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Music

Jack White and the 'James Bond' theme that never was

Anyone who’s seen the 2008 James Bond film Quantum of Solace will undoubtedly have heard Jack White and Alicia Key’s fuzz-laden ‘Another Way To Die’, used in the film’s opening sequence. The track is fairly unique among its peers in that it stands up as a song in its own right. In fact, for this writer, it’s got to be one of the best Bond songs of all time. How surprised I was to learn, therefore, that the duet wasn’t actually the first song Jack White intended for the 007 franchise.

The White Stripes’ 2003 track ‘Seven Nation Army‘ features what has to be one of the most recognisable riffs in rock music. With no bassist to speak of, Jack White was forced to run his guitar through an octave pedal to give the motif the necessary depth. Today, that guitar line is far more recognisable than the song’s lyrics, perhaps unsurprising given that the riff came first and the words were added in later to give structure to what was essentially a well-honed melodic loop.

During a conversation with Rolling Stone, White opened up about how the riff came about: “There’s an employee here at Third Man [Records] named Ben Swank, and he was with us on tour in Australia when I wrote that song at soundcheck,” the guitarist began. “I was playing it for Meg, and he was walking by, and I said, ‘Swank, check this riff out.’ And he said, ‘It’s OK.’ [Laughs]”. The White Stripes man added: “I didn’t have lyrics for it until later on, and I was just calling it ‘Seven Nation Army’ – that’s what I called the Salvation Army when I was a kid. So that was just a way for me to remember which one I was talking about, but it took on a new meaning with the lyrics.”

But before White decided to add lyrics, he’d had other ambitions for ‘Seven Nation Arm’. In fact, he originally wanted to save the riff in case he was ever offered the chance to record a song for James Bond, feeling that it carried the appropriate swagger: “I thought if I ever got asked to write the next James Bond theme, that would be the riff for it,” White told The Independent.

White must have been kicking himself when, five years later, he was approached by the producers of Quantum of Solace to write a song for the title sequence. Then again, maybe it all worked out for the best; The White Stripes landed a huge hit with ‘Seven Nation Army’, and Jack White got the chance to fulfil his dream, writing another hit in the process. Sometimes, you really can have your cake and eat it.