Can we all please just take a moment to consider something: what exactly was going through the heads of the James Bond team that decided to reject Radiohead’s Spectre theme? The execs probably think they’ve been vindicated – Sam Smith’s theme went to number one and spent six weeks in the top 10 on the UK chart – but in all seriousness, who actually rejects a Radiohead song of this quality?
Consider what the Spectre theme brief might have been: to match the octopus symbolism and Bond’s poor emotional state they would have wanted it wistful; sinewy; ominous; tentacular. Not only does Radiohead’s ‘Spectre’ knock all these targets flat as it manoeuvres its tortuous and muscular melody, but it also provides moments of thrilling, momentous drama.
This kind of inexplicable soundtrack-shelving has plenty of precedents, though. These past cases prove that movie execs make this kind of decision all the time – here are five times brilliant work was shelved.
5. Pixies – ‘Bam Thwok’
FILM: Shrek 2
WHY IT WAS SHELVED: Maybe it was because Pixies wrote a better song for the Fight Club soundtrack – ‘Where Is My Mind?’ – and the Shrek guys were jealous. Maybe it was because of the weird 20-second organ breakdown in the middle of the song. But for a film about a scary-looking monster aimed at kids, ‘Bam Thwok’ was pretty ideal – harmless, nonsensical lyrics alongside heavy, ogrish guitars. After it was rejected, Counting Crows’ wholesome cereal equivalent ‘Accidentally in Love’ was used instead, but Pixies put ‘Bam Thwok’ on the iTunes store and hit the top spot on the iTunes chart in 4 countries. So ner.
4. Frank Ocean – ‘Wise Man’
FILM: Django Unchained
WHY IT WAS SHELVED: According to Quentin Tarantino, Frank “wrote a fantastic ballad that was truly lovely and poetic in every way, there just wasn’t a scene for it. I could have thrown it in quickly just to have it, but that’s not why he wrote it and not his intention. So I didn’t want to cheapen his effort.” This song by Rick Ross made the cut, though.
3. KD Lang – ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’
FILM: Tomorrow Never Dies
WHY IT WAS SHELVED: Tomorrow Never Dies was one of the most contested Bond themes to date, with Chris Rea, Pulp and Duran Duran among those throwing their hat in the ring. This track by Canadian singer K.D. Lang is possibly the best of the lot, a powerful, Bassey-style performance, the shelving of which Bond fans still complain about years later. These days Sheryl Crow, who ended up singing the 007 track, is mostly remembered for her comments on combating global warming with loo paper in 2007, when she said everyone should use “only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where two to three could be required”.
2. Blondie – ‘For Your Eyes Only’
FILM: For Your Eyes Only
WHY IT WAS SHELVED: Another poor Bond decision here. Back when Roger Moore was still in the hotseat, there was a string of down-tempo, up-emotion Bond themes, starting with 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me and ending with 1983’s Octopussy. In 1981, instead of shaking things up with Blondie’s detached, guitar-led piece, they went with Sheena Easton, who goes full hairbrush-singer on her power ballad.
1. Bob Dylan – ‘Lay Lady Lay’
FILM: Midnight Cowboy
WHY IT WAS SHELVED: You can’t really blame the movie guys for this one, although if they’d known what they’d be getting they might have waited a little longer. Yep, the reason Bob Dylan’s ‘Lay Lady Lay’ didn’t get onto John Schlesinger’s drama, which starred Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman, was because he was late to file it. So what was the standout song of the film? Fred Neil’s ‘Everybody’s Talkin’’, as performed by Harry Nilsson, which pretty much everyone ever has heard of.
This brings us back to Radiohead’s ‘Spectre’. If you’re truly cut up about the final decision, you can pretend it never happened. Thankfully the internet has joined it to the actual title sequence, which you can enjoy below.