Bond Songs 18: GoldenEye

  • Song/Theme: Goldeneye
  • Created by: Bono, The Edge and Nellee Hooper (producer)
  • Performers: Tina Turner
  • Who is it about?: Unclear
  • What’s it about?: Obsessively stalking somebody?

1995. The Bond series had been absent from cinemas for several years due to legal disputes. The previous Bond (Timothy Dalton) had moved and the long-time producer of the Bond films Albert R. Broccoli had retired. More seismically for the genre of espionage films, the USSR had come to an end and the cold war was over. Bond was due for renovations.

In some ways, Pierce Brosnan was a conservative choice for Bond. I like him but in terms of this specific role, he was about as close as they could get to a blend of both Connery and Roger Moore. Brosnan-Bond is even written as if he is a throwback to a previous era, who has to adjust to modern times. The more interesting casting decision was Judie Dench as the new M, a role that she would make her own.

The new era also managed to hit the jackpot with its opening theme music. Maintaining the Irish connection to the project, the title song was written by the U2 collaborators Bono and The Edge and the result was impressive. A substantial part of the strength of the song is, of course, Tina Turner who delivers the song with forceful energy.

By this late stage in the Bond films, the opening song has two contrasting challenges:

  • Be new, distinctive and original
  • Be recognisably connected to Bond film music

GoldenEye pulls off both of these feats with a rhythmic element that echoes the classic Bond film, Tina Turner providing Shirley Bassey power levels to the vocals but there’s a modern pop-rock element to the whole thing.

The lyrics, though, are a bit odd:

You’ll never know
How I watched you from the shadows as a child
You’ll never know
How it feels to be the one who’s left behind
You’ll never know the days, the nights
The tears, the tears I’ve cried
But now my time has come
And time, time is not on your side

The (slim) connection with the plot is the secret revenge plans of Sean Bean’s character but his animus is towards Britain in general rather than Bond in particular. The obsessive stalking theme of the song does work with a spy thriller, even if it is an odd choice out of context.

I’m not going to do a ranking of all the songs yet but GoldenEye is in the top five. It hits the target of a song that captures an era of the movie series with a great musical performance.


10 responses to “Bond Songs 18: GoldenEye”

  1. Love the song. Big fan of Brosnan’s Bond and Dench’s M. The moment that makes her stand out for me is that when she discovers she’s been absolutely wrong she doesn’t sputter or insist there’s been a mistake, she accepts the error (even if she doesn’t say so) and tells Bond to fix it.
    The villains are great in Goldeneye too. It’s always annoyed me that the Craig films were so much worse in their handling of woman than Brosnan’s tenure.

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  2. I love the da-dum-dum-dum introduction (yeah, so I know nothing about music!) which tells you that this is both new and old at the same time, and Turner is fantastic. This is in my top three definitely.

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  3. Timothy Dalton was offered the Bond role back when he was only 21 for Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but he turned it down as he thought it would be a mess to take it after Connery. He turned the role down a second time when it looked like Roger Moore would quit for similar reasons but they worked it out with Moore. The third time he was offered the role, he took it. But for his second Bond outing, he’d already committed to another film that would conflict with scheduling and thought he would have to drop out. So they offered the role to Brosnan, whom MGM really wanted, as his Remington Steele t.v. role was based in part on James Bond and had been a big hit. Brosnan taking the role was k-oyed by the producers of Remington Steele, who wouldn’t accommodate him on his contract as they wanted what ended up being only one last season of that show. Dalton was able to switch his scheduling and play Bond again for a few more films until the legal disputes.

    By the time they were ready to go again, there were still a lot of argument among the producers on who should play the role. Dalton was still first choice to return but he bowed out. The folks at Eon then wanted Sean Bean to play Bond, but MGM still wanted Brosnan, who was now available though almost a decade older. They went with Brosnan and hired Bean to be the villain instead. Because Brosnan was a bit older, they did play around with some of the issues of Bond being an aging spy with truckloads of enemies, particularly in Brosnan’s last Bond film. It was actually considered not a conservative move, but a bit of a daring one, as was Dench as M, since it went against the Bond ageless manly mythos. But Brosnan’s Bond is really more of a continuation of Dalton’s, rather than rough scrapper Connery or smooth lounge lizard Moore. So it was conservative in the sense that it was a straight transition between the two actors with very similar takes and styles, rather than shaking things up. Craig, in contrast, is a throwback to rough scrapper Connery and went back to making Bond a younger thing (though Craig wasn’t that young.) Which was in a way also a very conservative move that reflected the post-9/11 situation.

    Goldeneye the song had a lot of the right elements — the Bondian instrumentals, decent use of the film title, power vocals from Tina, megastar of the 1960s who was also having a renaissance in the 1990’s on the pop charts. And it did reasonably well. But the hook is a bit weak and the lyrics kind of vague as you noted. It was not a big hit and it didn’t stick in the minds of most. In terms of the big, memorable Bond themes, it doesn’t really rank. It’s a nice song, just not distinctive enough to make enough impact, despite the fabulousness of Miss Tina.

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    • I think Brosnan being offered and being sunk by his TV program producers was when Moore retired from the role. Dalton was then offered and accepted. Moore, Dalton and Brosnan were all considered for or offered the role but unable to accept it the first time around. Moore twice because of The Saint (for Dr. No) and then because of The Persuaders (for either OHMSS or Diamonds are Forever – I can’t remember which).

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    • The account I’ve read is that the TV producers were overjoyed to have their star playing Bond; Eon however, thought having him stay on TV would kill the Bond mystique and dropped their offer.

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      • They may have been talking to Brosnan about it in 1984 when Moore finally quit — Brosnan was certainly lobbying for it — but there weren’t any real competitors for A View to a Kill, the first Dalton film, except Dalton, because they’d always wanted Dalton for Bond. Remington Steele had only been on the air for two seasons and was a big hit — no way for Brosnan to really do the role. In 1986, for The Living Daylights, Dalton was tied up being committed to the Brenda Starr adaptation, so they went to Brosnan. By then Remington Steele was dropping in the ratings and Brosnan asked to be let out of his contract to do the film, even proposed just going on leave for a season and then coming back. But NBC renewed the last year of Steele and Brosnan’s contract. They did indeed want the publicity draw of Bond being their lead, but they wouldn’t even accommodate Brosnan on scheduling (having him be away for parts of the season) to be able to do the film and Eon balked. So then they were going to go with someone else but then Dalton worked it out and came back on board. Remington Steele had a lackluster last season and was cancelled in 1987. Dalton then did License to Kill and bowed out. In 1994 when they started up again, the MGM folk were very set on Brosnan for Goldeneye, though Eon wanted Bean and Paul McGann was also in the running.

        James Brolin was the one who was going to replace Moore for Octopussy because Moore was going to drop out, but then Moore agreed to do one more film so Brolin went off and did Hotel, the t.v. series he’s most known for. He was still starring on Hotel in 1986, so he wasn’t available for A View to a Kill or when it looked like Dalton couldn’t do Living Daylights.

        From about 1987 up into the launch of Goldeneye, Brosnan complained in just about every media interview about how NBC tanked him being Bond. It’s a franchise with an epic saga history.

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        • I hate to be the “Internet argument guy” but Remington Steele ran from 1982-1987. It was originally canceled in 1986 but then revived AFTER Brosnan was announced as Bond for what turned out to be The Living Daylights. Here’s the relevant bit from his Wiki:

          In 1986, NBC cancelled Remington Steele. As Brosnan was offered the role of James Bond, the publicity improved Remington Steele’s ratings and it was renewed, contractually requiring Brosnan to return to the show. This caused Eon Productions to have to look elsewhere for the new 007.[25][28] The producers instead hired Timothy Dalton for The Living Daylights (1987), and Licence to Kill (1989).

          What I didn’t know from the para before that bit in his Wiki is that he was very briefly originally considered for “For Your Eyes Only”. Just another entry in the “Moore/Dalton/Brosnan considered multiple times before finally getting the job” files…


          • Also, I’m almost certainly misreading your post but this bit: “but there weren’t any real competitors for A View to a Kill, the first Dalton film, except Dalton, because they’d always wanted Dalton for Bond.” is a bit head scratching.

            I mean Roger Moore’s Corpse may have been a bit creaky in A View to a Kill, but it was definitely not Timothy Dalton…


  4. This is my #1, or maybe #2 with the other Golden theme. My main memory from this era is actually the Goldeneye video game: how amazing is was to have a zoomable sniper mode for the first time!

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  5. I was all “I don’t remember this”, then I read “Tina Turner” and I remembered a concert of hers I saw where she and her backup dancers donned golden trench coats to perform this.

    So, absent Tina, I probably wouldn’t have.


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