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It’s just her little Octopussy: Why Rita Coolidge’s deathly dull Bond theme isn’t an All Time High

While the British singles charts of 25 June 1983 were headed by the year‘s behemoths: The Police, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Elton John and Irene Cara (oh, and not forgetting Wham!, especially as the date was George Michael‘s 20th birthday… and the day before my 14th), at the opposite end of success Rita Coolidge’s theme song from the James Bond caper Octopussy reached the dazzling lows of No. 75. It‘s so dated you can actually hear the headband.

It’s hard to take the theme song to the 13th instalment in the James Bond franchise seriously when the opening sounds of ‘70s sexy saxophone and porn movie-grade bass thumps make listeners snicker. But that’s as climactic as it gets. Coming on the back of huge and slushy hit film themes like Endless Love and Up Where We Belong, this nasty knock-off sports equally deathly dull lyrics by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s word man Tim Rice — penned where he thought the chosen vocalist might be Mari Wilson or Laura Brannigan — but, ultimately, the theme song for Roger Moore’s arthritic penultimate movie was always going to have one job and one job only: distract viewers from the fact that they’re about to watch a film called Octopussy. 

By those standards, I suppose you could regard All Time High as something of a success. But shorn of any hint of obvious innuendo the song is limper than a lettuce from 1977, which, coincidentally, is when the brilliantly bland Rita Coolidge last hit the charts. 

The Liz Truss of the charts dials it back to almost Karen Carpenter levels of plainness, performing the track with the sultry disinterest of a television presenter on game For A Laugh. John Barry’s cocktail jazz arrangement is, unusually, the weakest link: aside from some neat countermelodies to the chanteuse’s chorus vocals, one doesn’t get the impression he spent an awfully long time knocking this one together. It sounds less like a Bond song and more like the theme to a Moonlighting spinoff. 

“But then we’re two of a kind, we move as one,” is the key lyric, referring to the trope that spies and villains are ostensibly two sides of the same coin — a recurring subplot explored in everything from The Man With The Golden Gun to GoldenEye.

I suppose the kindest thing you could say is that this iffy ditty just sort of sits there, knowing full well that it would be a lot more awkward to watch guns ejaculate silhouettes of women in silence. 

One notable fact is that All Time High was the first Bond theme that came with its own promotional video, which consisted of footage of the not so lovely Rita – shot in Vaselined soft focus – singing in an apparent Indian palace but was in fact the Royal Pavilion at Brighton, which presumably made sourcing the Vaseline a little easier.

Steve Pafford

For your ears only: all 30 Bond themes ranked from worst to best is here


Rita rarely mentions her flop 45 and performs it even less, so here‘s a tie when she did. Just because…

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