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December 2015 was rife with anticipation for the new Star Wars movie. Lovers of the franchise were beside themselves with excitement to the point that Christmas was reduced to playing second fiddle as a holiday. Yet amongst the hype, an actual Christmas miracle occurred. Thom Yorke assumed the role of Saint Nic himself and dropped a present into the lap of the music community. It was Spectre, a track that had been cut from the latest James Bond film. New Radiohead on Christmas Day? I’ll take that over a new t-shirt. The only thing that would have made this even better would be if it was on The Force Awakens soundtrack instead*.
Radiohead gave fans the ultimate Christmas present with the release of their Bond theme song Spectre. That this song was cut from the film is utter madness.
The story behind the single is a simple one. Radiohead were approached to write the theme song for the new Bond film Spectre, however the powers that be opted for crooner Sam Smith’s tune instead to feature in the film’s opening. The Sam Smith song, Writing’s On The Wall is appropriately melodramatic and self-absorbed, much like the Bond films of late. Upon hearing Radiohead’s offering we won’t blame you for asking why the cuss this was passed over for Smith. Sure, old Sammy sounds mighty nice and all when he utilises his lady voice to hit those high notes, but this is most likely him winning favour for being the hot new global mega star on the block. In comparison, a little band called Radiohead didn’t stand a chance.
Taking to the band’s Facebook page Yorke decided to post the song anyway with the following message “Last year we were asked to write a theme tune for the Bond movie Spectre. Yes we were. It didn’t work out, but became something of our own, which we love very much. As the year closes we thought you might like to hear it. Merry Christmas. May the force be with you.”
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What we’re given is quite frankly a much better Bond theme song. Sure it’s dreary, but it doesn’t make a point of it. It harkens back to the gritty, nuanced tales Ian Fleming told about a man who killed people for a living for the good of his country. Radiohead have a fairly colourful back catalogue, but that being said it would be a disservice to the band and the song to try compare Spectre to their previous material. Spectre manages to stand on it’s own two feet, it’s greatest strength being the gentle melody that creeps like an appirition through a misty forest. Yorke’s voice is as elegant as always, his falsetto ensnares the senses and refuses to let go. There’s no chorus, instead the hook of the song coming from the vocals, and the sweeping string arrangement, no doubt courtesy of Johnny Greenwood.
James Bond is elegant. He’s dark, he’s haunted, and Radiohead have delivered on all those fronts. The slow dragging snare beat gives the song that weary feel while the piano dredges on which juxtaposes Yorke’s divine falsetto. Bond through the ages has become a larger than life figure, one at odds with the original character. On Spectre it feels like those two halves have been reconciled to give a cohesive picture of the martini drinking character, which of course, is the whole point of the theme song. Is this a taste of what the band will be delivering as the follow up to The King Of Limbs? I’ve learned to expect the unexpected when it comes to Radiohead, but if it is, there are no complaints here. The only drawback being the severe regret that this single wasn’t used for the film instead.
*Ed. Each to their own yes?
Check out our list of the best movie soundtracks of all time here too.
Drink down our list of the 10 best James Bond theme songs ever written.