I have always loved Batman. Always. Once of the greatest thrills I have encountered as a parent has been my son’s love of Batman. It sure seems easier now to be a fan at a young age, what with all the cartoons on the tube or the toys at the fast food joints. For this last Halloween my son went as Batman. Not only did he dress as Batman, but his costume was sewn by my mom, who made my own Batman costume 28 years ago. In the midst of my Bat-fandom of the late 80s was the first Batman film since the 60s, Tim Burton’s simply-titled Batman. Bat-merch was everywhere in 1989. I bought my first pair of Chuck Taylor shoes that summer, with the Batman logo all over the shoes. They were dope and they were stolen out of my car that summer. Apart from the shoes the other notable thing to me was the music from the movie. I vividly remember tuning in to 92.1 The Ape around six in the morning and hearing Prince’s new song from the film, “Batdance.” Loved it. I remember going to Wherehouse Records and buying the cassette single and listening to it until the soundtrack was released. I bought the soundtrack by Prince AND the score by Danny Eflman. I listened to them all the time.

Somehow listening to this music made sense as the one initial thing I remember about Batman was the theme song from the original, Adam West film in the 1960s. You can’t miss it and you can’t forget it. Da-na-na-na-na-na-na-na BATMAN! There is a version of that theme on YouTube where a pug says Batman. My son loves it and this appears to be what YouTube was created for.

Enough interruptions, let’s get back to the Batman theme. When Jack was beginning to get into Batman I played him the song in the first version I could think of, the version by The Who. Released in 1966 on the Ready Steady Who EP, the version by The Who isn’t too different from the TV version. It might be a bit more amped up, a bit more thrashy, a bit more ‘Oo. One could argue that their version becomes the standard as the next time I remember hearing a comparable version comes from The Jam, who covered it on their debut LP In The City in 1977. As the Jam were dedicated Mods their version was really just the Who version in newer clothes.

I see the song as one of those garage rock totems, the type of song that is easy to learn and easy to play and perfect. It is up there with “Road Runner” and “Stepping Stone” as one of the formative, first songs your band would learn to play. And there is nothing wrong with that in my mind, better to have something that is easy to perfect. The world would be boring if everyone could cover Emerson Lake and Palmer songs.

Now what I’m gonna write about here has something to do with Batman but not in the way you think. In 1966 there was a record associated with the original Batman TV series, a record entitled Batman & Robin and credited to The Sensational Guitars of Dan and Dale. The record is total 60s dancey pop, real cheap soul music created to make the kids dance. But there is something different about this LP, something that takes it, well, that takes it to Mars. That difference is one Herman Poole Blount otherwise known as Sun Ra. Sun Ra! Playing Hammond B-3. And what a difference he makes.

While completely Bat-themed with song titles referring to specific characters in the series or events that would set the show’s mood they have nothing to do with Batman. There is not one bit of music that you would remember from the old TV show. Nothing on the record relates to the series except for the theme song. The versions I mentioned before by The Who and The Jam rocked. This version swings. Hard. The first sound you hear is a drone on the organ, then the drums and then the horns. And the swing just gets you, hits you right where you dance. A gaggle of soulful sisters sing the lyrics and that organ shines, punching through the songs and adding so much. Coupled with the punchy horn section and you have the classic. This is the song to watch go-go dancers dance to, a song for groovy cats and kittens to swing and shimmy to. I can’t get enough of it.

The Batman theme is much like the Spider-Man theme, a brief moment of song that will continue to become a relic due to the superceding versions of product that are released in the name of the character. There is no soundtrack to Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. The music in The Dark Knight is atonal and high pitched, nothing with a traditional melody. I doubt it will be any different during the third installment of the film. If anything, Batman is now a character that allows for no levity. The films, the video games (best comic video game I’ve ever played is Batman: Arkham Asylum), everything related to Batman has an undertone of decay. I love it, don’t get me wrong, but one does find oneself missing the camp every now and again.

When I listen to this record, I really miss the lightness that was originally bundled within the Batman franchise. Before Michael Keaton, Joel Schumacher, before Bat-nipples, before Christian Bale, and before Val Kilmer there was a show that embraced the happy go luckiness of the times and produced something that fit within that present day. Can our times really have gotten so much darker? And if the mood changed would the music?

Who knows? I’m happy to have had Batman in my life for all these years, I get a kick out of my son being into the character and I eagerly await the next installment in the Arkham video game series. Whenever I get into a Bat-mood I will whip on this CD and just let the joy take over and feel like a kid again.

4 Responses to “Bat-tunes”
  1. Gavin Craig says:

    I love Prince’s music from the 1989 Batman film. And it’s used so perfectly in the movie. I love the Joker dancing to “Trust” during the parade scene.

  2. lincoln56 says:

    Also, I dont if I have it anymore, but I did write that thrash-ukulele homage to our caped crusader

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