The Batman TV show, with Neil Hefti’s indelible “na-na-na-na-na-na-Batman” theme song, debuted in the U.S. in January 1966, hitting the U.K. in May. In April of that year, the Beatles started recording what would become the opening track of Revolver, George Harrison’s “Taxman,” which resembles the Batman theme when the band harmonizes on the title phrase. There were already three cover versions of the Batman theme released by April, including a hit version by the Marketts, so it’s entirely possible that the Beatles might have heard it even before they saw the show. So can we safely say the influence was real?
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Not so fast. In the new episode of Rolling Stone Music Now, Rob Sheffield says he’s convinced the real influence behind “Taxman” is the 1965 Motown smash “Shotgun” by Junior Walker and the All Stars, which does bear some notable rhythmic similarities to “Taxman.” It’s even possible, Sheffield posits, that “Shotgun” also influenced Hefti’s Batman theme, which could account for the similarities.
In the new episode of Rolling Stone Music Now, Sheffield and host Brian Hiatt dig into every track on the new Revolver reissue and remix, including the unearthed outtakes. Along the way, they talk about the wonders of the “demixing” technology that allowed for Giles Martin and Sam Okell’s new stereo mix, and dig into other unsolved mysteries and controversies. To hear the entire interview, listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, or press play above. Some highlights:
The real origins of “Yellow Submarine.” For years, Paul McCartney told a tale of “Yellow Submarine” coming to him late one night at his then-girlfriend Jane Asher’s house. But the boxed set reveals the verse melody actually started as a morose John Lennon folk song. Did McCartney deliberately rewrite Lennon’s song, or did he unconsciously have his bandmate’s melody stuck in his head that night? Either way, he took a sad song and made it better.
What is “And Your Bird Can Sing” really about? One of the Beatles’ best songs, with a harmonized guitar riff for the ages, is also one of their most cryptic. Who is the jaded, privileged target of John Lennon’s lyrics? One of the least unlikely but most entertaining theories is that he had read Gay Talese’s classic profile of Frank Sinatra, which reveals that the singer referred to his penis as his “bird.” Sheffield, meanwhile, thinks Lennon was writing about Mick Jagger or Brian Jones, while Lennon’s late ex-wife, Cynthia Lennon wrote that she thinks it’s about her, referring to an incident in which she gave him a clockwork bird. (But in that case, wouldn’t it be his bird, not hers?)
Is “Got to Get You Into My Life” really about weed? Paul McCartney always claimed that the exuberant “Got to Get You Into My Life” is a secret ode to marijuana. But he and the other Beatles had first smoked it back in 1964 (with Bob Dylan, no less), and it was already well-ensconced in McCartney’s life in 1966. As a whole, the lyrics seem more likely to be about a woman, so maybe McCartney was simply pushing against his silly-love-songs reputation by trying to make a sweet song seem vaguely illicit. One thing’s for sure, though: for years, McCartney did take the “every single day of my life” bit to heart when it came to THC intake.
Why is the novel in “Paperback Writer”… based on another novel? The discussion also extends to the great single recorded during the Revolver sessions, which features one of the Beatles’ greatest choruses, some of McCartney’s most exciting bass playing… and at least one baffling moment amidst his clever lyrics. “It’s based on a novel by man named Lear”? It’s a book based on another book? And who’s Lear? Even 56 years later, no one has a clue. (Sheffield suggests maybe it’s a novelization of a movie based on a novel, but remains baffled by the Lear part).
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