He might be called the Dark Knight and known for his shadowy ways stalking criminals in the shadows of night, but I don’t recognize that Batman. The Batman I recognize walks around in daylight and announces who he is to crowds of people. Loudly. For a someone who’s so supposedly so surreptitious, he sure is one of the most overexposed superheroes ever, with surely only Superman equally his auspicious visibility. He’s been the star of several TV shows and TV specials, plus movies obviously, tons of audio adventures, and currently DC Comics publishes around 10 regular Batman-related titles and several other mini-series, one-shots, etc. For a guy hiding in the shadows, he’s literally everywhere. He’s even on postage stamps. And mouthwash. And bandages.
For a loner, Batman sure has saturated our popular culture. There is sooooooo much Batmusic that there is literally no way I could ever compile a complete list of it. And the theme song to the 1960s Batman series doesn’t help. The cover versions of the Batman TV theme are numerous and uncountable. Has there ever been a TV theme that has been so widely performed? Written by Neil Hefti, it’s become the signature tune for the character regardless of which iteration you take as your favorite. It’s an unstoppable song and you can find versions of it by
The Jam, The Who, The Revengers, Lemon, Lynn Taitt and The Jets, Fat Freddy, Sun City Girls, Steelism, Petra Haden, Klarinettenorchester Tirol, Counterpoint (who combine it with “Wipe Out”), The Beautiful Kantine Band, Badmans, A Mood of Defiance, The Shriekers, Tidal Wave, Blue Wave Theory, The MM Project, The Washboard Abs, Sandy Nelson, David McCallum, Bob Kuban And The In-Men, the Ettore Cenci Guitar Trio, and plenty of others that I’ll name in coming weeks.
But because of this music signature that the character can’t shake — and despite Danny Elfman’s efforts push that signature away in favor of something more brooding — Batman music tends to be more fun than any other superhero music. For a guy who hides in a cave, it’s amazing how much of the music about him is party music. Batman wouldn’t be caught dead playing Batman music, but I bet Bruce Wayne loves it all.
Assorted Jelly Beans – Bruce Wayne
I almost thought this was aimed at kids, but I guess this is a real punk band from a real state called California. The Batman theme is inserted here, but mostly this is a ska-punk thing with shouty punk boys shouting things about Batman as the song pounds along. This is from a 1998 EP and is great way to set the tone for a list that is going to reflect my vision of what Batman should be like. Buy it here.
Butch Baker – Batman at the Go Go
This 1966 single has Batman dancing his ass off, putting everyone else to shame, which I don’t actually think the Adam West version could’ve technically done, Batusi notwithstanding. One of the co-writers and arrangers for the song was Burgess Gardner, former trumpeter for Count Basie, Louis Bellson, and Ray Charles.
Lavern Baker – Batman to the Rescue
Lavern Baker doesn’t seem like she would need to make a Batman record to get attention, since she was pretty well established in 1966, the same year she recorded a duet with Jackie Wilson. One of her biggest previous hits was “Jim Dandy.” A few years after this, she would take off with the USO after a divorce, and end up in the Phillipines for over two decades, sticking around following a bout of bronchial pnuemonia. She was entertainment director at the Marine base NCO club until returning to the U.S. in 1988 and returning to her career as if there had been no vacation from it. As Batman songs from the ‘60s go, this one is excellent, a super-fun r&b pounder that wraps the Joker and Robin into the lyrics, and it was written by Lincoln Chase, who previously wrote “Jim Dandy” and the awesome song “Nitty Gritty” for Shirley Ellis.
Batman – L’invincible Batman
This pretty groovy French ye-ye single from 1966, strangely credited to Batman himself, though that’s actually Quebec singer André Jean and his band The Pharoahs, despite drums being credited to The Joker, bass to “Le Pingouin,” and guitars to Robin and The Riddler. At the time The Pharoahs were the house band at Café St-Jacques in Montreal, which had decided to transform its third floor into a club with a Batman concept. I am not kidding. The Pharoahs were asked to become the houseband for Club Batman also, and dressed up like characters from the TV show, with Jean as Batman, Gilles Labrie as Robin, Jean De Sève as the Joker, Denis Côté as the Penguin, and Pierre Boismenu as the Riddler. When The Pharoahs toured that year, Batman and his band “followed” as their opening act, along with Les Monstres, who did horror movie related garage rock. Unfortunately, the Batman Club didn’t last a year, Café St-Jacques closed, and The Pharoahs only recorded two songs as Batman.
Elmo Batman – The Batman
The flip-side to the 1975 single “I Am A Spy For The FBI,” written by a Nashville record producer named Chuck Howard. This is a slow burn blues number like something you’d hear in a two-bit strip club you wandered into at the time, with the guy — Elmo, I assume — laughing maniacally and then later bellowing about the circumstances of being Batman or, more specifically I guess, Elmo Batman.
Batman and Robin – My Hero Power is My Mustache/ Wonder What To Do? UH! No Problem! I Have The BAT-BELT!
Sounds a little bit like if the Ramones never got into a professional studio — there would still be some charm and a fetish for ‘60s pop affectations amidst the punk. Recorded by this Austrian band in 2009, it features dialogue between Batman and Robin with the Boy Wonder as a squawky, freakin’ out little guy. And if you’re feeling adventurous, check out their song “Who the Fuck is Superman?” Hilarious and super fun music.
Botellita De Jerez – Abuelita De Batman
The title of this fun cumbia song is translated as “Batman’s Grandma,” recorded in 1983 by Mexican band Botellita De Jerez. The meaning of the song is a little fuzzy from a translation of the lyrics, but it seems to have a lot to do with dancing the Batcumbia at night with ladies and everyone else doing the dance too. I’m not so clear what it has to do with grandma, but she is mentioned in the translated lyrics, as is Catwoman and, of course, the Caped Crusader himself. Botellita De Jerez described their style of music as “guacarrock” and broke up in 2013. Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
The Camps – The Ballad of Batman
This 1966 single is actually Sonny Curtis, who wrote and recorded “I Fought The Law” and the Mary Tyler Moore Show song “Love Is All Around,” and who got his start performing with Buddy Holly and later taking Holly’s place in the Crickets post-mortem. With an easy-going, mid-tempo groovy ‘60s thing going, Curtis delivers great lines like “Batman wears a bat hat and a cape coat too” and delivers something that sounds not unlike a musical refrain like they used to have in old Saturday morning cartoons where, say, the Globetrotters would run around chasing a villain while a pop song played. This is pretty likable. Someone should cover it. And while they’re at it, the flipside to this single is “Batmobile.” Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
Ivan Cattaneo – Maria Batman
This 1977 song by the Italian singer gives thanks for lots of things, from a fruitful harvest to Batman, and then evokes the Mother Mary as he describes the celebrations that follow, which keep coming back to Batman, as they should. This song was his first big hit in Italy. Cattaneo is also an artist and, in 2018, was on the Italian version of Celebrity Big Brother.
The Chud – Don’t Call Me Batman
The 1985 single by German band The Chud is a charming melodic garage rocker about Batman having some self-doubt about a lady. When he’s in love, he’s just a guy, not the Dark Knight, and he’s beating himself up about whether he should have made a move in the Batmobile. He just wants to be seen as himself.
The Combo Kings – Batman A Go Go
“Who’s at the door?” asks someone at the beginning of this 1966 single. It’s Batman, and he’s going to get everyone dancing! I can’t find out anything about the Combo Kings, but they did put out quite a few singles in the 60s and this is a whole lot of fun, saxophone-driven with a crew of vocal partiers in the band making themselves known. For such a 21st Century gloomy gus, Batman sure was a vibrant party boy in the 1960s. Whatever happened to that guy?
Cruela – Batman
There’s not much I can tell you about this track other than a) it rocks and b) the band’s from Argentina. Their track “Virna Lisi” is pretty great, too! And what more do you really need to know, anyhow? Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
De Original Defosto Himself – Batman Gone Soca
This Trinidad and Tobegan performer died just last November after several decades as a popular Calypso performer there. This song pretty cleverly wraps the Batman theme inside portions of the song, which even has a maniacal laughter cameo in the middle by the Joker. Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
Flying Horse Big Band – Batmobile to the Airport
This is an awesome cover version of the 1966 Batman movie soundtrack by Nelson Riddle stretched into some jazz noodlings by the University of Central Florida’s Jazz studies program big band. You can also check out “Batman’s Blues” or the whole damn album. Perfect for the cocktail hour.” Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
Garcon – Batman is Bruce Wayne
Garcon is only saying what we’re all thinking on this 1994 single, right? Batman IS Bruce Wayne. Acknowledging this is also a way of seeing clearly that to be Batman, he makes sacrifices, as Garcon points out. “Every girl wants your desire,” Garcon points out and “You playboy in the day,” but despite the constant temptation “Stop your loving in the nite” because “Crime is danger you must fight.” Batman is like a Late Night Monk, we just never acknowledged it before. Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
Dickie Goodman – Batman and His Grandmother
For whatever reason, someone in the recording industry must have found Dickie Goodman funny, because he kept making records from the 1950s to the 1980s, and they all had the same schtick — playing short clips from popular singles in answer to questions he would ask. I thought it was hilarious when “Mr. Jaws” came out in 1975, and still liked it when “Kong” appeared two years later, but I wised up. It’s a curiosity, though, and in this novelty piece, Batman has to rescue his kidnapped grandmother. I don’t know if this is the same woman mentioned in the Botellita De Jerez song. As an aside, the song is split in two parts and on both sides of the single — some trivia for you kids, singles used to do that and have Part 1 and Part 2 of long songs on different sides. It was a silly old world. Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
Neil Hefti – The Evil Plot to Blow Up Batman
Hefti might have written the immortal Batman TV theme, but he didn’t write any of the actual soundtrack. He saved all the energy he might have put towards that for his album Neil Hefti in Gotham City, which featured a number of Batman-themed instrumentals, many of which riffed off the main theme somehow. Hefti’s vision of Batman is infinitely more goofy than Danny Elfman’s, which is why he was able to also offer tracks like
“Holy Diploma Batman,” “Batman Chase,” “The Batusi,” and “Honorable Batman.”
Les Hou-Lops – Batman
Another Batman-loving Quebecois band, this energetic single from 1966 also mentions Superman in the French lyrics, which follows along with the basic Batman theme but with some pretty dynamic female voices belting out the chorus and, later, some high-pitched scatting. This band recorded quite a number of records in the ‘60s but stopped performing by 1970. Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
Invisible Burgundy Bullfrog – Batman Rides Again
From 1969, another tribute to the legend of Batman, who “graduated from a swingin’ school,” according … This psychedelic surf dance bit of grooviness features a reporter named Chet standing outside the Bat Cave trying to get an interview with Batman, but not noticing Wayne Mansion sitting on top of it. “This Batcar you’re driving sure is a jewel!” the reporter gushes. The band is from Greensboro, NC, and this is their only single, the A-side of which is a version of “Cry Me A River.”
Jan and Dean – Batman
In 1966, surf legends Jan Berry and Dean Torrence released this entire Batman concept album, mixing Bat-music with strange comedic interludes featuring themselves as their own made-up superheroes, Captain Jan And Dean The Boy Blunder. This song pretty much captures every aspect of Batman you need to know — it even recreates the scene when Bruce Wayne sees the bat and comes up with the idea for his super identity! Jan and Dean also perform the TV theme on this album. It was shortly after this song that Jan crashed his car on the fabled Dead Man’s Curve, which they had recorded a hit song about, and suffered brain damage and paralysis, after which his career never quite got back on track despite his efforts. Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
If you enjoyed this, you might want to take a look at my previous entries in the Songs About Superheroes series, featuring Superman and the Superman Family.