R.E.M.: Winged Mammal Theme
I’m a little obsessed with baseball right now, on the verge of Game 1 of the World Series. As a Mets fan, this has really been an unexpected and exciting playoff run. I’ve already discussed this in my Future post, and I’ve also written about tonight’s Game 1 starter, Matt Harvey, the Dark Knight of Gotham.
Which brings me to today’s discussion of Batman. I was utterly unaware of the Batman comics that predated the TV series that ran from January 12, 1966, to March 14, 1968. I have a pretty strong memory of watching maybe the first episode as a young child, and watching many more episodes, either during the initial run, or after school in syndication. I’m sure I knew that it was silly, even before I understood the concept of “camp.”
I never read any of the later Dark Knight stuff, or any of the later Batman comics, and while I remember seeing the Tim Burton/Michael Keaton Batman movie, I can’t remember whether I’ve seen any of the sequels or reboots (although I’m pretty sure I saw the one with George Clooney). Because I really don’t care all that much.
In fact, after all these years, it is probably the great theme song from the TV series that I remember the most. Written by the great musician, composer and arranger Neil Hefti (who also wrote the Odd Couple theme), the version that played during the credits is faster, and was arranged by the great composer and arranger Nelson Riddle. And I’m obviously not the only one with the song stuck in my brain, because the “Na na na na na na…..Batman!” meme is pretty much ubiquitous on the Internet. (There are, apparently 80 “nas” in the theme.) You can even buy shirts with it.
Considering the theme’s exalted place in popular culture, it is not surprising that it has been covered many, many times, by bands as diverse as Jan & Dean, The Jam, John Zorn, Serbian alternative band Disciplina kicme, The Who, Link Wray, The Ventures, and The Standells (and yes, I know I'm leaving some out).
R.E.M. submitted their reimagining of the theme for inclusion in the soundtrack of Batman Returns, the sequel to the first Burton/Keaton film. It was rejected, and instead became the B-side to the “Drive” single, and has been included in a few box sets and anthologies. It actually hit #11 on the UK charts, and was used by the Weather Channel under local weather updates.