"Live and Let Die" has been a staple in Paul McCartney's catalog for 50 years, but he didn't initially hold it in high regard. The former Beatle was excited to write the theme song for the James Bond film Live and Let Die. However, compared to other Bond songs, Paul didn't know if "Live and Let Die" could compete, even though it held an impressive record.
Paul McCartney said writing 'Live and Let Die' was a bit of an 'accolade' for him
In his book, The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, Paul wrote that "the craft" comes into play when someone else commissions a song. In 1972, then-Apple Records head Ron Kass called Paul to ask if he'd ever consider writing a Bond theme song. Kass knew someone connected to the spy franchise.
Paul tried not to seem too enthusiastic. He told Kass he'd probably be interested. However, he was highly interested. He knew writing a Bond song was a "bit of an accolade" and always had a "sneaking ambition" to write one.
The "Yesterday" singer got to work right away, although he didn’t have much to go on. He only had the film's title and Ian Fleming's original book to help him write the tune's lyrics. When he sat down to write, Paul wanted it to be his version of a Bond song.
He didn't want to include things like, "You've got a gun. Now go kill people. Live and let die." Instead, he wanted the song to say, "Let it go. Don't worry about it. When you've got problems, just live and let die." "Live and Let Die" essentially wrote itself after that.
Paul then took the song to producer George Martin, who was doing the film's music. The former Beatle left the "Bondian" arrangements up to the producer. Paul was very happy that Martin's score was "pure George" and a perfect balance of "grandiose, without being over the top."
Martin took a pressing of the tune Cubby Broccoli, one of the film's producers. Broccoli said it was a good demo but asked when the final record would be finished. Martin told him it was the final version. The film producer was confused. He thought Paul would write the tune for someone else to sing.
Paul didn't think "Live and Let Die" was the best Bond song, even though it earned an impressive record
"Live and Let Die" became the most successful Bond song up until that point. It reached No. 1 on two of the three major U.S. charts, No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and No. 9 on the U.K. Singles Chart. The hit song also became the first Bond theme song to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Yet, Paul admitted he didn't rate "Live and Let Die" "too much" alongside some of the other Bond themes that had come before, like, for instance, the songs for From Russia With Love and Goldfinger. He considered those tunes "very Bondian."
"I wasn't sure whether mine was, whether it would hold up with such classics, but a lot of people have put it on their list of top Bond songs," Paul said.
'Live and Let Die' is 50
After its initial success, "Live and Let Die" got a second wind when Guns N' Roses covered it in 1991. Paul enjoyed their cover. He wrote, "I was amazed that they would do it – a young American group. I always like people doing my songs. It's a great compliment." However, when Paul's children told their friends that their father wrote the song and not the hard rock band, no one believed them.
Still, "Live and Let Die" is one of Paul's greatest tunes, even if he didn't immediately think so. It's one of his best live songs too. Fans know that there will be an ample amount of fireworks whenever Paul performs it. So, in a way, "Live and Let Die" is very "Bondian."
Stairway to 11 is dedicated to providing news, reviews, and original content covering classic rock, oldies, and old-school music of all genres. This site also serves as a community for like-minded fans to catch up on the latest news and discuss their passion. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.