Five seasons in, Don Draper seems less like a beacon of cool than he did when viewers began their journey with the Mad Men protagonist.
On last night’s (May 6th) episode of the AMC drama, Draper poses the question, “When did music become so important?” He asks this in the context of his clients, who are suddenly teeming with requests for specific artists and songs to be used in the ad campaigns, but you get the sense that Draper is talking about more than just work. Culture is shifting, and so is music’s role in it. Draper has not kept up. But it’s 1966: The boat’s about to rock on the swinging sixties, and Draper may want to grab a proverbial life jacket and seem less like “The Man.” “No one can keep up,” Draper’s decidedly modern wife, Megan, tells him. “It’s always changing.”
This specific incident involves a client – men’s cologne Chevalier Blanc – who want a shot-for-shot reinterpretation of The Beatles’ “Hard Day’s Night” film, released in 1964 (so already two years out-of-date). And the clients want a song from the Fab Four in the ad. After what happened with Draper’s quest for the Rolling Stones’ “Time Is On My Side” to be reworked for a Heinz commercial, he knows better and instead promises the client that they’ll find a youthful band that sounds like The Beatles. Names are thrown out: Herman’s Hermits, The Merseybeats, The Zombies, though the Zombies are dismissed quickly. The matter is put out of mind as more urgent plotlines – lying, cheating, the usual – emerge.
Finally, as the episode starts to wrap, we revisit the Beatles, whom Draper saw live just last season when he took his daughter to their legendary 1965 Shea Stadium show. Time to pick a suitable Beatles ripoff. Members of Draper’s team play a cover of “September in the Rain” by a little-known band called the Wedgewoods, who admittedly sound a little like the Beatles. Out-of-touch Draper thinks it is the Beatles, while the hip new guy at the firm – Ginsberg – proclaims with utter disgust, “that song’s like 30 years old!” Indeed it is: “September in the Rain” was first published in 1937, and was covered by the Beatles in 1962 for their audition with Decca Records, who infamously rejected them. This song won’t work, and the group doesn’t seem to know what will.
But that’s not all for the Fab Four in this episode, titled “Lady Lazarus” (after a poem by Sylvia Plath). When Don comes home to Megan, who has just quit the ad firm to follow her acting dreams, she hands him a copy of The Beatles’ Revolver, released just a few months prior to massive acclaim. Start with this one, Megan instructs him, and scampers off to her acting class. Drink in hand, Draper puts on the album’s final track – “Tomorrow Never Knows” – and takes a seat, but he doesn’t exactly turn off his mind, relax and float down stream, as the lyrics encourage. Halfway through the trippy song, Draper gets up, moves the needle away, and walks into the other room. Apparently Draper’s not amused by John Lennon’s song, which he penned after taking LSD and reading The Psychedelic Experience (co-written by Timothy Leary). Don fails to realize that it’s even harder to keep up if you refuse to listen – especially when those around you are heeding Lennon’s words.
–Jillian Mapes, CBS Local