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.

As great as “Tax Man” may be, it reeks of (even if it’s an ironic response to)  British social defeatism.  This is a protest song from passive, droll commentators judging their rulers after the fall from Imperialism.  And they admit that they’re powerless to really do anything about it; the titular government servant is in control of the situation–actually, of all situations–from the song’s very opening:

Let ME tell YOU how it will be.

There’s no discussion here, people.  Of course it’s mirrored by the iconic closing line (spoiler alert!):

And you’re working for no one but me.

And his reach is seemingly endless:

If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street.

If you try to sit, I’ll tax the seat.

If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat.

If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.

And this is really the crux of the whole thing, isn’t it?  “Tax Man” is a catchy pop song that slyly rings of social satire without really offering much in the way of true protest.  It’s the portrayal of an indefatigable bureaucratic system within which its citizens are essentially helpless.  I’d add “nameless,” but they clearly offer you the choice of two surnames: Wilson and Heath.

To put it bluntly: this song is the product of the kind of culture that would say… oh, I dunno… put intolerable taxes on its own citizens’ most requisite, (likely caffeinated) items, without so much as offering a voice of civil discourse in parliament.

dont_tread_on_meFor shame, Britain.  Let me show you how we do things in the land of opportunity.  A land I call “Chocolate City.”

I propose that on Tax Day, we shouldn’t be tacitly acquiescing to the infinite power of our Tax Men, we should be raising our voices in ill-informed protest.  The American way.  And to that end I offer up your new favorite tax-themed song, James Brown and the J.B.’s “I’m Payin’ Taxes, What am I Buyin’?”

Now, it would be highly illegal (perhaps taxable?) if we were to provide an mp3 of this song for you to listen to, so we haven’tHere’s the link to buy a higher quality version of  it yourself from the Amazon store, but for no good reason, I’m going to inexplicably place a few of those Captcha thingamaboobers in the middle of this page.  It’s a mystery as to why I’d do such a thing.  I mean, go ahead and try to enter text for it if you like, I have “no idea” what would happen if you were to do so.

Just click the goddamn image.

NOT Part I of an mp3

Just click the goddamn image.

And Certainly Not Part 2 of said mp3

So, assuming you’ve NOW heard this funk masterpiece – having legally purchased it from a licensed vendor, of course – let’s OverThink what it, and its Limey counterpart, have to say about our respective cultures.

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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