No singer is more closely associated with James Bond than Welsh diva Shirley Bassey. She was already a popular nightclub draw in America when John Barry tapped her for Goldfinger in 1964. It would become the composer's personal favorite of the Bond titles. "Shirley Bassey was perfect casting," he later gushed. "She brought such conviction to it."
Bassey would contribute her inimitable delivery in service of 007 on two more occasions, for Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and Moonraker (1979). (A fourth, "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," was recorded for Thunderball, but dropped in favor of Tom Jones's title tune.) Although she turned 61 this past January, Bassey still performs to packed houses. So why must Bond fans be subjected to the simpering likes of A-Ha ("The Living Daylights") and Sheryl Crow?
David Arnold blames the boys in accounting. When he wrote "Surrender" for Tomorrow Never Dies, he had Bassey in mind for the track. "The world is ready for another Shirley Bassey Bond theme," insists the master. "But in marketing terms, it wasn't going to make sense."
Like the best of the Bond songs, Bassey epitomizes the idea that if you don't fret about being contemporary, you have a much better chance of maturing into a timeless classic. That's why the Propellerheads composed "History Repeating" (featured on their new Decksanddrumsandrockandroll) for her. "She's wicked," insists Alex Gifford. "We just wanted her to play the part of someone who's been there, seen it, done it... who's above the bollocks of hype and fashion."
"They say the next big thing is here/That the revolution's near/But to me it seems quite clear/That it's all just a little bit of history repeating," purrs Bassey over a bossa nova beat. The new breed of Bond producers would be wise to listen closely to what she's singing. Miss Shirley Bassey is overdue for an encore.