Sunday, November 16, 2014

Pop Focus: Batman records of the Sixties!

The Batman TV show - out this week on DVD and Blu-ray after many years of delay - launched full-fledged Batmania back in the 1960s, resulting in thousands of cash-in products, from toys to clothing, to branded food items and records.

When you consider the continued popularity of the series' theme song, plus the memorably dynamic background music featured on the show, it's easy to see why vinyl was a natural way to exploit the program's popularity.

Literally hundreds of Batman-associated records were released during the mid 1960s, most featuring version of the theme song, along with other Batman and comic book-inspired tunes.

The trick for Batman fans and record collectors is to determine which of these myriad releases is worthwhile.

And more casual fans, who just want a copy of the real "Batman Theme" for their collections may not know where to start.

Here, then, is a look at key Bat Records of the 60s.

Finding the real "Batman Theme"


The "Batman Theme" was penned by Neal Hefti,a jazz trumpeter and arranger who wrote charts for the Woody Herman and Count Basie bands.

Hefti released a version of "The Batman Theme" as a single after the show became a big hit, but this version isn't the same one featured on the TV show.

That version was arranged and recorded by Nelson Riddle, famous for his work with Frank Sinatra and others. Riddle produced a version of Hefti's theme for use as the program's theme, and composed and arranged all the background music for the show.

His version of the tune, and other music from the show is available on the LP below, which also includes funny sound bytes from show between the songs. If you only need one Batman album, this is the one to get.

Batman (Exclusive Television Soundtrack) by Nelson Riddle

 

1966 Batman movie soundtrack


Also very highly recommended is Riddle's score for the 1966 "Batman" movie, starring most of the TV show's cast, but on the big screen. The music is a lot of fun even without the visuals and you gain an appreciation for Riddle's imaginative compositions and arrangements. The remastered version below features the TV show song as a bonus cut.

Batman: The Movie Original Motion Picture Score by Nelson Riddle
La-La Land Records limited edition CD


The Neal Hefti albums


Now, we get to Hefti. His version of the Batman theme, which doesn't sound much different from Riddle's has appeared on numerous LPs, which are padded out by Hefti instrumentals that are groovy to hear, but were never featured on the TV show.

Neal Hefti recorded two Batman-themed albums featuring his theme tune and other instrumental tracks, not from the show. They have been reissued, and sometimes combined on CD.

This CD, which combines tracks from both LPs. Here are pics and track listings for the original albums:


Recordings by the Bat Cast


With Bat-exploitation underway, several of the show's cast members also got into the record game, including Adam West, who gamely cut "Miranda," a Caribbean/calypso-type tune that hints at the singer's secret identity.
"Miranda" by Adam West
1966, 20th Century Fox Records, single

Weirder, yet, and maybe weirdest of all - Burt "Robin" Ward cut a song written and produced by Frank Zappa that poked fun at the Boy Wonder's teenage fans.

"Boy Wonder, I Love You," by Burt Ward
MGM, 1966, single

Never widely released, the song doesn't appear on any compilation albums that I could find. However, you can listen to it here.

Bat villains Frank Gorshin and Burgess Meredith also cut singles themed after their respective characters:

"The Riddler" by Frank Gorshin
A&M Records, 1966, single

"The Capture" and "The Escape" by Burgess Meredith
ABC Records, 1966, single

Bat Records for kids


Children, obviously, were the key market for many Bat records, including these:

It's the Batman

There Goes Robin

The Battiest Car Around

The Penguin

The Joker Gets Trumped
All Batman Records (Synthetic Plastics Company), 1966
These are 7-inch singles in figurative sleeves (the main selling point) marketed to children.

The Official Adventures of Batman and Robin
Leo the Lion Records, 1966, audio dramas


More Official Adventures of Batman and Robin
Leo the Lion Records, 1966, audio dramas


Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder
Golden Records, 1966, audio dramas


Bat Records by surf and guitar bands


With its catchy 12-bar riff and basic beat, the Batman theme naturally leant itself to surf'n'garage music takes, so it's no wonder several acts from these genres cut Batman-related records.

Surf duo Jan and Dean went above and beyond, making a record that included the TV show song, but also several other comic booky tunes and lots of goofy narration. The result is one of the weirdest albums of the 1960s:

Jan and Dean Meet Batman
Liberty Records, 1966

The Sensational Guitars of Dan and Dale was a one-off collaboration between Blues Project and avant garde jazz pianist Sun Ra, playing organ, though nobody knew that at the time. Now the album, which features a rocking version of the "Batman Theme" and other Batman-title instrumental tracks not from the show, is regarded as a cult classic by record collectors. And it sounds great - sort of a tougher version of Booker T. and the MGs.

Batman and Robin by the Sensational Guitars of Dan and Dale
Tifton, 1966

The Marketts were among the better and more imaginative surf groups, turning out records that augmented twangy, heavily reverbed guitars with strings and horns. As mentioned above, their version of the Batman theme charted and they rounded it out on LP with lots of other Batman-titled tunes, none from the TV show.


The Batman Theme Played by the Marketts 
Warner Bros. Records, 1966


More miscellaneous Bat Records of note

Rough-voiced R&B singer LaVern Baker had a big hit in the early days of rock'n'roll with "Jim Dandy (To the Rescue)" To cash in on the Bat craze, the basic tune was reworked to replace Jim's name with that of the Caped Crusader. The result is both catchy and fun.

Batman to the Rescue by Lavern Baker
Brunswick, 1966, single

The "Batman Theme" was also recorded by a couple of the 1960s biggest bands, The Kinks and The Who, among seemingly hundreds of others. We'll round out the post with those and few other notable renditions.

The Kinks Live at Kelvin Hall
Pye Records, 1967
Features the band playing "The Batman Theme."

Music: A Bit More of Me by David McCallum
Capitol Records, 1967
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. star conducts orchestral versions of pop tunes, including "The Batman Theme."
Available on CD

Ready, Steady, Who by the Who
Polydor, 1967
Seven-inch EP features the Who performing "The Batman Theme" in their inimitable style.
Available on this CD

The Horn Meets "The Hornet" by Al "He's the King" Hirt
RCA Victor 1966
The New Orleans trumpet man played the theme tune for "Batman" spinoff "The Green Hornet." Naturally, when it came time to cut an LP of the tune, he included a cover of "The Batman Theme" as well.
The Biggest Twang of Them All by Duane EddyReprise Records, 1966
The king of pre-surf instrumental guitar songs provides his take of "The Batman Theme."
Available for download

No comments:

Post a Comment