The Beatles & Mad Men

*spoiler alert if you’re not caught up on Mad Men*

Mad Men is a great show. The writing is pretty fantastic and the characters are interesting and engaging. But also, the time period (the 1960s) was a time of great change in the U.S. One of my favorite things about the 60s is the music. Especially the Beatles. The Beatles produced a huge amount of extremely good music in a very short amount of time, a pace that is basically unheard of today. But it wasn’t just the amount of music or the quality of it but also how the music changed during that short period (1963-1970). To go from “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” to “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” in about six years is pretty incredible. Popular music changed dramatically in that time, and even if the Beatles weren’t directly responsible for it, they were definitely the poster band for this change.

The last episode of Mad Men takes place in the summer of 1966 and the Beatles’ Revolver had recently come out. The Beatles had been mentioned many times in the episode (and in a few previous episodes). One of the clients wanted to basically remake the famous chase scene of Hard Days’ Night (a great movie) and needed a non-Beatles song to go in the ad. There was discussion about how it was impossible to get the Beatles to agree to be in a commercial. And it was also clear that Don and the clients still had an idea of what the Beatles sounded like that was still stuck in 1963-1964 (Don, after all, had seen them in Shea Stadium with his daughter when they first came over). They were slowly losing their grasp on what was currently going on in popular culture and weren’t able to keep up. At the end of the episode, Megan tries to help Don by giving him Revolver and tells him to listen to a certain track. And then…amazingly enough… “Tomorrow Never Knows” is playing on my TV. I was kind of shocked that they were able to (a) get the rights to it and (b) afford it. Because I’m sure it wasn’t cheap [I heard some estimates that it was probably around $250,000]. Sure enough, Don can’t stand to listen to the entire song, foreshadowing (I think) his and his generation’s increasing distance from the quickly changing popular culture.

Revolver is one of my favorite Beatles albums. I was reading some stuff on the episode and people inevitably started arguing about what the best Beatles album is. There are four main front-runners: Abbey Road, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s, and the White Album (although I’m sure most of those who argue for the White Album realize that half of it is not super amazing). I have been firmly in the Abbey Road camp for some time. But the discussion of Revolver (and listening to it again on Monday) has made me rethink that just a little bit. I think probably I would say they are in a statistical dead heat, with Abbey Road slightly (but not statistically) ahead [nerd alert]. I have never been a huge fan of Sgt. Pepper’s as a whole, even though I really like some of the songs on it. I love the White Album a lot, but there are some days when I wish half of the songs on it didn’t exist so I wouldn’t have to keep skipping them (I’m thinking mostly of “Glass Onion”, “Long, Long, Long”, and “Mother Nature’s Son”). I also really like Let It Be, but most of those songs are just pretty good and not great (with the obvious exception of “Let It Be”).

All of this also started making me re-think one of my favorite lists to make: favorite Beatles songs. So, here is my current list of my favorite Beatles songs, in alphabetical order (because it’s way way too hard to rank them sufficiently):

  • All You Need is Love
  • A Day in the Life
  • Eleanor Rigby
  • The End
  • Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey
  • Got to Get you Into My Life
  • Happiness is a Warm Gun
  • Helter Skelter
  • Here, There and Everywhere
  • Hey Jude
  • Honey Pie
  • I Should Have Known Better
  • I Wanna Hold Your Hand
  • I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
  • I Will
  • I’ll Be Back
  • If I Fell
  • In My Life
  • Let It Be
  • Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
  • Oh! Darling
  • Penny Lane
  • Revolution 1
  • Rocky Raccoon
  • Something
  • Strawberry Fields Forever
  • Tomorrow Never Knows
  • Twist and Shout
  • Two of Us
  • We Can Work it Out
  • While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  • Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?
  • With a Little Help From My Friends
  • You Never Give Me Your Money

Author: cynthiadangelo

I am a researcher, working on educational games, science education, and data visualization. I like photography, soccer, traveling, and teaching my dog new tricks.

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