Duran Duran Took Aim at the Top with "A View to a Kill"

Roger Moore in 'A View to a KIll'
Photo Credit
Nancy Moran/Sygma via Getty Images; Parlophone Records

Though 1985's A View to a Kill proved to be Roger Moore's final appearance as British secret agent James Bond, it did provide the long-running franchise with one of its most popular theme songs - a sterling tradition to this day - and, perhaps, one of the best movie themes of the '80s.

As it happens, the film’s theme song – cleverly titled “A View to a Kill” – was also a concluding chapter in another fashion: it was the last gasp of the so-called “Fab Five” lineup of Duran Duran, who wouldn’t find their way into a recording studio again for more than a decade and a half, with drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor exiting the band somewhere between their performance at Live Aid and the recording of their 1986 album, Notorious.

Still, as bassist John Taylor said to The A.V. Club in 2012, “Yes, but what a gasp!”

“We were just so lucky to work with John Barry,” Taylor continued in that interview. “To see your song up there...I mean, I didn’t like the film, but I’ll tell you, when those titles came up...Maurice Binder was the guy who did all the early James Bond title sequences, and if I wanted to see something to do with the song, rather than watch that horrible video on the Eiffel Tower, I’d take Maurice Binder’s title sequence any day. It was a big deal, and it was a big song. But Bond songs have to be big songs, don’t they? They have to have the grandiosity. It’s like designing a Rolls-Royce. You want it to be completely state of the art, but it’s always going to have the honking great radiator grill on the front. There’s certain criteria that have to be fulfilled. But I think we nailed it with that song. We really did nail it.”

Good thing, too, since Taylor was the big reason the band got the gig in the first place: after finding himself at a party with longtime Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli, the bassist got a few drinks in him, approached Broccoli, and asked, “When are you going to get someone decent to do one of your theme songs?” Yes, it sounds like something out of a bad movie, but Taylor’s confirmed the story as being true, and although it wasn’t exactly the most favorable first encounter, it kicked off a discussion which soon led to the band meeting with the aforementioned Mr. Barry, an Oscar-winning film composer on his 10th of 11 assignments in the world of 007.

In Geoff Leonard’s Bond by Barry: The Story of James Bond Music, Simon Le Bon praised the experience of working with the composer. “He didn't really come up with any of the basic musical ideas, (but) he heard what we came up with and he put them into an order,” Le Bon said. “And that's why it happened so quickly because he was able to separate the good ideas from the bad ones, and he arranged them. He has a great way of working brilliant chord arrangements. He was working with us as virtually a sixth member of the group, but not really getting on our backs at all.”

Clearly, the collaboration paid off, as “A View to a Kill” remains the only Bond theme to have topped the U.S. pop charts...and, yes, we know that seems like the sort of fact which can’t possibly be true, but we checked it out, and it’s true: the closest competitors, Paul McCartney and Wings’ “Live & Let Die” and Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better” each only made it to No. 2. (Since then, only Madonna's 2002 theme "Die Another Day" and Adele's title tune from 2012's Skyfall have even cracked the Top 10.)

As far as Andy and Roger decamping from the band’s lineup for the better part of 15 years not long after the single hit No. 1, People did an interview with the members of Duran Duran in conjunction with the filming of the video for “A View to a Kill,” and Roger’s comments turned out to be pretty ironic in retrospect:

"Even my mum's worried now (about the band breaking up): every time she rings up she says, 'Are you all going to split up?'" Roger laughs. "A lot of people think this is the end of the band, but that's rubbish—we start a new album in September. We may do things outside the group, but Duran Duran is the most important thing in our lives. It controls our lives, whether we like it or not."

Well, he was right about one thing, anyway: the band didn’t break up. It just went on without him for the better part of a decade and a half...except for those couple of tracks on Thank You, that is. But that, of course, is a story for another time. (We’ll still throw in the video for one of those tracks, though. No charge.)

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