You Only Sing Twice
17th June 2007
MI6 uncovers the twists and turns that the You Only Live Twice theme song took, from Julie Rogers to Nancy Sinatra...
Although the world knows the haunting
theme to You Only Live Twice is performed by Nancy Sinatra
in the movie,
the production of the song took a few twists and turns
along the way.
Originally, producers sought one of the
biggest stars of the day - British singer Julie Rogers.
Best known for her hit "The Wedding", Rogers
was married to Michael Black - Bond lyricist Don Black's
older brother. She was approached to perform the song written
by John Barry (music) and Leslie Bricusse (lyrics), and
managed to secure an agreement with her own record label.
Julie Rogers: "This came at the height of my recording
career in 1967. I just had three number one hit records
worldwide. I recorded the song at Universal Studios (near
Notting Hill) with a 50-piece orchestra and John Barry.
And to me, that was it, I'd done the theme."
Above: Original Japanese soundtrack cover (Nippon Columbia)
That was the end of her commitments to the production, but also
the end of the road for the recording. John Barry: "It was
usually the producers that said 'this isn't working, there's
a certain something that it needed'. If that energy wasn't there,
if that mysterioso kind of thing wasn't there, then it wasn't
going to work for the movie."
Roger's version of the song would go unheard for 25
years, until it made an appearance on the American issued
Anniversary double CD, incorrectly titled as a "demo" version
by an unknown artist.
Bricusse later confirmed that this
was their first attempt at the title song, which although
they eventually discarded, was not a demo. Rogers was identified
as the singer and swift legal action was brought to EMI
to correct the credit and royalties. Only two lines ("You
only live twice", and "you’ll pay the price")
were kept from the first version.
Left: Cover art of the James Bond 30th Anniversary album
released in 1992 (EMI)
The search was on for a replacement. According to a 2006 documentary
by Channel 4, producer Cubby Broccoli had in mind one of the
biggest names in showbiz - Sinatra, Frank Sinatra.
John Barry: "Cubby Broccoli was a friend of Frank Sinatra's.
So he phoned him up and said we'd love you to sing the song in
the movie. But Frank said no, he didn't want to do it, but my
daughter is really good! Have Nancy do it."
Although Nancy Sinatra did indeed get
the job, she was by no means second choice either. According
to Bricusse, Barry had already lined up Aretha Franklin
on the eve of her signing for Atlantic Records. However,
the producers were insistent on using Nancy Sinatra who
had just topped the charts with "These Boots Are Made
Marc Almond: "Nancy Sinatra was the
epitome of that swinging sixties hipness, with her boots,
skirts and her blonde hair. She was American as well, which
I think was important because that gave the feeling that
Bond was international. But there was also a sophistication
to her as well."
With Bond at the height of his popularity, performing
the song was a daunting task for the 26-year old. Nancy
Sinatra: "I was panic stricken from the very beginning
of the whole procedure. I would rather have root canal
surgery than go through that again."
The second version of the song, again by Barry and Bricusse,
was a challenge for the singer. John Barry: "It was
a long lyrical line which she wasn't used to singing at the
Above: Nancy Sinatra was an icon
of the time
"There is a sweetness to it that
the other Bond songs just don't have" -- Nancy Sinatra
Nancy Sinatra: "You Only Live Twice was difficult in a
lot of ways. The fact that is was quite rangey, and I wasn't
used to that, I was used to my little octave and a half. I even
asked John, are you sure you want me to do this, because maybe
you need Shirley Bassey? But they said no, we want you, we want
Despite a full day's recording, they didn't have one
perfect performance. John Barry: "We took about maybe
twelve takes and then when she had gone, we literally took
pieces from all these takes that we had done and we stuck
them all together and made the one tape that finally went
out with the movie."
"As we say, it was a hatchet job. But
she loved it and when she heard it she called me up and
said you made it sound wonderful."
Nancy Sinatra: "There were bad notes, they just
edited it together. They didn't want to embarrass me.
I tried my best - I was 26 years old and really scared."
All of this was hidden from moviegoers in 1967, except
those involved in the production.
Julie Rogers: "I
saw the movie and sat there and cried. Anybody would!
It was such a wonderful opportunity that just fizzled
away for me."
Above: Nancy Sinatra and John Barry at the CTS recording studio
in London on May 5th 1967. It was the second sond Nancy had recorded
Original Lyrics [Version Performed By Julie Rogers]
You Only Live Twice,
No more than twice,
And each life you live,
You`re playing with dice!
The first game is love,
Beware, it`s nice!
The second is death
Whose cold arms entice you...
You gamble with danger...
You gamble with love...
Each one is a stranger...
In a black velvet glove!
And if you should lose,
You`ll the pay the price,
Good luck with the dice,
You Only Live Twice!
Only Live Twice - Movie Coverage
Only Live Twice - Soundtrack