“We Have All The Time In The World” — Louis Armstrong

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Photo by Chris Bair on Unsplash

We have all the time in the world…except we don’t.

And neither did Louis Armstrong when he stepped into the studio back in 1969 to record a song for the James Bond film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”.

With no little irony, Louis Armstrong’s recording session for “We Have All The Time In The World” would turn out to be his last.

And at the time it hardly made a ripple in the world of music. It took another 30 years for “All The Time In The World” to get the recognition it deserved after being picked for a very successful Guinness commercial in the mid-1990s

Sometimes described as a “Bond theme”, “All The Time In The World” is nothing of the sort.

Although the music was written by Bond composer extraordinaire, John Barry…and with lyrics by Hal David, a man who knew how to pen some fine words to a song…it is used mainly as an short-lived atmospheric piece during the film itself.

It doesn’t really get a full workout until right at the end when James Bond is cradling his new wife in his arms after she’s been assassinated by the bad people at Spectre.

“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” is an unusual Bond film on many levels.

It was the fifth in the franchise and the only one to star George Lazenby. Although he does a perfectly reasonable job in the film, I don’t think anyone asked to force their way into our collective memories ahead of iconic Bonds like Sean Connery and Roger Moore would find that an easy race to win.

Neither does “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” have one of those grand, over-the-top title themes we’ve come to expect from Bond films. No “Goldfinger” or “Live And Let Die” here…just a relatively subdued orchestral theme.

And it’s an unusual Bond film in another way too, because it ends on a real downer. Normally a Bond film finale sees our hero ride off into the sunset in the company of a beautiful woman or two, but “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” ends with Bond’s new wife (the late Diana Rigg) dying in his arms.

Put all that together and you can see why the producers went back to their tried and tested formula for Bond’s next outing, “Diamonds Are Forever”.

They brought Sean Connery back, no doubt at huge expense. Hired Shirley Bassey, who’d done such a great job on the theme song for “Goldfinger” and gave her the job of getting the new film off to a rousing start…which, of course, she did brilliantly. And went for a less depressing ending.

Never again were the Bond producers tempted to change the formula which has made the franchise such a success over the last 60 years or so.

And it worked. We’re now on the threshold of the 25th Bond film’s release, and reportedly the final one to star Daniel Craig.

This one is going to have a slightly unusual theme song too with Billie Eilish in the hot seat this time.

It’s quite a nice song, but you’d have to say something of a risk to get someone renowned for her musical quirkiness to take the lead role in such a well-established operating model. Time will tell how well the new Bond theme goes down with the cinema-going public, but I rather like it.

However, that’s for the future. Today we’re heading back to 1969.

John Barry wrote the music for “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, as he did for many of the classic Bond films, including “We Have All The Time In The World”.

And Hal David, perhaps more famous for his work with Burt Bacharach on songs like “Say A Little Prayer” and “Walk On By”, was on lyric-writing duty.

It was a stroke of genius to bring Louis Armstrong on board for “We Have All The Time In The World” as it’s such a melancholy piece of music, designed to act as an ironic counterpoint to the death of the new Mrs Bond at the hands of Spectre immediately after her wedding.

Artistically, it’s what you’d call a bold move, but it does the job perfectly. In many ways, “We Have All The Time In The World” is Louis Armstrong’s equivalent of Johnny Cash’s recording of “Hurt” as the last the public heard from a man who knows he has so little time left.

Satchmo’s world-weary voice has to work hard and the strain you hear in his voice somehow symbolises the emotional strain we can imagine Bond must be feeling as he tries to keep that “stiff upper lip” we Brits are famous for intact in the most tragic of circumstances.

And there’s that haunting trumpet solo as the musical representation of someone whose thoughts are just drifting off into nothingnesss.

They can’t bear to think about the trauma they’ve just been through, so their mind wanders off into the wide blue yonder where they can escape the pain for a few moments.

Much as I like an over-the-top Bond theme, “All The Time In The World” is trying to do a much more finely-nuanced job than those epic crowd pleasers. And in that respect, it’s one of the most perfect Bond songs…where lyrics and music perfectly encapsulate the mood of the moment.

Lyrically, Hal David does an amazing job.

At first, the lyrics are entirely consistent with what we’d imagine two newly-married people might be thinking as they drive away from their wedding reception…

We have all the time in the world
Time enough for life to unfold
All the precious things love has in store
We have all the love in the world

But then, keeping the mood and the surface tone exactly the same, we morph into a eulogy for a life cruelly ended before its time without changing tone or missing a beat…on the surface, at least…

Every step of the way will find us
With the cares of the world far behind us

We have all the time in the world
Just for love
Nothing more, nothing less
Only love

Hal David’s lyrical skill here is writing words which could be taken as either encapsulating the celebration of a new marriage and a happy life to come or as a wistful reflection on a life tragically ended.

The lyrics above appear twice in the song — once at the beginning when the new Mrs Bond is very much alive and basking in the glow of newly-wedded bliss…and once at the end when Mrs Bond is being cradled in Mr Bond’s arms after being shot.

Exactly the same words. There’s no difference in the words Louis Armstrong sings or the emotional component of his delivery. And yet we’re left with two entirely different emotions — one utterly joyful, the other sad beyond measure.

Hal David wrote many fine lyrics over the years, but I don’t think he ever wrote anything else quite as beautiful as this.

Not only that, Hal David wrapped up a message that love endures and love is eternal amidst all that sadness.

Yes, love is for the here and now. But love continues beyond the grave for those who are no longer with us.

We can feel love for someone we’ll never see again in our earthly existence just as much as we felt it when they were sat next to us.

And when we think of the love we feel for someone who’s departed, we can’t help but feel the love they had for us when they were here.

In a very real sense, we really do have all the time in the world for love, because it’s the only human emotion which transcends life itself and continues for eternity.

When it comes to human existence, there really is nothing more…nothing less…only love.

If you’ve read this far, thank you for spending a few moments in the company of one of my favourite songs. The video is below, but if you prefer listening to your music on Spotify, you can find today’s track here… https://open.spotify.com/track/3IdkIPCErOUYBaesk4sUS3

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Without words, it’s just a nice tune. Add words — now you’ve got a song. And songs can change your world. I write about some that changed mine.

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