Don Draper

If you haven’t seen this past Sunday’s episode of Mad Men yet, get thee to a DVR, because light spoilers are about to happen. As with the rest of the season, much of this week’s episode revolved around our hero Don Draper feeling old and out-of-touch. And after a few conversations about the feasibility of getting the Beatles (or, failing that, a reasonable facsimile thereof) to give a song to a commercial, it became painfully apparent that Draper didn’t really know what the circa-1966 version of the Beatles sounded like. So his much-younger second wife Megan bought him a copy of Revolver, and he spent the end of the episode zoning out to the swooping, squealing, psychedelic-as-all-fuck “Tomorrow Never Knows” before looking slightly perturbed and turning it off. It was a great character moment, but it also left me wondering how much the show’s producers paid to license the song. It turns out: A whole lot!

The New York Times reports that the use of the song cost the show $250,000. Even that could be considered something of a bargain, since the Beatles’ estate turns down most requests for their music to be licensed. And according to Mad Men creator and showrunner Matthew Weiner, the show’s producers had to accommodate a few requests from the Beatles camp to even be allowed to pay that much: “I had to do a couple things that I don’t like doing, which is share my story line and share my pages… It was hard because I had to, writing-wise, commit to the story that I thought was worthy of this incredible opportunity. The thing about that song in particular was, the Beatles are, throughout their intense existence, constantly pushing the envelope, and I really wanted to show how far ahead of the culture they were. That song to me is revolutionary, as is that album. And if the Beatles’ Apple Corps had rejected the episode after seeing those pages, Weiner says, “I don’t know. I would have changed the story.”

All that money and trouble was worth it, according to Weiner: “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 — 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… Whatever people think, this is not about money. It never is. They are concerned about their legacy and their artistic impact.”

Read the full story at The New York Times.

Comments (29)
  1. It’s “Mad Men” and it airs on Sunday.

  2. Michael_  |   Posted on May 8th, 2012 -9

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • You’re a braver man than most, Underscore.

    • Don’t care about the Beatles? Why don’t you just go join Courtney Love in the “I don’t like chocolate!” corner?

      • Michael_  |   Posted on May 8th, 2012 -9

        Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

        • Michael_

          Just Let It Be

        • People get upset because you are just off-the-scales wrong. Even among people who listen to experimental music, you are really in the minority on this one. It’s so funny that you think you know something about rock music. Almost every rock band is directly or indirectly influenced by something the Beatles did. Have you ever read a band interview? Nearly everyone on Earth realizes this, and almost everyone who likes any genre of rock music even a little bit appreciates their music. They weren’t at the right place at the right time at the beginning of rock n roll; they invented rock music as we know it. It’s staggering to think that they leapt from Please Please Me to Sgt. Pepper in the space of 4 years! The White Album alone contains the blueprints for most styles of rock music. The only thing revolutionary that happened after the Beatles was punk; the professed ideals of punk were finally perfectly actualized in the form of my bloody valentine’s loveless. No one else has truly reinvented the wheel since.

        • Dude read some history on the making of Sgt. Pepper’s. These guys were studio wizards and they were tripping the whole time. Read the “production” part of this wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sgt._Pepper's_Lonely_Hearts_Club_Band
          They just kept getting more out there and genius. Think of it this way – the beatles were as monumental to popular music as moving from a land line to a cell phone. Everything was just different afterwards.

        • I listened to an interesting talk from a former mathematician turned author that I feel applies to what you’re saying. In short, this man had been left in a sort of existential crisis after he discovered that results identical to ones found in a paper he was about to publish had ALREADY been published by a pair of Japanese researchers only months before. To him, this raised the obvious question: what is the purpose of me being here–what can I leave on this earth after I’m gone–is someone across the world from me can duplicate my research, my findings. What is the purpose OF me if there is no specific need FOR me.
          Realizing this, he now makes a living as an author, and his reasoning behind this is as follows: art, and especially high art, DOES DEPEND on the person. It’s not a cosmic constant that will be created no matter what, no matter who. Macbeth NEEDED Shakespeare, the Mona Lisa NEEDED DaVinci, and Revolver, or more generally the sound ushered in by the Beatles, NEEDED the Beatles. It WOULDN’T have come along regardless.
          Now, this may be selling his own work a bit high, but I think it raises an interesting point. Revolver specifically needed the Beatles, as War and Peace needed Tolstoy. To suggest that the entire ‘sound’ associated with the Beatles specifically and uniquely required them admittedly is a bit more difficult to assert, BUT I do think it’s incredibly easy to say now, after decades of copies and imitations, that the Beatles could have been anyone. It’s not so easy when you begin at point A, looking forward into the unmarked future of rock and roll, to say the same. The Beatles DID just that; they created a sound where before there was silence, and influenced half a century of pop culture in their wake. To credit that to Lady Luck seems disingenuous at best.

          • IF* someone. Fuck. Point ruined.

          • Michael_  |   Posted on May 9th, 2012 -4

            One last point I’d like to make however is that The Beatles were pretty much working with a clean slate every time they went to write a new album. Any sound they made, every new direction they took was just that — “new.” Therefore, their credit to innovating rock ‘n roll came to them easier than it does anyone after them. These days, each time a musician walks into the studio, they have to think about everything else that came before them, and so it’s because of that I have to think whether or not The Beatles would have made the same impact on music if all musicians began creating music at the same exact point in time.

          • This is about 1000000 years late, but, as much as I can respect your indifference to The Beatles, Michael _, your history is WAAAYY off. The Beatles were NOT around for the beginning of rock music. Their first studio album came out in 1963. Rock and roll started in the mid 50s with the likes of Little Richard, Elvis, Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, etc.

            When Revolver came out, rock and roll was over a decade old. Some artists, like the Sonics or the Monks took rock and roll to what some would say were obvious conclusions and created garage rock (around 65) which was louder and fuzzier (and excellent).

            The Beatles were able to take rock and roll and pop melodies and combine that with instruments that were not “rock” instruments and used the studio to invent psychedelic music whole cloth. So your “they were the only people around and therefore automatic pioneers” argument holds no water whatsoever.

          • Forgot to mention that they were also pushed by some friendly competition with the Beach Boys, but you know whatever.

          • @Michael_

            I sympathize with your Beatles/”Happy Birthday” analogy– feeling indifferent toward The Beatles strictly as a listener in 2012 is understandable– BUT, while there may be something to be said for the argument that they were working with a somewhat “clean slate”, I think the claim that “anyone could have been The Beatles” is super misguided.

            Let’s assume your argument is true that any band in The Beatles’ position would have had an equal cultural/musical impact. If that is the case, then it is that much more fucking incredible that they happened to write the music that they did. The amount of melodic sophistication and structural elegance present in the majority of their work is mind-boggling. Off the top of my head: the key change in “Here There And Everywhere”; the guitar leads over the chorus of “Oh! Darling”; all of “Michelle”. Even one of their simpler-sounding songs like “I Want To Hold Your Hand” is ripe for analysis on a music theory level. Obviously not everyone knows music theory, but I think the fact that the songs are so well composed on that level is a big part of why The Beatles continue to resonate with listeners– people respond to those musical cues even if they don’t realize it.

            Basically I’m saying that if The Beatles could have just settled for being Journey, it’s crazy that they were The Beatles instead.

  3. GAAAAAME OF TTHHRRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOOONNES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. This type of extravagant budget is the reason Breaking Bad and Walking Dead are getting the backburner on AMC.

  5. It’s a little sad that while watching the episode I was wondering how much it cost to play that song, and whether Paul or Ringo are fans (though I doubt they have little to do with the licensing these days)… I was surprised that they chose that trippy song, given what they were looking for for the commercial.

  6. This isn’t related to Mad Men, so I apologize, but in light of watching the Beach Boys’ performance on Fallon, I can’t help but compare their trajectory with that of the Beatles. Imagine if Brian Wilson was surrounded by bandmates that were just as willing as he was to push the boundaries. The creative environment that John Lennon was in, with all the Beatles gunning each other to go further and further towards the unknown, made a song like “Tomorrow Never Knows” possible. It’s too bad Brian didn’t have the same surroundings. We do have Pet Sounds and Smile, but at a high cost to Brian’s mental health. Who knows what other brilliant music we could have if he had been able to keep going at that pace during his creative peak.

  7. “I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, ‘The Beatles did.’” — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Timequake, (1997) The generations keep a-splittin’ (see Don & Megan, and the posting post-culture poseurs above.)

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