You Only Live Twice titles

MOVIES: The Bond Themes That Never Were: ‘You Only Live Twice’

The Bond songs that should of been but were replaced at the last minute!

In this series, we take a look at the songs recorded for the James Bond films that were binned and replaced with something else. The how’s, the when’s and the why’s will all be answered. Some of the songs were featured elsewhere in their respective films, others were completely dumped. In this part we look at the song that should of accompanied the title sequence to…

You Only Live Twice

‘You Only Live Twice’ was the fifth Bond film, and following the monstrous success of ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Thunderball’ (both of which were the biggest grossing films in the world in their respective years), the budget for the next epic was doubled. The responsibility of directing the next instalment fell to distinguished British filmmaker Lewis Gilbert (1920-2018), who took on the task of bringing 007 into close contact with S.P.E.C.T.R.E. who had set up headquarters in a hollowed out volcano in Japan! The equivalent of £6.2 million in today’s money was spent on this one set, constructed on the backlot at Pinewood Studios and towering 130ft, it could be seen from central London and miles around.

With the film set largely in Japan, a predominantly Japanese cast was employed with principal photography being carried out between August 1966 and February 1967. John Barry was now accepted as part of the Bond family and had already won a Grammy Award for ‘Goldfinger’. His score for ‘You Only Live Twice’ dispensed with the action and suspense themes of previous films and instead focused on the beautiful scenery and human emotions showcased in the film by multiple Academy Award winning cinematographer Freddie Young (1902-1998).

When Barry came to score the film at CTS Studios in London in 1967 he decided to use a more down-tempo and romantic theme for the title song and, together with lyricist Leslie Briccuse, composed the song “You Only Live Twice” and asked British singer Julie Rodgers to perform it. Rodgers had just had big hit on both sides of the Atlantic with “The Wedding” (UK No.3, US No.10) – which has sold over seven million copies worldwide to date – and was handed another potentially big hit in the making. So here is Maurice Binder’s title sequence for the film as had been originally intended with Julie Rodgers performing the song:

But as we are discovering, fate had other plans in store. Producer ‘Cubby’ Broccoli (1909-1996) was good friends with Frank Sinatra. His daughter Nancy had just started out in the music business and, like Julie Rodgers, had just had a massive global hit with “These Boots Are Made For Walking”, which topped both the UK and US singles charts. Frank asked ‘Cubby’ if he would consider using Nancy for a Bond song and after some discussion with John Barry, Nancy flew over to London. Deciding it would be unfair to ask her to re-record the existing song, Barry and Briccuse hurriedly wrote a new composition in much the same style, and keeping a Japanese feel to its rhythm and harmony.

When released, the song peaked at No.11 in the UK charts and spent a very respectable 19 weeks there becoming one of the biggest sellers of 1967! It reached No.44 in the US, somewhat lower than “Thunderball” and “Goldfinger” had attained previously. Julie Rogers’ song remained buried and forgotten until the release of the “30th Anniversary Collection” in 1992, when it was featured on the 2 disc collector’s edition for the first time ever. So here is the title sequence for ‘You Only Live Twice’ as it became, as we have always known it and will continue to do so for all time:

As a footnote to this edition, John Barry’s score for the film remains one of his finest and most outstanding for the series, and gained further adulation in 1998 when Robbie Williams used the piece “Mountains And Sunsets” as the premise for his single “Millennium” which topped the UK singles chart and proved a big success in many other countries too. It would chart at No.72 in America. All of which goes to prove, twice IS the only way to live!

Click here to read about the other title songs in this series

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