Money can’t buy me love, and fun is the one thing that money can’t buy, but still, nobody wants to give away 95% of their income to the government. But that was the situation for the Beatles in the mid-1960s thanks to Britain’s progressive tax laws, and George Harrison was none too pleased. “You are so happy that you’ve finally started earning money, and then you find out about tax,” he said. One would hope that he was familiar with the concept of taxation before the age of 23, but the point stands.
I can only imagine what listeners must have thought when they took the slab of vinyl from Revolver‘s striking sleeve and placed it on their turntables. When that stylus came down on side one, track one, they were in for a Beatles experience like never before. Sure, it wasn’t the first time a Beatles album opened with a 1-2-3-4 count-in, but the exuberance that preceded “I Saw Her Standing There” was replaced by something decidedly more ominous here. And what’s with that cough? And we haven’t even gotten to the sharp, stabbing guitar line and the fact that the opener was written and sung by George Harrison, the only instance of that in the Beatles’ catalog.
George’s decision to approach it from the taxman’s perspective is a wise one, giving the song an ironic edge when it could have easily come across as an objectively very rich guy whining about money. There are so many cool lyrics here. I’m especially partial to the section that starts, “If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street.” There are some really clever rhymes there. George expanded the lyrics in a 1992 live version, and for the most part it’s a case of less is more, but I’ll give him points for, “If you’re overweight, I’ll tax your fat.”