For Roger Moore’s seventh and final outing as James Bond, he was once again reunited with director John Glen and composer John Barry. 1985’s A View To A Kill was the fourteenth 007 movie and, once again, the series followed a pattern of turning from serious spy movies (For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy) to a glamorous, gadget rich extravaganza.
A View To A Kill (1985)
1. View To A Kill
2. Snow Job
3. May Day Jumpers
4. Bond Meets Stacey
5. Pegasus’ Stable
6. Tibbett Gets Washed Out
7. Airship To Silicon Valley
8. He’s Dangerous
9. Bond Underwater
10. Wine With Stacey (A View To A Kill)
11. Bond Escapes Roller
12. Destroy Silicon Valley
13. May Day Bombs Out
14. Golden Gate Fight
15. View To A Kill
For arguably the first time since Paul McCartney and Wings provided the theme to Live and Let Die, a truly successful pop band was chosen to perform the Bond title theme. Duran Duran had already enjoyed eleven UK top twenty hits and two number one singles by the time John Taylor accosted Bond producer Cubby Broccoli at a party. Drunkenly asking “When are you going to get someone decent to do one of your theme songs?” Taylor impressed Broccoli with his knowledge of the Bond series.
Broccoli surprised Taylor by agreeing to let the band record the fourteenth Bond theme, and the Birmingham five piece started work on the title track of A View To A Kill. Barry recalls that the band recorded the song first – the composer stating that “John Taylor knew everything about every Bond movie imaginable” – before Barry went into the studio with a sixty piece orchestra to record the strings.The result was the most commercially successful Bond theme of them all. A View To A Kill remains the only Bond title track to reach number one on the US Billboard charts, and it narrowly missed becoming the first and only 007 theme to top the charts in the UK, spending an agonising three weeks at number two, behind Paul Hardcastle’s Vietnam war song, 19.
Whilst it may have been one of Duran Duran’s most successful singles, it was also the last song that the band wrote as a five piece before their reunion in 2004. Roger Taylor and Andy Taylor left the band shortly after A View To A Kill, and it wasn’t until nineteen years later that the original line-up wrote a follow-up single.
Whereas Marvin Hamlisch had started a trend of incorporating a short excerpt from another film in a Bond soundtrack as a cheeky reference, A View To A Kill takes a slightly different turn and starts with a comedic musical moment. As Bond escapes from his pursuers by snowboarding down the side of a mountain, a cover of the Beach Boys’ California Girls (by performed by Gidea Park) can be heard.
As well as this tongue in cheek inclusion, Barry also follows Hamlisch’s lead and incorporates some classical music in the soundtrack – most notably Vivaldi’s Four Seasons which is heard during the champagne reception at Zorin’s French stud.
Barry’s score is quite low-key to fit in with the gentle rather than all-action nature of the film. Tracks such as Pegasus’ Stable and Airship to Silicon Valley are smooth and orchestral whilst Barry’s influence is instantly recognisable in menacing pieces such as Bond Underwater and Tibbett Gets Washed Out, underscoring Bond’s sidekick meeting an untimely end in a French car wash. Barry also remodels an action theme first used in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service for this movie, using it to great effect on He’s Dangerous, Snow Job and Golden Gate Fight.
Barry also incorporates Duran Duran’s theme song liberally throughout the soundtrack. It is used as a gentle love theme in Bond Meets Stacey when the couple are first introduced at Zorin’s French stables and later when Bond drinks Wine With Stacey. It is then later incorporated in a bombastic orchestral piece as the film reaches its climax above the Golden Gate Bridge. Barry also uses the title song as an in-joke, using the melody from the line ’dance into the fire’ as a brash, orchestral motif when 007 saves Stacey from a burning building.
One surprising feature of the soundtrack is the relative absence of Monty Norman’s iconic James Bond Theme. Despite using it as the basis for many of his previous soundtracks, Barry only uses the theme once in A View To A Kill – during the second half of the track May Day Jumps. Its absence from the rest of the two hour film and from the soundtrack album is something of a surprise.
In many ways A View To A Kill marked a sad change of direction for the Bond themes. With Duran Duran writing and recording the song before handing it to Barry, there is something of a lack of cohesion between the title theme and the soundtrack, despite Barry’s best efforts. A View To A Kill marked the point at which straightforward pop songs began to be chosen as Bond themes, rather than the title songs being part of a much grander, coherent soundtrack.
Despite this, Barry’s underrated soundtrack is, as ever, terrific. And whilst it was arguably the least Bond-esque of the 007 themes to date, A View To A Kill remains the most commercially successful.