“Batman Theme” b/w “The Batusi” – Record Store Day (Black Friday) 7” single
It might sound like earnest overreaching to contend at first, but the “Batman Theme” written by Neal Hefti and featured (in varying lengths) at the beginning of every episode of the original Batman television series broadcast from 1966 to 1968 of ABC is a genuine classic. I don’t mean ‘classic’ insofar as it was a piece of music which ultimately spawned a host of soundalike creations by other artists or stands as a touchstone work around which an entire musical sub-genre was built, I mean the “Batman Theme” is a cultural staple; one needn’t have any idea who wrote it to know the song by rote and the idea of its importance takes a backseat to the instant familiarity and enjoyment of it. That the theme song of a television series (and a very campy one at that) can make such a claim is impressive, but that the song has now appeared on a very novel piece of vinyl (this 7” single is pressed into yellow vinyl – the same color as the Bat-symbol that Adam West wore on his chest when he played Batman) forty-nine years after it was recorded and is still able to generate the amount of excitement is can is a testament to its enduring cultural significance.
Now, the above assessment of what is basically a television theme song may seem a little ridiculous. In the strictest sense, “Batman theme” is a 12-bar blues progression strapped to a boogie woogie rhythm with a reoccurring vocal chorus of the show and main character’s name on top along with some “bebop”-y, intermittent horn bleats on top but, in listening, it proves to be so much more than that; there is an urgency about the song as it plays and (unlike the edit that appeared on TV which was only about forty-seven seconds long) the version on this single actually feels as though it’s building momentum as it plays through its two and a half-minute run-time. That momentum breathes fresh life into the track and, combined with the yellow medium it’s pressed into, makes it a pretty cool and nostalgic experience.
“The Batusi” on the single’s B-side easily holds listeners’ attention in much the same manner the A-side does, but the energy shifts here from “cultural staple” to just flat-out “cult.” Even those well-versed in the Batman TV series may not be familiar with “The Batusi” (its presence on the show was minimal at most) but the song has gained a bit of oddball pop culture notoriety thanks to its mention (although not play) on The Simpsons. That alone will get the song some attention here, but it doesn’t take long for the track to start commanding some curiosity as it plays.
Moreso than the single’s A-side, “The Batusi” wears its age unmistakably on its sleeve (boogie woogie still appears in pop and rock, but the Watusi pretty much peaked with Annette Funicello in the mid-Sixties) but, rather than feeling painfully stale, it plays with a bit of understated retro-cool. The slithering, slinking keyboards and slick, gently brushed drums which power “The Batusi” don’t play like a plainly self-evident hook but, within seconds of th song starting, they’re able to wrap themselves warmly around any listener’s mind and conjure images and sensations of sunshine, beach blanket bingo scenes and cars covered in metal flake paint. It feels cool and relaxed and is a great relief against the rambling and urgent vibes set by the single’s A-side.
Alright, so what else is there to say? No matter how much praise this single gets, it will still be a little hard to believe that it might play as well as it does before you hear it but, even after first listen, there will be no question in anyone’s mind. For those who like their kitsch, this colorful single does not at all disappoint; the songs and their presentation here are great as they mix nostalgia and new sound quality. Regardless of how you’d like to qualify its’ status as a ‘classic’ reader, you won’t be able to deny that it plays well after you hear it.
The Neal Hefti “Batman Theme” b/w “The Batusi” 7” single was on November 27, 2015. Track a copy down at your favorite participating independent record store!