Monday, November 10, 2008

Five Days of Bond Covers: Day 001

This Friday marks the North American release of Quantum of Solace so we're celebrating here at Fong Songs with a solid work week of James Bond covers, from Dr. No through Casino Royale. It's also a special week at Fong Songs for another reason: I was chosen as "Blogger of the Week" for BreakThru Radio, a New York-based online radio station. So what exactly does this mean? It means all this week I'm double-shifting with posts over there too, starting with today's post on (you guessed it) covers of the James Bond theme. This gig will culminate with a Thursday appearance on the show Anatomy of a Blogger featuring some interview questions I've yet to record and a playlist hand-picked by yours truly, which as you might imagine will be heavy on the covers and CanCon. Very exciting, but I must be as loopy as that car stunt from Man With the Golden Gun (great stunt, unfortunate slide-whistle effect) to think I can post every day this week on two different sites.

In grade 7, a friend gave me a Best of James Bond CD for my birthday, which is how I became intimately familiar with all the Bond theme songs before I had even seen many of the films themselves. My earliest memory of any Bond film had to do with a sniper and a cello case... clearly The Living Daylights, though it would be several more years before I knew who James Bond was. One day my dad brought home a VHS boxset of the first three Bond films and that's basically where I got my start, eventually working my way through the entire series via the library and seeing the Brosnan era films in the theatres. TBS used to have a thing called 30 Days of Bond with a solid month showing Bond movies every night and that's something I've always wanted to replicate on a smaller scale... with cover songs, of course. So here we go!

Dr. No (1962)

Being the first in the series, the idea of the title theme song had yet to establish itself, but it introduced the world to Monty Norman's James Bond Theme forever more. There's somewhat of a controversy over who actually wrote the Bond theme, but here's where you should definitely head over to that BTR post to read more about that and find covers by Parodi & Fair, Bond, and Fanfare Ciocărlia.

From Russia With Love (1963)

Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen - From Russia With Love [originally performed by Matt Monro]
It's been a long while since I saw this one, but I remember it being one of my faves. Even Connery himself considers it the best of the series. The opening credits actually feature an instrumental version of From Russia With Love with Matt Monro's vocal version over the end credits. This sweet dixieland jazz cover is by British jazz band Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen.

Goldfinger (1964)

Shirley Bassey - Goldfinger [Propellerheads mix]
Arguably the most recognizable of all Bond themes, this was the first of three Bond themes sung by Shirley Bassey, setting the gold standard of all Bond themes to come. Bassey actually recorded an album of Bond covers called Bassey Sings Bond, a brilliant idea that unfortunately was marred by god-awful arrangements by what sounds like a one-man synthesizer orchestra. In fact, it's virtually unlistenable and apparently Bassey took legal action withdrawing the recordings from store shelves. I'm already cheating here by including a remix rather than a cover, but I couldn't find a Goldfinger cover I really like, not to mention I absolutely love this Propellerheads remix from the Shirley Bassey remix album, Diamonds Are Forever. Propellerheads are also responsible for a monster 9+ minute remix of On Her Majesty's Secret Service and they later teamed up with Shirley Bassey on the single History Repeating (great track, by the way).

Thunderball (1965)

Kingpins - Thunderball [originally performed by Tom Jones]
This ska cover is one of my favourite Bond covers, yet sadly I know very little about it and have some doubts as to whether this has been labeled with the correct artist. Yes, there's a Montréal ska band called the Kingpins, though from what I can tell they don't sound like this and their official discography makes no mention of it. It's possible but highly unlikely there was a different ska band by the same name. iTunes and eMusic aren't any help. I hate posting covers of unknown origin, but this cover is just too good to go unheard. Let me know if you can shed any light on this cover mystery.

**UPDATE: No worries, folks. Thanks to my pal Nick Chuck, we have confirmation that it IS by The Kingpins, a hidden track from their 1999 album Let's Go to Work!

You Only Live Twice (1967)

The Postmarks - You Only Live Twice [originally performed by Nancy Sinatra]
As previously mentioned on Fong Songs, Miami pop band The Postmarks have a cover album By the Numbers coming out tomorrow! The album features twelve covers of numbers-related songs including this Bond cover, which was previously released for free on eMusic. Can't wait for tomorrow because the final cover on the album is none other than the Pinball Number Count.

James Bond Covers Will Return... tomorrow!


Ray said...

You've actually tracked down covers of every Bond theme? That is legit incredible.

Fongolia said...

I've been hoarding Bond covers for years and the real difficulty is finding good Bond covers. As you might imagine, Brosnan-era Bond themes have been the most difficult to find. Believe it or not, there's already an Another Way to Die cover, but in the truest sense of a "cover"... a quick cash-in sound-alike on iTunes. I was surprised to find a pretty good You Know My Name cover from the last Bond. Look out for that on Friday!

Nick Chuck said...

Fongo! The Thunderball cover is indeed by the Kingpins -- it's a secret track at the end of their Let's Go to Work album. It's ripped with all my other Kingpins songs in iTunes off an album, a fact which is further corroborated by this random website review I found with Google:

Fongolia said...

Awesome Nick Chuck. I swear I tried so many google combos of "kingpins" and "thunderball", but completely missed that site (even though it's one of the first few listed). Those sneaky sneaksters... a hidden track of all things!

Daryl said...

could you post the Johnny Cash version of Thunderball if you have it?

Fongolia said...

Here you go. Note it's not a cover song, but rather a rejected Bond theme.

Daryl said...

thanks! I know it's not really a cover song, but I just thought it was cool enough to include.

Dane said...

That Kenny Ball & his Jazzmen cover ... I just wanted you to know that I'm in love with it. I'm going to hunt them down and see if anything else they've done is available and as good. Thank you!

Michael O'Connor said...

I'm seven years late to the party but in anticipation of SPECTRE was hoping to track down some good covers of Bond themes to go with the official versions. Do you still have access to these tracks? I would really love to listen to them!

Fongolia said...

Hi there Michael. Most of these cover songs here and in the subsequent blog posts can be searched and listened to on Youtube or sampled/bought in iTunes. And if you're lucky, your local public library might have access to Freegal where you can download free legal mp3s with your library card! Hope that helps!

Michael O'Connor said...

Much appreciated. Tracked some of them down last night and you've got good taste. Some of them are better than the originals!