Songs Of The Day 8/18/2013: Three Songs By The 60s' "Batman" Cast

Hey, I loved two-thirds of the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy as much as anyone. But one thing I think we can all agree on is that they were, to the chagrin of all, not musicals. Ponder the possibilities. They could have been faithful to the dark overtones of the movies by doing something along the lines of Phantom of the Opera or Les Miz. Of course, that means that they would have had to cast Hugh Jackman, who's capable of a lot but probably doesn't have the brooding intensity of Christian Bale. But at least one cinematographer would have been a whole lot happier.

So unfortunately, the only Batman-related musical relics we have are a curious soundtrack album by Prince and a collection of singles released by the Batman TV cast of the '60s. I struggled to make a choice as to which of these songs I should feature today, so I decided not to. Here are three of them by Adam West, Frank Gorshin and the oft-maligned, misunderstood Burt Ward. You may also be surprised at some of the other names behind two of these records.

Adam West - "Miranda"
I interviewed Adam West about ten years ago for The Olympian, and the first thing I asked him about was this song, which he recorded in 1966. He responded in mock horror -- "Oh, no!! Right out of the gate!" He recalled the sessions fondly though, and even sang the line "Would you like to see me make my muscles dance, Miranda?" for me. There was no character named Miranda in the Batman universe at the time, so I'm assuming it was made up by the songwriter. But there was a character named Talia al Ghul that was introduced in the Batman comics in 1971, and she appears in The Dark Knight Rises mostly under the pseudonym of... "Miranda Tate." Please, please, please, let it be true that Christopher Nolan named her after this song.

Frank Gorshin - "The Riddler"
The Riddler was possibly the most obnoxious of all Batman villains, and true to form Frank Gorshin's song "The Riddler" is the most annoying out of all today's songs. But two of the names behind it are surprising. The song was written by jazz great Mel Tormé -- that's right, the guy who also wrote the line "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" -- and was arranged by Dave Gates, who under the name David Gates would eventually found the gravely underrated adult contemporary band Bread. The leap from this to "Baby I'm-A Want You" is uncomputable. And the jokes are horrible in this song, which the background singers are quick to acknowledge.

Burt Ward - "Boy Wonder I Love You"
Aesthetically this is most likely the best of these three songs, certainly the funniest. So maybe it won't surprise you at all to know that "Boy Wonder I Love You" was written by Frank Zappa. He and the Mothers Of Invention got signed to Verve, then a division of MGM Records. The person who signed them was named Tom Wilson, a staff producer at MGM. Wilson's resumé at the time contained production credits for Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel. Heard of 'em?

Anyway, Wilson is also the producer of "Boy Wonder I Love You." (A few Mothers, including Jimmy Carl Black, appear on it as well.) Within a year after this song Wilson started work on The Velvet Underground & Nico. And probably concurrently with this song he was working on the Mothers' debut album. Freak out indeed.

This song really subverts, maybe perverts, the whole Batman franchise in nearly evil ways. How Zappa/Ward inject hints of seduction from a "kid" "just about your age" makes for guilty chuckles, as do the signs of a somewhat unhealthy obsession with Robin. Then again, almost any obsession with the Boy Wonder is unhealthy, innit?

Richard Metzger recently did a more in-depth post about this song on the Dangerous Minds blog.


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