19-year-old Shirley Bassey talks over the phone to one of her many admirers who called to congratulate her on her Cafe de Paris debut. mediadrumimages / TopFoto / Retronaut

By Alexander Greensmith


EXTRAORDINARY vintage images of Shirley Bassey in London reveal a backstage look at the Welsh singer’s career before BOND.

The stunning photos include a teenage Bassey smoking a cigarette, using her dressing room telephone and sharing a cup of tea with her late mother.

Another eye-catching shot shows her singing around the piano with her brother, mother, sister-in-law and niece.

19-year-old Shirley Bassey before her evening performances at the Adelphi Theatre and the Cafe de Paris, London. mediadrumimages / TopFoto / Retronaut

A candid snap of an exhausted Bassey also reveals graffiti on a mirror reading, ‘I am only as good as my last performance’.

The set of monochrome pictures were taken Alan Vines in 1956, when she was just 19.

Dame Shirley Veronica Bassey, DBE, is a Welsh singer with a career spanning eight decades.

19-year-old Shirley Bassey, the toast of the Cafe de Paris, enjoys an afternoon cup of tea with her mother. mediadrumimages / TopFoto / Retronaut

The three-time Bond theme singer was born in 1937 in Cardiff, Wales, to a Nigerian father and an English mother.

Bassey was the first Welsh artist to score a UK number one single with her Christmas number one hit As I Love You reaching the top spot in 1958. She scored her second and final number one with the double A-side Reach for the Stars/Climb Ev’ry Mountain in August 1961.

With her career starting in 1953, Bassey has amassed 12 UK Top 10 singles and seven UK Top 10 albums. She was the subject of a BBC TV series in 1957 and she received the Brit Award for Best British Female Solo Artist of the previous 25 years in 1977.

19-year-old Shirley Bassey gives out during her act at the Adelphi Theatre in the revue Such is Life. mediadrumimages / TopFoto / Retronaut

However, she is best known in the United States for lending her powerful singing voice to three James Bond films; Goldfinger in 1964, Diamonds are Forever in 1971 and Moonraker in 1979. No artist has recorded more Bond themes than Bassey.

She was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2000 and has performed for the Queen twice, at the golden jubilee and her 90th birthday.