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Batman Theme

"Batman Theme song"
Single by Neal Hefti
from the album Batman Theme and 11 Other Bat Songs
B-side "Batman Chase"
Released 1966
Format 7", 45rpm
Genre Surf rock
Length 2:16
Label RCA Victor
Writer(s) Neal Hefti
Neal Hefti singles chronology

"Batman Theme"
(1966)
"Gotham City Municipal Swing Band"
(1966)

"Batman Theme", the title song of the 1966 Batman TV series, was composed by Neal Hefti. This song is built around a guitar hook reminiscent of spy film scores and surf music. It has a twelve bar blues progression, using only three chords until the coda.

The eleven cries of "Batman!" are sung by a chorus of four tenors and four sopranos (performed by The Ron Hicklin Singers). A long held myth purports that the chorus is actually a group of horns. Adam West's book Back to the Batcave also fuels this rumor by claiming the chorus is instrumental, not vocal. However, Neal Hefti, the writer of the theme, stated that the chorus was made up of eight singers, one of whom jokingly wrote on his part, "word and music by Neal Hefti".[1] TV's Biggest Hits by Jon Burlingame, published in 1996, focuses exclusively on TV theme songs, and includes an interview with Hefti about the creation of the Batman theme song. According to Burlingame, the song consisted of "bass guitar, low brass and percussion to create a driving rhythm, while an eight-voice chorus sings 'Batman!' in harmony with the trumpets."[2]

In addition to Neal Hefti's original version, and the television soundtrack version by Nelson Riddle,[3] versions were covered by The Marketts (single "Batman Theme" and album The Batman Theme by The Marketts), The Ventures (The Ventures Play the "Batman" Theme, Dolton BST8042, 3/1966), Al Hirt, The Standells and actor/musician David McCallum.

The song has been widely parodied in the decades since its debut. The theme has been re-recorded by dozens of artists, including Link Wray,[4] Voivod,[5] The Jam,[6] and The Who.[7]

Adaptations

  • Liverpool poet Adrian Henri[8] and his band Liverpool Scene did a skit of the theme in the late 60s using Henri's poem Batpoem.
  • In 1966, an album called Batman and Robin: The Sensational Guitars of Dan and Dale was released featuring members of the Sun Ra Arkestra and The Blues Project.[9] The opening track is a cover of the "Batman Theme", while the rest of the album is taken up with a combination of instrumental jams and modernised workings of classical pieces, all given Batman-oriented names.
  • Artists Prince and R.E.M. used variations of (but did not remake) the TV show theme in their work: Prince in the song "Batdance" (which appeared on the soundtrack to Tim Burton's 1989 movie), and R.E.M. in a rejected song for the Batman Returns soundtrack, later released under the title "Winged Mammal Theme", as a B-side to the single "Drive".[10] In a televised interview with talk show host Oprah Winfrey, Prince played the theme on a piano in response to the question, "You taught yourself to play at seven years old? Do you remember your first song?"[11]
  • The Well Paid Scientists (Henry Cullen & Dave Lalouche) produced an acid techno remix entitled To The Batrave......Let's Go in 1998.
  • Stan Freberg recorded a comedy skit in 1966 entitled "Flakman and Reagan", about Ronald Reagan's campaign for the Governorship of California, with his straight adviser, a press agent named "Flakman". Freberg could not obtain the rights to use Hefti's music, and so a variation of the "Batman Theme" had to be used, without direct plagiarism.[12]
  • A segment on Sesame Street in 1969 featured kindergarten children drawing sketches, that started with the letter B, had a bat drawn, in which one of the kindergarten boys was singing the "Batman Theme" as well as saying the man with a bat cape was called "Batman".
  • P.D.Q. Bach (Peter Schickele) quoted the "Batman Theme" in the last movement ("Agnus Dei") of his Missa Hilarious, while a car horn blasted out twice "Here Comes the Bride".[13]
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy," an instrumental version of the Batman Theme is sometimes heard in the background, particularly so while SpongeBob and Patrick are watching The New Adventures... of their favorite duo on television at the end of episode 6a. Also parodied is the iconic use of onomatopoeic words to punctuate actions.

References

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