On the Enduring Power of You Know My Name

Bond-style Car
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It’s not often that a celeb death hits me, but seeing that Chris Cornell had passed away definitely qualified. I mean, he was only 52.

Fuck.

This is a piece I think about all the time, but had never really taken the time to write out. So here’s the story of why I think Chris Cornell wrote the greatest Bond theme of all time.

When they announced a new Bond movie back in 2005 I was pretty apathetic. Bond was out-dated, right? The last few films had been pretty lackluster. The only bright light in the Bond franchise was playing as Oddjob in the N64 Goldeneye, but now it was looking like game over.

They announced a new actor, (with a minor controversy over him being blond), but otherwise nothing noteworthy happened. He’d be Bond. He’d wear a suit and outsmart everyone before getting the girl (and maybe one or two other girls along the way). I’ve seen this story before. Nothing would make me excited to see this film.

And then I heard You Know My Name.

Taken a stand-alone song, it’s brilliant. The slamming intro, the orchestral backing, and of course the inimitable tones of Chris Cornell.

But taken as a theme for Casino Royale? This was something else. This showed that they were serious about taking Bond and doing something with it. Something new. Something exciting.

It’s a song that shows an entirely new side of Bond. One wracked by guilt, struggling to hold on to his humanity in a world where that can only make him weaker. “If you take a life a life, do you know what you give? Odds are you won’t like what it is.” This isn’t a Bond who rocks a tank and mows down henchmen with a song in his heart and a quip on his lips. This is a man who worries that with every kill something of him slips away. “Try to hide your hand, forget how to feel”. This is a man who knows that, for all the good he aims to do, he might never been a good person.

Then throughout the whole song there’s the extended gambling metaphor. “The odds will betray you”, “I’ve seen diamonds cut through harder men”, “life is gone with just a spin of the wheel”. It’s obviously a perfect theme for a movie set in a casino, but it’s more than that. “You can’t deny the prize, it may never fulfil you. It longs to kill you. Are you ready to die?” This is a man gambling not only his life on his work, but his very soul.

But the most important part, the cherry on top an incredible song, is that this is Bond. The quote that most rolls off the tongue when imitating him is his name. This might be a different version, but it’s a man who needs no introduction.

You know his name.

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