The Crawling Ear column: Holy [insert absurd CD joke], Batman!

James reminisces about a Batman tie-in that every fan should have. Good luck finding it, though...

Batman. Batman Batman Batman Batman. Batman! Do I have your attention yet? Batman! Joker, Harvey Dent, Gotham City, Batman. BATMAN.

Hey, there’s a new Batman movie coming out! You never would have known, though. They’re keeping the ad campaign very low key. I’d still be in the dark had it not been for that Warner Brothers employee who came up to me on Fifth Avenue the other day and glued a picture of Heath Ledger to my chest. At first, I thought they were re-releasing Brokeback Mountain, but then I saw the logo and remembered hearing a long time ago that they were making another Batman movie.

While we’re on the subject of The Dark Knight and its unnecessarily obnoxious viral ad tomfoolery, I’d like to talk about one of my favorite Bat-cash ins of all-time. It’s called Batman: The Exclusive Original Television Soundtrack Album and it kicks ass all the way to Tanzania (provided you enjoy ample amounts of jazzy sixties go-go rock, overly dramatic readings from Adam West and Burt Ward, and the muted snarling of Burgess Meredith).

Batman: TEOTSA (I can and will abbreviate everything) is basically just a smattering of dialogue and incidental music lifted from the Caped Crusader’s infamous 1960s TV show, but the arrangement offers an incredibly accurate aural depiction of the general lunacy Batman was famous for. Typical example: “Behind our masks, we’re perfectly ordinary people!” Robin assures an awestruck bystander on one track; not a second later, a loud snippet of “Stars and Stripes Forever” begins playing. Perfectly ordinary people, as you are well aware, are entirely defined by their love and appreciation for John Phillips Sousa.

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There is present on this album, of course, a version of the famous Batman theme song, although it is not the exact version heard over the opening credits. This one is much faster and longer, with a nutty jazz breakdown in the middle. It almost sounds like they sped the tape up. I’ve been collecting TV soundtracks for years now, and I have never, ever (on a legitimate release) heard the Batman theme as it is heard in the show. You’d think they would have put it on this official record (the Joker must have run off with the master tapes). Skewed theme aside, Batman: TEOTSA is a great source for all the chase/fight music and villains’ themes from the popular and, dare I say it, influential ABC program.

The story surrounding my acquisition of this album is kind of funny. When I first happened upon a cassette copy of it in the music section of my hometown’s decaying Caldor in the early nineties (I must have been ten or eleven), I was certain that it was some kind of rap remix tape. I didn’t know what “kitsch” or “retro” meant back then, but I was aware that musicians/record companies sometimes used old pictures and logos because they were funny. The cover definitely looked like that kind of thing. This was also around the time Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers were en vogue with their danceable medleys of rock n’ roll oldies. I mean, it seemed plausible that this Batman tape could be along those lines. The song titles all sounded like remixes. “Batus! A-Go! Go! or (I Shouldn’t Wish to Attract Attention),” “To The Batmobile!,” Holy Flypaper,” etc. I begged my mom to get it for me, but she did offer this warning:

“I don’t think this is going to be what you think it is.”

I scoffed at that insinuation. We get home, I throw it on, and the super-fast Batman theme comes on.

“See, Mom! I told you it was some kind of rap thing! It’s all fast!”

The longer the tape rolled, though, I realized she was right. It was still cool, but I was a little disappointed I wasn’t hearing Adam West’s voice sampled over Technotronic house beats. It should be noted that I was playing the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game for regular Nintendo while blasting the Batman tape on my parents’ overly-elaborate and expensive home stereo unit.

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Batman: The Exclusive Original Television Soundtrack Album has been out of print forever. If you’re lucky enough to happen upon a copy, snatch it up like King Tut’s beard. Go home, crank it up, throw on that homemade cape you’ve been hiding in the closet, and run around your house like an idiot pretending to chase the Riddler. You won’t be sorry (unless you knock something over that belongs to your wife/kids/parents).

James Greene Jr will be back again this time next week; read his last column here.