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Licence To Kill

15th February 2014

The theme to 'Licence To Kill' charts at 16th place in the MI6 survey of 007 title songs

MI6 logo By MI6 Staff
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Gladys Knight - Licence To Kill

MI6 readers voted in their thousands during 2012 to rank all the James Bond title theme songs. Join us as we count down the results...

Originally the producers of the Bond franchise turned in-house to a tireless stalwart of Bond music, Vic Flick, to compose the title song. Flick is famous in Bond lore for playing the guitar that forms the basis for the James Bond theme as far back as 1962. Flick was to team up with the blues and rock guitarist, Eric Clapton, whose career dated back to the sixties and Bond's on screen genesis. The pair couldn't get something together that the EON family were entirely happy with, and so the Broccolis explored other options. The resulting collaboration was never released, and remains well hidden in the EON archives. But, back in the late 1980s, the charts were dominated by R&B and soul, and so the producers looked to Narada Michael Walden, one of the men behind the sensational Whitney Huston.

In order to compose the title track, ultimately sung by Gladys Knight, Walden looked to the famous riff from the opening of the "Goldfinger", which was composed by John Barry and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley. Years later Walden would admit that they even paid royalties to the title track composers in order to replicate "bahh-bahh-bahh!" in "Licence To Kill".

Knight purportedly went into the studio and nailed the song, but she was not particularly comfortable with title, nor the shadow of 007 behind her. A Christian and opposed to violence, Knight expressed a worry about her association with the violent implications of song's title. Ironically, the film proved to be a move to a darker Bond adventure, with some of the more gruesome scenes committed to celluloid in 007's long history. The filmmakers, partly pushed by Timothy Dalton's insistence to take the character back to its grittier roots, and particularly because they lacked an original Ian Fleming title to draw source material from, wound up as a revenge mission for 007. The film and its new direction met with very mixed reactions from the critics.

Despite this limited success, the theme was an important moment in Bond's greater history. It both bid farewell to John Barry, who was unable to score the film and compose the track due to surgery, and it introduced a young Daniel Kleinman to the 007 franchise. Kleinman was hired by the record company to direct the Gladys Knight music video and did so in such a 007 style that he was subsequently hired to direct Bond's title sequences. The media man, Kleinman, who cut his teeth on commercial advertisements, took over from the eccentric Maurice Binder when "GoldenEye" came along

Despite the reaction to the film itself, the pumpy theme earned critical acclaim, and great popularity. It made the UK Top 10, coming in at its peak at number six. A secondary theme that was never as famous nor popular was composed for the end credits. "If You Asked Me To" by Patti LaBelle was the song in question, but was made much more renewed when Celine Dion covered the track.

Oh yeah, I need, I need, I gotta hold on to your love...
Hey babe, think you need a friend to stand up by your side.
Yes you do.
[Yes I do.]
Ooo, baby, now you can depend on me to keep things right.
[Things right.]
Please don't bet, that you'll ever escape me,
Once I get my sights on you.

Got a licence to kill,
And you know I going straight for your heart.
[Got a licence to kill.]
Got a licence to kill,
Anyone who tries to tear us apart.
[Got a licence to kill.]

Say that somebody tries to make a move on you,
In the blink of an eye, I'll be there too.
And they'd better know why I'm gonna make them pay,
'Til their dying day.
'Til their dying day.
'Til their dying day.

Oh, got a licence to kill,
And you know I going straight for your heart.
[Got a licence to kill.]
Got a licence to kill,
Anyone who tries to tear us apart.
[Got a licence to kill.]

Ooooh, licence to kill.
Gotta hold on to your loving.
Licence to kill.

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