It always seemed incomprehensible that the producers of James Bond wanted to replace Paul McCartney with another singer. Live and let dieparticularly when his cover of the 1973 Roger Moore classic became a big hit.
But the story, told by Beatles record producer George Martin and repeated by McCartney, was that 007’s producers thought McCartney’s recording with his band Wings was just a show and they wanted a female voice.
Now Alan Cozin and Adrian Sinclair, authors of a forthcoming book, have unearthed unpublished contracts in US university archives that show Bond producers always wanted McCartney for the opening and another artist for the film’s disco.
Kozinn, music critic New York Times for 38 years until 2014, he said. “This is a story of many years in the music world. Live and let die wanted to replace McCartney with a female singer. Martin has told the story many times. Paul took it up many times. In fact, it turned out from internal communications that the contract always stated that there would be two versions of the song.
In his 1979 memoirs. All you need are earsMartin recalled playing McCartney’s record with Harry Saltzman, who produced the Bond films with Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli; “He sat me down and said, “Perfect: Like you did, very good recording, like the score. Now tell me, who do you think we should get to sing it?’ It completely amazed me. After all, he was holding the Paul McCartney record we made. And Paul McCartney was – Paul McCartney. But he clearly treated it as a demo disc. “I don’t follow.” You have Paul McCartney,’ I said. ‘Yes, yes, that’s good. But who will we get to sing it for the film?’ ‘Sorry. I still don’t follow,” I said, feeling like maybe there was something I wasn’t being told. “You know, right? We have to have a girl.”
In one of the interviews, McCartney said: “The producers of the film found a tape recorder. After the recording was over, they told George: “It’s a great, great show. Now when are you going to make the actual track and who should sing it? And George said: “What? This is the real way.”
Sinclair, an award-winning documentarian, said: “It became part of the collection of stories that George and Paul would tell for years, and no one ever corrected it.”
He added that the archival material, internal communications between lawyers and representatives of McCartney and Bond’s producers, Eon Productions, “undermines the story and casts it in a completely different light.”
The contracts show that McCartney’s father-in-law, lawyer Lee Eastman, negotiated a fee of $15,000 (£6,430 at the time) for him to perform. Live and let die with his then-wife Linda. Subsequent financial arrangements, including publishing rights, earned him about $50,000, with 50% of the net profits.
In one of the documents, Ron Kass, the former head of Apple Records, who was employed by Aeon, wrote to Saltzman: “Paul McCartney agreed to write the title track. Live and let die. He will perform the title song with his band Wings during the opening credits.
Kozin said: “So we can say quite clearly that they were not going to replace Paul. One option was to have Wings play over the film’s opening titles and finale. There will be a live version of the song performed during the club scene by soul singer BJ Arnau. When we saw those documents, we couldn’t help but think that it was just a misunderstanding.
“Martin wasn’t familiar with the terms of that contract, but Paul certainly would have been. One of the things we discovered is that if it’s a good story, Paul will follow it. He had no reason to believe that anyone would see that contract.”
It’s from research in their book, The McCartney Legacy. Volume I: 1969-1973, which has been described as the most detailed exploration of McCartney’s creative life outside of the Beatles. It reflects that in the 50 years since the Beatles broke up, McCartney’s 26 post-Beatles albums have sold more than 86.5 million copies.
McCartney has been contacted for comment.