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Thunderball (soundtrack)

Soundtrack album by John Barry
Released 1965
Recorded October 1965
Length 39:11
Label United Artists
Producer Frank Collura (Reissue)
John Barry chronology
The Knack and How to Get It
Born Free
James Bond soundtrack chronology
You Only Live Twice
Singles from Thunderball
  1. "Thunderball"
    Released: 1965
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating

Thunderball is the soundtrack album for the fourth James Bond film "Thunderball".

The album was first released by United Artists Records in 1965 in both monaural and stereo editions, with a CD release in 1988.[1] The music was composed and conducted by John Barry, and performed by the John Barry Orchestra. This was Barry's third soundtrack for the series. The soundtrack was still being recorded when it came time for the album to be released, so the LP only featured twelve tracks from earlier in the film; an expanded edition with seven bonus tracks was released for the first time when the album was reissued on Compact Disc on 25 February 2003. Additionally, the music in the film was unfinished days before the film's release in theatres due to a late change by Eon Productions to use a title song with the same name as the film.


  • Title theme change 1
  • Track listing 2
  • Outside the film 3
  • Parodies / tributes 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Bibliography 7

Title theme change

The original main title theme to Thunderball was titled Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, which was written by John Barry and Leslie Bricusse. The title was taken from an Italian journalist who in 1962 dubbed agent 007 as "Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang". Barry had thought he could not write a song about a vague "Thunderball" term or the film's story, so his song was a description of the character James Bond.[2]

The song was originally recorded by Shirley Bassey. When there were problems with Bassey's singing it was later rerecorded by Dionne Warwick and featured a longer instrumental opening designed so the lyrics would not be heard until after the title "Thunderball" appeared in Maurice Binder's title design.[3] Both versions were not released until the 1990s. The song was removed from the title credits after United Artists requested that the theme song contain the film's title in its lyrics.[4] When it was planned to use the Warwick version in the end titles Shirley Bassey sued the producers[5][6] with the result being that neither version was heard in the film and different instrumental versions of the theme appeared on the High Fidelity (Bassey's) and Stereo (Warwick's) soundtrack LPs.[7]

Barry teamed up with lyricist Don Black and wrote "Thunderball" in a rush.[8] Tom Jones, who sang the new theme song, fainted in the recording booth after singing the song's final, high note.[8] Jones said of the final note, "I closed my eyes and I held the note for so long when I opened my eyes the room was spinning."[9]

Country musician Johnny Cash also submitted a song to Eon productions titled "Thunderball" but it wasn't used.[10] The lyrics of Cash's "Thunderball" describe the film's story.[11]

The producers' decision to change the film's theme song so close to the release date meant that only some of the film's soundtrack had been recorded for release on LP.[8] Adding to the delay issues, Barry had written large amounts of the score around the original theme and woven it throughout the score (along with the recurring underwater "Search For Vulcan" motif). After "Thunderball" was written, Barry wrote, orchestrated, and recorded several new pieces interpolating it. Barry's scores always included a track which gave the film's theme song a full statement in the form of a sensitive, slowed-down instrumental ballad, often played over a romantic moment or a scene set in a nightclub or casino; he re-arranged "Thunderball" as a lush, subtly jazzy orchestral piece in the easy listening style that was popular at the time.

Though "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" was dropped as the theme song, some of the pieces which included its melody remained part of the score, and it receives full statements twice: by full orchestra and jazz rhythm quartet with bass, drums, guitar, and vibraphone in the track "Café Martinique" (immediately followed by the "Vulcan" cue), and as a wild, bongo-laden cha-cha-cha in "Death of Fiona." The scene which includes the latter, it should also be noted, takes place at Club Kiss Kiss. Because Thunderball's score had, essentially, two main themes to work from, as well as the "Search For Vulcan" cue and the "James Bond Theme," it is arguably the richest of the early Bond scores, thematically speaking.

Track listing

  1. "Thunderball (Main Title)" – Tom Jones[upper-alpha 1]
  2. "Chateau Flight"[upper-alpha 1]
  3. "The Spa"
  4. "Switching the Body"
  5. "The Bomb"
  6. "Cafe Martinique"
  7. "Thunderball (Instrumental)"
  8. "Death of Fiona"
  9. "Bond Below Disco Volante"
  10. "Search for the Vulcan"
  11. "007"[upper-alpha 2]
  12. "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang"
CD bonus tracks
  1. "Gunbarrel/Traction Table/Gassing the Plane/Car Chase"[upper-alpha 1]
  2. "Bond Meets Domino /Shark Tank/Lights out for Paula/For King and Country"[upper-alpha 1]
  3. "Street Chase"[upper-alpha 2]
  4. "Finding the Plane/Underwater Ballet/Bond with SPECTRE Frogmen/Leiter to the Rescue/Bond Joins Underwater Battle"[upper-alpha 2]
  5. "Underwater Mayhem/Death of Largo/End Titles"[upper-alpha 1][upper-alpha 2]
  6. "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Mono Version)"

  1. ^ a b c d e contains the "James Bond Theme", originally composed for the Dr. No soundtrack
  2. ^ a b c d contains "007", originally from the From Russia with Love soundtrack

Outside the film

Parodies / tributes

  • In 1996, "Weird Al" Yankovic parodied Tom Jones during the opening theme song of the comedy Spy Hard. Instead of passing out, as Jones allegedly did, Yankovic's head explodes at the opening song's end.
  • Jones sang the theme during Sean Connery's AFI Life Achievement Award ceremony in 2006. He did not pass out on that occasion.

See also


  1. ^ "Thunderball -". 
  2. ^ Fiegel, Eddy. John Barry: A Sixties Theme. New York: Macmillan, 2001.
  3. ^ Spencer, 2008, p. 63-64.
  4. ^ p. 51 Burlingame, Jon The Music of James Bond Oxford University Press, 01/10/2012
  5. ^ p.336 Williams, John Miss Shirley Bassey Quercus, 01/11/2010
  6. ^ p. 56 Burlingame
  7. ^ Kendall, Lukas Liner notes Thunderball CD
  8. ^ a b c Spencer, 2008, p. 64.
  9. ^ "Tom Jones's comments on the Thunderball song". Interview with Singer Tom Jones. Retrieved 10 September 2005. 
  10. ^ Bitter Cinema piece on Johnny Cash's Thunderball
  11. ^ YouTube –Thunderball Opening with Johnny Cash


  • Burlingame, Jon The Music of James Bond Oxford University Press, 01/10/2012
  • Spencer, Kristopher. Film and Television Scores, 1950–1979: A Critical Survey by Genre. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2008
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