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Reflections of a GoldenEye: The Bond theme U2 wrote for Tina Turner 

Beware the savage jaw, she’ll soon turn 84…*

Despite a visual resemblance to Ian Fleming’s original Hoagy Carmichael-esque idea of 007 way more than the other actors to don the tuxedo, Timothy Dalton was a bit of an unloved Bond to many. Playing the famed secret agent as a charisma-free cross between a bank manager and a Shakespearean romantic hero, Dalton wasn’t even Eon’s first choice to play the suave super spy in 1987’s The Living Daylights, Pierce Brosnan was. Though due to contractual issues with NBC on the TV show Remington Steele, the Irishman was forced to relinquish the role before he’d filmed a single scene. 

Still, look on the bright side — would the Irishman have hung around for the six year hiatus between Licence To Kill and Brosnan’s delayed debut or hang up his holster like his replacement, having completed just two trifling Bonds?

After that derided, self-serious interlude, 007 needed to come back in a big way for the franchise’s first film of the 1990s and the end of the Cold War. Daniel Kleinman, briefly a member of Adam & The Ants-turned-director of Gladys Knight’s Licence To Kill video, took over the reins of title designer from Maurice Binder for GoldenEye, named after the Jamaica estate where Ian Fleming penned the original novels. And musically, the Broccolis found some ready made heavy hitters for the dramatic theme tune: executive producers Bono and The Edge from U2 wrote the piece, Nellee Hooper was on main production duties, and one of the biggest, brassiest voices in music, the legendary Tina Turner, belted it out. And how.

You can’t fault Tina’s vocal performance. Well, you can if you’re a Welsh windbag in Monte-Carlo (there is that note, thank you, sweetie). In fact, a reviewer from the Liverpool Echo commented that Turner even “manages to sound like Shirley Bassey”, which must have rankled with the Goldfinger singer enormously, and ultimately led to the Monaco monster’s notorious “She doesn’t have the range” meme, obviously more than a bit peeved she wasn’t allowed to do a fourth Bond theme.

Never mind, because the girl from Nutbush injects so much personality into it that in a strange way she makes the song seem better than it actually is (if you want proof, listen to Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger’s reedy, budget Bond edition for Activision’s acclaimed GoldenEye 007 video game).

Still, it could have been worse: the U2 frontman could have sung the thing himself. Oh, hang on, he did. The scratchy recording Turner received was “bad,” according to the singer. “Bono sent me the worst demo. He kind of threw it together as if he thought I wasn’t going to do it,” she laughed. 

Turner relates the experience of being chased to perform the song, as she was enjoying a lay-off after a gruelling North American tour: 

“I just couldn’t really feel it at the time. Then I got a hand-written letter from Bono saying, ‘Tina, trust me, it’s rough at the moment, but it’s going to be great.’ I had to believe him. We live very near each other in the south of France, so he and Edge came up and finished it with me. Nellie Hooper came in with the arrangement. All of a sudden the song became… It was a matter of communicating and believing in each other. I’m looking forward to working with them again.”

Tina, who always wanted to be a Bond girl, finally clicked with the track, and the single—which The Edge also performs on, and although present, Bono does not—put her back in the Top 10 for the first time since the Lulu-penned I Don’t Wanna Fight:

“To me sometimes soundtracks don’t go with the movie. It just sounds like a good song. This one sounds like it fits the movie.”

The golden honey trap’s time had come.

Steve Pafford

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

*Time is a harsh mistress. This post was written just before the sad news of Tina Turner‘s death, meaning she didn‘t quite get to 84. God bless you beautiful creature. RIP TT

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