Goldfinger (Shirley Bassey song)
|Single by Shirley Bassey|
|Writer(s)||John Barry, Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley|
"Goldfinger" was the title song from the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger. Composed by John Barry and with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, the song was performed by Shirley Bassey for the film's opening and closing title sequences, as well as the soundtrack album release. The single release of the song gave Bassey her only Billboard Hot 100 top forty hit, peaking in the Top 10 at number eight and at number two for four weeks on the Adult Contemporary chart, and in the United Kingdom the single reached number 21.
Upon being asked to create a theme song for the film-in-progress, Bricusse and Newley looked at each other and sang out: "Goldfinger . . . wider than a mile," to the melody of "Moon River," the successful theme song from Breakfast at Tiffany's. John Barry reacted badly. One of the inspirations for the song was "Mack the Knife", which director Guy Hamilton showed Barry as he thought it was a "gritty and rough" song that could be a good model for what the film required. Bricusse and Newley were not shown any script excerpts or film footage from Goldfinger but were advised of the fatal gilding suffered by the Jill Masterson character played by Shirley Eaton. Bricusse would recall that once he and Newley hit upon utilizing "the Midas touch" as a lyric the lyrical pattern of the song became evident and the lyrics were completed within at most a couple of days.
The first recording of "Goldfinger" was made by Anthony Newley in a May 14, 1964 recording session with John Barry as conductor which produced two completed takes. Barry would recall Newley gave a "very creepy" performance which Barry considered "terrific" but apparently Newley's recording of "Goldfinger" was made purely as a demo for the film's makers: according to Barry, Newley "didn't want to sing it in the movie as they [i.e. Newley and Bricusse] thought [the song] was a bit weird".
Shirley Bassey was John Barry's choice to record the song: Barry had been conductor on Bassey's national tour in December 1963 and also the two had been romantically involved. Barry had played Bassey an instrumental track of the song prior to its lyrics being written: the singer would recall hearing the track gave her "goose pimples" and that she agreed to sing whatever lyrics might eventually be written for it. Bassey recorded the track on August 20, 1964 at London's CTS Studios: the track's producer credit named Bassey's regular producer George Martin but the session was in fact overseen by John Barry. Vic Flick, Jimmy Page and Big Jim Sullivan are all said to have been guitarists on the session. The recording of "Goldfinger" lasted all night as Barry demanded repeated takes due to mistakes by the orchestra members or technical glitches and not any shortcomings in Bassey's vocal: Bassey did initially have issues with the climactic final note which necessitated her slipping behind a studio partition between takes to remove her bra. Bassey would recall of the final note: "I was holding it and holding it. I was looking at John [Barry] and I was going blue in the face and he's going, hold it just one more second. When it finished, I nearly passed out."
The iconic two note phrase which is the basis for the track's intro was not in the original orchestration but occurred to Barry during a general tea break after an hour and a half of rehearsal with Bassey and the orchestra, with Barry having written the figure into the orchestration by the time the musicians returned after twenty minutes. 
Bassey recorded the single version of "Goldfinger" in mono: a distinct stereo version of the song appears on the Goldfinger soundtrack album. Both mono and stereo versions appear on the compilation Goldsinger. Newley's version was later released in 1992 to mark the 30th Anniversary of James Bond on film, in a compilation collector's edition: The Best of Bond...James Bond.
Shirley Bassey's theme was almost taken out of the film because of its producer's opinion. He hated it, saying "That's the worst *** song I've ever heard in my *** life" (Saltzman would also dislike Bassey's subsequent Bond theme, that for Diamonds Are Forever). However time constraints did not allow for the possibility of a replacement Goldfinger theme song being written and recorded.
The release on vinyl of Bassey's (mono) version, UA 790, sold more than a million copies in the United States (Guinness Book of Records), and it also reached #1 in Japan, #4 in Australian, and the Top Ten of many European countries including Austria (#7), Belgium (#9 on the Dutch charts), Germany (#8), Italy (#3), the Netherlands (#5), Norway (#7). A #24 hit in France, Bassey's "Goldfinger" was not one of Bassey's biggest hits in her native UK its #21 peak being far lower than that of the nine Top Ten hits she'd previously scored, but despite Bassey subsequently returning to the UK Top Ten three more times "Goldfinger" would ultimately become her signature song in the UK as well as the rest of the world. In 2002 poll in which BBC Radio 2 solicited listeners' favourite piece of popular music from the last fifty years performed by a British act "Goldfinger" by Shirley Bassey ranked at #46.
Other versions and adaptations
- In 1964, Billy Strange recorded a version, which even charted along with Bassey's original.
- In 1965, The Honeycombs did an instrumental cover of it on their Japanese tour which also appeared on their album In Tokyo which was released in Japan only.
- In 1965, Count Basie did an instrumental version of the song on his album Basie Meets Bond.
- In 1965, Ray Barretto did an instrumental version of the song on his album Señor 007.
- In 1965, Billy Preston did an instrumental version of the song on his album Early Hits Of 1965.
- In 1967, Eino Grön recorded the Finnish rendering "Hän Vaatii" ("He Required") for his self-titled album.
- In 1978, the song was covered by Howard Devoto's post-punk band Magazine, as the B-side to their single Touch and Go.
- In 1996, Man Or Astroman? did an instrumental version of the song on the various-artists comp Secret Agent S.O.U.N.D.S..
- In 2000, Hank Marvin did an instrumental version of the song on his album Marvin at the Movies.
- In 2006, it was covered in a heavy metal fashion by Finnish rock group Leningrad Cowboys on their album Zombies Paradise.
- In 2012, for the James Bond video game 007 Legends, an instrumental version was written and composed by David Arnold for the main title sequence, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the film franchise.
Live and televised performances
- In 1980, Shirley Bassey performed the song on The Muppet Show.
- In 1997, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers covered the song in concert, and it is featured on their career-spanning live set, The Live Anthology.
- In 2011, Céline Dion included the song as part of a "James Bond Medley" in her Las Vegas show Celine.
- In 2013, Shirley Bassey sang the song at the Academy Awards in tribute to the 50 years of James Bonds films. Bassey received a standing ovation after her performance.
- In 1998, the song was to feature prominently in the film Little Voice, appearing in much the manner of its first use – but with Michael Caine slamming the door that becomes the song's first chord blast, rather than, of course, Sean Connery.
- In 1999, in the "Shutout In Seattle" episode of US sitcom Frasier, the song is featured in the final scene, with Frasier Crane, Niles Crane and Martin Crane singing along to a piano accompaniment.
- The song is sung at Jordan Belfort's wedding in the 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street.
Remixes and examples
- In 2000, the song was remixed by Propellerheads for the album Diamonds are Forever: The Shirley Bassey Remix Album.
- In 2007, it was sampled by reggaeton artist Tego Calderón on his song "Alegría", off of his album El Abayarde Contraataca.
In 1989, after the release of the James Bond theme song "Licence to Kill", from the film of the same title, it was felt to significantly reuse important elements of "Goldfinger", and so the songwriting credits for the former were adapted for all subsequent releases.
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