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"Taxman"
Song by The Beatles
Album Revolver
Released 5 August 1966
Recorded Abbey Road Studios
20–21 April 1966
Genre Rock
Length 2:39
Label Parlophone
Writer George Harrison
Producer George Martin
Music sample

"Taxman" is a song by The Beatles, opening the Revolver album, about high levels of progressive tax taken by the government. George Harrison, who wrote the lyrics, performs the role of a tax collector on the song in a tongue-in-cheek manner.

Contents

Taxation leads to inspiration

Harrison was inspired to write "Taxman" when he discovered how much he was earning after accounting for taxes. As Harrison said, "'Taxman' was when I first realised that even though we had started earning money, we were actually giving most of it away in taxes. It was and still is typical."[1] The reason for this was that due to how much The Beatles were earning, they were in the top tax bracket in the United Kingdom. In a 1984 interview with Playboy magazine, fellow Beatle Paul McCartney agreed with Harrison's depiction of the circumstances surrounding the writing of "Taxman": "George wrote that and I played guitar on it. He wrote it in anger at finding out what the taxman did. He had never known before then what he'll do with your money."

Asked for help

Harrison got some assistance in the lyrics from fellow Beatle John Lennon, who wrote a few one-liners on the song for him. In 1980, Lennon recalled in an interview with Playboy magazine, "I remember the day he [Harrison] called to ask for help on 'Taxman', one of his first songs. I threw in a few one-liners to help the song along because that's what he asked for. He came to me because he couldn't go to Paul [McCartney]. Paul wouldn't have helped him at that period. I didn't want to do it. I just sort of bit my tongue and said OK. It had been John and Paul for so long, he'd been left out because he hadn't been a songwriter up until then."

One quirk in the lyrics was Lennon's throwing in the names of the then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Harold Wilson (who had nominated all four of the Beatles as Members of the Order of the British Empire just the previous year) and Edward Heath (a future Prime Minister). Harrison pulled no punches in his bipartisan bashing – Wilson and Heath were the leaders of the British Labour Party and British Conservative Party respectively. Although, in Take 11 on Anthology 2, Wilson and Heath are replaced by two refrains of "Anybody got a bit of money?"

In 1987, Harrison stated that he had been pleased McCartney agreed to play the guitar on "Taxman". In reference to McCartney's famous guitar solo, Harrison said, "I was pleased to have Paul play that bit on 'Taxman'. If you notice, he did like a little Indian bit on it for me."[2]

The release, and after

The song was eventually released on Revolver; although Lennon and McCartney had always been the more prolific songwriters, they made allowance for a few Harrison songs on each album The Beatles released, in much the same way they would attempt to ensure at least one album track always featured drummer Ringo Starr's singing. Because it was the first track, a fake count-in was added at the beginning. A heavily distorted voice counts along with George Harrison; if one listens closely, McCartney can be heard shouting the actual count-in underneath the distorted one (In the stereo version, McCartney's count-in is in the left speaker). There are minor differences in the stereo and mono versions, particularly the entry points for the cowbell and tambourine.

On the song, Harrison sings as if he is the taxman, who is depicted as a malicious man looking for ways to rob people of their money, with lines like "If you try to sit, I'll tax your seat". The taxman tells the listener to appreciate that he is not left empty-handed: "Should five percent appear too small / Be thankful I don't take it all" and "one for you, nineteen for me" (referring to the 95% top tax rate at the time in the UK). He even goes as far as advising those who die to "declare the pennies on your eyes." The song closes with the taxman declaring that the listeners are enslaved by him: "And you're working for no one but me."[3]

"Taxman" featured in Harrison's concert repertoire even after The Beatles had dissolved; on his tour of Japan in 1991 with Eric Clapton, "Taxman" was on the set list. "It's a song that goes regardless if it's the sixties, seventies, eighties or nineties," Harrison declared. "There's always a taxman." Harrison added more lyrics on that tour, such as "If you're overweight, I'll tax your fat."

In the U.S., radio disc jockeys and TV news reporters annually feature the song in the days leading up to April 15 (or one to three days after the 15th due to weekends and holidays), the date by which U.S. income tax returns must be filed. Some post offices have even been known to sardonically play the song on in-house audio systems for the long lines of last-minute tax filers. In 2002, tax preparation service H&R Block used a slower-paced cover version of the song in television commercials.

Credits

  • John Lennon – tambourine, harmony vocal
  • Paul McCartney – lead guitar, bass, harmony vocal
  • George Harrison – double-tracked lead vocal, rhythm guitar
  • Ringo Starr – drums, maracas, cowbell

Harrison set the record straight in his 1977 Crawdaddy interview: "Paul played lead guitar on 'Taxman,' and he played guitar-- a good part-- on "Drive My Car".[4]

Other versions

The song has also been played and recorded by Junior Parker, Black Oak Arkansas, Bill Wyman, The (Bonniwell) Music Machine, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Nickel Creek, Les Fradkin, Garrison Starr, Rockwell, Mutual Admiration Society and Power Station.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers played the song in tribute to Harrison at 2002's Concert For George.

In the show Love, the guitar solo was sampled in the piece "Drive My Car"/"The Word"/"What You're Doing", being primarily in the key of D major, like the rest of the song.

Cover versions

Songs inspired by "Taxman"

  • The Stone Roses' song "I Am the Resurrection" was inspired by Taxman's bassline; guitarist John Squire said that bassist Mani used to play it backwards and Squire would improvise over the top. This was a "joke" song they played in rehearsals, then they realised that it was strong enough to flesh out into a full song.
  • "Seagull" by Ride has a bass riff very similar to the bass line in "Taxman".
  • The songs "To Be Someone" and "Start!" by The Jam have similar basslines to the intro of "Taxman".
  • Mansun has a song "Taxloss" that was inspired by "Taxman", with similar subject matter and backing vocals.

Notes

  1. Harrison, George (1980). I Me Mine. London: Phoenix. pp. 94. ISBN 0753817349. 
  2. Template:Cite magazine
  3. Walter Everett, The Beatles as musicians, p. 48, http://books.google.com/books?id=eTkHAldi4bEC&pg=PA48 
  4. "George Harrison Interview: Crawdaddy Magazine, February 1977". The Beatles Interview Database. http://www.geocities.com/~beatleboy1/db1977.0200.beatles.html. Retrieved on 2007-09-18. 

References

External links

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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Contents

English

Noun

Singular
taxman

Plural
taxmen

taxman (plural taxmen)

  1. A generic, usually derogatory term for a tax collector.
    The taxman's taken all my dough.

Usage notes

The term is gender neutral (the term "taxwoman" is not in common usage).

Synonyms

Translations


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