Inside the making of Wings' classic Bond theme 'Live and Let Die'
As a civilization we may never definitively decide which James Bond theme song is best. But there's little doubt that Wings' "Live and Let Die," the tune that the Paul McCartney-fronted band recorded for 1973's Roger Moore-starring 007 adventure, is the most rocking.
"Live and Let Die" was written by McCartney and his wife Linda while the band was recording Wings' second album, Red Rose Speedway, in London. "On the Sunday, I sat down and thought, okay, the hardest thing to do here is to work in that title," the ex-Beatle would later tell Mojo journalist Paul Du Noyer. "I mean, later I really pitied who had the job of writing Quantum of Solace. So I thought, Live and Let Die, okay, really what they mean is live and let live and there's the switch. So I came at it from the very obvious angle. I just thought, 'When you were younger you used to say that, but now you say this.'"
"Live and Let Die" was put on tape at London's AIR studios. "It was recorded live in a big room," Wings guitarist Denny Laine, who plays bass on the track, tells EW. "We had to have the orchestra live and so we needed the big room. I think it was recording it live that gave it the excitement. It usually does in a studio. When you've got a live recording it has the energy, the performance, which may be the reason why it was so popular."
The track was produced by George Martin, the longtime Beatles collaborator. "Oh, George was a sweetheart," Laine says of the producer. "He was the ultimate professional. Obviously it was Paul who wanted him. He knew what he was doing. He always had suggestions too. He wasn't a background guy. He was up front. He gave good ideas."
According to 007 legend, when franchise producer Harry Saltzman initially heard the track he thought it was a demo and planned to have it another performer cover it, before being informed that McCartney would only allow the song to be used if it was performed by Wings. Saltzman acquiesced to the demand, to the benefit of both the franchise and the band. "Live and Let Die" proved the most successful Bond theme up to that date, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard chart. The tune was nominated for an Academy Award but was beaten by the title song from The Way We Were. Wings' first album, 1971's Wild Life, had not enjoyed the critical or commercial success of McCartney's work with The Beatles. Red Rose Speedway was a bigger hit, but it was the success of "Live and Let Die" which really established the band as a major musical force. "It was pretty big for us," Laine says of the song. "We used to do it live ourselves with the band, with Wings. Obviously, the audience just loves that track because it was so famous."
Wings dissolved in 1981, but "Live and Let Die" has lived on. In 1991, Guns N' Roses included a cover of song on the band's multi platinum-selling album Use Your Illusion I with their version becoming a staple of the group's live show. "I loved it, I really did," says Laine. "It lends itself to a heavy rock version. Wings' version was a rock version to a certain degree but it was also an orchestra. Guns N' Roses did it as a rock band and they did a good version of it."
Over the years, the song has become a fixture at solo shows by both McCartney and Laine. "It always goes down really well," says Laine. "It's like a 'Goodnight!' song. The fact that it goes from the slow section to the fast section, and then back into the slower piece, and then rocks out at the end, is a great way of finishing the show."
So will Laine be watching No Time to Die? "Oh, I'll definitely check that out," he says.
Read more from EW's 25 Days of Bond, a celebration of all things 007 ahead of the release of No Time to Die.
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