Sam Smith acceptance speech – Oscars 2016
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Radiohead members are not unfamiliar with writing songs for films. Jonny Greenwood has written whole film scores for films like Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood and You Were Never Really Here starring Joaquin Phoenix. The group also submitted a song for the James Bond movie Spectre – but the track was never used.
Rumours about the band recording the 007 theme began circulating in July 2015 after bookmaker William Hill suspended bets when a customer placed £15,000 at 10/1 odds.
A William Hill spokesperson said at the time: “There seem to be all kinds of rumours and the plot has had more twists and turns than a classic Bond tale, but surely nobody risks £15,000 on a hunch.”
Speaking on BBC Radio 6 Music with Miranda Sawyer, the film’s director Sam Mendes reportedly said the first song they were given by Radiohead was Man of War, a previously unreleased track.
This song was written by the band in 1995 as part of their sessions for the 1995 album The Bends.
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They worked on it in 1997 in line with their album OK Computer, before revisiting it once again as a submission for the soundtrack of 1998 movie The Avengers – but recordings were abandoned.
They then resubmitted the track – which singer Thom Yorke once described as a homage to Bond themes – for consideration for the Spectre theme.
But according to Sam, this song would not work out as it had been written years before and was not original, meaning it would be ineligible for the Academy Awards and other award ceremonies.
At that time, Adele had made history by writing and performing the first Bond song to win the Oscar for Best Original Song, with her 2012 hit Skyfall.
As a result, the pressure was on for Spectre to do the same.
Radiohead weren’t defeated yet, however, as they suspended work on their ninth album, A Moon Shaped Pool, to record another song for the film – this time writing Spectre.
The band were unlucky once again as producers thought the track was too ‘melancholy’ for the film and chose Sam Smith’s Writing’s on the Wall.
According to the director, Sam’s song was submitted first and ultimately was considered a better fit, ultimately winning the second Best Original Song gong in a row for the franchise.
Radiohead then went on to release their song Spectre via Soundcloud on Christmas Day in 2015 to rave reviews.
Asked about what happened to the track, Jonny Greenwood said: “It wasn’t right for the film, what we did. So we thought, ‘Great! Then it’s ours.
“We can finish it how it’s meant to be and we can release it.’
“So that side of it was really positive, you know?
“But I guess there’s lots of people interested in who does it [the Bond theme].
“There’s a lot riding on it and the song we did was just too dark or whatever, so that’s fine.
“Means we get to have it back and it’s ours and we got to put it out.
“We’re really, really proud of it. Why be attached to an old fashioned idea of what a James Bond thing was and it being a big deal?
“It’s like it’s sort of stupid to get worked up about, really.”
Thom Yorke, the band’s frontman, also said of the song: “Last year we were asked to write a theme tune for the Bond movie Spectre.
“Yes we were. It didn’t work out, but became something of our own, which we love very much.
“As the year closes we thought you might like to hear it. Merry Christmas. May the force be with you.”
Music critic Pete Paphides said of the song: “It sounds exquisite on first listen, a sensational string arrangement.”
Man of War was subsequently released in 2017, two years after Thom shared the band’s song Spectre.
One Reddit user, speaking of the decision, suggested the director had seen a credits cut with Radiohead’s Spectre on YouTube and enjoyed it, so it may be the director was kicking himself over his decision.
While Radiohead may have to wait for their soundtrack Oscar nomination, their guitarist Jonny has received this honour, being nominated in 2017 for his original score for Paul Thomas Anderson film Phantom Thread.
He lost out to Alexandre Desplat’s score for The Shape of Water, but Jonny won Ivor Novello Awards for his scores on There Will Be Blood and Phantom Thread, and various critics association awards for his work on these films and Inherent Vice.
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