Music - Thunderball

Music Composed, Conducted & Arranged By: John Barry
James Bond Theme: Monty Norman
Main Theme: "Thunderball"
Song Lyrics: Don Black
Song Performed By: Tom Jones
Album Label: Capitol Records
Highest Chart Position: 35 (UK), 8 (USA)

Order Amazon USA
Order Amazon UK

Right: UK album sleeve artwork.


Thunderball was the third James Bond soundtrack composed and conducted by John Barry, and performed by the John Barry Orchestra. The soundtrack was released by United Artists Records in 1965. The soundtrack mastering was not finished by the time the film was released in theaters and only featured twelve tracks, roughly the first half of the film. Additionally, the music in the film was unfinished just days before the release of the film in theaters due to a late change by EON Productions to use a title song with the same name as the film. The last seven tracks were released for the first time when the soundtrack was issued on Compact Disc on February 25, 2003.


Title Theme
John Barry and Leslie Bricusse wrote the original main title theme, entitled "Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang". The title was taken from an Italian journalist who in 1962 dubbed agent 007 as Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.

Barry had thought he couldn't write a song about a vague "Thunderball" codename or the story of the film, so instead opted to focus on the character of James Bond. This technique would be echoed decades later to some degree by Chris Cornell for "You Know My Name" (Casino Royale).

Left: John Barry conducting the John Barry Orchestra during a James Bond recording session.

The song was originally recorded by Shirley Bassey, but was later re-recorded by Dionne Warwick. Both versions were not released until the 1990s. The song was removed from the title credits after producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were worried that a theme song to a James Bond movie would not work well if the song did not have the title of the film in its lyrics.

John Barry teamed up with lyricist Don Black and wrote "Thunderball" which was sung by Tom Jones who, according to Bond production legend, fainted in the recording booth when singing the song's final, high note. Jones said of the final note, "I closed my eyes and I held the note for so long when I opened my eyes the room was spinning." Unlike "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang", the lyrics of "Thunderball" are a description of villain Emilio Largo's character.

Country musician Johnny Cash also submitted a song to EON productions titled "Thunderball" but it wasn't used. The lyrics of Cash's "Thunderball" describe the story of the film.

The producers' decision to change the film's theme song so close to the release created delay problems with the soundtrack, as Barry had written large amounts of the score around the original theme song and woven it throughout the score (along with the recurring underwater "Search For Vulcan" motif). After "Thunderball" was written, Barry wrote, orchestrated, and recorded several new pieces interpolating it. Barry's scores always included a track which gave the film's theme song a full statement in the form of a sensitive, slowed-down instrumental ballad, often played over a romantic moment or a scene set in a nightclub or casino; he re-arranged "Thunderball" as a lush, subtly jazzy orchestral piece in the easy listening style that was popular at the time.


Above: German vinyl sleeve artwork of the "Thunderball" single, performed in German by Alan Corb instead of Tom Jones.

Although "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" was dropped as the theme song, some of the pieces which included its melody remained part of the score, and it receives full statements twice: by full orchestra and jazz rhythm quartet with bass, drums, guitar, and vibraphone in the track "Café Martinique" (immediately followed by the "Vulcan" cue), and as a wild, bongo-laden cha-cha-cha in "Death of Fiona." The scene which includes the latter takes place at Club Kiss Kiss. Because Thunderball's score had, essentially, two main themes to work from, as well as the "Search For Vulcan" cue and the "James Bond Theme," it is arguably the richest of the early Bond scores, thematically speaking.

Above: Original artwork from the UK (left) and German (right) 45rpm releases.

Soundtrack Listing

Original Release
1. Thunderball (03:02)
2. Chateau flight (02:30)
3. The Spa (02:42)
4. Switching The Body (02:46)
5. The Bomb (05:44)
6. Cape Martinique (03:48)
7. Thunderball (03:57)
8. Death of Fiona (02:28)
9. Bond Below Disco Volante (03:55)
10. Search For Vulcan (02:24)
11. 007 (02:26)
12. Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (03:15)

2003 Remastered Release
1. Thunderball (03:03)
2. Chateau Fight (02:31)
3. The Spa (02:42)
4. Switching The Body (02:48)
5. The Bomb (05:45)
6. Cafe Martinique (03:45)
7. Thunderball (03:57)
8. Death of Fiona (02:31)
9. Bond Below Disco Volante (04:05)
10. Search For Vulcan (02:24)
11. 007 (02:27)
12. Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (03:18)
13. Gunbarrel/Traction Table/Gassing The Plane/Car Chase (04:43)
14. Bond Meets Domino/Shark Tank/Lights Out For Paula/For King and Country (08:18)
15. Street Chase (03:23)
16. Finding The Plane/Underwater Ballet/Bond With SPECTRE Frogmen/Leiter To The Rescue/... (10:15)
17. Underwater Mayhem/Death of Largo/End Titles (10:21)
18. Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (02:41)

Total Time (Original Release): 38:57
Total Time (2003 Remastered): 1:18:57