Beatles – Taxman

George steps up to the plate on Revolver and knocks it out of the park. If you think you pay too much tax…The Beatles were in a 95% tax bracket.

At the time, high earners paid exorbitant taxes in England. Many successful entertainers left the country so they could 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.

This is a strong one by George and it was the opener for the album. On the song, it wasn’t George that played the solo…it was Paul. It’s a brilliant small solo and adds a lot to the song. Paul played it with an Indian feel for George.

Revolver is the only album on which Harrison has three songs. On all the others he only has two or fewer. On The White Album he had four, but it was a double album so he was only allotted his usual one track per side.

 George Harrison: “You are so happy that you’ve finally started earning money – and then you find out about tax. In those days we paid nineteen shillings and sixpence out of every pound (there were twenty shillings in the pound), and with supertax and surtax and tax-tax it was ridiculous – a heavy penalty to pay for making money…It was, and still is, typical. Why should this be so? Are we being punished for something we have forgotten to do?…That was the big turn-off for Britain. Anybody who ever made any money moved to America or somewhere else.”

George 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.”

 

From Songfacts

George Harrison wrote this song. 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 the Revolver album. 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.

“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. 

Over the next few years, George Harrison came to realize that money, when you have lots of it, is a rather ephemeral concept and does not translate to happiness. This played into his spiritual awakening. In 1969, he told BBC Radio: “No matter how much money you’ve got, you can’t be happy anyway. So you have to find your happiness with the problems you have and you have to not worry too much about them.”

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!”

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 Songfacts: “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.”

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.” >>

“Weird Al” Yankovic recorded a parody of this song called “Pac-Man” in 1981. It was never officially released on any of his albums (possibly because Pac-Man Fever got there first), 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. Sample lyrics:

I used to be a pinball freak
That’s where you’d find me every week
But now it’s Pacman
Yeah it’s the Pacman >>

This wasn’t the last Beatles song to question who else is getting their cash. On their 1969 Abbey Road album, Paul McCartney contributed “You Never Give Me Your Money,” where he takes aim at their unscrupulous business partners.

Blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan covered this song. His version sounds very different, but the lyrics are identical. 

Harrison put some math into 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. 

In his 1987 reminiscence “When We Was Fab,” it was clear that the taxation of long ago was still on George Harrison’s mind, as he sang, “Income tax was all we had.”

In 2002, H&R Block used this in commercials for their tax preparation service. The ads aired shortly after Harrison died.

Taxman

Let me tell you how it will be
There’s one for you, nineteen for me
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

Should five per cent appear too small
Be thankful I don’t take it all
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the taxman

If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.

Don’t ask me what I want it for
If you don’t want to pay some more
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

Now my advice for those who die
Declare the pennies on your eyes
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman
And you’re working for no one but me.

Beatles – Tomorrow Never Knows

Turn off your mind relax and float down stream… 

Like “A Hard Day’s Night,” the title came from an expression Ringo Starr used. Ringo’s turn of the phrase took the edge off the heavy philosophical lyrics. Working titles for the song before Ringo gave them inspiration were “Mark I” and “The Void.”

It was on what perhaps is the greatest Beatle album…Revolver.

The inspiration for the song came from a book entitled “The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based On The Tibetan Book Of The Dead.” This book was published in August of 1964 by Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert

The Beatles made “tape loops”…short tapes of grandfather clocks, sitars, seagulls, laughter, and other things. They brought them to the studio and put them together at different speeds, played forward, and backward. That is what you hear at the beginning.

John wanted his voice to…sound like the Dalai Lama chanting from a mountaintop, miles away or like a group of Tibetan monks chanting on a mountain top. Well, that was impractical so John suggested they suspend him from a rope in the middle of the studio ceiling, put a mike in the middle of the floor, give him a push and he’d sing as he went around and around. They didn’t do that either but they ended up putting Lennon’s voice through a Leslie Speaker Cabinet (a rotating speaker cabinet) and that made John happy.

Tomorrow Never Knows was a great innovation. It opened the door to Sgt Pepper and was one of the great psychedelic rock songs.

John Lennon on LSD: “Leary was the one going round saying, ‘take it, take it, take it,’” Lennon remembered in 1980, “and we followed his instructions in his ‘how to take a trip’ book. I did it just like he said in the book, and then I wrote ‘Tomorrow Never Knows,’ which was almost the first acid song: ‘Lay down all thought, surrender to the void,’ and all that sh*t which Leary had pinched from ‘The Book Of The Dead.’”

From Songfacts

John Lennon wrote this, and described it as “my first psychedelic song.”

The book is a reinterpretation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead and a guide to understanding it through psychedelic drugs. Lennon would read it while tripping on LSD, and according to his biographer Albert Goldman, he recorded himself reading from the book, played it back while tripping on LSD, and wrote the song.

The most overt reference to the book is the line:

Turn off your mind
Relax and float downstream
It is not dying

The book states: “Whenever in doubt, turn off your mind, relax, float downstream.”

To accompany the psychedelic imagery in Lennon’s lyric, each Beatle created strange sounds which were mixed in throughout the recording, often backward and in different speeds. Their producer, George Martin, was older and more experienced, but he allowed the group to experiment in the studio as much as they pleased.

The night before they recorded this song, Paul McCartney created 16 tape loops of guitar sounds and odd vocals that he brought in to the studio to create some of the effects. Several people remember standing around the room holding pencils for the tape to loop around and back into the recording machine as the various sound effects and instrumentation were faded in and out.

John Lennon used only one chord in this whole song, which creates a hypnotic feeling. For his vocals, he asked producer George Martin to make him sound like the Dali Lama.

Drugs influenced the creation of this song, but the Beatles recorded sober. “We would have the experiences and then bring that into the music later,” Ringo Starr explained.

George Harrison played a droning Indian instrument called a tambura on this track, which added an ethereal feel to the soundscape.

The musical break that comes in about a minute into this song consists mostly of guitars that were heavily processed. This wild passage makes use of just about every studio trick at their disposal, including passing from one channel to the other. Those listening in mono (often in cars) didn’t get the full experience.

This was the first track recorded for the Revolver album, but the last one on the tracklist.

On May 6, 2012, this song was featured in an episode of the popular American TV series Mad Men. The episode was set in 1966, and part of the plot was the ad agency in the show helping a client capitalize on Beatlemania. This was a big deal, since Beatles songs are very rarely licensed for TV shows – at least in their original versions. Cover versions and performances (think American Idol) show up from time to time, since those just have to be approved by Sony/ATV, which owns the publishing rights. Getting permission to use an actual Beatles recording requires permission from Apple Corp, which is controlled by The Beatles and their heirs.

The Wall Street Journal reported the payment for the song at $250,000, and that Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner had to reveal to Apple exactly how the song would be used, which was a big deal since he is very secretive about scripts. In the episode, the main character Don Draper has trouble adapting to changing musical times. He plays this song to see what all the fuss is about, and after a character-developing montage while the song is playing, he switches it off. The song then comes back to play over the closing credits.

Phil Collins covered this on his debut solo album, Face Value, in 1981, using synthesizers to create many of the unusual sounds. Like The Beatles did on Revolver, Collins used it to close the album. 

Our Lady Peace remade this song for the soundtrack to the movie The Craft. It’s played during the opening credits. 

Oasis pays tribute to this song in “Morning Glory” with the line:

Walking to the sound of my favorite tune
Tomorrow never knows what it doesn’t know too soon

The Beatles were a huge influence on Oasis.

This song is featured on the 2006 Beatles album Love (a soundtrack to the Cirque du Soleil show based on their music) remixed with “Within You Without You.” 

Tomorrow Never Knows

Turn off your mind relax and float down stream
It is not dying, it is not dying

Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void
It is shining, it is shining

Yet you may see the meaning of within
It is being, it is being

Love is all and love is everyone
It is knowing, it is knowing

And ignorance and hate mourn the dead
It is believing, it is believing

But listen to the colour of your dreams
It is not leaving, it is not leaving

So play the game “Existence” to the end
Of the beginning, of the beginning

Beatles – Eleanor Rigby

Rarely if ever do I say a song is a piece of art. This one would qualify in my opinion. I can’t imagine being a peer at the time and having to compete with this.

Paul McCartney wrote most of this song. It is said he got the name “Eleanor” from actress Eleanor Bron, who appeared in the 1965 Beatles film Help!. “Rigby” came to him when he was in Bristol, England and spotted a store: Rigby and Evens Ltd Wine and Spirit Shippers. He liked the name “Eleanor Rigby” because it sounded natural and matched the rhythm he wrote.

There is also a gravestone for an Eleanor Rigby in St. Peter’s Churchyard in Woolton, England. Woolton is a suburb of Liverpool and Lennon first met McCartney at a fete at St. Peter’s Church. The gravestone bearing the name Eleanor Rigby shows that she died in October 1939, aged 44. McCartney has denied that that is the source of the names, though he has agreed that they may have registered subconsciously.

This song was on the great Revolver album that peaked at #1 in the Billboard Album Charts in 1966. Eleanor Rigby peaked at #11 in 1966. This was on a double A-sided single paired with Yellow Submarine.

The Beatles didn’t play any of the instruments on this track. All the music came from the string players, who were hired as session musicians. A string section scored by Beatles producer George Martin consisting of four violins, two violas, and two cellos were used in the recording.

Paul McCartney: “When I was really little I lived on what was called a housing estate, which is like the projects – there were a lot of old ladies and I enjoyed sitting around with these older ladies because they had these great stories, in this case about World War II. One in particular I used to visit and I’d go shopping for her – you know, she couldn’t get out. So I had that figure in my mind of a sort of lonely old lady.

Over the years, I’ve met a couple of others, and maybe their loneliness made me empathize with them. But I thought it was a great character, so I started this song about the lonely old lady who picks up the rice in the church, who never really gets the dreams in her life. Then I added in the priest, the vicar, Father McKenzie. And so, there was just the two characters. It was like writing a short story, and it was basically on these old ladies that I had known as a kid.”

 

From Songfacts

McCartney explained at the time that his songs came mostly from his imagination. Regarding this song, he said, “It just came. When I started doing the melody I developed the lyric. It all came from the first line. I wonder if there are girls called Eleanor Rigby?”

McCartney wasn’t sure what the song was going to be about until he came up with the line, “Picks up the rice in a church where a wedding has been.” That’s when he came up with the story of an old, lonely woman. The lyrics, “Wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door” are a reference to the cold-cream she wears in an effort to look younger.

The song tells the story of two lonely people. First, we meet a churchgoing woman named Eleanor Rigby, who is seen cleaning up rice after a wedding. The second verse introduces the pastor, Father McKenzie, whose sermons “no one will hear.” This could indicate that nobody in coming to his church, or that his sermons aren’t getting through to the congregation on a spiritual level. In the third verse, Eleanor dies in the church and Father McKenzie buries her.

“Father Mackenzie” was originally “Father McCartney.” Paul decided he didn’t want to freak out his dad and picked a name out of the phone book instead.

After Eleanor Rigby is buried, we learn that “no one was saved,” indicating that her soul did not elevate to heaven as promised by the church. This could be seen as a swipe at Christianity and the concept of being saved by Jesus. The song was released in August 1966 just weeks after the furor over John Lennon’s remarks, “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now.”

For the most part, the song eluded controversy, possibly because the lilting string section made it easier to handle.

In Observer Music Monthly, November 2008, McCartney said: “These lonely old ladies were something I knew about growing up, and that was what ‘Eleanor Rigby’ was about – the fact that she died and nobody really noticed. I knew this went on.”

This was originally written as “Miss Daisy Hawkins.” According to Rolling Stone magazine, when McCartney first played the song for his neighbor Donovan Leitch, the words were “Ola Na Tungee, blowing his mind in the dark with a pipe full of clay.” 

The lyrics were brainstormed among The Beatles. In later years, Lennon and McCartney gave different accounts of who contributed more of the words to the song.

Microphones were placed very close to the instruments to create and unusual sound.

Ray Charles reached #35 US and #36 UK with his version in 1968; Aretha Franklin took it to #17 US in 1969. A year later, an instrumental by the group El Chicano went to #115. The song reached the chart again in 2008 when David Cook of American Idol fame took it to #92.

Because of the string section, this was difficult to play live, which The Beatles never did. On his 2002 Back In The US tour, Paul McCartney played this without the strings. Keyboards were used to compensate.

This song was not written in a normal chord, it is in the dorian mode – the scale you get when you play one octave up from the second note of a major scale. This is usually found in old songs such as “Scarborough Fair.” 

Vanilla Fudge covered this in a slowed-down, emotional style, something they did with many songs, including hits by ‘N Sync and The Backstreet Boys. Their version of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” was a #6 US hit in 1968. Fudge drummer Carmine Appice told Songfacts: “Most of the songs we did, we tried to take out of the realm they were in and try to put them where they were supposed to be in our eyes. ‘Eleanor Rigby’ was always a great song by The Beatles. It was done with the orchestra, but the way we did it, we put it into an eerie graveyard setting and made it spooky, the way the lyrics read. Songs like ‘Ticket To Ride,’ that’s a hurtin’ song, so we slowed it down so it wouldn’t be so happy. We would look at lyrics and the lyrics would dictate if it was feasible to do something with it or not.”

In 1966, this song took home the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Pop Vocal Performance, Male. It was awarded to Paul McCartney. 

In August 1966, the long-defunct British music magazine Disc And Music Echo asked Kinks frontman Ray Davies to review the then newly released Revolver album. This is how he reacted to this song: “I bought a Haydn LP the other day and this sounds just like it. It’s all sort of quartet stuff and it sounds like they’re out to please music teachers in primary schools. I can imagine John saying: ‘I’m going to write this for my old schoolmistress’. Still it’s very commercial.”

The chorus of this song was sampled as part of Sinead O’Connor’s 1994 song “Famine,” which is based on the story of the potato famine in Ireland. >>

In 2008 a document came to light that showed that McCartney may have had an alternative source for the Eleanor Rigby name. In the early 1990s a lady named Annie Mawson had a job teaching music to children with learning difficulties. Annie managed to teach a severely autistic boy to play “Yellow Submarine” on the piano, which won him a Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award. She wrote to the former Beatle telling him what joy he’d brought. Months later, Annie received a brown envelope bearing a “Paul McCartney World Tour” stamp. Inside was enclosed a page from an accounts log kept by the Corporation of Liverpool, which records the wages paid in 1911 to a scullery maid working for the Liverpool City Hospital, who signed her name “E. Rigby.” There was no accompanying letter of explanation. Annie said in an interview that when she saw the name Rigby, “I realized why I’d been sent it. I feel that when you’re holding it you’re holding a bit of history.”

When the slip went up for auction later that year, McCartney told the Associated Press: “Eleanor Rigby is a totally fictitious character that I made up. If someone wants to spend money buying a document to prove a fictitious character exists, that’s fine with me.”

This was released simultaneously on August 5, 1966 on both the album Revolver and as a double A-side with “Yellow Submarine.”

The thrash band Realm covered this song on their 1988 album Endless War. It is a speed metal version of the song that got them signed to Roadrunner Records. 

McCartney told Q magazine June 2010 that after recording the song, he felt he could have done better. He recalled: “I remember not liking the vocal on Eleanor Rigby, thinking, I hadn’t nailed. I listen to it now and it’s… very good. It’s a bit annoying when you do Eleanor Rigby and you’re not happy with it.”

Former US President Bill Clinton has stated that this is his favorite Beatles song. >>

Richie Havens covered this on his 1966 debut album, Mixed Bag, and again on his 1987 Sings Beatles and Dylan album.

Eleanor Rigby

Ah look at all the lonely people
Ah look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby, picks up the rice
In the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face
That she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Father McKenzie, writing the words
Of a sermon that no one will hear
No one comes near
Look at him working, darning his socks
In the night when there’s nobody there
What does he care

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Ah look at all the lonely people
Ah look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby, died in the church
And was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt
From his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

 

Beatles – For No One

McCartney wrote this song. John Lennon had said it was a Paul song and it is thought to be mostly if not all his song. The song was not a single but just added another great song to the album.

The song was on the Beatles arguably best album Revolver…and perhaps one of the best albums of all time.

George Martin called in Alan Civil to play the French horn in the solo.

Paul McCartney and George Martin about the French Horn : ‘Well, it goes from here to this top E,’ and I said, ‘What if we ask him to play an F?’ George saw the joke and joined in the conspiracy. We came to the session and Alan looked up from his bit of paper: ‘Eh, George? I think there’s a mistake here – you’ve got a high F written down.’ Then George and I said, ‘Yeah,’ and smiled back at him, and he knew what we were up to and played it. These great players will do it. Even though it’s officially off the end of their instrument, they can do it, and they’re quite into it occasionally. It’s a nice little solo.”

Most people would have never written that part for a French horn player because it was too high to play, but that was the note Paul wanted to hear.

If you want to know more songs with French Horn…go here to Aphoristical’s site.

Paul McCartney: “I was in Switzerland on my first skiing holiday. I’d done a bit of skiing in ‘Help!’ and quite liked it, so I went back and ended up in a little bathroom in a Swiss chalet writing ‘For No One.’ I remember the descending bass-line trick that it’s based on, and I remember the character in the song – the girl putting on her make-up.”

From Songfacts

Paul McCartney wrote this song sitting in a chalet while on holiday with his girlfriend Jane Asher in Klosters, Switzerland, March of 1966. The working title was “Why Did It Die,” and there is speculation that McCartney wrote the song about Asher, who was a successful London actress.

The theory is that Paul wanted her to cater to his schedule, tour with him, and be the “perfect Beatle wife,” but Jane had a life and career of her own, hence the “She doesn’t need you” lyrics. Paul has never said it was about Jane specifically, however he did say, “I guess there had been an argument. I never have easy relationships with women.” He knew what he was getting into when he got involved with Jane, and being that the song was written in 1966 and they didn’t break up until 1968, it’s likely that if the song was about Jane, it wasn’t a serious argument.

This was recorded on May 9, 16 and 19, 1966 by only two Beatles – Paul singing and playing the keyboard and bass, and Ringo on percussion. 

Maureen McGovern recorded this and “Things We Said Today” as a 2-song medley for her 1992 album Baby I’m Yours.

McCartney used this in his 1984 movie Give My Regards to Broad Street.

Revolver was the last Beatles album to have different US and UK versions. In 2002, Rolling Stone readers voted it the greatest album of all time. The album cover was created by artist Klaus Voormann, who became friends with the band when they were playing clubs in Hamburg, Germany in the early ’60s.

For No One

Your day breaks, your mind aches
You find that all the words of kindness linger on
When she no longer needs you

She wakes up, she makes up
She takes her time and doesn’t feel she has to hurry
She no longer needs you

And in her eyes you see nothing
No sign of love behind the tears
Cried for no one
A love that should have lasted years!

You want her, you need her
And yet you don’t believe her when she says her love is dead
You think she needs you

And in her eyes you see nothing
No sign of love behind the tears
Cried for no one
A love that should have lasted years!

You stay home, she goes out
She says that long ago she knew someone but now he’s gone
She doesn’t need him

Your day breaks, your mind aches
There will be times when all the things she said will fill your head
You won’t forget her

And in her eyes you see nothing
No sign of love behind the tears
Cried for no one
A love that should have lasted years!