Revisit Tom Petty’s cover of The Beatles’ ‘Taxman’ in tribute to George Harrison

The impact of The Beatles knows no bounds. Within pop music and abound the world of pop culture at large, the names of John Lenon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr still ring out with the incandescent clarity that they did back in 1962. Truly, six decades after their initial releases, the group are still as highly beloved and adored as they ever have been, the new deluxe reissue of the 1966 album Revolver is a testament to that alone. Another serious signifier of the band’s huge impact is the set of musicians who champion them as the ultimate icons of rock.

One such man who always took time to share his love for the Fab Four was the late, great Tom Petty. Having regularly described the band’s landmark arrival on the Ed Sullivan show as one of the most life-changing moments of his career, Petty would achieve a dream by working alongside one of the band — George Harrison — as part of the Traveling Wilburys, a supergroup that contained Petty, Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne. During his time with the supergroup, he and Harrison would form an unbreakable bond.

So much so that when Harrison tragically passed away in 2001, owing to an awful bout of cancer, Petty, along with his band The Heartbreakers, would take part in an all-star benefit titled Concert for George. A tribute show like no other, the event showcased just how loved Harrison was outside of music, as well as within it. Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Jeff Lynne Billy Preston, Jools Holland, Albert Lee, Sam Brown, Gary Brooker, Joe Brown, Ray Cooper, Andy Fairweather-Low, Marc Mann, Dave Bronze, Klaus Voormann, Harrison’s son Dhani, and more people who played alongside George over his career, all appeared.

The 2002 show had more than its fair share of beautiful moments. Whether it was Paul McCartney playing The Beatles’ song ‘Something’ on a ukulele given to him by Harrison or McCartney’s star turn alongside Eric Clapton and Ringo Starr for a powerhouse performance of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, every tribute to Harrison was inch perfect. And when Petty and The Heartbreakers were choosing their own song to cover in homage to the great man, they picked a particularly brilliant one; ‘Taxman’.

Often billed as the first song that Harrison really flexed his songwriting muscles on, the tune is rooted in his displeasure at the British tax system. “I had discovered I was paying a huge amount of money to the taxman. You are so happy that you’ve finally started earning money – and then you find out about tax,” he told Anthology. “In those days, we paid 19 shillings and sixpence out of every pound, and with supertax and surtax and tax-tax it was ridiculous – a heavy penalty to pay for making money. That was a big turn-off for Britain. Anybody who ever made any money moved to America or somewhere else.”

However, the song is really beloved because of its standing among Harrison’s best songs for the band. Lennon even noticed its impressive qualities very quickly: “I remember the day he called to ask for help on ‘Taxman’, one of his first songs. I threw in a few one-liners to help the song along, because that’s what he asked for. He came to me because he couldn’t go to Paul, because Paul wouldn’t have helped him at that period. I didn’t want to do it. I thought, Oh, no, don’t tell me I have to work on George’s stuff. It’s enough doing my own and Paul’s. But because I loved him and I didn’t want to hurt him when he called that afternoon and said, ‘Will you help me with this song?’ I just sort of bit my tongue and said OK. It had been John and Paul for so long, he’d been left out because he hadn’t been a songwriter up until then.”

It meant that when Petty and his band got their hands on it, they knew that all eyes would be on their delivery of the track. Luckily, what transpired was a scintillating cover that paid tribute t the original Revolver song and still imbued it with enough charm to make even Harrison happy. You can watch that performance below as tom Petty covers The Beatles’ song ‘Taxman’ in tribute to George Harrison.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like