Monday, March 17, 2008

Tomorrow Never Lies

I’ve spent my share of time trying to distill the specifics code that make a perfect Bond theme. It’s not an exact science, I’ve figured that much out. You need to pay respect to the classic Bond motifs created by John Barry; but any fool knows that. It’s the other elements that are slightly less tangible. For example, you can be reverent towards Bond music, while being tongue-in-cheek towards the whole Bond persona. Additionally, your song needs to sound great coming after the chase sequence it is inevitably following – to that end, you should either try to amp up the excitement further, or provide a dramatic change of pace with a luxuriously unfolding ballad.

Of course, I’m not exactly unbiased, but Pulp proved their mastery of the above, plus a whole lot more, with their submission for the 1997 Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies. They go the ballad route, but it’s the kind of swelling, vaguely operatic affair that sounds perfect coming after a ski chase-turned-seduction-scene, or however the hell this one opened. Listening to the song, you practically see the title credits projected on a woman’s torso. Jarvis’ lyrics slyly celebrate Bond as a defiant man who triumphs against the insurmountable and deadly odds through a mix of undeniable skill and devil-may care outlook. In a less specific light, though, he could just as easily be singing out about another misfit who’s ready to think of oneself in terms of grandeur, which makes this, thematically, a classic Pulp song.

It also came in handy, since the song was rejected by the Bond people. According to Wikipedia, a dozen artists were invited to audition a Bond theme. In addition to Pulp, some fairly off-beat artists participated, including St. Etienne and Marc Almond. In the end, the producers chose the safest, most internationally famous artist, Sheryl Crow. Undaunted, Pulp made a simple tweak to the title and used it as a b-side. On the deluxe edition of This Is Hardcore, you can find the band’s demo with the original title.

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