Listening: “Diamonds Are Forever” – Shirley Bassey

If you know something about Welsh diva Shirley Bassey, and you also know anything about the James Bond film series, then you probably put the two together in your head and instantly come up with Goldfinger, the first of three 007 films featuring Ms. Bassey on lead vocals, and the one for which she is most remembered.

Not me.

While there’s certainly no arguing that 1964’s Goldfinger is a far superior film in the Bond series than the dopey Vegas smuggling shenanigans that hobble 1971’s Daimonds Are Forever, in my mind the Diamonds theme song trumps Goldfinger in every way conceivable.

Truth be told, I’ve never really cared much for the Goldifnger theme song, but I usually keep it to myself because whenever some film critic or famed song producer or NPR contributor decides to rank the themes to all the 007 films, Goldifinger is usually placed squarely at the top and adorned with a holy reverence that leaves no room for even a hint of challenge.

I guess “Goldfinger” is one of those songs I just don’t get. The relentless pounding brass and the ridiculous over-the-top lyrics (“Such a COLD finger… beckons you… to enter his web of sin… but DON’T GO IN!!!!“) make me laugh.  The production all seems desperate to merely keep up with a singer whose powerhouse voice simply cannot be caught!

The musical route Diamonds Are Forever takes, however, is far more seductive and smartly secondary to the hellfire that is Shirley Bassey.   The voice reigns supreme here. The horns are relegated to mere punctuation for the ends of certain lyric lines. The animal’s share of the orchestration comes from the sweeping strings, an understated electric bass and a tip-toeing of high-octave keyboard notes that sparkle like diamonds themselves (the motif is repeated throughout the film).

This song is only about one thing: the way Shirley Bassey can murder it.

There are very few Bond themes I outright avoid listening to (Gladys Knight on “License to Kill,” and Lulu on the pitiful “Man with the Golden Gun”), but when I compile my own 007 iPod playlist, “Diamonds are Forever” almost always leads the way.

Shirley returned to the Bond fold for the theme song to 1979’s Moonraker, which sends 007 into outer space but ironically gives Shirley’s voice no opportunity to soar.  I’m still patiently awaiting Theme Song Number Four.  I know Shirley’s still got it in her.

Click on the Mp3 link below to hear Shirley at her Bond best! And remember, “Men are mere mortals WHO... are not worth going TO... your GRAVE for.”

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One thought on “Listening: “Diamonds Are Forever” – Shirley Bassey

  • May 15, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    I LOVE “Diamonds R 4-Ever”! It is truly a superior song, as evidenced by the fact that it can stand alone from the film it was written for…”History Repeating” is a fantastic Bassey number as well, and could easily be an applicable Bond theme, since it’s hard to tell those movies apart anyways.

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