It’s been seven hours and four-and-a-half decades since Blondie covered the classic James Bond theme Goldfinger on the Musikladen Extra programme from Bremen TV in what was then West Germany.
Formerly known as Beat Club, this live Musikladen special was recorded in December 1977 and broadcast on 19th Jan 1978, prior to Blondie starting work on what would become their most commercially successful album, the brilliant blitzkrieg pop of Parallel Lines.
Goldfinger is of course, the velvety classic from 1964; in fact the first notable title song for an 007 movie, which established that Bond themes are best when kissed and bang-banged in with a go-for-broke vocal performance, the one by which all others are measured.
Some subsequent themes have even been cheeky/affectionate enough to appropriate Goldfinger over the years, most notably Gladys Knight‘s Licence To Kill and Tina Turner‘s Goldeneye. Just don’t expect her to talk.
Composed by John Barry and with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse* and Anthony Newley (Mr Joan Collins), Goldfinger was performed by Shirley Bassey for the titular film’s opening and closing title sequences, as well as the soundtrack album release.
The fast-paced version showcased here was another example of how Blondie could take a cover and make it their own. Incidentally, the song had been in the band’s live set since November of ’77, a good few months before British post-punk outfit Magazine releasing their rough and not quite ready version.
The performance also includes a decent cross-section of the band’s self-penned material from their first two albums, including X-Offender, In The Sun, Detroit 442 and a biting performance of A Shark In Jet’s Clothing.
By 1981, Blondie had become one of the biggest bands in the world. For Your Eyes Only, the contemporaneous 007 caper, was meant to be a return to the grittier Bond movies of yore, despite featuring Roger Moore as the man with the powerful weapon for a fifth time.
As Blondie’s chief songwriters, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein were invited to submit a theme song for the movie, the edgy, paranoid song of the same name. Bill Conti had other plans, however — and as well as the unmistakably Eighties score he’d composed for the film, Conti had conjured up a shimmering low-key ballad he imagined Donna Summer or Dusty Springfield singing.
Neither artists were available, so history records that Blondie had to experience the ignominy of having their work rejected in favour of a vastly inferior track performed by Sheena Easton, who even got to appear in the title sequence.
Yup, that’s a sure-fire head-scratcher even now. Clearly Bond wasn’t always the man.
Steve Pafford is the co-compiler and essayist of Blondie’s Greatest Hits album (EMI, 2002)
Born on 29 January 1931, Leslie Bricusse died on the 18th anniversary of my grandmother’s passing, in bucolic Saint-Paul-de-Vence, a few miles from Nice, where I’m writing this