The Paul McCartney Project

Taxman

Written by George Harrison

Album This song officially appears on the Revolver (UK Mono) Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1966
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

Taxman” is a song written by George Harrison and released as the opening track on the Beatles’ 1966 album Revolver. Its lyrics attack the high levels of progressive tax taken by the British Labour government of Harold Wilson.

Composition and recording

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.” As their earnings placed them in the top tax bracket in the United Kingdom, the Beatles were liable to a 95% supertax introduced by Harold Wilson’s Labour government (hence the lyrics “There’s one for you, nineteen for me“). In a 1984 interview with Playboy magazine, Paul McCartney explained: “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.

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, 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.” “Taxman,” however, was the sixth song written by Harrison to be included on an album issued by the group.

The backing vocals’ references to “Mr Wilson” and “Mr Heath,” suggested by Lennon, refer to Harold Wilson and Edward Heath, respectively; the former was the leader of the Labour Party and the latter was the leader of the Conservative Party, the two largest parties in British politics. Wilson, then Prime Minister, had nominated all four of The Beatles as Members of the Order of the British Empire just the previous year. The chanted names replaced two refrains of “Anybody got a bit of money?” heard in take 11, an earlier version released on Anthology 2 in 1996.

Recording began on 20 April, but this was left unused and ten new takes occurred on 21 April, the four tracks being filled that day with drums and bass, Harrison’s distorted rhythm guitar, overdubs of his vocal and Lennon and McCartney’s backing vocals. The ending was created on 21 June.

As the lead track on Revolver, “Taxman” represents the only time a UK issued Beatles studio album opened with a George Harrison song or lead vocal.

Musical characteristics

The song is in the key of D Major and in 4/4 time. The recording begins before the actual song with coughing and counting (pointedly cut short — the real count being heard in the background) that McCartney described as sounds that were on the tape, and that Lennon “thought [the listeners] would like to hear.” The counting, sounding like a half speed ‘tape-effect’ version of the brisk ‘live-effect’ “one-two-three-four” that opened their first LP record, has been described as an “elaborate conceptual joke” with hints of “self-mockery.

The chords stress the flat VII scale degree (C-natural in the key of D major) and frequently involve a major/minor I chord (D/Dm) in the harmony, which consequently evokes either Mixolydian or Dorian modes. There is one flat-III (F chord) near the end, but unusually no V (A) chord. The song is also notable musically for its use of both a 5th string voicing of the Dominant seventh sharp ninth chord to embellish the tonic D7 chord at the end of each two-line verse (at 0.12 and 0.19secs), and a 6th-string form to create a complementary “jarring dissonance” with the lyrics in the subdominant (IV) G chord (to a G7#9) at 1.29 (after the solo) on “Cause I’m the taxman, yeah — I’m the taxman“. This also accentuates the comic comparison between this “civil servant superhero” and the hero of the popular 1966 television series Batman. McCartney’s bass line has been considered to imitate Motown bassist James Jamerson in its active lines and glissandi (at 0.55-1.08) In the third verse McCartney doubles his own pentatonic bass line while outlining the jarring Iflat7 chord in octaves (at 1.32-1.44).

McCartney’s guitar solo utilises what musicologist Alan W. Pollack describes as “fast triplets, exotic modal touches, and a melodic shape which traverses several octaves and ends with a breathtaking upward flourish“. Walter Everett considers that McCartney’s solo is in the same Dorian mode adapted by Harrison in Love You To. In 1987, Harrison stated: “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.” Ian MacDonald praised McCartney’s contributions to the song saying his guitar solo was “outstanding” and his bass part was “remarkable“.

Legacy

In the show Love, the guitar solo was sampled in the piece “Drive My Car“/”The Word“/”What You’re Doing“.

Taxman” was included in Harrison’s concert repertoire during his solo career; 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.” […]

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [a] mono 21 Jun 1966.
    UK: Parlophone PMC 7009 Revolver 1966.
    US: Capitol T 2576 Revolver 1966.
  • [b] stereo 21 Jun 1966.
    UK: Parlophone PCS 7009 Revolver 1966.
    US: Capitol ST 2576 Revolver 1966.
    CD: EMI CDP 7 46441 2 Revolver 1987.
  • [c] stereo 1995.
    CD: Apple CDP 8 34448 2 Anthology 2 1996.

Two sections were added later: the slow countdown intro, and the repeat of the same guitar solo at the ending. While Lewisohn calls them edits, they seem to be overdubs from a second tape deck instead, since both overlap original sound– a faster, quieter countdown, and the last word of the lyric. This is similar to the backward vocal overdubs on Rain.

The mono mix [a] is more powerful, with all the instrumental tracks louder. The cowbell, which is not loud in either mix, starts after “5 per cent appear too small” in mono [a] and later, at “I’m the taxman” in the second refrain, in stereo [b]. The guitar is a little louder in the countdown intro in [a].

The Anthology 2 mix [c] is deliberately different. It has the intro edited on (done June 21 on the original mixes), but otherwise shows the state as of April 21, without the cowbell and with a different backing vocal at the “Mr Wilson” and “Mr Heath” lines, with some guitar in the first verse mixed out elsewhere, and with the real ending. The real countdown intro is more easily heard since it and the main instrumental tracks are mixed to the left.

Last updated on March 28, 2016

Lyrics

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

Officially appears on


Revolver (UK Mono)

Official album • Released in 1966

2:39 • Studio versionA • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass, Lead guitar
Ringo Starr:
Cowbell, Drums, Tambourine
John Lennon:
Backing vocals
George Harrison:
Lead guitar, Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Apr 20, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Apr 21, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Apr 22, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 21, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


Revolver (US Mono)

Official album • Released in 1966

2:42 • Studio versionA • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass, Lead guitar
Ringo Starr:
Cowbell, Drums, Tambourine
John Lennon:
Backing vocals
George Harrison:
Lead guitar, Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Apr 20, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Apr 21, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Apr 22, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Jun 21, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


Revolver (US Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1966

2:40 • Studio versionB • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass, Lead guitar
Ringo Starr:
Cowbell, Drums, Tambourine
John Lennon:
Backing vocals
George Harrison:
Lead guitar, Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Apr 20, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Apr 21, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Apr 22, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Jun 21, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


Revolver (UK Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1966

2:39 • Studio versionB • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass, Lead guitar
Ringo Starr:
Cowbell, Drums, Tambourine
John Lennon:
Backing vocals
George Harrison:
Lead guitar, Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Apr 20, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Apr 21, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Apr 22, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Jun 21, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


Anthology 2

Official album • Released in 1996

2:32 • OuttakeD • Take 11. Issued here for the first time is that Take 11, not dissimilar to the master but with some notable differences, principally in the clean, full ending (instead of the repeated guitar solo) and the "anybody got a bit of money?" backing vocals (instead of the "Mister Wilson, Mister Heath" reference).

George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Apr 21, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Bootlegs


Complete Acetate Collection 1961-1970

Unofficial album

2:43 • Studio version


Revolver Sessions

Unofficial album

2:34 • Alternate take • Take 11 stereo


Revolver Sessions

Unofficial album

2:27 • Alternate take • RM From Take 12 mono


Revolver Sessions

Unofficial album

2:39 • Alternate take • RS From Take 12 stereo


Revolver Sessions

Unofficial album

0:22 • Alternate take • RS From Take 11 stereo


Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.


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