- Published on 1966
- Author: Harrison
- Track 1 on “Revolver”
What the Beatles said about “Taxman”
GEORGE 1980: “‘Taxman’ was when I first realized that even though we had started earning money, we were actually giving most of it away in taxes. It was and still is typical.”
JOHN 1980: “I remember the day he (George) 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. Paul wouldn’t have helped him at that period. I didn’t want to do it. 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.”
PAUL 1984: “George wrote that and I played guitar on it. He wrote it in anger at finding out what the taxman did. He had never known before then what could happen to your money.”
GEORGE 1987: “I was pleased to have Paul play that bit on ‘Taxman.’ If you notice, he did like a little Indian bit on it for me.”
Info about “Taxman”
Written by the group’s lead guitarist, George Harrison, with some lyrical assistance from John Lennon, it protests against the higher level of progressive tax imposed in the United Kingdom by the Labour government of Harold Wilson, which saw the Beatles paying over 90 per cent of their earnings to the Treasury. The song was selected as the album’s opening track and contributed to Harrison’s emergence as a songwriter beside the dominant Lennon–McCartney partnership. It was the group’s first topical song and the first political statement they had made in their music.
The Beatles began recording “Taxman” in April 1966, a month after Wilson’s landslide win in the 1966 general election. Coinciding with the song’s creation, Harrison learned that the band members’ tax obligations were likely to lead to their bankruptcy, and he was outspoken in his opposition to the government using their income to help fund the manufacture of military weapons. Drawing on 1960s soul/R&B musical influences, the song portrays the taxman as relentless in his pursuit of revenue and name-checks Wilson and Ted Heath, the leader of the Conservative Party. The recording includes an Indian-influenced guitar solo performed by Paul McCartney.
“Taxman” was influential in the development of British psychedelia and mod-style pop, and has been recognised as a precursor to punk rock. The Jam borrowed heavily from the song for their 1980 hit single “Start!” When performing “Taxman” on tour in the early 1990s, Harrison adapted the lyrics to reference contemporaneous leaders, citing its enduring quality beyond the 1960s. The song’s impact has extended to the tax industry and into political discourse on taxation.
- George Harrison – lead vocals, lead guitar.
- John Lennon – backing vocals, rhythm guitar.
- Paul McCartney – backing vocals, bass guitar, lead guitar (solo)
- Ringo Starr – drums, cowbell, tambourine.