Mark Rahner

On this week’s Special Ops, we liquidate the double-0 cowplop that is Spectre. It’s a hit that brings me no pleasure as a lifelong James Bond fan. But I’m a patriot.

Is Sam Smith’s theme song the worst part of Spectre? That’s like asking someone covered in boils to ask which one hurts the most. But is it the worst of all the Bond themes?

Let’s establish our baseline. Here it is, and it’s titled (not ironically), “Writing’s On The Wall.”

It defies belief. That is, unless you’ve always wanted the theme to a movie about a rugged spy to be an overwrought pop ballad that sounds as if it could have been the work of a weepy castrato standing on a kitchen chair serenading a mouse.

You remember Norwegian pop group A-Ha from “Take On Me” Yes, of all the artists on the planet at the time, Ah-Ha was chosen. “Let’s see, we’ve had Bassey and Tom Jones. Nancy Sinatra was a favor to Frank, but hers turned out pretty well. Now who’s available?” The theme from 1987’s The Living Daylights:

More forgettable than painful, but not very good at all.

The theme for 1995’s GoldenEye, sung by Tina Turner, includes the immortal line,  “It’s a golden honey trap I’ve got for you tonight.” Written by none other than Bono and The Edge of U2. A golden honey trap. Which makes it more like GoldenVulva.

Unlike Tina Turner, it didn’t age well.

But these are all pinpricks compared to the sucking chest wound that is Die Another Day. Just the title of that 2002 movie, the final one starring Pierce Brosnan, sounds like a Mad Magazine parody of a bad generic Bond title. But the theme song, performed by Madonna, is a thing of exquisite techno badness.

If you remember Sean Connery’s line in Goldfinger about listening to The Beatles without earmuffs, this is one you might want to listen to in the cold, unforgiving vacuum of outer space.

But the assault isn’t just musical. The video features Madonna (who had a small role in the movie) reprising some scenes. And not only is she really going for it – fighting as she’s dragged to be tortured, having a sword duel with herself – she commits to an extent that would prompt Nomi Malone from Showgirls to suggest she maybe take it the eff down a notch.

Or to put it another way, you wouldn’t see Shirley Bassey doing that.

Is it worse than what Sam Smith perpetrated? Is pancreatic cancer worse than lung cancer?

But I can’t give you all that darkness without leading you to some light. Here’s a BBC radio documentary about the lost – or rejected – Bond themes:

It’s well worth the hour listening time, and includes some genuinely good ones that didn’t make the cut, including Anthony Newley’s cool-cat version of Goldfinger. The documentary is called “Somebody Did It Better.” But you can refer to it as Operation: Palate-Cleanser.

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