You can scream and scream from the rooftops that John Lennon was the coolest Beatle. You can argue that after the break-up of their partnership Paul McCartney really showed his hand, and without Lennon to steer him away from the cliff-edge of mediocrity, he was left to descend into whimsy – revealing himself to be less than half the sum of the Lennon & McCartney partnership. But no matter what you say about McCartney, you can never take Live And Let Die away from him.
Arguably one of the best Bond themes, Live And Let Die was the first out-and-out rock song to grace the series. Up until this point, John Barry’s ominous brass and stirring strings had been the trademark of the films, with the themes usually taking a big band arrangement. A new actor in the role energised the film, and the ex-Beatle along with George Martin, were here to provide a new slant on the music.
Music is integral to the Bond films, and when they take a step away from John Barry, it either works magically, like it does here, or fails miserably. Listen to the “Disco Bond” stylings of Marvin Hamlisch’s The Spy Who Loved Me score for evidence that some things should just never be tinkered with.
Roger Moore’s first outing as 007 will always be one of my favourites. The setting is great – America, followed by the West Indies – and it seems to take a different approach to the films that came before it. Bond is seldom in control, with most of the weighty middle act being one long chase sequence – and unusually Bond is the quarry.
Bond films are always guilty of being influenced by wider cinematic trends – Moonraker’s other-worldly plot in the wake of Star Wars being the best example – and here the first half of the film inhabits the world of Blaxploitation movies. This sounds terrible, and could have been a really bad move for the producers, but any potential for misguided stiff English racism quickly dissipates. All that’s left is some really fun lines: “Names is for tombstones, baby! Y’all take this honkey out and WASTE HIM! NOW!”
I saw Paul McCartney play Glastonbury in 2004. Down at the very front for the gig (for which I had to endure the Black Eyed Peas in order to get into position), I was busy wondering which Beatles songs he was (and wasn’t) going to play. I had forgotten all about the majesty of Live And Let Die – and when he pulled it out, mid-set, it was the best surprise ever.
Hit: Live And Let Die (Main Titles) – Paul McCartney & Wings
Hidden Gem: San Monique – George Martin