Live and Let Fly: Paul McCartney’s 007 Theme Song Tall Tale Revealed | Paul McCartney

It had always seemed inconceivable that the producers of James Bond would want to replace Paul McCartney with another singer for Live and Let Dieparticularly when his title track for Roger Moore’s 1973 classic became a huge hit.

But the story told by Beatles record producer George Martin, and repeated by McCartney, was that the producers of 007 thought McCartney’s recording with his band Wings was just a demo and they wanted a female voice.

Allan Kozinn and Adrian Sinclair, authors of a forthcoming book, have discovered never-before-seen contracts in the archives of an American university which show that the Bond producers always wanted McCartney for the opening credits and another performer for the disco scene from the movie.

Roger Moore and Jane Seymour
Roger Moore and Jane Seymour in the James Bond film Live and Let Die, 1973. Photography: Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

Kozinn, music critic of the New York Times for 38 years until 2014, said: “It’s a long story in the music business – the producers of Live and Let Die wanted to replace McCartney with a singer. Martin told the story several times. Paul picked it up several times. In fact, internal communications revealed that it was still in the contract that there would be two versions of the song.

In his 1979 memoir, All you need are earsMartin recalled playing McCartney’s recording to Harry Saltzman, who produced the Bond films with Albert “Cubby” Broccoli: “He sat me down and said, ‘Great. Like what you did, very nice record, like the score. Tell me now, who do you think we should blackmail this? This completely took me aback. After all, he was holding the Paul McCartney recording that we had done. And Paul McCartney was – Paul McCartney. But he was clearly treating it like a demo disc. ‘I’m not. You have Paul McCartney, I say. ‘Yeah, yeah, that’s good. But who are we going to blackmail for the film? ‘I’m sorry. I’m still not, I said, feeling that maybe there was something I hadn’t been told. ‘You know – we have to have a girl, don’t we?’

In an interview, McCartney said, “The movie producers found a record player. After the recording was done, they said to George, ‘That’s great, a wonderful demo. Now, when are you going to do the real piece, and who are we going to sing? And George said, ‘What? This is the real lead.

Sinclair, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, said: “It’s part of that collection of stories that George and Paul would tell over the years, and no one ever corrected it.”

He added that the archival documents – internal communications between lawyers and others representing McCartney and Bond producers Eon Productions – “undermine the story and show it in a very different light”.

Contracts reveal McCartney’s stepfather’s solicitor Lee Eastman negotiated him a $15,000 (£6,430 at the time) fee for typesetting Live and Let Die with his then wife, Linda. Other financial arrangements, including publishing rights, earned him around $50,000, with 50% of net profits.

Paul McCartney and his wife Linda
Paul McCartney and his wife Linda arrive for the premiere of Live and Let Die in 1973. His father was McCartney’s lawyer. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In one of the documents, Ron Kass, former Beatles label boss Apple Records employed by Eon, wrote to Saltzman: “Paul McCartney has agreed to write the title track called Live and Let Die. He and his musical group Wings will perform the title track under the opening titles.

Kozinn said: “So we can say with certainty that they weren’t going to replace Paul. One of the versions was going to be with Wings, who would play over the opening titles of the film and the closing credits. There would be a live version of the song performed during the club scene by BJ Arnau, a soul singer.When we saw this material, we couldn’t help but think it was just a misunderstanding.

“Martin wouldn’t have been aware of the terms of that contract, but Paul certainly would have. One of the things we’ve found is that if it’s a good story, Paul will go with it. He had no reason to assume that anyone would see this contract.

It is among the researches of their book, The McCartney Legacy: Volume I: 1969-1973, described as the most finely detailed exploration of McCartney’s creative life beyond the Beatles. It shows that in the 50 years since the Beatles broke up, McCartney’s 26 post-Beatles albums have sold over 86.5 million copies.

McCartney has been contacted for comment.

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