A Sad Day for Gotham

The New York Times has reported the passing of Batman star Adam West under the headline “A Sad Day for Gotham.” West, who was eighty-eight, would have appreciated the wry humor. His portrayal of Bob Kane’s caped crusader was a world apart from any other interpretation of the comic book hero. In the Times obituary, he described his approach to the role:

What I loved about Batman was his total lack of awareness when it came to his interaction with the outside world. He actually believed nobody would recognize him on the phone when he was Bruce Wayne, even though he made no attempt to disguise his voice.

The short-lived series was a masterpiece of clever camp, with West at its center. As Batman (and, spoiler alert, millionaire Bruce Wayne) he encouraged the young citizens of Gotham to eat their vegetables and wear their seat belts. He hoped his adversaries could be redeemed.

One of the series’ most endearing features was Neil Hefti’s unforgettable “Batman Theme” and Nelson Riddle’s swingin’ mod score. Several unusual records came out of the series, including a single by West himself and another by Frank Gorshin, as the Riddler, which was written and arranged by Mel Torme. Frank Zappa wrote and arranged a song for Burt Ward titled “Boy Wonder, I Love You” and best of all Burgess Meredith recorded an awesome single, “The Escape” backed with “The Capture.”

Hefti and Riddle each released LPs of music from Batman. In line with the television show’s camp approach, the theme (a hit for the Marketts and Hefti himself) credited “Words and music” even though there was only a single word in the song.

His album, fairly rare today, contained the theme and eleven additional tunes with fun titles like “Evil Plot to Blow Up Batman” (heard below).

The Nelson Riddle LP contains the actual television score, or at least a sampling of songs from its three seasons. It also has hilarious clips of dialogue which feature West at his best.

Here are a couple tracks from the soundtrack LP in honor of the actor, who couldn’t ever really escape the role he played so well but came to embrace it. We grew up watching re-runs of Batman and we never really outgrew the show.

 

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