As previously detailed, TV drama Mad Men used The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” in an episode-stealing scene on Sunday, in which protagonist Don Draper just couldn’t get behind John Lennon’s LSD-inspired song.
Even casual Beatles fans may know that original recordings – not covers – of the band’s songs are a real rarity on TV and commercials, so it comes as little surprise to find out that the 1960s-themed show’s use of “Tomorrow Never Knows” marks the only time an original Beatles recording has been used on television, according to Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner.
But how, exactly, did Weiner and his team attain the rights to Revolver’s final track? It required Weiner to reveal his script to Apple Corps, the company owned by the members of Beatles and their surviving heirs.
“It was hard because I had to, writing-wise, commit to the story that I thought was worthy of this incredible opportunity,” Weiner told the New York Times. “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 [1966's Revolver].”
Apparently Weiner has been rejected by Apple Corps previously, trying for “a few years” to synch a Beatles original in his popular TV drama.
“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,” Weiner said. “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.”
While the use of “Tomorrow Never Knows” adds a sense of credibility to Mad Men, the show’s production company, Lionsgate, paid roughly $250,000 for the recording and publishing rights to the song, according to unnamed sources close to the deal. (It is not clear whether that number covers use of the song across the show’s international syndication and DVD distribution, as well as the visual use of the Revolver album cover in the scene.)
Weiner opted not to comment on the exact price of the “Tomorrow Never Knows” synch, noting instead, “Whatever people think, this is not about money.”
–Jillian Mapes, CBS Local