Spectre (song)

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"Spectre"
Radiohead Spectre 2016.jpg
Promotional single by Radiohead
A-side"Burn the Witch" (vinyl)
Released25 December 2015
Format
Genre
Length3:19
Label
  • Self-released
  • XL
Producer(s)Nigel Godrich
Alternate cover
Original SoundCloud release cover
Original SoundCloud release cover

"Spectre" is a song by the English rock band Radiohead, produced by Nigel Godrich. Radiohead wrote the song, an orchestral ballad, for the 2015 James Bond film Spectre, but it was rejected by the film producers. Instead, Radiohead released it as a free download on 25 December 2015, their first release since 2011. It was also released as a B-side on the vinyl single "Burn the Witch", and included in the special edition of Radiohead's ninth album, A Moon Shaped Pool, both released in 2016. It received positive reviews.

Writing and recording[edit]

In July 2015, rumours spread that Radiohead would record the theme for the upcoming James Bond film Spectre, released later that year. The bookmaker William Hill suspended bets after a customer placed £15,000 at ten-to-one odds on Radiohead. A William Hill spokesperson said: "There seem to be all kinds of rumours and the plot has had more twists and turns than a classic Bond tale, but surely nobody risks £15,000 on a hunch."[1]

Radiohead submitted "Man of War", a song written in the 1990s[2] which singer Thom Yorke once described as a homage to Bond themes.[3] The Spectre production team liked the song, but rejected it when they discovered it was not original and therefore ineligible for the Academy Award for Best Original Song.[4] "Man of War" was instead released on OKNOTOK 1997 2017, the OK Computer reissue.[5]

Radiohead suspended work on their ninth album, A Moon Shaped Pool (2016), to record another song for the film, "Spectre".[6] However, the production team felt it was too "melancholy" for the title sequence,[7] and instead used "Writing's on the Wall" by Sam Smith.[8] Director Sam Mendes attempted to use "Spectre" elsewhere in the film, but decided its lyrics made it distracting. He described the situation as "an utter nightmare ... we had this beautiful song and we weren't able to use it. But it's somehow cooler for Radiohead to have written a song that wasn't used."[4]

Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich said: "That fucking James Bond movie threw us a massive curveball. It was a real waste of energy. We stopped doing what we were doing and had to concentrate on that for a while since we were told it was something that was going to come to fruition ... It caused a stop right when we were in the middle of [the album recording]."[6] Yorke said the decision not to use the song was "just politics as far as I can tell".[9] Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood said in a BBC interview:[7]

It wasn't right for the film, what we did. So we thought, "Great! Then it's ours. We can finish it how it's meant to be and we can release it." So that side of it was really positive, you know? But I guess there's lots of people interested in who does [the Bond theme]. There's a lot riding on it and the song we did was just too dark or whatever, so that's fine. [It] means we get to have it back and it's ours and we got to put it out. We're really, really proud of it.

Composition[edit]

"Spectre" features Thom Yorke's falsetto with "jerky" piano chords, strings, and "jazzy" drums reminiscent of Radiohead's 2001 single "Pyramid Song".[10] It was described by Consequence of Sound as "a gorgeous, orchestral ballad"[11] and by Rolling Stone as "darkly orchestral".[12]

Release[edit]

Radiohead released "Spectre" on the audio distribution platform SoundCloud on Christmas Day 2015. Yorke announced the song on Twitter, writing: "Last year we were asked to write a tune for Bond movie Spectre. Yes we were. It didn't work out ... but became something of our own which we love very much. As the year closes we thought you might like to hear it. Merry Christmas."[13] It was the first Radiohead release since the single "Daily Mail" / "Staircase" in 2011.[13]

"Spectre" was included as the B-side on Radiohead's 7" vinyl single "Burn the Witch", released 13 May 2016.[14] It was also included as a bonus track on the special edition of Radiohead's album A Moon Shaped Pool.[15]

Reception[edit]

Variety wrote that "Spectre" has "Radiohead's signature moody sound, with a somber sweeping grandeur that might have fit well into the Bond song canon".[16] Pitchfork named it the week's "Best New Music", and wrote that it has "all the melodrama of a good Bond song but only a hint of the kitsch... [it is] one of the finest Radiohead songs in some years, much more than a one-off curiosity."[10] Chris DeVille of Stereogum picked "Spectre" as one of the week's best songs, writing that it was "beautiful" and a reminder that "Radiohead still have life left in them".[17] After "Writing's on the Wall" won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song the following week, DeVille wrote that "Spectre" was "the more masterful of the two tracks".[18]

Release history[edit]

Region Date Label Format Catalogue no.
Worldwide 25 December 2015 XL Download -
 United States 16 May 2016 7" (B-side) 407917[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Nobody does it, better: Bond theme betting suspended after punter tries to put £15,000 on Radiohead". The Guardian. 29 July 2015. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  2. ^ "Radiohead share video for previously unreleased song "Man of War" — watch". Consequence of Sound. 22 June 2017. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  3. ^ "Turn Your Radiohead On!". NME. 18 November 1995.
  4. ^ a b "Sam Mendes, Sound and Vision - BBC Radio 6 Music". BBC. 5 November 2017. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  5. ^ Leight, Elias (23 June 2017). "See Radiohead's Paranoia-Inducing 'Man of War' Video". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  6. ^ a b Greene, Andy (8 June 2017). "19 Things We Learned Hanging Out With Radiohead". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  7. ^ a b "Radiohead interview: 'It's a very happy time' - BBC News". BBC News. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  8. ^ "Radiohead reveal rejected theme for James Bond film Spectre". bbc.com. BBC News. 25 December 2015. Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  9. ^ Trendell, Andrew (3 October 2018). "Thom Yorke on how he nearly wrote the soundtrack for Fight Club". NME. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  10. ^ a b "Radiohead: "Spectre"". Pitchfork. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  11. ^ "Radiohead did write the theme for James Bond's Spectre, and you can hear it now -- listen". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  12. ^ "Hear Radiohead's Unused James Bond Theme 'Spectre'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  13. ^ a b Kreps, Daniel (25 December 2015). "Hear Radiohead's Unused James Bond Theme 'Spectre'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  14. ^ "Update: Radiohead's "Burn the Witch" receives vinyl release". Consequence of Sound. 12 May 2016. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  15. ^ "Radiohead gift fans with surprise new B-Side "Ill Wind" — listen". 30 September 2016. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  16. ^ "Thom Yorke Posts Rejected Radiohead 'Spectre' Theme Song (AUDIO)". Variety. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  17. ^ "The 5 Best Songs Of The Week". Stereogum. 8 January 2016. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  18. ^ "Sam Smith Doesn't Know Who Thom Yorke Is, Hasn't Heard Radiohead's "Spectre"". Stereogum. 12 January 2016. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  19. ^ "Radiohead – Burn The Witch b/w Spectre (Indie Exclusive)". Bull Moose. Retrieved 8 May 2016.