?Music nerds know the ’60s signify a provocative decade of music, its mainstream seasoned by LSD, mysticism, garage rock, soul and lots of naked hippies. The sonic creativity then still ripples in the mainstreams of today, and that’s one reason why we see endless reprints of Beatles and Jimi Hendrix albums.
Meanwhile, comic books were a different story. While creative and legendary, even the luminaries – R.I.P. Jack Kirby and Gene Colan – were censored by the Comics Code Authority, which, as we nerds know, watered down our beloved periodicals. And, yeah, Batman was a total wuss. So were Captain America, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four… you get the idea. It was a strange decade for superheroes.
However, the ’60s spawned incredible team-ups involving bands and mainstream comics. Some of the biggest, girl-mesmerizing bands were nerds, and if they weren’t singing about guys like Batman and Spider-Man, they were creating original superheroes through song. Today we have a playlist of both (no soundtracks or theme songs, though; that’s a bit too easy).
9) “I Can See for Miles,” The Who
Widely regarded as a superhero song, The Who’s rambling “I Can See for Miles” comes off as a play on Superman’s telescopic vision, among other awesome powers. At the center, Roger Daltrey’s unnamed superhero can see far, far away, admiring the world’s wonders and lamenting about a girl with mixed emotions. Hey… look… up in the sky. It’s a torch song about Lois Lane.
8) “Superlungs (My Supergirl),” Donovan
If Wikipedia and nerd-dom hold truth, Donovan’s Kinks-y love song “Superlung (My Supergirl)” is a direct reference to Kara Zor-El and all her allure. While the lyrics hardly point to her superpowers (and yes, her superlungs), we can take this as Donovan comparing his bird to the superhero, a girl who also “ain’t quite grown up yet but her credence’s real good.”
7) “Johnny Thunder,” The Kinks
Hailing from the folk-rock myths of The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, “Johnny Thunder” mediates on a pastoral superhero, taking cues from the Flash by way of Aquaman and half-resembling the Johnny Thunder of DC Comics. This Johnny Thunder lives on water and feeds on lightning, and, if the album is any indication, he likely knows “Monica” and the “Phenomenal Cat,” too.
6) “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill,” The Beatles
Captain Marvel makes a brief cameo (one line) in “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill,” a folksy tale about an American and his mom’s jungle adventure. It’s not clear to which Captain Marvel the Beatles is referring (DC or Marvel), but at least Lennon, who knew of Captain Marvel, avoided the Shazam! misnomer. It’s possible that he was referring to neither superhero, though (it’s complicated).
5) “Can’t Get Next to You,” The Temptations
(Note: Yeah, this is a 1970 video, but possibly the best version next to the original, which was released in 1969 via Motown. Translation: I can’t find a proper YouTube vid for the original.) Topping charts like Superman in 1969, this funk-nasty soul number finds the foursome crooning as a gang of superhumans who resemble the Justice League and the X-Men. One guy “can make the seasons change, just by waving my hand,” while another “can buy anything that money can buy,” and another “can live forever if I so desired.” But alas, these heroes, as they admit, lack the power of love. Where’s Scott Pilgrim when you need him?
4) “Sunshine Superman,” Donovan
From this breezy tune by Scotland’s Bob Dylan, we can infer that Donovan’s affinity for LSD and beaches make him a being superior to Superman and Green Lantern. And if we had to infer which superhero he’s portraying (“I can make like a turtle and dive for your pearls in the sea”), we’d say Aquaman. Hmm. Maybe this is a bad trip.
3) “Joker’s Wild,” The Ventures
The Ventures was one of many bands that covered the 1960s Batman theme song, but, unlike the rest of the fold, it has the best companion piece in “Joker’s Wild,” a tribute to the Clown Prince of (campy) Crime. Clocking in at 2:22, its surf-rock bent sizzles with circular, reverb-soaked guitars that riff on the side of evil, accented by key changes, haunting wails and Cesar Romero’s maniacal laughter. If Joker were burning Orange County, this would be a perfect soundtrack.
2) “Batman to the Rescue,” LaVern Baker
Burning up in 1966, LaVern Baker’s R&B gives us a twist-and-shout spin on Batman’s campy adventures. If you ask us, this is an underrated take on the Caped Crusader. While the lyrics are pithy, it’s an upbeat song and fitting for the era, when Bats was fighting good, clean crime. In short, “Batman to the Rescue” seems like a theme song swept under the Bat-rug by accident.
1) “Nobody Loves the Hulk,” The Traits
Giving the Incredible Hulk some well-deserved credit, The Traits’ paint-it-black garage punk illuminates a sad story about Dr. Bruce Banner’s radiation accident and subsequent transformation into a menace. This band is not to be confused with Roy Head and the Traits. Hailing from New York State, the quartet saw little success, but if it deserves some notoriety, it’s worth mentioning that it is in fact the first garage-y jam centered on the Hulk, plus it had rights from Marvel.