Taxman

Revolver album artworkWritten by: Harrison
Recorded: 20-22 April, 21 June 1966
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Geoff Emerick

Released: 5 August 1966 (UK), 8 August 1966 (US)

George Harrison: vocals, lead guitar
John Lennon: backing vocals
Paul McCartney: backing vocals, lead guitar, bass
Ringo Starr: drums, tambourine, cowbell

Available on:
Revolver
Anthology 2

The song which kicked off Revolver, The Beatles’ 1966 masterpiece, was written by George Harrison and was a bitter attack on Britain’s supertax system.

Download on iTunes

Inspiration for Taxman came after Harrison discovered how much of The Beatles’ earnings went straight to the Treasury.

I had discovered I was paying a huge amount of money to the taxman. You are so happy that you’ve finally started earning money – and then you find out about tax.

In those days we paid 19 shillings and sixpence [96p] out of every pound, and with supertax and surtax and tax-tax it was ridiculous – a heavy penalty to pay for making money. That was a big turn-off for Britain. Anybody who ever made any money moved to America or somewhere else.

George Harrison
Anthology

In writing the song, Harrison was grudgingly helped by John Lennon. It was Lennon’s suggestion to use the names of both prime minister Harold Wilson and opposition leader Edward Heath, the first living people to be directly named in a Beatles song.

I remember the day he 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 thought, Oh, no, don’t tell me I have to work on George’s stuff. It’s enough doing my own and Paul’s. But because I loved him and I didn’t want to hurt him when he called that afternoon and said, ‘Will you help me with this song?’ 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.
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

In the studio

Recording for the song began on 20 April 1966, when The Beatles taped four takes, two of which were complete. They rearranged it overnight, and the following day recorded 11 new takes, the first 10 of which were of the rhythm track only.

The Anthology 2 collection features take 11 of the song, the first with vocals. The most notable difference between this and the Revolver version is the replacement of the ‘Mr Wilson, Mr Heath’ section with Lennon and McCartney’s repeated falsetto “Anybody got a bit of money?” The famous count-in, spoken by Paul McCartney, was from this take.

On 22 April Ringo Starr added his cowbell part, and the ‘Mr Wilson, Mr Heath’ lines made their appearance. Then the track was left alone until 16 May, when the song was mixed for mono.

George Harrison was pleased with McCartney’s guitar solo, particularly the Indian-influenced descending scale at the end. It was recorded on 21 April, and the solo was repeated to close the song during a mixing and edit session on 21 June.

Although it has been claimed that the guitar solo was later reversed, slowed down a tone, edited and used during the instrumental break in Tomorrow Never Knows, the two parts are quite different and were likely recorded on different days.

67 Responses to “Taxman”

    • jackgeiffin1

      If that’s George doing the count in, what did they do to his voice to make it that low (and slow)?

      Reply
      • Julian

        Nothing probably. That’s just George putting on a voice to do the fake count-in. In the background you can hear the real count-in by Paul.

        Reply
  1. Vonbontee

    Is there an official, authoritative source confirming that Paul’s “Taxman” solo found its way into “Tomorrow Never Knows”? ‘Cause I’ve heard that before and don’t believe it. I’ve listened to TNK’s five guitar segments sped up, reversed (i.e. played forwards) and in various juxtopositions; and, aside from that octave leap, can’t find any substantial sequence of notes in common between the two recordings. Besides, wasn’t TNK famously the FIRST song recorded for the Revolver sessions? It was finished April 22, and Paul didn’t record his “Taxman” solo until May 16!

    Reply
    • Joe

      I think Ian MacDonald was the first to point it out, in Revolution In The Head. However, there are a number of minor errors in that book, and this may be one of them. I confess I haven’t tried reversing the TNK solo to hear the differences.

      The dates may match up. The Taxman solo was recorded on 21 April (the second solo at the song’s end was a repeat, edited in on 21 June). Maybe they used a different take from the same Taxman session for the TKN solo, adding it on 22 April.

      Reply
    • Von Bontee

      (…OK, May 16 is incorrect, please ignore. That’s the date that was given at the top of the page when I posted that; it’s since been corrected.)

      Reply
  2. mjb

    Everett’s take:

    The first four tracks were filled with drums, bass, George’s distorted rhythm guitar and his overdubbed vocal with John & Paul’s backing vocals in the chorus and bridge.

    These were reduced to two tracks with the vocals mixed together (George’s vocal being heavily compressed and treated with ADT) and the signal from the drums / bass track split between the guitar and vocal tracks.

    Following the reduction a third track was given a tambourine and Paul’s distorted Casino with heavy Bigsby and feedback through the Vox amp. The fourth track was filled with cowbell.

    With the tracks again filled John & Paul wished to add more backing vocals so they punched out part of the Casino / tambourine track to add the “Ha Ha Mr Wilson…” bits.

    The “count in” (left, right and centre) was added to the beginning of the song and the ending was created by splicing an alternate mix of the Casino solo – heard this time with cowbell – onto a previous cold ending.

    Reply
    • Julio

      It hurts me that the solo on this is by Paul and not George. He played so much kick ass lead guitar, when George couldn’t. Good morining, Helter Skelter, Sgt. Pepper (song), Ticket to Ride, Drive my Car, Back In the USSR etc. It is a shame how he may the others feel. He really dominated them and this is the real reason they broke up. George really had a problem with Paul because of this and John was jealous of Paul’s abilities.

      Reply
      • Tobias Talock

        I don’t understand why you call it a shame. Paul’s musical abilities were miles above the other Beatles. But that they felt bad about it wasn’t really his fault.

        It’s sad that us humans feel the need to shine ourselves, and fall into envy when someone more talented overshadows us.

        I mean, have you seen Paul’s recent live shows? He goes seamlessly from piano, to acoustic guitar, to bass, to rhythm electric, to lead electric, and back again. Playing equally, or better, than his much younger band members while singing hit after hit. An amazing and timeless talent.

        Reply
        • Jimmy

          Paul’s talent is incredible, but it’s also because of his ego that he made some really poor albums at the beginning of his solo career. He felt as though he could do everything by himself and was wrong about that, while John and George both had fantastic starts to their respective solo careers.

          Reply
          • andy

            Really poor albums at the beginning of his solo career??? Which one are those? Are there other albums besides McCartney and Ram in the early days of his solo career. If I’m not mistaken there are those two and then the Wings albums which included some of the best rock of the 70′s. Ram, btw, may be the best solo beatles record. Plastic ono band and all things must pass are on par. I believe that someday, ram will be recognized as the classic that it is. Anyway, I’m tired of people knocking paul’s solo years. He made fantastic records and to state otherwise is to appear willfully ignorant.

            Reply
            • Vonbontee

              Well it’s not really a “solo” album, but “Wings Wild Life” is the earliest Wings LP, and it’s pretty damn weak.

              Reply
              • mr. Sun king coming together

                I agree on Wild Life. Having said that, we should keep this page for Taxman comments, before Joe tells us we should use the forum for a more I depth discussion about Paul’s solo work.

        • william

          Paul apparently, has always felt inferior to Beethoven, who might have been slightly better as a composer and pianist, although Paul is still better on the bass.

          Reply
        • Inner Light

          Not sure if I agree with you on this one. Paul was not miles above John and George, and Paul is and never was anywhere in the same league as George on guitar. I’m sorry. I have complained about this endlessly on some blogs. I don’t understand why anyone would feel Paul is a better guitarist. He plays okay but come on. Harrison took chord structures, slide guitar and scales to a new height. Ask anyone who George played with including Clapton, Russell, Lynne, Petty or Dylan and you will get the same story. Harrison was a very gifted and excellent guitarist.

          Reply
      • Bridget

        Actually, I believe it was George Martin who asked Paul to play the solo for “Taxman” because George just couldn’t get it right. I think George is a great guitarist, but Paul is still better in my opinion.

        Reply
        • Thomas B.

          I think they both were good but Paul was the eager one. George was silent. I don’t know who asked Paul to play it but it was a good idea, the solo is graet. George Martin prefered Paul in my opinion.

          Reply
  3. Joseph Brush

    It says here on this website that George was pleased with McCartney’s guitar solo.
    Harrison also didn’t seem to mind when John played slide guitar on For You Blue or when Eric Clapton played lead guitar on While My Guitar Gently Weeps.
    Paul’s guitar solos with the Beatles comes nowhere near the number of Harrison guitar solos.
    There are several reasons why the Beatles broke up and Paul’s bossiness is only one of them.

    Reply
      • Von Bontee

        “Hey Bulldog”, “It’s All Too Much”, “Savoy Truffle”, to name three nice economical ones. None of which are as masterful as “Taxman” or “Good Morning Good Morning”, but whatever. George never seemed to have much interest in flash playing, even as he grew more accomplished.

        Reply
      • Luke

        Sgt Pepper Reprise, fixing a hole, til there was you, and your bird can sing, she said she said, Everybodys got something to hide except for me and my monkey, michelle, every solo on Beatles for Sale…I could go on forever about good Pre 69 goerge solos.

        Reply
        • Vonbontee

          Some of those songs don’t really have “solos”, though – they’ve got leads, but that’s not necessarily the same thing.

          Reply
          • Luke

            ok if you want to get technical 3 of those songs dont have “solos” persay but I get the same relative satisfaction out a of a good guitar fill as i do a solo.

            Reply
              • william

                I notice that many people on here, guitarists among them, seem to miss the distinction between compositional guitar and what I will call mimicry on the guitar. Paul may have been indeed able to learn certain pieces quickly and play them impressively in a very short period of time. Geoff Emerick stated this. But did Paul create the solo/lead on Taxman?

                McCartney may have been better at mimicry than Harrison, but who cares?

                The creation of melody is far more dear, i.e., rare than guitar mimicry.

                There is a word (actually two) for people who are great at playing other people’s stuff; they are called session (or studio) musicians, and Harrison actually did some of that after he left the Beatles; he was no slouch technically on the guitar.

                Patti Boyd later stated that Eric Clapton was, in her opinion, slightly better as a guitarist, in a technical sense, than was George Harrison. But Eric Clapton would give anything to be able to compose music on the guitar the way George Harrison did. Paul probably would too, given that most of his own songs were composed on piano, unlike John’s and George’s.

                Bottom line, there is stuff that is almost impossible to play on the guitar and guess what, much of it sounds like crap. Technical difficulty means very, very little. Harrison’s riff at the end of Come Together doesn’t sound all that hard to play to me, but it gives me chills every time that I hear it.

                Let’s all admit that the Beatles had 3 great composers and 3 1/2 great musicians in the band and try to avoid the sniping.

        • Michael

          The Sgt Pepper Reprise and Fixing a Hole solos were played by Paul. Paul and George both recorded the harmonized solo of And Your Bird. The Michelle solo was played on bass by Paul (Luke, you need to brush up on your Beatles chops).

          Reply
      • Alessandro

        “Cry for a Shadow”, “Can’t Buy Me Love”, “I Saw Her Standing There” (especially the live version in Swenden’63), “Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey !!”, “I’m a Loser”, “Long Tall Sally” (the 2nd Bit, the 1st being by John), “Nowhere Man”, “I’m Only Sleeping”, “Savoy Truffle”, “Happiness is a Warm Gun” + “Nothin’ Shaking” (but the leaves on the trees), “Crying, Waiting, Hoping” and “Slow Down” form Live at the BBC + “Hello Goodbye” (the Anthology Version)

        Reply
        • robert

          not only is till there was you a great solo (I’ve tried to play it) just watch George play it live on the Ed Sullivan clip – effortless – it’s on youtube

          Reply
  4. MrBig

    I think it’s just me, but doesn’t it sound like there’s a guitar part played to the bass after the solo? Perhaps Lennon?

    Reply
    • Michael

      According to all of the books and sources that are respected for their accuracy, aside from backing vocals, the only contribution from John was the tambourine. Take notice that from Revolver onwards, Johns participation on George’s songs was very limited (in some cases none at all). John had little patience to learn George’s songs. There were a couple exceptions, like when EC came to play on While my Guitar, and when cameras were rolling during the Let it Be sessions. Both times John felt obligated to participate because Beatle outsiders were present.

      Reply
      • Joseph Brush

        Yes, for the most part that is true.
        But there was no input from any of the other Beatles on George’s Indian songs except for backing vocals from John and Paul at the end of Inner Light.
        John and Paul also encouraged George on his vocals for Inner Light.
        John did contribute to George’s Piggies (tape loops and one lyric line).
        It was John who mentioned to Klein that Something should be an A side single.

        Reply
    • Mathew

      I assumed that Paul continued to play the guitar after the solo, doubling his own bass line.

      Reply
  5. brian

    I’d swear on a Beatles Bible that it’s George’s voice on the Taxman count-in except possibly at the very end when you can I believe Paul shouting “three, four!” in the background. George is doing the “one, two, three, four” at the very start.

    Reply
    • gotagoodreason

      I always believed like you do that George counts it in but after listening closely one day I ended up realizing that it’s definitely Paul’s voice on the “1-2-3-4-1-2″, edited as said in the article in front of George’s “real” 3-4 counting… I can also recognize George’s coughing in the background during the “false” counting, which may tend to prove that another voice (Paul’s) counts in simultaneously…

      Reply
      • paulsbass

        You’re mistaken.
        George does the false count-in AND the cough (from different takes obviously).
        Paul does the fast 1-2-3-4 in the background.

        Reply
    • Michael

      “A friend of mine told me that the bass was inspired by Batman’s theme (I guess the TV show).What do you think about it??

      Impossible, Batman first aired in the UK in late May 1966, after Taxman was recorded. Although it premiered in the US in January 66, none of the Beatles had been to the US since their summer tour in 65. They would not have known of Batman at the time they were recording Taxman.

      Reply
      • robert

        sorry Michael – not impossible – in fact, Taxman was indeed inspired by the Batman single – which George was a huge fan of.

        A bit of googling will unearth that fact. The Batman single came out in January.

        Reply
  6. Nelson

    Taxman… electronically manipulated count in then goes into a funky riff over a distorted 7th/ sharp 9 chord (often called “The Jimi Hendrix Chord”). A highly distorted raga styled guitar solo. Song uses Oriental melodies and last verse contains some great unison riffing with its end using a looped guitar solo from original solo. The song fuses raga, funk, psychedelia and hard rock in one song.

    Reply
  7. robert

    The thing I would love to know is how it was decided to open Revolver with Taxman.

    It’s a great opener – so there’s no complaint – it’s just opening an album with a George song was rather uncharacteristic of the Beatles – and this album was so groundbreaking – I just wonder how it got decided.

    Consider, here they are coming out of Rubber Soul – they know they’ve done something completely new – they know the other songs on the album and they open with Taxman – fascinating.

    Reply
  8. Michael

    Has anyone else heard Start by the Jam? It’s directly influenced by Taxman. I think and basically has the same bassline and rhythm guitar as Taxman. Good tribute to Taxman I think.

    Reply
  9. aak

    One of the most technically impressive Beatles solos. Amazing lead guitar work by Paul. Great song, too.

    Reply
  10. Mean_Mr_Mustard

    I’ve always considered McCartney’s lead guitar playing – on this and others – to be (for lack of better words) “stiff” and “stabby,” lacking in fluidity. It might not be officially documented anywhere but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was
    sped up, as was the Beatles practice at this time.

    Reply
    • vonbontee

      Yeah, I suspect it was sped up as well. (And that listening to the “Tomorrow Never Knows” solo backwards approximates how the “Taxman” solo would sound at “normal” speed.)

      Reply
  11. DB

    My hunch is that George played bass, John rythm and Paul the lead/solo. (The Anthology outtake is quite similar to the final.)
    The bass line is very prominent, key to the song, and I find it hard to believe George wouldn’t play some on his own song. In ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, he plays acoustic, rythym guitar.
    The electric rythym guitar on ‘Taxman” is classic John–very similar to his work on “She’s a Woman” and “While My Guitat Gently Weeps”, when he didn’t play entirely through the song.
    If you listen to the count-in on “Taxman”, it sounds as if Paul is nervously playing a bit of his lead fills–as he would often do with his bass before a take. Regarding his solo, I think it is very good and well-suited to the song. And, heck, if it’s good enough for George, it’s certainly good enough for me.
    A great, groundbreaking song. Kudos to George Martin for making it the lead song, and for John and Paul not to object.
    I would be curious what mjb thinks of the above.

    Reply
    • paulsbass

      Sorry, for sure that’s Paul on the bass.
      Check out the fast notes in the “middle-eight” (“if you…”), that’s typical Paul style.
      And it’s definitely the Hofner sound.

      Reply
  12. DB

    You might be right paulbass….I don’t know for sure; however, listen to “Old Brown Shoe” (particularly the middle), on which George says (in Cream Magazine interview) he played the bass. See if you don’t hear some similarities.

    Reply
    • paulsbass

      Well, there are not many similarities, apart from the fact that there is one main bass riff in both songs.
      But, in contrast to Taxman, the one in Old brown shoe remains quite “static”, meaning the same repeated, without variations.
      Plus it doesn’t have a very clear bass sound, it sounds more like a heavy guitar.

      Taxman, on the other hand, has a brilliant (Hofner) bass sound plus the mentioned improvisations, which are, like I said, typical for Paul.

      Reply
      • Nowhere Man Dave

        I’m glad somebody mentioned Paul’s brilliant bass playing on this song. The middle eight changes are complex and difficult if not impossible for almost any but the best bassists. I’m surprised nothing of it was mentioned in the article about this song. It must have been truly ground-breaking when it first came out.

        Reply
  13. StuLoasby

    I agree, it definitely sounds like George on the count in. This has often puzzled me when listening to it. George was often prone to go into those freakish goon-style voices from time to time in interviews or conversations. It’s also worth noting that the 1234 on I Saw her Standing There counts in the Beatles initial beginnings. The 1234, 12 on Taxman counts them into a new dawning of sonic experimentation.

    Reply
  14. Alessandro

    Please, take a look at the 2nd (and final) solo by George on this live rendition of I’M DOWN (Germany) on june 1966! As far as i can see (and hear too), it seems he’s doing the same thing Paul did on his song. Meanwhile, he’s looking at Paul as if to say : “Look! Me too, I can play like that if I want!”
    Besides, George shows off in this video all of his fluidity on lead while on stage..

    Reply
  15. Irion

    I´m sure that you have all heard the story of George trying for hours to record the solo for Taxman, not quite getting it right. George Martin grew tired and asked Paul to give it a try and he (Paul) nailed it in one take! Impressive, n´est pas?
    There is an interesting YouTube clip where the channels are separated and you can hear Paul preparing for the solo all the way through the song and suddenly bursting out and playing it. Amazing, indeed! I don´t think it was speeded up, I can play it in the original tempo!

    Reply
  16. Holsety

    Whoever claimed none of George’s solos were as masterful as Good Morning Good Morning and Taxman.. Hold on! All of Paul’s guitar solos are essentially the same bendy, aggressive style. None of them beat George’s flawless One After 909 solo, either.

    Also, I’m fairly sure George did both the count-ins after hearing it apart. It really sounds like him, but I may be wrong.

    Reply
  17. andycadabra

    I have just spent hours working out Paul’s fantastic solo. I had to slow it down to 50%, but can’t currently play it faster than 70%. There are some lessons on youtube where guys play it up to speed, but its sounds rushed – they don’t achieve the same definition that you hear on the original. For that reason I’m fairly convinced it was recorded at half or three quarters speed – after all, I’ve read that hours of studio time were wasted while George was trying to produce a decent solo, and this involved giving him the opportunity to play it at half-time, so presumably Paul would have had the same opportunity. Paul did a brilliant enough job conceiving this solo, but in an era when Hendrix had only recently arrived in London, there were few, if any, players who could play that fast, and I don’t think Paul was one of them.

    Reply
  18. BeatleKen

    boy u guys sure like to slam Beatle players. they were all great, doesn’t matter who played what. they TOGETHER made a fantastic team. wow, guys come on. Im a Macca fan myself but he doesn’t always play fantastic stuff. Yeah he did great drums on MY DARK HOUR with Steve Miller and he always plays great bass(most of the time). his guitar playin is good but so is George’s.

    Reply
  19. Garferty

    I don’t normally notice the difference between stereo and mono, but the difference in this (and Eleanor Rigby) seems enormous to me. The guitar and vocals seem so distant in stereo; the song’s always seemed a bit limp to me because of it. But I’ve recently heard the mono version, and ah, there it goes, much better!

    As for Eleanor Rigby, Paul makes it one syllable into the first word before the vocals are yanked unceremoniously apart. It’s always sounded rather brutal to me, and it’s reproduced on the 2009 version. Meanwhile, in mono, his vocal is unmolested and sounds nicer. All in all, I wish the 2009 mono albums were sold separately…

    Reply
  20. carlos

    Beatles have never included a song in a record if they didn´t agree 100%. So there´s no controversy at all to me. In my opinion George couldn´t find a way to create a good solo and Paul could.

    Reply

Leave a reply