After a six year absence due to legal issues, it was once again all change for the James Bond series. The end of the Cold War, a new Bond, a new, female M and the first Bond film not to take any story elements from Ian Fleming’s books, Goldeneye introduced 007 to a new generation.
After Bond’s forced hiatus, the producers took the opportunity to update the series in a number of ways. Pierce Brosnan was recruited to play Bond whilst Judi Dench took on the role of M. A brand new story was written by Michael France, with the title taken from the name of Fleming’s Jamaica home.
In addition, producer Michael Wilson also took the opportunity to refresh the sound of Bond, admitting that Goldeneye was ‘an experiment to go from the traditional music.’ Having provided the soundtrack for Luc Besson’s classic hitman film Leon, Eric Serra was invited to provide the sound of the new, post Cold War Bond whilst the theme song to Goldeneye was written by one half of the bestselling Irish rock band U2.
2. The Goldeneye Overture (Half Of Everything Is Luck/The Other Half Is Fate/ For England, James)
3. Ladies First
4. We Share The Same Passions (The Trip To Cuba/The Same Passions)
5. A Little Surprise For You (Xenya/D.M.Mychkine)
6. The Servernaya Suite (Among The Dead/Out OF Hell/The Husky Tribe)
7. Our Lady Of Smolensk
8. Whispering Statues (Whispers/Two Faced)
9. Run, Shoot and Jump
10. A Pleasant Drive In St Petersburg
11. Fatal Weakness
12. That’s What Keeps You Alone
13. Dish Out Of Water (A Good Squeeze/The Antenna)
14. The Scale To Hell (Boris And The Lethal Pen/I Am Invincible)
15. For Ever, James
16. The Experience Of Love
As director Martin Campbell said: “getting Bono and The Edge to write the song was a real coup.” The song was performed by Tina Turner and became one of Turner’s biggest worldwide hits, reaching the UK top Ten.
Turner’s song was actually one of two tracks in consideration for the seventeenth Bond theme. The second was an excellent pop record by Swedish band Ace of Base. Their track The Goldeneye was eventually eschewed in favour of the Bono/Edge effort but was re-recorded for their 2002 album De Capo. Renamed The Juvenile – lyrics such as ‘tomorrow’s foe is now a friend’ reveal the song’s original subject matter – the song retains a Bond-esque quality which would have made it perfect for a film made in the mid 1990s.
Serra’s score is considered the farthest departure from a ‘traditional’ Bond soundtrack. Wilson calls the score ‘somewhat controversial’ but, in Serra’s defence, the intention was always to refresh the sound of 007. Serra gave a modern twist to Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme on tracks such as The Goldeneye Overture which actually work pretty well.
Part of the controversy surrounded the producer’s decision to bring in composer John Altman to work alongside Serra. Altman eventually provided the score for the tank chase in St Petersburg – a very traditionally orchestrated action theme drawing heavily from traditional instruments and themes. Serra’s original piece, A Pleasant Drive in St Petersburg, is a more modern take on the Bond theme and remains on the soundtrack album.
Whilst some of Serra’s pieces are a departure from the brass laden soundtracks of old – Ladies First and Fatal Weakness are certainly unusual – some are still excellent pieces of movie music. We Share The Same Passions is a lush, orchestral love theme whilst the superb Whispering Statues is a great piano piece that underscored the tense first meeting between Bond and Janus.
The Severnaya Suite is also a great piece of grand, dramatic orchestral music which would not be out of place in any Bond adventure.
One of the problems with the soundtrack of Goldeneye – indeed a feature of all the Bond films since A View To A Kill – was that the title track was written in isolation. Whereas John Barry’s soundtracks frequently incorporated the theme song throughout the score, providing consistency and a recurring motif, Serra’s score includes no elements of Tina Turner’s title song.
Director Campbell summed up the controversy surrounding Serra’s soundtrack. “I think some people said it was terrific, other people didn’t like it at all. I think those that were offended by it were the aficionados who wanted the old Bond themes and so forth, but we must remember we have a generation beyond the previous Bond films who are seeing Bond for a first time.”
Herein lies the paradox with the Goldeneye score. It clearly can’t be compared to the likes of John Barry’s early Bond soundtracks because Serra was specifically asked to drag the music of bond into the mid-1990s. To this effect, he does a great job of providing a soundtrack that is both dramatic and modern. Indeed, Serra won a BMI Film Award for Goldeneye so it was certainly critically acclaimed.
Whilst Goldeneye may be one of the weaker theme tunes it is unfair to criticise Serra’s soundtrack as harshly as many Bond fans have. The composer may have been guilty of moving too far forward and not retaining more of the musical themes from the previous sixteen films, but his remit was certainly to refresh the Bond music. To this effect, Goldeneye is actually a perfectly decent collection of high quality film music.