The song, originally written as the theme song for the British television show Danger Man contains a number of clear references to James Bond, both musically (the main guitar riff resembles 007's theme) and lyrically ("they've given you a number and taken away your name"). Now, the song is more associated with general 1960s popular music and surf-rock than the television show for which it was originally written.
The best video of the original is this live television broadcast from the 60s featuring a very young Johnny Rivers doing some top-notch lip/guitar-syncing. I wish we still had television shows like this.
I'll never totally understand how surf-rock and spying came to be associated with each other. Somehow the image of tanned dudes riding waves meshes really well with guys in suits poisoning drinks and carrying out acts of espionage. Let's compare:
Yeah, I'm not seeing it. But then again:
There you go, it just took 40 years and a Vin Diesel to show us what the connection is. Back to the music.
Here's Mr. Rivers a number of years later on David Letterman (turn your speakers up for this one).
It's nice to hear him actually singing and playing live instead of just syncing to a recording. Also, lets set up the band in a more awkward way.
Hey, it's DAVID HASSELHOFF! This one's for you Germany.
The Hoff really outdoes himself on this one, with dancing ladies, giant floating background text, and spy...laser pointers? I also can't tell if the beat is really horrible, or of this video has just been recycled so many times the fidelity has reduced the drums to a pile of beeps and boops.
This version by Devo is not for everyone.
Did you watch that? Seriously? I just realized that if you replaced the instruments but kept the rhythms around 2:30 in the video with heavily distorted guitars and like a hundred more drums you could make a Slipknot song. How cool! Also, just to prove they can still rock it:
And in case you're saying this already, I know it's not a "true" cover, chillax bro.
Here's a version of "Secret Agent Man" by surf-rock mainstays The Ventures.
Do you feel like having a bit more international flair in your "Secret Agent Man" journey?
The Plugz recorded "Un Hombre Secreto"...because they could. And then it was featured in the movie The Repo Man which I believe was just remade for modern theaters.
Want more surf-rock punk-rock crossover? Here you go:
Master of disguise? I say yes:
And last but certainly not least:
That's what I'm here for. To fill your needs for Bruce Willis singing "Secret Agent Man" over the top of a mix tape of scenes from Die Hard 2 recorded by hand-held camera off of a television.
What have we learned today? Nothing? Perfect.