Moonraker ended up marking Shirley Bassey‘s last participation in the James Bond franchise. After debuting with the classic Goldfinger, and delivering the beautiful Diamonds are Forever, Shirley returned to appear on a soundtrack by John Barry. However, despite being one of the voices most associated with the English spy soundtrack, she was the third option this time around.
Composing a song for a James Bond soundtrack is considered a great prestige, and producers traditionally tended to choose British and up-and-coming artists, but eventually, they chose well-known American artists as well.
In 1979, after Nancy Sinatra, who sang You Only Live Twice, Barry thought of her father, Frank Sinatra to be next. However, he was soon discarded in place of the biggest pop star of the year, none other than Kate Bush, who did not rise to the challenge.
The singer Johnny Mathis was invited next, but even though he was also a friend of John Barry‘s, his schedule did not allow him to complete the project. In fact, it’s said that he didn’t like the song and quit at the last minute. As a result, within weeks of the movie’s theatrical release, the opening song had not yet been released.
The conductor then made the call to Shirley. She recorded it quickly, but was never completely satisfied with the result, only accepting to sing it at her shows from 2005 onwards. Years later, Shirley herself would have admitted to disliking the song and said that she only did the favor in the name of friendship.
Moonraker marked a change in Barry’s arrangements, which became his trademark in the 1980s, with slower melodies and full orchestra. It doesn’t really reach the quality of the previous ones, but it closes the golden triple of Barry and Bassey’s partnership, one of the best in the entire franchise.