sang on-camera in the opening titles sequence. Easton performed the song on the Oscars in March 1982, making her the first artist who popularized a Bond theme to sing it on the telecast. "For Your Eyes Only" was the third Bond song to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Song. (It lost to "Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do).") Bill Conti and Michael Leeson co-wrote the song, which spent four weeks at #4 in October and November 1981. Christopher Neil produced the smash. Conti also scored the film. Easton later charted with two more movie songs: "So Far So Good" from About Last Night and Prince's "The Arms Of Orion," a hit from Batman on which she was featured. This was Roger Moore's fifth Bond film.
5. Madonna, "Die Another Day." Madonna and Mirwais Ahmadzai co-wrote and co-produced this song, which spent two weeks at #8 in November 2002. Madonna was 44 at the time. This was Madonna's 11th Hot 100 hit that came from the movies (!). Among the others: "Beautiful Stranger" from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. The title was a parody of the 1977 Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me. This was Pierce Brosnan's fourth and final Bond film.
6. Shirley Bassey, "Goldfinger." This scorching, sexy song was the first Bond song to make the top 10. John Barry co-wrote the song with Broadway veterans Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley (who were coming off a big hit with Stop The World—I Want To Get Off). Barry also scored the film. "Goldfinger" spent two weeks at #8 in March and April 1965. Bassey was 28 at the time. "Goldfinger" is her only top 10 hit. The song was robbed at the Oscars, where it failed to receive a nomination for Best Song. Three other versions, by Billy Strange, John Barry and Jack LaForge, also made the Hot 100. This was Bassey's first of two movie songs to chart. See: "Diamonds Are Forever." George Martin produced Bassey's hit. If you think the song and opening-titles sequence are hot now, imagine how they seemed back in 1964, when the movie was released. This was Sean Connery's third Bond film.
7. Adele, "Skyfall." Adele and Paul Epworth co-wrote this song, which enters the Hot 100 at #8 this week. Epworth also produced the hit. It's vying to become Adele's fourth #1. Adele is 24. This is Daniel Craig's third Bond film.
8. Tom Jones, "Thunderball." This was the first Bond theme performed by an artist who had had a previous top 10 hit, which shows that the franchise was starting to attract top talent. (Jones had made the top 10 with "It's Not Usual" and "What's New Pussycat?). Jones sang the song with same theatrical flair that Shirley Bassey brought to "Goldfinger." (Both singers were born in Wales.) John Barry and Don Black co-wrote the song, which reached #25 in January 1966. Barry also scored the film. Jones was 25 at the time. This was his second of three movie themes to chart. He had already had a hit with the Oscar-nominated "What's New Pussycat?" from the movie of same name. He would later chart with "Promise Her Anything" from the movie of the same name. This was Sean Connery's fourth Bond film.
9. Rita Coolidge, "All Time High." This may be the most mellow, adult contemporary-style song to be featured as a Bond opening-titles theme. John Barry and Tim Rice co-wrote the sensuous ballad (from Octopussy), which reached #36 in August 1983. Barry also produced the single and scored the film. Coolidge was 39 at the time. This was Roger Moore's sixth Bond film.
10. Nancy Sinatra, "You Only Live Twice." John Barry and Leslie Bricusse co-wrote this song, which spent two weeks at #44 in July and August 1967. Lee Hazlewood produced the single. Barry also scored the film. Sinatra was 27 at the time. This was her first movie theme. She later charted with another movie theme, "Tony Rome," from the movie of the same name which starred her father Frank Sinatra. This was Sean Connery's fifth Bond film.
11. Shirley Bassey, "Diamonds Are Forever." With this song, Bassey became the first artist to sing two Bond opening-titles songs. John Barry and Don Black co-wrote the song, which spent two weeks at #57 in March 1972. Bassey was 35 at the time. Barry also produced the single and scored the film. Seven years later, Bassey recorded a third Bond song, "Moonraker," but it failed to chart. This was Sean Connery's sixth and final "official" Bond film.
12. Chris Cornell, "You Know My Name." Cornell and David Arnold co-wrote and co-produced this rock ballad from the 2006 reboot of Casino Royale. Arnold also scored the film. The song reached #79 in December 2006. Cornell was 42 at the time. This is the only Hot 100 hit (as a solo artist) for the lead singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave. This was Daniel Craig's first Bond film.
13. Jack White & Alicia Keys, "Another Way To Die." This is the only collaboration to be released as a Bond opening-titles song. It's from Quantum Of Solace. White wrote and produced the song, which reached #81 in November 2008. White was 33 at the time; Keys was 28. This is White's only Hot 100 hit as a solo artist, though he previously amassed three Hot 100 hits with the White Stripes. This was Daniel Craig's second Bond film.
14. Tina Turner, "GoldenEye." Turner was 57 when this song was out, making her the oldest artist to have a Bond opening-titles song. Bono and The Edge co-wrote the song, which "bubbled under" the Hot 100 at #102 for two weeks in December 1995. Nellee Hooper produced the single. Turner had made the top 10 with two earlier movie songs, "We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome) from Mad Max—Beyond Thunderdome (in which she co-starred) and "I Don't Wanna Fight" from What's Love Got To Do With It (a bio-pic of her life). This was Pierce Brosnan's first Bond film.
15. Gladys Knight, "License To Kill." This is the only song in the entire Bond series where the artist wasn't credited in the opening credits. Was it an oversight? Or was the slight intended? In either case, it was rude and disrespectful to a great artist. The song failed to crack the Hot 100, but reached #18 on the adult contemporary chart and #69 on the R&B chart in 1989. Narada Michael Walden, Jeffrey Cohen and Walter Afanasieff co-wrote the song. Walden also produced the single "in association with" Afanasieff. Patti LaBelle's "If You Asked Me To," which played over the closing credits, fared better. The song reached #79 on the Hot 100. (Celine Dion's 1992 cover version reached the top five.) Knight, who was 45 at the time, had charted with three earlier movie songs: "On And On" from Claudine, "So Sad The Song" from Pipe Dreams (in which she starred) and "Missing You" from Set It Off. The first two were with the Pips. The last one was a collaboration with Brandy, Tamia and Chaka Khan. This was Timothy Dalton's second and final Bond film.
The Fine Print: This list counts only opening-titles songs from official James Bond films. It doesn't count two "unofficial" Bond films, 1967's Casino Royale and 1983's Never Say Never Again. Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass's "Casino Royale" reached #27 in May 1967. Lani Hall's "Never Say Never Again" "bubbled under" the Hot 100 at #103 in October 1983.
Dusty Springfield's "The Look Of Love," which was also featured in Casino Royale, reached #22 in November 1967. A cover version by Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 did even better, reaching #4 in July 1968. The song, by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, received an Oscar nomination as Best Song. (It lost to "Talk To The Animals.")
The Fine Print II: I'm also not counting cover versions. Billy Strange's version of Monty Norman's "The James Bond Theme" (first heard in 1962's Dr. No) reached #58 in October 1964. The Village Stompers' version of Lionel Bart's "From Russia With Love" (from the 1963 movie of the same name) reached #81 in May 1964.