Friend And Lover, Reach Out In The Darkness

Posted in Friend And Lover, Mad Men on May 14th, 2013 by Willie


Hello everybody! I’m back again! My beloved website was hacked. It was a malicious assault on my home base but I woke up and it was fixed, I have no idea how. Thank you mysterious internet savior! In honor of its return, I am posting this awesome 60s jam I heard at the end of the latest episode of Mad Men. Those who might remember know I love the show, even going as far as making my own video tribute to the 5th season last summer. You can watch that groovy video by clicking here. Anyway, here is Jim and Cathy Post, the once married couple that churned out this top 10 1968 hit song, “Reach Out in the Darkness.” The song has many parts, some really corny in that late 60s hippie style, some really catchy and timeless. I’ll let you decide what your favorite part of the song is. I had never heard the song before, much to the surprise of my girlfriend and her sister. They assumed I have heard every 60s nugget produced, but that is not the case. Anyway, as far as Mad Men goes, this song was playing when Don Draper and his wife Megan discovered that Bobby Kennedy was killed, providing an almost ridiculous counter balance to the historic misery of RFK’s horrendous death. It was an incredible scene, and it is well worth checking out the episode. Hope you like it!


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Mad Men, The Eleanor Rigby Experiment

Posted in Mad Men, The Beatles on July 5th, 2012 by Willie

One of the most exciting elements of the latest season of Mad Men was how the series creator, Matthew Weiner, somehow scored the rights to broadcast an actual Beatles song on his show.  The Beatles had never allowed their actual recordings to be directly featured in a television show, and have rarely allowed the privilege in movies.  It was interesting to read of how Weiner managed to pull off the feat.  It wasn’t an issue of money, though the price of airing the culturally priceless cut from Revolver, “Tomorrow Never Knows,” wasn’t cheap, but rather, he needed to get approval from Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, and Olivia Harrison.  Weiner took a big risk because securing the rights for the song meant having the Beatle people approving the script for a television show with a limited window for production time.  If his plan failed, he’d have to drastically alter the episode on short notice.  Luckily, his ploy worked, and us die hard Mad Men fans finally got to hear the musical group that dominated the decade in which the fictional show takes place.  In the original scene, Don Draper, feeling out of touch with the musical trends of 1966, asks his wife to bring him up to date on what the Beatles were up.  She gives him Revolver, and tells him to play “Tomorrow Never Knows,” the last, and most avant-garde far out psychedelic track on the legendary LP.  Don Draper dutifully plays the track, pours a drink, and tries to get into it.  As John Lennon drones on, we are treated to a montage of various characters that gets abruptly shut off when Don angrily stops the song midway through.  This scene annoyed me for a few critical reasons.  First of all, his wife, Megan, should have just told him to play the album from the start.  Don would have appreciated the conservative wit and word games of George Harrison’s “Taxman.”  Then, I have no doubt, that when “Eleanor Rigby’s” gorgeous harmonies and fast paced string quartet struck, that would have hooked him.  It’s the sort of song that speaks to Don’s character, a tale of anonymous lonely people living futile lives.  The pure black and white beauty of the song, combined with the commercial accessibility that only Paul McCartney can manufacture, might have stunned him emotionally and kept him listening.  Playing “Tomorrow Never Knows,” to someone who hasn’t heard too many Beatles songs,out of the blue, even in the year 2012, is just not the best way to indoctrinate a potential Beatle enthusiast.  I think Weiner chose the song because he wanted to contrast the insanely advanced sonic world the Beatles were operating in, with the old fashioned world that Don and many of his contemporaries were still living in, in 1966.  That in itself is cool, but to me, Don needed to hear a few other songs first before diving off the Tibetan Book of the Dead deep end.  So, I have rectified the situation.  The video I present below substitutes “Tomorrow Never Knows,” with “Eleanor Rigby.”  The montage of shots that follow are also of my choosing.  I tried to match the song to what I considered some of the most striking scenes and images from Season 5.  I also tried matching the images to the song in a loose abstract way.  All in all, I think it came out very well, and am very excited to share it.  Mad Men is currently my favorite TV show, and it goes without saying that the Beatles are my favorite band ever, so getting to mess around with two things I love so much was just a lot of fun.  So, enjoy it, and feel free to share it around town.

Mad Men, The Eleanor Rigby Experiment from Willie Simpson on Vimeo.

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Nancy Sinatra, You Only Live Twice, Mad Men Season Finale

Posted in Mad Men, Nancy Sinatra on June 11th, 2012 by Willie

Mad Men is a hell of a show.  When it first premiered, I was intrigued because I loved the Sopranos, and knew that Matthew Weiner, one of that shows head writers, was behind its creation.  At first I wasn’t hooked.  I thought many of the characters were overly stylized and inauthentic.  I also thought much of the first season’s hook was portraying the chauvinistic and racist world that world that was very much in full swing in the early 1960s.  So, after a few episodes, I stayed away from Mad Men, casually sympathizing with those who thought the show to be an over-hyped and empty experience.  The show drew me back though after the conclusion of season 2.  I had caught a few more episodes, and was reluctantly entertained.  When I made an effort to follow up on several of the episodes’ smokey cliffhangers, the reluctance was gone, and I was hooked.  This past week, in gearing up for the season 5 conclusion, I found myself looking back at season 1 with fresh eyes, re-watching classic moments from other moments of the show, like how the characters react to the Kennedy assassination, and all around just soaking in the smugly rewarding atmosphere that indulging in this show offers.  Season 5 ended last night, and I am a bit sad because it was my favorite season by far.  At last, in the midst of season 5, and to apparent great expense, the Beatles were heard on the show.  Hearing “Tomorrow Never Knows,” from Revolver, finally filled a great cultural void that existed only due to the near impossibility of getting all the Beatle heirs to agree to allow a real Beatle master tape to be played on television.  It was immensely satisfying as a Beatle fan to hear the group that could not be avoided in the real 60s, to finally find a place in the fictional Mad Men 60s.  Then there was the inevitable LSD episode, also executed brilliantly, capturing an unsensationalized and mature look at that curious drug’s power, a welcome change of pace from the countless overblown depictions of the drug and its effects across the span of pop culture history.  Those highlights aside, the season was full of the same witty writing, stunning dramatics, and impeccable set and prop design which are the show’s hallmarks.  Season 5 ended like many Mad Men episodes do, with a montage of our favorite characters in their most private and isolated moments, all set to “You Only Live Twice,” by Nancy Sinatra.  Nancy had some spellbinding hits throughout the 60s, really capturing the more “swinging” side of the 60s through her cinematic cool anthems.  This song, known mainly as a James Bond theme song, finds new life spilling over the secret worlds of our favorite group of spiritually desolated protagonists.  I’ve got the song below, but I do want to close by saying that if you’ve had reservations about Mad Men, drop them.  Start with season 2 and either work yourself forward or backwards.  Like I said, its a hell of a show.

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Twenty One, The Quiz Show Scandals

Posted in Quiz Show Scandal, Youtube Favs on November 7th, 2011 by Willie

A movie I always loved was Quiz Show, the 1994 film directed by acting legend Robert Redford.  The movie is about the infamous practice of game show rigging that went on in the 1950s, especially at NBC with their hit show “Twenty One.”  Proclaiming to audiences that the questions to the answers were kept in a secure bank vault, the reality was that the contestants were outright told the answers before the broadcast, and were also told when to take a dive when the audience grew tired seeing them win.  It was a stunning fraud perpetrated to keep rating high and sell the sponsor’s products, in this case Geritol, a “tired blood” supplement.  The movie focused on Columbia University teacher Charles Van Doren, a handsome, well bred, and well spoken intellectual, and Herbert Stempel, an unemployed everyman from Queens who was asked to take a dive.  Stempel went along with the fraud because he was promised a future on television which he never received.  Incensed by NBC kicking him out the door, Stempel blew the whistle on the whole charade, eventually getting the attention of federal prosecutors in Washington DC who helped blow the lid off the thing.  The movie is great because its a rich and sumptuous look at the glamorous side of late 50s New York City, precipitating the look and feel of shows like “Mad Men” and “Pan Am.”  What I have below is the actual episode of the show that the movie was based on, so you can see for yourself where reality differs from the movie.  The most striking thing about watching the actual Van Doren/Stempel contest is what amazing acting these guys did in the phoniest of situations.  They were just regular guys with no entertainment backgrounds asked to put on a show in front of 50 million people.  It’s truly remarkable.  I’m also including the trailer for Quiz Show just to entice you to watch in case you haven’t seen it.

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