Claire Black: Sam Smith for Bond theme, really?

Shirley Bassey belted out the vocals in the theme song for the 1964 Bond film Goldfinger. Picture: Contributed
Shirley Bassey belted out the vocals in the theme song for the 1964 Bond film Goldfinger. Picture: Contributed
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A WHOLE day listening to Bond theme songs does strange things to a person.

I found myself contemplating a Martini at 11.30am and attempting to change gears in my 14-year-old Audi as though it were an Aston Martin.

I treated myself to a day of minor keys and lush strings topped with an unending stream of innuendo-laden lyrics (“He has a powerful weap-on, he charges a million a shot”, Lulu, The Man With The Golden Gun, 1974) as I was trying to get over my despair at news that Sam Smith is to sing the theme tune for Spectre, the Bond movie out next month.

Smith, that caterwauling falsetto forcing purveyor of dull, derivative pop music. Did it have to be him? I’d take Shirley Bassey with half her range and an oxygen tank for support over him. I’d take Adele for another turn despite her decision to rhyme “Skyfall” with “Crumbles”.

What’s going on? Why isn’t anyone taking this seriously? Don’t they know that we’ve been punished enough by way of Chris Cornell, You Know My Name, 2006, Casino Royale (no, Chris, we don’t know your name. We didn’t then and we still don’t now) and we need a return to a proper Bond song, one that we will be singing in a few decades. One that will make us red in the face and embarrassed when we fluff the high-drama-high-note (“He loves goooooold”, Goldfinger, 1964; “Thunderball” up an octave, Tom Jones, Thunderball, 1965. Hernias at the ready, people).

They don’t even have to be belters, though. Nancy Sinatra couldn’t belt a song if her life depended on it and yet You Only Live Twice (You Only Live Twice, 1967) is a perfect Bond song, mysterious, romantic, seductive, melancholy. Or Nobody Does It Better by Carly Simon ten years later (The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977). Stunning.

But Smith, that bequiffed babyface with a penchant for multi-million-selling middle of the road mediocrity, he’s not Matt Monro, is he? He’s not even Madonna. That’s how bad this has got, I’m defending someone who wrote the lyric, “I’m gonna wake up, yes and no/I’m gonna kiss some part of” (Die Another Day, 2002).

Nasty case of nostalgia? I submit my reference to Madonna’s autotuned vocal as evidence of the contrary. I will go so far as to also mention Rita Coolidge’s All Time High (Octopussy, 1983) which was an all-time travesty, possibly made even worse by the fact that the film was lamentable too. I accept it hasn’t always been Diamonds Are Forever (1971), but that isn’t making me feel any better about Writing’s On The Wall. That’s what Smith’s song is called, apparently. And it took him 20 minutes to write. If it ends up being as successful as Adele’s effort (No 1 in 16 countries) that’s going to be some tidy per minute pay rate. And that reminds me of his single Money On My Mind, in which he professes he’s all about the love of the music and not about wads of cash while inflicting a video on us which consisted of him walking around Las Vegas looking like he was in need of a laxative (Smith’s acting style runs the gamut from pensive to pained). You’ve probably got it by now. I am not happy.

Put medicine women on the map

READING about a plaque that has been unveiled to commemorate the Edinburgh Seven, my reaction is mixed. On the one hand I am grateful – relieved even – to learn about the first women who were admitted to study medicine in 1869. They were in fact the first women admitted into a degree course in the UK, and despite being assaulted and spat at by medical students and faculty members who tried to prevent them from sitting their anatomy exam at the Surgeon’s Hall in 1870, included among them the woman who would become Scotland’s first female doctor. But surely there’s more to it? I grew up in this city, was educated here until I went to university – how come no one mentioned them or the Surgeon’s Hall riots? They were: Sophia Jex-Blake, Isabel Thorne, Edith Pechey, Matilda Caplin, Helen Evans, Mary Anderson and Emily Bovell. And as well as achieving amazing feats in their own field (despite not being allowed to graduate) they can also be credited with putting the campaign for female university education on the political agenda. The plaque seems like the very least we might offer.

A site for sore eyes?

IF YOU thought the Ashley Madison stooshie couldn’t get more depressing, you were wrong. Yes, it was grim to realise that millions of people, men, actually – I’m not being snidey, read on – are seemingly so unhappy in their relationships that they’d sign up for an “infidelity website”. And yes, it was pretty awful then to discover that although 11 million men had graced the site, fewer than 3,000 women had, which means that most users were hoping to get their end away with a bot controlled by an algorithm. But news is in that since the scandal broke, the site has registered a whole load of new users. «