February 3, 2023

It had always seemed inconceivable that the James Bond producers would want to replace Paul McCartney with another singer Live and let dieespecially since his title song for the 1973 Roger Moore classic became a huge hit.

But the story told by Beatles producer George Martin, and repeated by McCartney, was that the 007 producers thought McCartney’s recording with his band Wings was just a demo and they wanted a female voice.

Now Allan Kozinn and Adrian Sinclair, authors of a forthcoming book, have unearthed unpublished contracts in a U.S. university archive showing that the Bond producers always wanted McCartney for the closing credits and another performer for the film’s disco scene.

Roger Moore and Jane Seymour
Roger Moore and Jane Seymour in the James Bond movie Live And Let Die, 1973. Photo: Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

Kozinn, music critic of the New York Times for 38 years to 2014, said: “This is a long standing story in the music world – the producers of Live and let die wanted to replace McCartney with a singer. Martin told the story many times. Paul picked it up many times. Internal communication actually showed that the contract always stated that there would be two versions of the song.”

In his 1979 memoir All you need are ears, Martin recalled playing McCartney’s recording for Harry Saltzman, who produced the Bond films with Albert “Cubby” Broccoli: “He sat me down and said, ‘Great. Like what you did, very nice record, like the score “Tell me, who do you think we should sing it?” That totally freaked me out. After all, he was holding the Paul McCartney recording that we’d made. And Paul McCartney was – Paul McCartney. But he obviously treated it like a demo CD. “I’m not following. You’ve got Paul McCartney ,” I said. “Yes, yes, that’s good. But who are we going to have sing it for the movie?” “My apologies. I still don’t get it,” I said, feeling that maybe there was something I hadn’t been told. “You know – we have to have a girl, don’t we?”

In an interview, McCartney said, “The movie producers found a record player. After the record was done, they said to George, ‘That’s great, great demo. When are you going to make the real song, and who will we have to sing it?’ And George said, ‘What? This is the real track’.”

Sinclair, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, said, “That became part of that collection of stories that George and Paul would tell over the years, and no one ever corrected it.”

He added that the archival footage – internal communications between lawyers and others representing McCartney and the Bond producers, Eon Productions – “undermines the story and shows it in a very different light”.

The contracts show that McCartney’s father-in-law’s lawyer, Lee Eastman, paid him $15,000 (then £6,430) for composing Live and let die with his then-wife, Linda. Further financial arrangements, including the publishing rights, netted him about $50,000, with 50% of the net profit.

Paul McCartney and his wife Linda
Paul McCartney and his wife Linda arrive for the 1973 premiere of Live and Let Die. Her father was McCartney’s lawyer. Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In one of the documents, Ron Kass, former head of the Beatles label Apple Records employed by Eon, wrote to Saltzman: “Paul McCartney has agreed to have the title song titled Live and let die. He and his musical group Wings will perform the title song under the opening credits.”

Kozinn said: “So we can pretty much say they wouldn’t replace Paul. One of the versions would be with Wings, who would play over the film’s opening credits and closing credits. A live version of the song would be performed during the club scene by BJ Arnau, a soul singer. When we saw those documents, we couldn’t help but think it was just a misunderstanding.

“Martin would not have been aware of the terms of that contract, but Paul was. One of the things we found is that if it’s a good story, Paul goes along with it. He had no reason to believe anyone would see that contract.”

It’s one of the studies in their book, The Legacy of McCartney: Part I: 1969-1973, described as the most detailed exploration of McCartney’s creative life outside 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.

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