The Sound of 007: 60 Years of James Bond

Composer and Producer of the Sound of 007 concert, David Arnold performs on stage accompanied by The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra during The Sound of 007 in concert at The Royal Albert Hall on October 04, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for EON Productions & Prime Video)

The Sound of 007 is a documentary that spans 60 years of the music accompanying the many James Bond movies to grace the screen.

There’s so much that one can do with a documentary about the music of the James Bond franchise. Do you focus on just the theme songs? Do you also decide to focus on the theme song and other aspects of the film scores? Thankfully, this documentary touches on the songs, the classic Monty Norman theme made famous by John Barry and the process of a few composers in writing the film score. Could the film be longer? Oh, certainly. When you look at Bond movies through the years, there’s a wealth of material! I don’t envy the editor who put this documentary together.

There are things about the Bond franchise that audiences will probably be learning for the first time in watching the documentary. For instance, Michael Caine had been staying with John Barry when Barry was writing the Goldfinger theme song. Barry had been writing it late at night so Caine heard it frequently. Ironically, the actor would show up in the third Austin Powers movie. It’s interesting to think this would never be possible without the Bond movies. Anyway, Goldfinger would set the standard for Bond films because this is the film that really set the tone for the rest of the franchise.

John Barry, Michael Caine, Marvin Hamlisch, George Martin, Paul McCartney, Monty Norman, and Nancy Sinatra are among those appearing by way of archival footage. Barry, of course, discusses his years working on Bond films. Hamlisch had been the composer for The Spy Who Loved Me. He discusses not just the score but writing “Nobody Does It Better.” In archival footage, George Martin discusses how Paul McCartney came on board for Live and Let Die. Interestingly enough, Cubby Broccoli wanted other singers for the song but the fact of the matter is you don’t get that song without Paul McCartney. Live and Let Die was a franchise game-changer because it introduced rock and roll to the franchise.

It makes sense for this film to spend a good chunk of its run time on No Time to Die. After all, this is the newest Bond film in the franchise. Hans Zimmer discusses his process and how he incorporated not just the Bond themes but previous themes like the Louis Armstrong classic, “We Have All The Time In The World.” To say that Zimmer puts on a masterclass is not an understatement. There’s a reason why he is among the greatest living composers today. For a man known for scoring action movies, it’s a wonder that it took him so long to score a Bond film. To be fair, David Arnold largely became the go-to in the years that followed John Barry’s retirement. At John Barry’s recommendation, Arnold was hired for Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997. He stayed on through Quantum of Solace in 2008.

Daniel Craig in Casino Royale
James Bond (DANIEL CRAIG) in the 007 action adventure CASINO ROYALE, from Metro-Goldwyn Mayer Pictures and Columbia Pictures through Sony Pictures Releasing.

Casino Royale served as the film to reintroduce James Bond for a new generation. Because it wasn’t the traditional Bond film, the theme song didn’t appear at the start of the film. Instead, it only shows up as the credits start rolling after Daniel Craig recites the famous line, “The name is Bond…James Bond.” It’s a new arrangement that appears in the film. Interestingly enough, Thomas Newman, who signed on because of his working relationship with filmmaker Sam Mendes, kept the same arrangement for his two scores both Skyfall and SPECTRE. Another composer might have used their hiring to do their own take on the classic James Bond theme. Instead, Thomas Newman decides to honor the work that came before. What a class act!

When one thinks about the songs, there are a few artists who came close to landing the theme song. If not for singing a song on a live album, Radiohead could have done the Quantum of Solace theme song. By the time that they came back with a new song, it was too late. Jack White and Alicia Keys were already doing a duet. Interestingly enough, the James Bond team–including Barbara Broccoli–met with Amy Winehouse for the same film. They discussed the film’s themes and Winehouse took notes while the Bond producer was talking. Sadly, the singer just wasn’t in the right place to be performing a Bond song at the time.

The Sound of 007 offers some spectacular insight in just under 90 minutes but there’s probably enough material out there for a documentary series. Some songs don’t get included here so there may be some fans who leave with disappointment. But again, there’s only so much that can be packed into a just-under-90-minute run time.

A complementary concert special, The Sound of 007: Live from the Royal Albert Hall, is also available on Prime Video. Unfortunately, there’s some missed opportunities with the taped version. They cut at least an hour of the film scores in concert. Moreover, they have very few of the original artists singing their songs outside of Dame Shirley Bassey and Lulu.

DIRECTOR: Mat Whitecross
FEATURING: David Arnold, Don Black, Neil Brand, Barbara Broccoli, Jon Burlingame, Celeste, Daniel Craig, Maryam D’Abo, Sheena Easton, Billie Eilish, Paul Epworth, Marc Forster, Cary Fukunaga, Naomie Harris, Simon LeBon, Lulu, Rami Malek, Shirley Manson, Steve Marker, Steve Mazzaro, David McAlmont, Sam Mendes, Jimmy Napes, Thomas Newman, Finneas O’Connell, Neal Purvis, Tim Rice, Anna Smith, Jason Solomons, John Taylor, Butch Vig, Robert Wade, Reggie Watts, Jack White, Danny Williamson, Michael G. Wilson, Hans Zimmer

Prime Video released The Sound of 007 on October 5, 2022. Grade: 4/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.