The Great Trans-Atlantic Tax-Themed Song Battle '09

The Great Trans-Atlantic Tax-Themed Song Battle ’09

Hello, America. Today, we’re going look at taxes as viewed from both sides of the Atlantic, through the lens of pop music. Read on – but if you qualify for the Earned Income Credit (EIC), please make sure to first fill out the worksheet on page 15.

Hello, America.

Those of us you who are gainfully employed have probably noticed the special significance today, April 15th, the ides of April, holds.  Yes, today is the day for which years of standardized test-taking have prepared each and every one of us.  It is a day that encapsulates the very core of the American political soul – the great social equalizer.  Today is the day where some modest but precious modicum of our meager salaries are joined together in great union, the ultimate confluence of national cohesion.

Today, we celebrated our Taxation Day.

We’re going look at taxes as viewed from both sides of the Atlantic, through the lens of pop music.  Read on – but if you qualify for the Earned Income Credit (EIC), please make sure to first fill out the worksheet on page 15.


Before we begin today’s discussion, I’d like to quote for you a bit of text I found while rummaging through the Massachusetts State Tax Schedule X instructions. It’s not directly on topic, per se, but I find it too amusing to leave aside.  Achem:

Line 4. Fees and Other 5.3% Income. …Embezzled or other income from illegal activities is taxable and should be reported on Schedule X, line 4.

And that, my friends, is (A) either the greatest or the most poorly executed sting operation in government history, and (B) why they call us ‘Taxachussets.”

Okay, enough digression.  It’s common knowledge that taxes are a political pox which have failed to provide any decent, positive development in the whole of American history.  Still, until the inevitable Zombie Uprising that will one day consume all civil societies, we’re somehow obligated to pay them.  For, as that old saw goes, “nothing in life is certain, except for (un)Death and Taxes.  Unless you’re rich, in which case you can leave out the part about taxes.”

Tax Day evokes a lot of stock symbolism in our society.  There’s the iconic image of poor shlubs waiting on long lines at the Paid Preparers’ or Postal offices, trying to give up their pittance before the midnight deadline.  There’s the trope of the “IRS man” – an emotionless, bespectacled, be-business-suited robot who eats souls and belches up audits, the perennial punch line to countless sitcom jokes.  And this all can be attributed to the camaraderie of group suffering: the sense  that – for all-too brief a single day – allows even the lowliest of grad students to stand proudly alongside the most successful of businessmen, and kvetch about how they’re getting reamed on their returns.

And it’s that Culture of Complaint that brings us here today.  If you’ve turned on a radio on any April 15th of the past, say, 30 years or so, you’ve likely heard the Station Manager’s attempt at group Tax Day commiseration.  For, just slightly less inevitable than Death, UnDeath or Taxes, is the likelihood that on April 15, you’ll hear the Beatles’ classic “Tax Man.”  (Unless you listen to NPR, because I’m pretty sure neither The Bad Plus nor BBC Orchestra have covers of it).  For reference

Now, I want to be perfectly clear about this.  I love the Beatles.  I love this song; I think it’s classic Revolver-era Fab Four, a bridge between their pop roots and social satire with a touch of garage band gristle.  But I’m going to argue that there’s a far superior song that should be buzzing through our heads on this and every Tax Day.  Because after all, if any nation can produce a better Tax-themed protest song than jolly old England, it’s their hipper, quirkier offspring New Zealand America!

But what song–nay–Anthem of the People could possibly unseat this undeniable classic?  If single, or married and filing separately, please read on.

Actually, everyone should read on, please.

10 Comments on “The Great Trans-Atlantic Tax-Themed Song Battle ’09”

  1. Kelley #

    Was just about to comment on that myself perich. Is it sad that all I remember from taking Latin all through High School is the calendar?


  2. stokes OTI Staff #

    That acapella section is pretty wacky.


  3. Gab #

    Did YOU go to a Tea Party yesterday?


  4. shechner OTI Staff #


    Hrm – I worried about my political affiliation being misconstrued with this article. Rest assured, madam, that I’m a bleeding heart liberal of the kind one only finds in The Peoples Republic of Cambridge, MA. My beef isn’t with taxes, so much, as their misuse, or of songs pertaining to them which are inadequately funky.

    ‘Cause frankly, I can’t think of a topic matter which, when set to an adequately funky fake down-beat, some #9 chords and a tritone substitution, doesn’t get the people dancing. Seriously, if someone traveled back in time and brought ~1973 era J.B. to the present, he could kick out “Funky Darfur,” and it’d cook. As would the bajillion hip-hop tunes that sample it.


  5. Rob #

    @shechner – “Funky Darfur” is a bonus track on the upcoming reissue of The Coup’s classic “Genocide and Juice”.


  6. mlawski OTI Staff #

    @Rob: Which was in turn a reinterpretation of the classic “Genocide and Jews.”


  7. Rob #

    mlawski fail, god win.


  8. Rob #

    (just kidding, i liked that one.)


  9. Gab #

    Oh, believe me, I had no actual belief you would go to one of those things unless the purpose was to people-watch. I meant it in a very sarcastic way because I have been following this story since rumors about protests on Tax Day and tea in the mail started and, well… Look at the morons in this video:

    Yeah, Obama is *really* a fascist pig because he is, ’nuff said. And all that crap about Lincoln? Give me a break. Mailing bags of tea to members of Congress? I can’t help but think, “Wasn’t one of the biggest reasons for the original Boston Tea Party a lack of representation, while your protests are aimed at… representatives…?”

    And the new protests occurred the day this was posted, so I immediately thought of them as one of those “ill-informed protest[s]” you brought up. And, as if you couldn’t tell already, I’m rather irked with them. That’s a long rant, of course, so I’ll just bow out somewhat gracefully now, ahem.

    Anyhoo, no, you’re not a moron, ergo I didn’t *actually* think you’d be at one of those things. W00+.


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