In late 2008, agents Hannam and Hill embarked on their most difficult mission yet – to compose a James Bond song that captured the flamboyant, melodramatic sound of the classic '60s 007 soundtracks, but with a modern, dark feel that suited Daniel Craig's gritty portrayal of England's greatest ever hero.
They felt that the most recent attempts at Bond songs by American rock artists simply didn't have a licence to thrill – that they were trying too hard to be rugged, masculine and alternative and that they lacked style, sophistication and charm.
Just like the makers of the last Bond film, Quantum of Solace, our agents decided to turn to Bond's creator, Ian Fleming, to find a title for their composition. They opted for The Property of a Lady – a little-known Fleming short story in which Bond investigates a Secret Service employee, Maria Freudenstein, who is a double agent about to be paid by her Russian keepers by auctioning a clock crafted by Peter Carl Fabergé at Sotheby's in her name.
The core of this story – the auctioning of a Fabergé egg at Sotheby's to raise funds - was incorporated into the Octopussy film, with the story's title being uttered in dialogue by Bond, but the title had never been used as either a Bond song or a film. Until now.
Hannam and Hill were attracted to the various connotations of the title; who is the lady? Could it be the Queen, could it be 'M', as portrayed by Dame Judi Dench, or could it refer to Bond himself, being the property of a lady?
With this in mind, agent Hannam penned a suitable lyric. "I wanted to capture the feel of an old Bond song like Goldfinger, but to also make it sound relevant to Daniel's Craig's new era of 007. I think my words mix the camp rhymes of say, Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, but with a touch of darkness and revenge, inspired by the last two Bond films – so the song's kind of retro modern, if that makes any sense," said agent Hannam.
With its cheeky rhyming of words such as 'danger' and 'stranger', The Property of A Lady does indeed hark back to the 'Goldfinger' / 'Cold finger' school of thought, but it also doffs a cap to the more recent films, bringing in Dench's M – 'she gives the orders', and references the demise of Vesper Lynd from Casino Royale – 'those that he's loved have all withered and died'.
If that's not enough to please 007 fans, it also throws in some classic Bond imagery and themes – exotic locations, girls, fire, revenge, death and destruction.
With the lyric completed, Agent Hill spent a long time composing the music to suit agent Hannam's lyric, starting out by writing on an acoustic guitar.
"I spent many hours working on the music. I usually write country or folk songs that use just a few simple chords, but The Property of A Lady is much more complex. In fact it's one of the most musically ambitious songs I have ever written." It is also agent Hill who can be heard crooning on the finished version – doing his best Matt Monro impression, but with a healthy dose of Dame Shirley Bassey, too.
Agent Hill came up with an acoustic demo of the track, with him singing and playing guitar, which he then took to new recruit agent Dobson, a songwriter himself and specialist in studio technology, production and keyboard wizardry – the 'Q' of the team, if you will.
Agent Dobson then spent many months labouring away on the track, hidden away deep in the Kent countryside. By a quirk of fate he discovered that his studio lair is just a mile or two away from the ancestral home of Ian Fleming's family. With this local Bond connection spurring him on, Agent Dobson set about composing an orchestral arrangement for strings, brass, woodwind and piano; later adding drums, bass, percussion and sound effects – transforming the acoustic demo into a fully-formed, bombastic Bond song production that some believe wouldn't be out of place gracing the opening credits of any existing 007 film, or indeed, any future one.
With the mission successfully completed, who knows what the future holds for The Property of A Lady? And what of agents Hannam, Dobson and Hill? – They will return.