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Spy Music
August 1, 2008 7:18 AM   Subscribe

Spy music! Whether it's Lalo Schifrin's theme for Mission Impossible, or Jerry Goldsmith's theme for Man from U.N.C.L.E., or the greatest of them all, John Barry's iconic James Bond theme, you know it when you hear it. Now, for my money, the best spy music in recent years wasn't from a spy movie at all, but an animated superhero film: the action-packed theme and soundtrack for The Incredibles, in which the very talented Michael Giacchino was clearly (and brilliantly) channeling John Barry. And of course, you'll all want to head over here and see what your fellow MeFiers have lately been doing with the genre. [note: see hoverovers for link descriptions]

And why did so many of your fellow MeFiers suddenly start posting "spy music" to MetaFilter Music? Ah, well, I knew you were wondering! You see, it was one of last month's MeFi Music Challenges, suggested by stavrosthewonderchicken! Yay!. And we need more of you MeFiers to supply us with good Challenge ideas. OK? OK!
posted by flapjax at midnite (54 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
The soundtrack from Team Fortress 2.
posted by Foosnark at 7:24 AM on August 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


Thanks, Foosnark, that's indeed very spy-ish. Spy and spy-ish music links welcome here!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:29 AM on August 1, 2008


Never forget streaming spy bliss for your audio enjoyment.
posted by Shepherd at 7:30 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hows about some Johnny Rivers doing "Secret Agent Man"? (Because I couldn't find The Plugz doing "Hombre Secreto.")
posted by steef at 7:40 AM on August 1, 2008


Danger Man / Secret Agent Man. He Who Rides a Tiger is particularly awesome.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 7:43 AM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Great post, flapjax. The Retro Cocktail Hour occasionally plays some really cool retro spy music.
posted by cog_nate at 7:53 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


If I may be so bold, my band just finished an EP of James Bond-inspired songs, either alternate themes for existing movies (our Octopussy theme nukes the original) or themes for Bond movies that don't exist but should.

Rough mixes of a couple of these appeared on Mefi Music, but it was asynchronous with the spy music challenge.
posted by COBRA! at 7:53 AM on August 1, 2008


Great topic. I like "Run, Spy, Run", which I discovered on this album. Composed by Gerald Fried for "The Man From U.N.C.L.E."
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:57 AM on August 1, 2008


Totally Spies. Obviously I've been watching the wrong Saturday cartoons.
posted by netbros at 8:01 AM on August 1, 2008


Giacchino on Alias? Anyone? Anyone?
posted by WolfDaddy at 8:15 AM on August 1, 2008


Also - "Spybreak!" and "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" by Propellerheads
posted by kcds at 8:17 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


The original composer of the James Bond theme was Monty Norman.

Not that I would begrudge John Barry anything.
posted by wabbittwax at 8:17 AM on August 1, 2008


The original composer of the James Bond theme was Monty Norman.

Seems to be a lot of gray area around that story, though.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:21 AM on August 1, 2008


WolfDaddy: that's what I was coming in here to post!
posted by pised at 8:39 AM on August 1, 2008


Stop saying "iconic".
posted by Zambrano at 8:51 AM on August 1, 2008


Mancinci? Peter Gunn? Pink Panther? :)
posted by snsranch at 8:54 AM on August 1, 2008


Just as a gift to the Flaps and other secret agents.

These guys were king shit in my part of the world for a while.

I still listen to their CD...and turn around to look at my Twin Reverb on the floor, my Tele and Strat in the closet, with suffiicient self-loathing.
posted by timsteil at 8:57 AM on August 1, 2008


Seems to be a lot of gray area around that story, though.

That's undoubtedly true. I'm just going with the officially sanctioned record as opposed to who really wrote what according to whose recollection.
posted by wabbittwax at 8:57 AM on August 1, 2008


One of my favourite pseudo-spy movies is Hopscotch with Walter Matthau, which makes excellent use of a Rondo in D Major by Mozart and a few other classical pieces.
posted by wabbittwax at 8:59 AM on August 1, 2008


Department S opening theme.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 9:02 AM on August 1, 2008


My wife and I are addicted to Danger Man. Several 30 minute episodes per disc from Netflix. Ah, the thirty minute TV drama!
posted by aiq at 9:06 AM on August 1, 2008


Not to forget The Avengers. Emma Peel got her name thusly: the producers were talking about needing a character with "m-appeal" (short for "man-appeal") to get their target audience. "M-appeal" morphed into the inimitable Emma Peel.
posted by binturong at 9:35 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Do these two count?
posted by pracowity at 9:38 AM on August 1, 2008


Oh, you beat me to it, binturong.
posted by pracowity at 9:39 AM on August 1, 2008


Steed's third partner on The Avengers was Honor Blackman, who left the show to play Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. She was replaced by Diana Rigg (who played Emma Peel), who married James Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Some Hooverphonic and Portishead songs sound like themes from lost James Bond movies.

Stop saying 'iconic'.

Isn't it iconic, don't you think?
posted by kirkaracha at 9:48 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


How well do you know the Bond themes?

also:

Every Bond opening credits sequence. except for Casino Royale
posted by WolfDaddy at 9:50 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


And a little more broad, but for your daily streaming secret agent music needs, there's Soma FM's Secret Agent radio...
posted by twsf at 9:56 AM on August 1, 2008


Get Smart (1965). Just because it isn't surf guitar.
posted by regicide is good for you at 10:05 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


That James Bond theme, as covered by the Skatalites in case you thought Bond didn't get enough sax.
posted by Pallas Athena at 10:50 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


My wife purchased Music to Spy By CDs when she visited the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC if you're into that sort of thing.
posted by jeversol at 11:00 AM on August 1, 2008


And one cannot forget "Spy" by They Might Be Giants.
posted by chimaera at 11:07 AM on August 1, 2008


I can't believe XTC made a video for The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul, the first song I think of when I hear the phrase, "spy music."
posted by kimota at 11:09 AM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Secret Agent Radio - streaming all your James Bond fantasy needs since 2003. Mwa ha ha!
posted by lalochezia at 12:46 PM on August 1, 2008


Damn you twsf!!!
posted by lalochezia at 12:46 PM on August 1, 2008


The background music for the '67 Spiderman TV cartoon series is spy/surf-tastic.
posted by nicwolff at 2:38 PM on August 1, 2008


Let's not forget Henry Mancini, people.

Plus gotta give some props to two of my all-time favorite womanizing hepcat spies... Derek Flint and Matt Helm.
posted by miss lynnster at 2:46 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


BTW, anyone who likes Cyd Charisse should check out the Matt Helm link at 3:16. Now THERE'S a whole lotta woman.
posted by miss lynnster at 2:53 PM on August 1, 2008


There was a 60's Italian spy film by Mario Brava caled Danger: Diabolik that had the best music. Trippy Italian pop.
posted by dirtylittlemonkey at 3:16 PM on August 1, 2008


snsranch writes: Mancinci? Peter Gunn? Pink Panther? :)

That's the beauty of MetaFilter - you set up a post like this and everybody comes and helps you flesh it out! Saves time and effort! :)


Zambrano writes: Stop saying "iconic".

Stop telling me what to stop saying. And maybe start making your own FPPs. I notice you've yet to contribute a single one.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:47 PM on August 1, 2008


I'd just like to reiterate downloading Derailleur's Bond EP (that's COBRA!'s band). It's at least 274, 329 kinds of awesome.
posted by sleepy pete at 6:39 PM on August 1, 2008


Yeah, I'm sorry, but I gotta say - Mancini - Peter Gunn - it's iconic -

My dad had the LP, with the cover art of him lounging around with like a dozen women in leopard-print bikinis (and they weren't anywhere near a jungle.) Too bad my job isn't like that.
posted by newdaddy at 6:47 PM on August 1, 2008


While I'm at it, Mancini's score for Arabesque (Gregory Peck, Sophia Loren) while not technically spy music, is close enough as no matter, and fabulous music. The spooky scene where they're hunting through the aquarium, yeah, I've always thought was cool enough for Bond.
posted by newdaddy at 6:54 PM on August 1, 2008


As a dedicated Bond fan I have to throw in a word for "007 Theme" aka just "007", John Barry's horn-filled piece for "From Russia With Love" that was used as a secondary theme in a number of the movies through at least the Moore era.

I miss it terribly.

And a minor note -- the first theme for Monty Norman was supposed to be "Underneath the Mango Tree", and of course it remained in the film as a secondary motif. It's a pretty good Caribbean pastiche and has become a minor standard, but you wonder what the effect on the series would have been without the "real" Bond theme.

On the title song front, "Tomorrow Never Dies" by Sheryl Crow isn't objectionable, but I'm not alone in wishing they'd used the song that k.d. lang wrote and recorded, channelling Shirley Bassey, "Tomorrow Never Dies (Surrender)"....

And another nugget is the demo by songwriter Anthony Newley of "Goldfinger". Shirley's version nails it but there are many things to like about this demo.

Oh, and Chris Cornell's Casino Royale opening credits song, "You Know My Name" (which in title seems a throwback to the efforts made in the opening of On Her Majesty's Secret Service to ensure that the audience realized this new actor was still James Bond), is hands-down the worst of the entire lot. Blech.
posted by dhartung at 8:44 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


BTW, anyone who likes Cyd Charisse should check out the Matt Helm link at 3:16. Now THERE'S a whole lotta woman

Hubba. Hubba.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:13 PM on August 1, 2008


"Lucifer Sam" from early Syd-era Pink Floyd doesn't have particularly explicit spy related lyrics (though the lyrics are obtuse enough that you could read spies into them), but it has that proto-psychedelic 1960s English rock sound that evokes the Bond theme song.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:19 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Stop saying "iconic".
posted by Zambrano


Stop crapping all over the site.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:21 PM on August 1, 2008


Crud, I got here to late to keep going in the same vein. I will mention the Wild Wild West intro (TV - not the godawful abortion of a movie) as a good theme, although a totally different sound. Although the theme to the gritty unromantically awesome spy series the Sandbaggers is decent, it's not iconic spy music per se. Don't get me started on She Spies (fox force five?), Spooks, 24 etc...

I guess I'm just left with Dave Grusin's It Takes a Thief intro for what that's worth.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:31 AM on August 2, 2008


I'm also a sucker for heist movies.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:35 AM on August 2, 2008


I've always been very partial to David Shire's theme to The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. Shire took a brassy, bombastic spy-type theme and, seeing how it was 1974 and all, threw it over a funk beat. Good stuff. You can't not bob your head while listening.
posted by Spatch at 1:54 AM on August 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


No One Lives Forever themes.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:56 AM on August 2, 2008


ICONIC! (Just wanted to say that.) Also, I always get surf music mixed in with spy music in my brain. (Laika and the Cosmonauts, a Finnish band, always bridged that in my mind.)

So why no surfing spy movies?
posted by not_on_display at 1:41 PM on August 2, 2008


NOD, I don't know, but watch six string samurai if you get the chance.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:52 PM on August 2, 2008


...and don't forget Portishead. Their breakout hit was built around a sample from Schifrin's Mission: Impossible score work.
posted by deusdiabolus at 1:17 PM on August 3, 2008


Surfing spy music! (Well, sorta.)
posted by kimota at 10:23 AM on August 4, 2008


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