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Taxman by The Beatles

Album: RevolverReleased: 1966
  • George Harrison wrote this. The music was inspired by the theme song for the popular 1960s TV series Batman, which was written and originally recorded by the conductor/trumpeter Neal Hefti, and covered by the surf rock group The Marketts early in 1966 in a version that hit #17 in the US. Harrison was a big fan of the show.
  • This was the first track on Revolver. It was the first song Harrison wrote that was given such prominent position, indicating that he was capable of writing songs as good as Lennon and McCartney's.
  • This is a bitter song about how much money The Beatles were paying in taxes. People with high earnings pay exorbitant taxes in England. Many successful entertainers leave the country so they can keep more of their money. As a result, The Beatles - as well as The Who and The Rolling Stones - spent a lot of time in America and other parts of Europe as "tax exiles."
  • Harrison: "Taxman was when I first realized that even though we had started earning money, we were actually giving most of it away in taxes."
  • "Mr. Wilson" and "Mr. Heath" are mentioned in the lyrics. They are British Prime Ministers Harold Wilson and Edward Heath, who were being scorned in the song for contributing to English tax laws. Before this song was released, Wilson had presented The Beatles with the award for England's Show Business Personalities of 1963 at the Variety Club of Great Britain Annual Show Business Awards held on March 19, 1964 in London. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
  • Revolver is the only album on which Harrison has 3 songs. On all the others he only has 2 or less. On The White Album he had 4, but it was a double album so he was only allotted his usual one track per-side. (thanks, Adrian - Wilmington, DE)
  • The fade-out ending is a reprise of the guitar solo as all completed takes of the song ended with John and Paul singing "Taxman!" (thanks, Brad Wind - Miami, FL)
  • There's been a lot of confusion over who played lead guitar on this track. Harrison said in his 1977 Crawdaddy interview: "I helped out such a lot in all the arrangements. There were a lot of tracks though where I played bass. Paul played lead guitar on 'Taxman,' and he played guitar - a good part - on 'Drive My Car."

    Jeff Emerick said in his book on recording the Beatles that Harrison just couldn't get the solo right, so Paul played most of the guitar parts, including the solo. The repeat of the solo at the end of the song was the same "exact" solo by Paul, which Jeff dubbed from the middle of the song to another piece of tape and cut into the fade at the end.

    Seth Swirsky, who worked as a staff songwriter before producing the Beatles documentary Beatles Stories, told us: "I think Paul McCartney was one of the greatest guitar players of the '60s. Nobody really recognized him as an electric guitar player, or an acoustic guitar player, but his leads on 'Taxman' and on different songs that you think George played, they ripped. I think George is great, but when Paul played lead on some songs, they tore. They were just very unique. There's no one like Paul McCartney in the history of the world." (Check out our full interview with Seth Swirsky.)
  • In 2002, H&R Block used this in commercials for their tax preparation service. The ads aired shortly after Harrison died.
  • The 1,2,3,4 count-in is fake, and was edited on as an afterthought. The real count-in (by Paul) can be heard underneath.
  • The guitar solo at the end is a straight copy of the middle-eight. This same solo was later reused as a tape spool on "Tomorrow Never Knows." (thanks, Mike - Mountlake Terrace, WA. U.S.A, for above 2)
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic recorded a parody of this song called "Pac-Man" in 1981. It was never officially released on any of his albums, but a demo version can be found on Dr. Demento's Basement Tapes No. 4. The song is very faithful to the Beatles' original, plus some musical and well-placed Pac-Man sound effects. (thanks, Joe - Boston, MA)
  • Blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan covered this song. His version sounds very different, but the lyrics are identical. (thanks, Rusty - Houston, TX)
  • See a photo of Mr. Wilson and The Beatles in Song Images.
  • Harrison put some math in the lyrics. In the beginning of the song, he sings, "There's one for you, 19 for me" before "If 5 percent appears too small." One of 19 is 5 percent. (thanks, Tyler - Branford, CT)
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Comments: 70

The line in the song- "And my advice for those who die. Declare the pennies on your eyes." is in reference to the old tradition of putting pennies on dead people’s eyes to keep the eyes of the dead shut until rigor mortis sets in.

George was trying to make the comment that even in death you have to pay the Taxman!
Cici - Minneapolis, Mn
I am sure it's Paul's Epiphone Casino with P90 pickups. The guitars on "Revolver" have a specific sound, very dry and percussive. Judging from photos of the sessions, the Beatles had switched to Vox amplifiers with solid-state preamp stages by that time. I once got my hands on a 460 series (or so) Vox Amplifier and it instantly gave me that honky, gnarly tone that you hear on "Revolver". Maybe it was Dr Robert who prescribed these amps.Tom - Freiburg, Germany
This song got the first track on the album because both Lennon & McCartney were impressded with it's straight meaning and hype beat.Jim - West Palm Beach, Fl
Maths- there's 1 for you 19 for me is the same as you only get 1/19 or 5%. George knew his maths as well as writing a great song!
Incidentally these rates of tax were on unearned income.
Ed - Deal, England
1 of 20 is 5%. 1 for you 19 for me equals 20 not 19 ; )Jim - Rochester, Ny
Hmmmm... Regarless of what I said below about "decalre the pennies on your eyes" not making sense, it actually DOES! Putting pennies on the eyes of the dead is an old custom to keep the lids closed. So, the mis-hearing of the lyric is by me!Martin - Ringmer, East Sussex, England, United Kingdom
I love the wierd guitar sound. It's awesome...great song!Megan - Stevenson, Al
"Now my advice for those who die, ....Declare the pennies on your eyes..." is one one of those frequently misheard and misquoted lyrics. I am fairly certain that George sings:

"Now my advice for those who die, Declare the pennies on your RISE".

"Declare the pennies on your eyes" doesn't make any sense, whereas "Declare the pennies on your rise" not only makes sense but also has an intended double meaning:

1. If you get a raise in pay (or a "rise" as we say in the UK), then the taxman would need to know about it (and tax you more!);

2. Coming after the line "Now my advice for those who die", the use of the word "rise" implies reincarnation, which George believed in as part of his faith.
Martin - Ringmer, East Sussex, England, United Kingdom
I don't care for the politics of the lyric, but the bile bites and wit is sharp. But this cranker is stink-hot. This song just blisters my pleasure centers. That goddamn McCartney. The bile may be George's but the bass and the solo are Paul's and they are pancreas-rattling. This is right there with their best, which is to say with anybody's best.Hedrek - Los Angeles, Ca
"CrackerJack":Both Marketts tunes are 1-4-1-5-4-1 chord progressions. "Taxman" is 1-b7-4-1: A foundational difference. The rhythms & tempos are different. The (sung)melody,(the only part legally protected by publishing), in "Taxman" is completely different from any melody in both Markettstune. The bass, totally different in "Batman', has a similarity to "Richie's Theme", but more than a "slight change in phrasing": "RT":1-8-45-7-45-7-45-7."TM":1-8-45-7-1-8-45-7. "Katira": Paul -wrote- the lead part.George "couldn't handle it", because he had just heard it. He said to Paul: "You -already- know it, why don't you play it?"Mark - Chicago, Il
At the time this song recorded the tax rate in England was 90% for people making over a certain amount[I don't know the exact amount] regardless of your position on taxes 90% is ridicoulous. This high tax rate is also the reason the Rolling Stones went to France to record Exile on Main Street.Brian - Boston, Ma
I always thought this song sounded like Batman but I never realized until now that it was actually inspired by it. This is a great web site very informative. I think it's amazing that Harrison couldn't handle the guitar solos. I always thought he was an excellent guitar player This is one of Harrisons' best along with While my guitar Gently Weeps and Here Comes the sunBrian - Boston, Ma
Taxman is brilliant songwriting.A heavy rocking song with great melody and rough hard guitar lead that is thrilling to listen to.The lyrics have meaning and is relevant for today.George Harrison wrote some classics in his day.George - Belleville, Nj
It being a Paul solo it was prolly done on an Epiphone Casino (essentially the same thing as a Gibson ES-330).Molly - Niagara Falls, Ny
In its June 5, 2006 issue, the conservative magazine National Review published a list of "The 50 greatest conservative rock songs." Taxman was ranked song number two.

http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=NzZkNDU5MmViNzVjNzkzMDE3NzNlN2MyZjRjYTk4YjE=

Apparently a pathetic effort to look to live down William F. Buckley's notorious assessment of the Beatles:


The Beatles are not merely awful. They are so unbelievably horrible, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art, that they qualify as crowned heads of antimusic.

See

http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/1337
Dale - Laguna Niguel, Ca
According to Geoff Emerick, their recording engineer, George could not handle the guitar part, so Paul ended up playing the solos on the recordingKatira - New York, Ny
in regards to your comment Milton. They used Gretch, as well as, Gibson Guitars. Also Used Rickenbacher. I don't recall ever seeing them using a Les Paul. Personally I think the guitar parts are too bright to be a Les Paul. Perhaps a Fender Strat or Telecaster. If you listen to their earlier stuff you'll hear the same sort of sound. I know they used Gibson Acoustic guitars alot.....Billy - West Unity, Oh
This is one of the songs that changed my life. It is my favorite. I always thought that George was on the guitar solo. Does anybody know if that was played on a Gibson Les Paul? Thanx George!Milton - Sao Paulo, Brazil
Taxman's inspiration from The Marketts' 'Batman Theme' 1966 is plain to see. But what George Martin failed to mention was the B side of this 45 RPM single, 'Richie's Theme'. Listen to the doubled guitar/bass line. With all due respect, it may have been lifted by the Fab Foursome almost exactly, with only a slight change in the phrasing. I guess that 'She's So Fine' was not the only tune they embezzled, uh... embellished. Beatles forever!Crackerjacklee - Toronto, On
Both George and Ringo became tax exiles in the 1970's; George lived in Los Angeles and Ringo lived in both L.A. and Monte Carlo. (John lived in new York, but not for tax reasons). In the late 1970's the British government reformed their tax laws, so George moved back to England, just before Dhani was born in 1978. Ringo is still, to this day, a resident of Monte Carlo, for tax purposes. In the 1970's Paul was asked if he considered joining other British rock stars becoming tax exiles and replied "No, I'll just stay in England and figure out some way to pay these taxes."Ken - Louisville, Ky
The person that coughs in the first few seconds of Taxman it is Ron O'Quinn.

The person that coughs in the first few seconds of Taxman it is Ron O'Quinn.

The person that coughs in the first few seconds of Taxman it is Ron O'Quinn.

The person that coughs in the first few seconds of Taxman it is Ron O'Quinn.
George - Hometown, Ga
this song is weird wats the plot i love taxes o and im a man geez. i hate taxes this song is weird.Jasonsweird - Tokyo, Japan
John, Woburn, from MA drink a tall glass of calm-down juice. You've apparently fallen for the cliche that conservatives don't raise taxes or like government spending - they do. Only they like to spend money on their things War, warfunding, war related expenditures, corporate tax breaks, military-industrial complex, etc. Back to the subject of the song, they Beatles were asked which party they favored in England Conservative or Labour and there answer was whichever party raised taxes the least.Bert - Cleveland, Oh
Actually Jon from Sunnyvale, Led Zeppelin were also tax exiles.Peter Griffin - Quahog, Ri
George was a Batman fan? I think he was also a Led Zeppelin fan!Peter Griffin - Quahog, Ri
Great song, as it shows how pissed George was at the British GovernmentTristan - Philadelphia, Pa
Black Oak Arkansas does a version of this song. Jim Dandy's vocals make it very unique, and it is also very guitar orientated.Lester - New York City, Ny
For all you liberals out there this song is not for you! "Don't ask me what I want it for" a reference to the liberal philosophy of taking money for obscure and meaningless social programs. Plus the whole basis of the song, that the rich have to pay more is against the Democrat idea of "tax the rich, feed the poor" and in favor of a flat-tax rate.John - Woburn, Ma
If you have ever wondered who the person that coughs in the first few seconds of Taxman it is
Ron O'Quinn he was on the 1966 American beatles Tour. From Swinging Radio England (SRE) Do a google search. Ron O Quinn
So now you know the rest of the story. Yes George was his friend. I have seen a ring that G Harrison had given him. SRE had a batman jingle from pams that they played on the radio ship.
Law Dawg - Georgia, Ga
This song uses the Hendrix chord months before he had even a record contract. The song combines hard rock,funky bass with a Indian style guitar solo. The prototype protest hard rocker the Beatles would use with great effect later on Revolution
Sal,Bardonia,NY
Sal - Bardonia , Ny
Great song very Rebel written I love it. George said he was Glad Paul played the Lead guitar in it. He loved it it was thrashing.Frank - Las Vegas, Nv
Well, the reason for having such high taxes is because everyone is employed in England, and those high taxes pay for social services like health insurance, public schools, parks,etc.Alex - New Orleans, La
One of the best tracks on Revolver! And I think most people sympathize with the sentiment expressed. Doesn't everybody hate the taxman (unless you are one or have a close personal relationship with one - or people pay you to do their taxes)?(!)Joe - Lethbridge, Canada
I got the riff from this song stuck in my head one day I couldn't figure out what the hell it was. I went around all day humming it and not even noticing it, then suddenly it popped into my head that it was Taxman. I never hear the song the same way since, and I still can't figure out how I couldn't recognize it.Ashley - Moncton, Canada
To whoever said George had 4 songs on Yellow Submarine, no he only had 2. But then, they were two of the only four new Beatles songs on that album (side B was all George Martin's orchestral works for the movie, and side A started and ended with Beatles songs that were already released), so that was certainly his best ratio, by far!Fyodor - Denver, Co
Not to sound too techinical or anything, but the bass line in The Jam's "Start" is slightly different: it changes pitch more frequently, it's a lot faster, and someparts have extra notes thrown in.Spencer - Los Angeles, Ca
that distictive bas line can also be heard in a Jam song called "Start!"Jim - North Billerica, Ma
What a lot of people don't realize is that the reason George was worried about money is because everything could have been lost in a split second. The fame, the money, EVERYTHING could have been lost. If you had millions of dollars and had to pay a high tax rate, you'd be complaining too.

George was just being careful and looking towards the future. What if everything was lost? Would they have the money to pay for everything, etc, etc. You can't exactly blame him for being careful, can you?
Brittany - A Place, Va
it may have been george's song and a lennon-harrison writting but it was a typical mccartney arrangement i find it very difficult to belive that anyone but paul played bass on this lennons bass playing on the run through of the let it be movie was horrible and harrison's was i would say an avg bass player, the bass cuts on this track or just too good, typical mccartney style no doubt!Jerry619 - San Diego, United States
Paul started extensive use of the Rickenbacker for the Rubber Soul sessions and it was his primary bass (In the studio) through The White Album sessions. Great solo played by Paul, but I would have liked to hear how a George solo would have sounded for this song.Robb - Hamburg, Ny
When I first heard this song I LOVED it. I danced to it like a maniac. To tell the truth, I still do! It's a fun song!Colleen - Port Colborne, Canada
Paul's count in sounds a lot cooler than the first one.Linus - Hamilton, On, Canada
When George performed this song on his Japanese tour in the early 90's, he changed "Mr. Wilson" and "Mr. Heath" to "Mr. Clinton" and "Mr. Bush".Ken - Louisville, Ky
The only George song to start an album. My favorite George song, too.Jordan - Wilmette, Il
Paul McCartney played more guitar on Beatles songs than many people know. While "Beatles For Sale" featured George Harrison exclusively on country-style lead guitar, things changed significantly by the time HELP! came out. On this album, Paul played the solos and fills for "Another Girl", "The Night Before" and "Ticket To Ride", George's biggest contribution for this album being the great descending guitar line on the title track. The lead guitar on the Sgt. Pepper title track is all Paul. My guess here is that Harrison wasn't ready to deliver the heavily distorted sounds ala Hendrix that McCartney was looking for.Tom - Freiburg, Germany
Paul played actually played bass on this song. George and John played guitar. It was only the cool guitar solo that was Paul, which is strange because George wrote the songMark - Barrow-in-furness, England
Paul McCartney's bassline really drives this song in a sort of start/stop halting kind of way. How he got such groovy basslines out of such a crappy bass like a Hofner is beyond me. (Perhaps he was playing the Rickenbacker by this time...)Wes - Springfield, Va
any one else hear that cough in the start of the song, who is that? why leave that in there?Adam - Rochester, Ny
The tax rate of 95% was only on earnings over a certain amount per year. So George was not losing 95% of his earnings to the taxman, he was having his lesser earnings taxed at a more measured rate such as 20-30%. His lifestyle then or up until his sad demise does not seem to have suffered greatly as a result of being "overtaxed"; meanwhile, perhaps British society and the welfare state was enriched as a result of his tax contributions. Such tax rates should be brought back for all high earners. I dislike listening to George's wingeing on this song, which is a shame because I love this song musically. Incidentally, its bassline was later ripped off by The Jam's "Start", although Paul Weller did apparently ring McCartney to ask if it was okay to copy it. This suggests that McCartney actually wrote his own funky bassline for this song, in contrast to Harrison's offical authorship.Richard - Newport, Isle Of Wight, England
Such a tax rate is ridiculuous, no matter what their income is. If you have too high of a tax rate, it eliminates the incenctive to be productive and accumulate wealth. I wonder if the UK would have earned more or less tax revenunue if they didn't set such a high rate for people who earned as much as rock bands. With The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who as tax exiles, the UK might have lost revenue by taxing them so much.Jon - Sunnyvale, Ca
In their early years, George was the Beatle most concerned about money. It was said that he would constantly ask Brian Epstien pointed questions about their finances.Ken - Louisville, Ky
George's original counter-lyric was "anybody got a bit o'money?". John hated that (it was a trite English phrase at the time about taxes) and suggested the line ""ah-ha, Mr. Wilson...ah-ha, Mr. Heath!" At that time "ah-ha" was the English equivilent of the American "gotcha!". John also contributed the line about "declaring the pennies on your eyes".Ken - Louisville, Ky
Yes, the Beatles were taxed on 19 shillings to the pound in the 60s. The tax rate today is a lot lower than then,I think about 60% for someone of George's earning power, but then there are accountants who can be very "creative" with money. But you can understand George's dismay at seeing only 5% of his earning going untaxed! One of my favourite all time Beatle songs and NO the 1,2,3 and little cough etc makes the song even better!Steve - Liverpool, England
great song, and great bass line too1Stefanie Magura - Rock Hill, Sc
Check this out on the Revolved mash-up.Nessie - Sapporo, Japan
First thing, Gary from Seatle, we didn't have those taxes; the Beatles were British, remember? Second of all, the line "1 for you 19 for me" isn't exagerated, in fact its underexagerated. The Beatles had to pay over 19 shillings of every pound (there are 20 shillings in a pound.)Jack - St. Paul, Mn
right after the second "one" in the opening count you can hear an actual count to start the song. it's actually very prominent with a decent set of headphonesTed - New York, Ny
Those tax rates were for the uber-rich only. We could use some of that again, I'll tell you whatGary - Seattle, Wa
I don't really see what George was complaining about. This "overwhelming" tax-rate only applied to the extremely wealthy who could easily afford to do without this excess money. At the same time there were thousands of families throughout Britain and Ireland who were seriously struggling to put food on the table with the incomes they received.Badge - Dublin, Ireland
Oh, and the album debuted about 6 months after the Batman TV show.Alan - City, Mi
George wrote Don't Bother Me and then didn't get anything on an album for awhile. Usually two, only one track on Sgt. Pepper. However, he did have FOUR on Yellow Submarine. And Cry For A Shadow was indeed credited to Lennon/Harrison.Alan - City, Mi
Dude, did you hear about the draconian taking in England at the time? "One for you, ninteen for me" and "If five percent appears to small, be grateful..." were real rates. It was that bad; this isn't anti-liberal, this is anti-the-draconian-taxmen.Martin Bonica - Sterling, Va
Randy, watch the Anthology disc 3, episode 5. George clearly states that he liked Pauls solo on that because he played it in sort of an Indian style reffering to the sound of it. Anyway great song don't ya think? The bassline also kicks ass!Jason - Mesa, Az
Oh,yeh,i'm the TAXMAN!I just bought "revolver" today and it's so much better than I expected.I just need to get White album,magical Mystery tour and ther albums '62-'65 and that's it!all ther cd's!awesome...Scott Baldwin - Edmonton, Canada
Dear Randy from Beaumont: Mr. Lewison's book quite clearly states that Paul played lead guitar on this track. OH, and to John from London: "Cry For A Shadow", an instrumental from the Tony Sheridan sessions, is credited to Lennon/Harrison.Don - Rapid City, Sd
When Harrison wrote this song, the tax was (well, obviously) in Britain was overwhelming; 95% of your income went to taxes! That's why they sing, "There's one for you, nineteen for me.. if five percent should appear too small, be thankful I don't take it all.." etc. At the same time, the tax in America was huge as well. I'm not positive, but I think it was around 70% of your income was sent to taxes??Eva - Dallas, Tx
McCartney played lead??? Hmmmmmmm. Listen to the count-in at the very beginning. the count-in that you can hear very well is NOT the song count-in, but you can hear the real one quickly underneath the fake one. McCartney played lead???? Hmmmmmmmm. Forgive me if I go to the Marc Lewison Abbey Road Sessions book to verify that one. However, John, I do envy your being as close to Abbey Studios as you are. That would be my first stop from the airport.Randy - Beaumont, Tx
I always thought one of those songs copied the other, I thought Batman copied them...

Funny
Conrad - Los Angeles, Ca
According to George Martin, this song was inspired by the theme from the 1960's TV Show "Batman."

billy@billywilliamsradio.com
Billy - Tulsa, Ok
Paul played lead guitar. John contributed to the lyrics but declined a credit. This would have been the only Lennon/Harrison Beatles composition. All the Beatles got a shared credit on the instrumental Flying.John - London, England