117 – Taxman – Matt Gibson

Written by George Harrison and John Lennon
Credited to George Harrison
Original version recorded August 5 1965
Ukulele version recorded February 2011


Fiddles and Lead Vocal – Matt Gibson
Pedal Steel – Stump Pickens
Bass, slide guitar, harmonica, mandolin, backing vocals – Michael Golub
Drums, Ukulele – David Barratt
Additional Vocals – Kirsten Gronberg and Brian August

Produced by David Barratt & Michael Golub at The Abattoir Of Good Taste from original recordings by Matt Gibson at his shack in Allardt, Tennessee.

Essay Jessie Murphy



By George!

1 2 3 4 Boom Splat. Who’d a thunk it. Even though John helped on a few lines this was George set free.

For the first time a George Harrison song opened a Beatles album, and not just any old Beatles album. This was Revolver – the new hip post-mop-top Beatles album. And what subject did he choose to share his opinions about at this auspicious time.

The funding of British social services 

George Harrison wrote this ditty of rage for a government that was taking what he considered his to be his money to build hospitals and schools for post-war Britain instead of letting George purchase an infinite number of sexy Nehru suits and rare sitars for his collection.

Taxman is possibly the most unintentionally ironic song in the whole Beatles catalog when one considers George’s usual mantra of love, sharing, selflessness and spirituality.

In 1965 The Beatles’ large earnings placed them in the top tax bracket in the UK and made them liable to the 95% supertax introduced by the Labour Government of Harold Wilson.  In the context of the supertax, lyrics like,

“Let me tell you how it will be;
There’s one for you, nineteen for me”

are not petulant exaggerations so much as a pretty decent crack at sixth grade math. 

Napoleon Bonaparte believed that man’s only liberties, civic or otherwise, could only be protected and preserved by his own conscience and in his own heart. By Napoleon’s lights,liberty was a highly personal matter and no force external to man could either ignite or suppress his essential freedoms. If Napoleon were alive today and he were to look straight up in to the eyes of Ron Paul and whisper those words full of meaning and intensity, within a matter of biscuits we would have a full blown American in Paris style bromance on our hands, that would burn fast and hot until a fevered discussion of taxation brought all that beautiful man love to a grinding halt. 


Because Napoleon taxed the pomme frites out of the French with the implementation of a series of national laws collectively known as the Code Napoleon.  Those civil codes were the foundation for many legal systems and tax codes established throughout Europe. Napoleon (or Nappy B as we like to call him) was nothing if not king of the one-liners. He said,

“Among those who dislike oppression are many who like to oppress.”

Can’t you just hear a line like that echoing off the halls of the US Congress today in the midst of a heated debate about our federal budget? Each party could effectively level the charge at the other and feel entirely justified in the surety of their accusation.

What is the point of all this talking about a Napoleon in an essay about a Beatles song? It’s completely out of context.

That’s the point. 

Layers of misappropriated content to serve an incongruous context make up the bulk of our political dialogues today.  Ron Paul is as off the mark quoting Thomas Jefferson on the issues of tax reform, as he would be in quoting Napoleon on the topic of civil liberties.
Jefferson is famously quoted by the extremely tax averse members of the Ron Paul camp as saying,

"A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned – this is the sum of good government."

There are many quotes like these which show our favorite ginger topped founding father in all of his anti federalist, anti big government glory.  The same quote simultaneously reveals Jefferson’s profound commitment to the rights and wages of the working class.  Our boy TJ is also quoted on the walls of his own monument as saying:

“I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”
This quote contextualizes every other Jefferson quote regarding the constitution and the shape he believed American government should take.  It reveals his profound understanding that all

“laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind”

and are therefore subject to, you guessed it – the context of a nation’s expansion and development.

The context of taxes in 1966 in UK under the British Labor government of Harold Wilson was radically different than the context of taxes in the United States in 2011. Britain were re-building their infrastructure after several years of bombardment from Adolf Hitler. They were building schools, hospitals, roads and even new cities.

Included in The 2011 Republican House Budget Chairman, Paul Ryan’s, budget plan are about $4.2 trillion in tax cuts over the next decade for corporations and the wealthy.

In 2002, H&R Block used “Taxman” in commercials for their tax preparation service. In an act of bad taste, even for a hack accountancy firm, the ads aired shortly after Harrison died. I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point the Republicans will use this song in an attack ad on a Democrat.

As an aside, Hitler of course took Tax Law enforcement to another level when he had three Germans hanged for evading taxes by opening Swiss bank accounts in 1934. I don’t normally have much common ground with the man with a small mustache but wouldn’t it be entertaining to have public executions of corporate criminals who avoid tax in The USA?

The Ukulele version of “Taxman” is performed by the legendary country singer Matt Gibson. Gibson once punched out Newt Gingrich because of his weak stance on capital punishment for flag burning.


Being the son of Nashville legend, Cletus Gibson, it is no accident that Matt Gibson found himself in the family business.

After crippling debts and unpaid taxes, the federal Government finally caught up with him. He was arrested in 1965 and sent to San Quentin state prison.

While in solitary confinement, he encountered a mexican death row inmate named  El Lucidator. Matt credits "El"  with turning his life around.

While holding down a steady job in the prison laundry room, Matt attended a live, spell binding performance  by Johnny Cash and he has never looked back in the rear mirror of that long crooked road.

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