Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Batman Theme & Show # 414

One of the most recognized theme songs in television history is the theme song to the original 1960s Batman television series. The song was composed by Neal Hefti, a composer who had a background in Jazz and Big Band music, he also worked on arrangements, and was immensely influential, in addition to the “Batman Theme”, Hefti is also known for writing the theme song and music for The Odd Couple among others and even worked with Frank Sinatra gaining a composer/conductor credit on his 1961 album Sinatra and Swingin’ Brass. Now back to the “Batman Theme”, the song is a very simple, quirky, catchy song that like many Spy themed songs from that time period had catchy Surf-like guitar hooks. Based on a twelve bar blues progression, it features three chords predominately and has elements of Surf music that is embedded within the song, there are also stabs of brass, paying tribute to Hefti’s Big Band past. The song was built around a bass guitar riff, drums and horn sections to provide the driving rhythms and the quick paced actions scenes that would grace the TV series.

The theme was made to be, like the series campy and fun as opposed to the modern day Batman associations that started in 1989 with the original Batman series and the most recent Dark Knight Trilogy by Christopher Nolan. But while this simple, yet undeniably catchy song is so assessable, it took months for Hefti to write. In 2004, Neal shed some light on the process to complete this song in an interview with Forrest Patten and as stated on http://nealhefti.info:

That one came very hard to me. It took me a couple of months to write. I had seen some footage and I knew how outrageous it had to be. So I needed to write a piece of music that was equally so. Well, when I first took the theme in to demonstrate it for Lionel Newman and the series producer at Twentieth Century Fox, I had to sing it and play it on the piano. Well, I’m no singer, and I’m no pianist. But I had Lionel and the producer, Bill Dozier, listening to me. My first thought was that they were going to throw me out, very quickly, but as I was going through it, I heard them both reacting with statements like, “Oh, that’s kicky. That will be good in the car chase.” My father, (a salesman) once told me, “If they say okay, get out of there before they change their mind.” When I saw Bill smiling, then I knew we had it.

Regardless of how long it took to complete, the “Batman Theme” was a huge success, even winning a Grammy, it was also released as a single in 1966, with a B-side “Batman Chase”, ultimately the song adhered to a Garage and Surf Rock approach, and while it only ever contained one lyric “Batman!”, the song remains popular to this day. The song in some cases is just as recognisable as the original TV series starring Adam West and Burt Ward.  It was quickly covered by the instrumental Surf group The Marketts and The Ventures, and became a favourite in Surf music circles. It has also been covered by The Who, The Kinks, Link Wray, The Jam, The Flaming Lips and countless others. And While Batman may have evolved into something else differently in today’s day and age, the original “Batman Theme” is still recognized in popular culture and extremely catchy, the sign of good song writing. Once you hear it, you’ll never forget it.

Play List:

1. Hot Panda – Maybe Now?
2. Brazilian Money - Can't Live In A Vaccuum
3. The Blue Squares – Hit Your Sales
4. The Mourning After - Do Your Thaang
5. Elk – Before The Son
6. The Flaming Lips – Children of the Moon
7. The Kinks – Muswell Hillbilly
8. Woody Guthrie – I Ain’t Got No Home (In This World No more)
9. The Pixies – Caribou
10. Pure - Lilac
11. Intelligence – Hippy Provider
12. Laughing Clowns – This Year Is More Important
13. Public Image Limited – Deeper Water
14. A Place To Bury Strangers – And I’m Up
15. The Government – Acute Angle
16. Demics – Talk’s Cheap
17. V Necks – Sand Overdose
18. Thee Oh Sees – Opposition
19. King Khan & BBQ Show – Truth Or Dare
20. Light Bulb Alley – Backslider
21. The Flaming Lips – Batman Theme
22. The Who – Batman Theme
23. Link Wray – Batman Theme

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for July 24. Or subscribe to Revolution Rock as a Podcast.


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