For better or worse, the James Bond films have historically been known as much for their theme songs as they’ve been known for their action sequences, crazy gadgets and Bond girls. Live and Let Die had an iconic theme song from Paul McCartney, Goldfinger had its theme from Shirley Bassey, and most recently, Spectre featured Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall.”
Smith’s contribution fits the mold of past theme songs, with a sweeping orchestral score accompanying his signature crooning, but Smith wasn’t the only musician courted to write a theme. In fact, he beat out another well-known band from the U.K. for the gig.
Posting to their Facebook page on Christmas day, Radiohead gave their fans the unexpected gift of releasing the rejected theme song they wrote for Spectre. Unlike Smith’s theme song, Radiohead’s version shares its title with that of the film. It is a slightly more subdued affair than Smith’s, too, more reminiscent of the music from their recent albums than past Bond themes. Here’s what the band had to say about the song:
“Last year we were asked to write a theme tune for the Bond movie Spectre.
Yes we were. It didn’t work out, but became something of our own, which we love very much.
As the year closes we thought you might like to hear it.
Merry Christmas. May the force be with you.”
While Radiohead as a band are not necessarily known for their film soundtrack contributions, it is not without precedent. Back in the late ’90s they contributed the song “Talk Show Host” to Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet and their song “15 Steps” showed up on the soundtrack to Twilight. In addition, Radiohead member Jonny Greenwood has composed a number of soundtracks himself, including the scores to There Will Be Blood and Inherent Vice.
It’s easy to understand why Radiohead’s attempt at the Spectre theme song was rejected, though. While it is not a bad song per se, it lacks a certain grandiosity that is typical in Bond themes. Smith’s contribution, while somewhat unremarkable, at least does a better job of capturing the energy of a traditional Bond theme.
The release from Radiohead at the very least is a good sign for hopeful fans that they are still working on new material together and will be putting out their recently-teased new album in the near future. Perhaps they will have another opportunity to contribute to a Bond soundtrack in the future, too, whether or not it’s for the same Bond.