Radiohead’s “Spectre” Played Against the Title Sequence of the 2015 James Bond Film, Spectre

Com­man­der James Bond, CMG, RNVR — code name 007 — is both cool and uncool. Though hard­ly a set­ter of youth­ful trends, he has always embod­ied mas­cu­line com­pe­tence and unflap­pa­bil­i­ty of a rel­a­tive­ly time­less and quin­tes­sen­tial­ly British kind. Thanks to the long-run­ning Bond film series’ efforts to grad­u­al­ly increase the char­ac­ter’s com­plex­i­ty, the Bond who first appears in Ian Flem­ing’s 1953 nov­el Casi­no Royale may at first look sim­ple, even car­toon­ish to read­ers of the 21st cen­tu­ry. But despite all the changes of the lead­ing man and the shifts in audi­ence expec­ta­tions over the decades, one of the fran­chise’s tasks has remained con­stant: to exude this Bon­di­an uncool cool, whose dis­tinc­tive tone must be set with just the right theme song.

Sched­uled for release this fall, the 25th Bond film No Time to Die fea­tures a theme song by the teenage singer Bil­lie Eil­ish, whose dark-pop style may neat­ly suit the return per­for­mance by Daniel Craig. As soon as he made his debut as Bond in 2006’s Casi­no Roy­ale, an adap­ta­tion of Flem­ing’ first nov­el, Craig imme­di­ate­ly earned the dis­tinc­tion of the most trou­bled Bond yet.

Three Bond pic­tures lat­er, the pro­duc­ers must have real­ized that a haunt­ed secret needs a haunt­ed theme song, and so com­mis­sioned a piece of the ghost­ly yet huge­ly pop­u­lar, at once cool and uncool work of Radio­head. You can hear Radio­head­’s theme song as it appears in the open­ing of 2015’s Spec­tre (a ref­er­ence, every Bond fan knows, to the glob­al crime syn­di­cate SPECTRE, or Spe­cial Exec­u­tive for Counter-intel­li­gence, Ter­ror­ism, Revenge and Extor­tion) in the video above.

Or rather, the video shows how Radio­head­’s “Spec­tre” might have appeared in the 24th Bond pic­ture. After the band record­ed the song, the film’s pro­duc­tion team reject­ed it as too melan­choly for the title sequence — per­haps inevitably, in ret­ro­spect, giv­en how Radio­head­’s songs lend them­selves to the con­struc­tion of a “gloom index” — and opt­ed instead for a high­er-flown (and ulti­mate­ly Oscar-win­ning) num­ber sung by Sam Smith.  “There have been many reject­ed themes over the years by many notable artists,” writes James Bond Radio’s Jack Lugo. “Some reject­ed themes end up as B‑sides (such as Pulp’s “Tomor­row Nev­er Lies”) or get re-worked with dif­fer­ent lyrics on their albums (see Ace of Base’s “The Juve­nile”).” Nev­er hes­i­tant to put their music online, Radio­head ulti­mate­ly released “Specter” on their Sound­cloud page.

“Reac­tion was under­stand­ably mixed,” writes Lugo. But after watch­ing a few fan assem­blies of the song and Spec­tre’s title sequence, he describes him­self as hav­ing “dis­cov­ered a new­ly found appre­ci­a­tion for the song.” Fol­low­ing along with the lyrics as Thom Yorke sings them made, for him, “a world of a dif­fer­ence.” The words “cap­ture the dark­ness, para­noia, and refusal to trust that’s inher­ent to the Bond char­ac­ter (at least as he’s por­trayed by Daniel Craig),” and as a whole “the song speaks to some­one who wants bad­ly to love and care for some­one but is restrained and restrict­ed by chance, cir­cum­stances, and also just by the nature of his char­ac­ter.” Had it been used in the film, Radio­head­’s song would have cast these themes into stark­er relief, empha­siz­ing the deep­er the­mat­ic inquiry at the core of Spec­tre, a study, as it were, of human bondage.

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Intro­duc­ing The Radio­head Pub­lic Library: Radio­head Makes Their Full Cat­a­logue Avail­able via a Free Online Web Site

James Bond: 50 Years in Film (and a Big Blu-Ray Release)

Autonomous Fly­ing Robots Play the Theme From the James Bond Movies

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke Per­forms Songs from His New Sound­track for the Hor­ror Film, Sus­piria

The 10 Most Depress­ing Radio­head Songs Accord­ing to Data Sci­ence: Hear the Songs That Ranked High­est in a Researcher’s “Gloom Index”

The Secret Rhythm Behind Radiohead’s “Video­tape” Now Final­ly Revealed

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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