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Macca's gems: Live And Let Die

In various polls in recent years, McCartney's ‘Live And Let Die’ has been voted the best or most popular title track of all James Bond films. Not entirely unjustified because the song belongs to the best of its entire solo career. Not bad for a song that was written in no time.

Film opening sequel:




McCartney had the task of writing the title song thanks to Beatles producer George Martin, who in turn was asked to work on the music score for the latest Bond movie. Until then, all the themes for the film series were written by John Barry, but he was unavailable this time. So when George Martin was asked if he had someone in mind for this job, he immediately came up with McCartney. Paul read Ian Flemming’s book on which the film was based on a Saturday and the next day he wrote the track, using a piece of reggae that Linda had written.
I was there when Paul wrote it, though. That was the amazing part. (…) We were at the house and he sat down and goes ‘Hmm… James Bond… he started humming and ten minutes later the whole song was together. I’ve never seen anything like that in my entire life. It was pretty amazing. It might take a little more than ten minutes, but it didn’t take long to craft that song.

Denny Seiwell

The recordings took place during the sessions for the second Wings’ album Red Rose Speedway. And just like the writing of the song, the recordings were done in a short period of time. Wings drummer Denny Seiwell is still impressed by the track:
‘Live and Let Die’ had just a little bit of everything in it. The glitz and glamour of the movies, the little reggae, the ballads, that song had just a little bit of everything in it. And it was done in a heartbeat. In and out in the studio in three hours. The band knew our parts, George wrote the strings, the orchestra parts, we recorded it live with the orchestra in London in George Martin’s studio and we did a couple of takes and that was it! We were in and out of there. They slammed vocals on it, mixed it up and it was like done in a matter of three, four hours.

Denny Seiwell





The film producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli initially wanted ‘Live And Let Die’ to be sung by Shirley Bassey or Thelma Houston, who did almost all Bond-themes so far. But both McCartney and George Martin refused:
The film producers found a record player. After the record had finished they said to George, ‘That’s great, a wonderful demo. Now when are you going to make the real track, and who shall we get to sing it?’ And George said, ‘What? This is the real track!’

Paul McCartney


However, during the film a second version of ‘Live And Let Die’ with female vocals can be heard, performed by Brenda J. Arnau:

Brenda J. Arnau





‘Live and Let Die’ was released in June 1973 and was the first 007 theme song to hit the top ten of British and American charts. In addition, it appeared on the soundtrack album of the film but not on a Wings album until the 1978 compilation album Wings Greatest. However McCartney added it to the live setlist straight away, where it wouldn’t disappear anymore: ‘Live and Let Die’ is, with ‘Maybe I'm Amazed’, one of the tracks McCartney performed the most often. And to this day it is a highlight of the live shows, also because of the impressive fireworks. Whoever stands a bit close to the stage feels the heat literally floating around.

Paul McCartney, Live Super Bowl (2005):





In 1991, ‘Live And Let Die’ gets a second life when the American rock band Guns' N Roses covers it. And again it becomes a global hit. The 1973 original was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song, the 1991 cover receives a Grammy nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance:

Guns N‘ Roses



André Homan

André Homan is a Dutch writer and journalist.

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