Wednesday, May 09, 2012

When Did Music Become So... Important?

So Don Draper asks his young, hip wife in last week's Mad Men.

If, like me, you were blown away by the brilliant use of "Tomorrow Never Knows" in the episode's closing minutes, you'll be interested in this article from the NYTimes ArtsBeat Blog:
In most cases, “Mad Men” is bound by the history of the era in which it takes place. But on Sunday night, a new episode of that 1960s period drama that concluded with the Beatles song “Tomorrow Never Knows” appears to have made some history of its own, marking a rare instance in which a song written and recorded by that band has been licensed for use on a television series. 
“It was always my feeling that the show lacked a certain authenticity because we never could have an actual master recording of the Beatles performing,” Matthew Weiner, the creator and show runner of “Mad Men,” said in a telephone interview on Monday. “Not just someone singing their song or a version of their song, but them, doing a song in the show. It always felt to me like a flaw. Because they are the band, probably, of the 20th century.”
There's no question that you can't DO the 60s without doing the Beatles: they provided the soundtrack for the era. Not alone, and not always ahead of the curve, but the Beatles had saturation. If they were doing it--whatever it was at the moment--you knew it was the thing to do.

An interesting point about the use of the Beatles here: early in the episode, Don is looking around for a song that sounds like "A Hard Day's Night" to use in a commercial that looks like, well, A Hard Day's Night. Problem here: it's now fall 1966 (when yours truly was born!) so that movie was two years old at that point. Hardly cutting edge. But it does introduce the tantalizing idea that you can find things LIKE the Beatles, but it won't BE the Beatles. (Herman's Hermits are rejected by the staff of SCDP; the eventual winner, as this Times story tells us, was another song with an obscure Beatle connection: "'September in the Rain,' the Wedgewoods track that Draper and his colleagues contemplate as a substitute for an authentic Fab Four tune, is one of 15 songs the Beatles performed at a 1962 audition for Decca Records.")

And in a cringe-worthy moment: "Mr. Weiner pointed to another Mad Men episode from earlier this season, in which a Beach Boys song is played during a character’s LSD trip. “No one ever asked, ‘What does it cost to have that song?’ ” he said. “You think that that’s free?”" Ouch.

The real capper, though: Don listens to "Tomorrow Never Knows," doesn't quite "get" it, turns it off, and walks away. This does not bode well for his transition into the rest of the sixties.

15 comments:

buzzbabyjesus said...

Well, Don is part of "the establishment".

steve simels said...

This does not bode well for his transition into the rest of the sixties.

I've been thinking that since the end of last season.


And I must say I was not particularly surprised that John Slattery's character was the one who did LSD. He always struck me as a potential hepster. Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if he quits the firm and runs off to San Francisco in 1967.

FD13NYC said...

Strange, that by 1966 an advertising firm couldn't find a good british mersey beat song for a commercial. There were probably plenty of them recorded obscurely or not by then.

Also, when Draper's wife hands him the Revolver album and tells him to start with this one, Tomorrow Never Knows. I understand the reference, but why the last track on the album, strange.

TMink said...

The time I saw the dB's in concert, it was at Chapel Hill and they opened with a killer, killer version of Tomorrow Never Knows.

It was transcendent.

I was, and remain, hooked.

Trey

steve simels said...

Speaking of REVOLVER covers, Matthew Sweet and Richard Lloyd did a killer live version of "She Said, She Said" on some tribute album or charity comp somewhere.

FD13NYC said...

According to the Wall Street Journal, Weiner and Co. paid $250,000 dollars to use that snippet of the Beatles song. Five times or so the original cost for the use of music.

That's a lot to get a point across. The Mad Men people must have a load of dough to spend on things like that. They deserve it though, the show is great nonetheless.

Wish I had 250 grand in my pocket.

steve simels said...


An interesting point about the use of the Beatles here: early in the episode, Don is looking around for a song that sounds like "A Hard Day's Night" to use in a commercial that looks like, well, A Hard Day's Night. Problem here: it's now fall 1966 (when yours truly was born!) so that movie was two years old at that point. Hardly cutting edge.


However, fall of 1966 was when The Monkees, a tv show tht looks like A Hard Days Night, premiered, so it's actually pretty canny on Don's part.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to have a copy of Los Lobos doing "Tomorrow Never Knows" from a mid-90's PBS special. You thought the tune was into the stratosphere? Those guys took it higher.

Ad agencies in the 60's didn't use rock music. They used The T-Bones, Baja Marimba Band or Herb Alpert.

Or they used that ersatz stuff that sounded like the music that came out of Gilligan's radio.

Not that I'm against that sound...

Gummo said...

The first time I heard a "contemporary" 60s rock song used for a commercial was circa 1967-68 when Yardly used Donovan's Wear Your Love Like Heaven for a cosmetics commercial.

IIRC, it only aired during The Monkees.

Jerry Lee said...

Don's never going to swallow that flower power crap, but you can bet he'll be looking for some free lovin'.

Peter said...

Hey, Anonymous: here's the Los Lobos performance of "Tomorrow Never Knows" on PBS.

JZ said...

It just serves to remind one about how quickly things changed in the 60's. By '66, "A Hard Day's Night" seemed like ages beforehand, when it was all of 2 years old. And by 1968, "Tomorrow Never Knows" was already old hat!

You never know, Don's wife may save him yet...:)

steve simels said...

Incidentally, The Wedgewood's "September in the Rain" is a merseybeat version of the famous Walter Huston hit of the late 40s better known as "September Song."

Bugs Bunny had an amusing habit of singing it in various Warner Brothers cartoons....
:-)

steve simels said...

Written by Kurt Weill, BTW.

Jonathan F. King said...

Am I wrong in thinking that Weiner boo-booed by including the Merseybeats on the list of groups that were suggested as possible options for the commercial? (The Zombies were also mentioned.) I don't recall the Merseybeats having a chart hit in the U.S., at least nationally -- so is it reasonable to think one of the agency guys would have their name in mind? I'm always on the alert for a chink in Weiner's reputation for factual authenticity, but he frequently ends up being right about things I thought I knew differently. (One possible exception: the moment last season when Peggy goes to a club where a band in the background is playing Love's "Signed D.C." That seemed chronologically off to me...)