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.