While not all James Bond theme songs are created equal, there’s no difficulty in naming Paul McCartney and his band Wings’ rock ballad “Live And Let Die” as one of the best to soundtrack the spy film’s opening credits. The track even earned the franchise’s first of many Academy Award nominations for Best Song.
Granted, the story retold by McCartney and former Beatles producer George Martin throughout the years is that the English singer-songwriter was almost replaced on the track, as producer Harry Saltzman allegedly wanted previous Bond singer Shirley Bassey on the record. However, the fabled rock story seems to have been built on a bit of good old-fashioned miscommunication, as newly unearthed documents show that McCartney was always the first choice for the Roger Moore 007 feature, according to The Guardian.
The detective work comes from Allan Kozinn and Adrian Sinclair, two authors of the recently released The McCartney Legacy: Volume 1: 1969-73, who discovered archived contracts from McCartney’s lawyer (and father-in-law) Lee Eastman and those representing Eon Productions.
According to the contracts, McCartney negotiated a fee of $15,000 for the creation of “Live And Let Die,” alongside his then-wife and Wings bandmate, Lynda. As well as that initial fee for the song, the former Beatles member was given the publishing rights (allotted him a nice bag of $50,000), including 50% of the song’s net profits.
“Paul McCartney has agreed to write the title song entitled Live and Let Die,” wrote Ron Kass, former U.S. head of the Beatles’ label Apple Records, to Saltzman in one of the uncovered documents. “He and his musical group Wings will perform the title song under the opening titles.”
This seems to disprove the decades-old story of Saltzman wanting to feature another singer on McCartney’s track, with Kozinn believing that the whole thing “was just a misunderstanding” between Martin, McCartney, and the film’s producers.
“Martin wouldn’t have been familiar with the terms of that contract, but Paul certainly would have,” said Kozinn. “One of the things we discovered is that, if it’s a good story, Paul will go with it. He didn’t have any reason to assume that anybody would see that contract.”
Oh, Paul! Looks like he’ll have to retire that story for now, or maybe he’ll have his own receipts published along with an interview on the subject in due time.