We’re Number Eleven: 1967 – “You Only Live Twice”, Nancy Sinatra

Bond themes are, in the end, a curious proposition. They are also pretty much unique in both cinema and music. On the one hand they need to function as part of the film they are attached to – providing an atmospheric accompaniment to whatever silhouette-and-suggestive title sequence has been dreamed up this time. On the other hand they also need need to stand on their own two feet as a song, they are expected to do well in the singles chart, and help to absolutely define the movie they appear in.Lots of movies have memorable songs attached to them but no other movie sequence has that kind of music/film crossover, and no other type of song quite has the same burden placed on it. Get it right – “Goldfinger”, “Live And Let Die”, “Skyfall” – and immortality awaits and you become an essential part of cinema lore. Get it wrong – “Tomorrow Never Dies”, “The Writing’s On The Wall”, “Die Another Day” – and infamy and mockery will follow you forever. It’s a fine balancing act to get right, and not an easy calculation.

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We’re Number Eleven: 1966 – “My Girl”, Otis Redding

It seems fairly obvious to start off an article about Otis Redding by pointing out that he has one of the best voices in all of popular music, but here we are anyway. The King Of Soul had a voice that few could match, that few could even try to match. If you’re going to cover a song like “My Girl” you need the pipes for it, and it’s not exactly controversial to point out that Redding had them. And with talent to spare. Yet the truth is, for all that it’s an excellent recording – and it really is an excellent recording – this is, at best, minor Otis Redding. It’s not “Sitting On The Dock The Bay”. It’s not “Try A Little Tenderness”. In fact, it’s so minor it doesn’t even feature on Redding’s Wikipedia page, nor is it on The Very Best Of Otis Redding. And there’s a good reason for that. It’s not the very best of Otis Redding. And yet… it’s bloody Otis Redding singing bloody “My Girl”. It’s great! The fact that a cover this good, and which peaked at our all-important position of Number 11 on the charts, barely even warrants a footnote says something about the strength of the material that does actually warrant inclusion.

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We’re Number Eleven, Introduction

Greetings! And welcome to We’re Number Eleven, a follow-up series of articles to the award-winning, genre-defining, penetratingly-observed We’re Number Two (cough). There’s something perennially fascinating about songs which are slightly (excuse the pun) unsung — the ones which almost made it to whatever marker we choose, but not quite. In this case that’s songs which came close to cracking the Top Ten but never quite got across the line. Very much a case of so near, and yet so far.

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