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Johnny Cash’s rejected opening theme for ‘Thunderball’

January 12, 2015

When the amusing podcast James Bonding, hosted by Matt Gourley and Matt Mira, got around to dealing with the ultra-boring, ultra-rapey (this is according to them, mind you) fourth installment of the James Bond franchise, Thunderball, things livened up considerably when they discussed the story behind the theme song.

Briefly, the theme song in the movie is sung by Tom Jones, who, legend has it, fainted upon completing the titanic final note of the song. That song had replaced a different song, sung by Shirley Bassey and, much later, by Dionne Warwick, which had the pretty unbeatable title of “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” Albert Broccoli didn’t like that the song didn’t mention the name of the movie, so he shitcanned it.

But at some point Johnny Cash submitted a version, which would have been much more suitable for a spaghetti western and is, frankly, awesome. I’m prepared based on very little actual knowledge to assert that it’s better than any existing James Bond theme, and that includes the one from you-know-who and “this ever-changing world in which we’re living.” Sure, Cash’s version is a teensy bit stupid, but when you kick into that sweeping Morricone vibe, you can lead me just about anywhere.

A month later, according to Robert Hilburn’s Johnny Cash: The Life, Cash wrote a pretty similar song for the John Wayne movie The Sons of Katie Elder, and in all honesty it’s a little better.

You can find Cash’s “Thunderball” on the 2011 compilation Bootleg, Vol. 2: From Memphis to Hollywood.

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