Song of the Day: Biography in Music (Day Six). ” … Until You Admit, You’re A Fuck Up Like the Rest of Us”.

Sometimes even the greatest, most talented artists fall by the wayside and are lost in the abyss of obscurity forever more.  And sometimes these artists are thankfully brought back into public consciousness by a song written about them.  One such artist is Bob Lind.  For Pulp’s 2001 album, We Love Life, Jarvis Cocker penned Bob Lind (The Only Way is Down).

The song, as with the rest of album was produced by Scott Walker, in his only production work carried out for a band or artist outside of his own work.  Walker, just like Lind, had also been subjected to years of obscurity following the commercial failure of his now critically acclaimed album Scott 4 (1969).  Walker spoke of his wilderness years in the 2006 documentary, Scott Walker:  30 Century Man:

“The record company called me in [following the commercial failure of Scott 4] and carpeted me and said you’ve got to make a commercial record for us … I was acting in bad faith for many years during that time … I was trying to hang on.  I should have just stopped.  I should have said, ‘OK, forget it’ and walked away.  But I thought if I keep hanging on and making these bloody awful records … this is going to turn round if I just hang in long enough, and it didn’t.  It went from bad to worse …”

Cocker even included a reference to a Walker record in the song Bad Cover Version from the album, slating the second side of 1970’s ‘Til the Band Comes In, which is often and rightfully described as being inferior to the first side:  “The second side of ‘Til the Band Comes In”.

Cocker has since stated that Bad Cover Version was written way before Walker became involved in the project.

So, there is a certain amount of irony about Walker producing a song about another artist who faced years of obscurity.  Bob Lind, born November 25th, 1942 in Baltimore, Maryland, United States is an American folk music singer-songwriter who helped to define the 1960’s folk rock movement in America and England.  Lind is best known for his transatlantic hit, Elusive Butterfly (Don’t Be Concerned, 1966), which reached number 5 in both the UK and US in 1966.  Despite the fact that many musicians have covered Lind’s songs and he still continues to write, record and perform, he still remains relatively unknown.

The Bob Lind story starts in 1965 when he signed a contract with Liberty Records’ subsidiary, World Pacific Records.  It was on this label that he recorded Elusive Butterfly.  The single might have done better on the UK Singles Chart had there not been competition from established Irish recording artist, Val Doonican, who released a cover version of the song at the same time.  In the end, both versions of Elusive Butterfly made number 5 in the UK in 1966.

The B-side of Elusive Butterfly featured Cheryl’s Goin’ Home, a song which was covered by Adam Faith, the Blues Project, Sonny & Cher, John Otway, the Cascades and others.  Other Lind songs were eventually covered by more than 200 artists including Cher, Glen Campbell, Aretha Franklin, Dolly Parton, Eric Clapton, Nancy Sinatra, The Four Tops, Richie Havens, Hoyt Axton, The Kingston Trio, Johnny Mathis and Petula Clark.

Despite recognition for his song writing ability and the success of Elusive Butterfly, Lind’s star was to shine very briefly.  Plagued by drug and alcohol problems, Lind gained a reputation in the music industry for being difficult to work with.  In 1969, he severed all ties with his record company.  Three years after leaving World Pacific, Capitol Records released the album Since there Were Circles, an album well-received by critics but not commercially successful.  Lind then dropped out of the record industry altogether for a number of years.  Other recognition came from writer friend Charles Bukowski, who based the character Dinky Summers in his 1978 novel, Women and Other Writings on Lind.

In 1988, Lind moved to Florida where he write five novels, an award winning play and a screenplay, Refuge, which won the Florida Screenwriters’ Competition in 1991.  He also became a staff writer for supermarket tabloids Weekly World News and Sun.  He returned to music in 2004, three years after Pulp’s Bob Lind (The Only Way is Down), when, at the request of his friend, Arlo Guthrie, son of Woody Guthrie, he performed live at the Guthrie Center in Becket, Massachusetts.  Lind began touring again and has toured ever since.

In 2006, Lind established his official website.  In the same year, RPM Records re-issued the album Since There Were Circles and Lind self-released the Live at Luna Star album featuring performances of new material.  In 2007, Elusive Butterfly: The Complete 1966 Nitzsche Sessions was released in the UK by Ace Records whilst in 2009, filmmaker Paul Surratt made the concert / documentary film about Lind entitled Bob Lind:  Perspective.  Most recently, 2012 saw the release of Lind’s first album of new material in 41 years, Finding You Again, produced by guitarist of the band The Spongetones, Jamie Hoover.  The album was once again released in Ace Records.  Additionally, as well as naming the song Bob Lind (The Only Way is Down) after Lind, Cocker and bandmate Steve Mackey included the Lind recording Cool Summer (The Elusive Bob Lind, 1966) on their 2006 compilation album The Trip:  Curated by Jarvis Cocker and Steve Mackey.

In 2013, Lind was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, along with Judy Collins, the Serendipity Singers and Chris Daniels.

In a 2001 interview with NME to accompany the release of We Love Life, Cocker said of Bob Lind (The Only Way is Down):

“There was this bloke in the late ‘60s called Bob Lind.  One of his most famous songs is Elusive Butterfly, which was one of my favourites when I was younger.  Something about the sound of this song made me think of him.  It’s about someone who is a fuck-up.  And sometimes there’s something good about admitting that.  Most people who are famous and wealthy tend to be more fucked up than everybody else.  Bob Lind, he writes quite, kind of, sweet songs but then they’ve often got quite negative words.  For instance, there’s a song of his called Remember the Rain [Photographs of Feeling, 1966] …

… which is basically saying:  “Remember the rain, when you walk in the sunshine”, it’s saying, “Oh right, you might be having a good time now, but listen, you will be having a shit time soon” – which is a pretty negative thing to write about and yet it’s quite a nice, jangly little tune.  So that song reminded me of him a bit.  So Bob Lind was just a working title, but then as sometimes happens, I couldn’t think of a better one.  So I just left it.  And he did get in touch the other day and said, “I’m gonna sue”.  No, he didn’t – he got in touch, and he seemed to be quite flattered that somebody had remembered him”.

Song of the Day: Music Inspired by Television Shows (Day Seven). “‘Cause I’m the Taxman, Yeah, I’m the Taxman”.

Taxman by The Beatles, from their 1966 album Revolver, is undeniably one of the greatest album openers in music history.  A quick, sharp song informed by a pounding bassline which has inspired generations of future musicians, a unique and beautifully executed lead guitar line and topical lyrics which slated Harold Wilson’s government and in particular, their taxation policies, have made Taxman one of The Beatles’ many finest moments.

Written by George Harrison, and becoming one of his best known works for The Beatles, it is the only Harrison-penned track to take premier position on a Beatles album, testament to how strong the main songwriters, John Lennon and Paul McCartney knew it was.  In fact, this was a time when Harrison’s song writing for the band was at its zenith, acknowledged by three of his songs, the most on any Beatles album apart from The Beatles (1968), being featured on Revolver:  Taxman, the Indian-tinged Love You To and the beautiful I Want to Tell You.  Taxman was actually one of the first songs that Harrison had written but became the sixth song to be featured on a Beatles record.

Musically, Taxman was inspired by the theme tune to the 1960’s TV series Batman (1966 – 1968), of which Harrison was a big fan.  Take for instance, the way in which the word “Taxman” is sung in a similar manner to “Batman” in the TV theme.

The Batman theme was originally written by conductor and trumpeter Neal Hefti and covered by surf rock group The Marketts, who released the song as a single in January 1966, reaching number 17 in the US singles chart.  It could be said that Harrison humorously draws comparisons between the ‘civil servant superhero’ in the song and Batman himself.

Over the years, there has been some confusion as to which of The Beatles’ played the lead guitar part on the song.  According to various interviews, McCartney played the distinctive lead guitar part.  In addition McCartney also played the song’s much imitated bassline, which itself is said to imitate the work of bassist James Jamerson, famous for his work on many 1960s soul records, including Wilson Pickett’s In the Midnight Hour (from the album In the Midnight Hour, 1965).

In a 1984 interview with Playboy, McCartney stated, “George wrote that and I played guitar on it”.  In a 1977 interview with Crawdaddy, Harrison said:  “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 [Rubber Soul, 1965]”.

Seth Swirsky, who worked as a staff songwriter before producing the Beatles documentary, Beatles Stories, said in a 2010 interview with Songfacts:  “I think Paul McCartney was one of the greatest guitar players of the ‘60s.  Nobody really recognised 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”.

In his book, Here, There and Everywhere:  My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles (2006), Geoff Emerick said of the recording session for Taxman:  “There was a bit of tension on that session, though, because George had a great deal of trouble playing the solo – in fact, he couldn’t do a proper job of it when we slowed the tape down to half speed.  After a couple of hours of watching him struggle, both Paul and George Martin started becoming frustrated.  This was a Harrison song and therefore not something anyone was prepared to spend a whole lot of time on.  So George Martin went into the studio and, as diplomatically as possible, announced that he wanted Paul to have a go at the solo instead.  I could see from the look on Harrison’s face that he didn’t like the idea one bit, but he reluctantly agreed and then proceeded to disappear for a couple of hours.  He sometimes did that – had a bit of a sulk on his own, then eventually came back”.  Emerick then dubbed McCartney’s eventual guitar solo onto another piece of tape and cut it into the end of the song; therefore, the guitar solo in the middle of the song is exactly the same guitar solo which features in the song’s fade out.  In a 1987 interview with Guitar magazine, Harrison said, “I was pleased to have Paul play that bit on Taxman.  If you notice, he does a little Indian bit on it for me”.

Additionally, Lennon remembers Harrison asking for assistance in the song’s lyrics.  In a 1980 interview with Playboy, he said:  “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 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”.

Lyrically, Taxman attacks the high levels of progressive tax taken by the British Labour government of Harold Wilson.  Of the song’s lyrics, Harrison said, in his 1980 autobiography, I, Me, Mine:  “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 topical”.  As their earnings placed then in the top tax bracket in the United Kingdom, the Beatles were liable to 95% supertax, something that had been introduced by Wilson’s labour government.  The 95% supertax is mentioned in the song’s lyrics, for example, “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”.  “One for you, nineteen for me” refers to the fact that for every twenty pounds the band and other ‘super-rich’ people earned, nineteen was taken by the taxman.  This high rate of taxation, which added a full 15% on top of the tax for less wealthy people, eventually led to The Beatles starting Apple Corp.  By channelling their income through Apple, they could pay the much lower rate of corporation tax.  The supertax was also the subject of The Kinks’ Sunny Afternoon, from the album Face to Face, released in the same year as Revolver.

The second verse continues the slating of the supertax and referring to the five per cent left over after the taxman had had his cut, “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”.  The line “Be thankful I don’t take it all” could be seen to echo the famous remark made by former Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan, in 1957, that “most of our people have never had it so good”.  Whilst the British economy of the time was strong, many people had considered this statement to be dismissive and condescending.

The final two verses of the song move into the territory of exaggeration; such was Harrison’s frustration with the supertax.  Firstly, there is the verse, “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”.

Following this, the songwriter questions where the where the money the band paid was going, with the taxman feeling that he does not have to give an explanation:  “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”.

The lyrics in the final verse of the song, “Now my advice for those who die, Declare the pennies on your eyes …” refers to the way in which, in Greek history, pennies would be put over the eyes of a dead person as payment to the ferryman carrying the body to the underworld.  In this verse, Harrison is suggesting that the taxman is so ruthless that he would even go as far as taxing those pennies; which in effect, would cause your body to drift into some sort of purgatory.

The backing vocals in the fourth verse of Taxman, “Haha, Mr Wilson” and “Haha, Mr Heath” were suggested by Lennon upon Harrison asking him for help writing the song, with “Mr Wilson” referring to Harold Wilson, prime Minister and leader of the Labour party and “Mr Heath” referring to Edward Heath, the leader of the Conservative Party.  Wilson had nominated all four Beatles as Members of the Order of the British Empire a year before the release of Revolver.  As heard on Take 11 of Taxman, featured on Anthology 2, released in 1996, the spaces in the song which came to feature the chanted names were originally filled by the lyrics, “Anybody got a bit of money?”

As with a vast majority of Beatles songs, Taxman has had a lasting legacy on British music, with bands often just stealing parts of song’s innovative composition for their own.   For example, on their 1980 album, Sound Affects, The Jam included Start!, which pays homage to McCartney’s bassline and guitar part.  Start! reached number one in UK singles chart in August 1980.

The Jam also used the bassline from Taxman on their previous single, Dreams of Children, a double A-side with Going Underground (1980), which also reached number one in the UK singles chart.  This time, the bassline was played as the lead guitar riff.

Interestingly, the Batman theme which had partly inspired Taxman, was covered by The Jam on their debut album, In the City, in 1977.

Meanwhile, Harrison would later allude to Taxman on his 1988 single, When We Was Fab, from the album Cloud Nine (1987), in the line “Back when income tax was all we had”.

Sympathy For The Devil: Ten Songs About The Devil. The Church of Satan is Established at The Black House in San Francisco. This Day in History, 30/04/1966.

1.  The Rolling Stones ‘Sympathy For The Devil’

(from the album Beggars Banquet, 1968).

2.  Tom Waits ‘The Black Rider’

(from the album The Black Rider, 1993).

3.  British Sea Power ‘No Lucifer’

(from the album Do You Like Rock Music?, 2008).

4.  Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds ‘Red Right Hand’

(from the album Let Love In, 1994).

5.  Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps ‘Race with the Devil’

(single A-side, 1956).

6.  Iron Maiden ‘The Number of the Beast’

(from the album The Number of the Beast, 1982).

7.  Wilco ‘Hell is Chrome’

(from the album A Ghost is Born, 2004).

8.  The Charlie Daniels Band ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’

(from the album Million Mile Reflections, 1979).

9.  Elvis Presley ‘(You’re the) Devil in Disguise’

(single A-side, 1963).

10. Queen ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

(from the album A Night at the Opera, 1975).