May 9, 2012

Why didn't Don Draper like "Tomorrow Never Knows"?

A pop culture question asked by NPR music critic Ann Powers. Tomorrow doesn't know and I don't know. I could hazard a guess. I don't watch "Mad Men," but maybe Draper isn't the kind of guy who's in the mood to "lay down all thoughts" and "surrender to the void." Regardless of whether "it is shining" or it was shining back in the 1960s, why did Americans ever willingly consume that lyrical nonsense?

***

By the way, "Mad Men" paid $250,000 to use that recording.

104 comments:

edutcher said...
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edutcher said...

Thought the big appeal of the series was that it was JFK 60s, not Woodstock 60s.

Thorley Winston said...

I watched the episode and didn’t recognize the song either (my mother was a die-hard Beatles fan and I grew up with the music). It frankly sounded awful and I thought that the $250,000 could have been better spent – on an episode of Breaking Bad which is a much better show. ;)

That being said, I think Draper’s reaction was more to do with his reaction to Megan beginning to live a separate life from him and losing control which has always been a big facet of his character.

Econophile said...

Powers argues: "As an inventive, highly competitive trend-chaser, Don Draper would have loved the Beatles from the minute they hit Ed Sullivan."

Powers, apparently, does not understand the character at all. What's intriguing about Don is the simultaneous aloofness and intense perception. How has she not caught on?! He's an impartial anthropologist.

traditionalguy said...

The Beatles were into their Budhism answer to life's questions when they wrote that song.

It is not an answer at all. It is a circular argument that we can handle life by stubbornly believing that nothing is real, especially not ourselves.

People are not that dumb anymore.

paul a'barge said...

... why did Americans ever willingly consume that lyrical nonsense?

I assume you never took much LSD. Or ever really "dropped out". Or thought any "alternative thoughts".

Otherwise, you would understand.

paul a'barge said...

@traditionalguy:
...nothing is real, especially not ourselves.

The hardest nut to crack is the one where you think everything you see and think is real. It's a terribly debilitating form of the Stockholm Syndrome.

Good luck with that.

Mitchell said...

Formally beautiful and certainly useful in advancing Don's character arc as he continues to fuddy-duddy himself into the dark shadows, the scene rang false to my music-critical ears.

The rest of the essay is pure fussbudgetry.

The use of "Tomorrow Never Knows" was brilliant. Don Draper is a square, through and through. And let's not forget that Don's knowledge of the Beatles is limited to the 1965 concert at Shea Stadium.

The Beatles reinvented themselves as did Don Draper.

He gets that.

Saint Croix said...

That is my favorite Beatles song. I love it. Off their strongest album, Revolver.

And I hate Mad Men. Watched the first two episodes. It was insipid.

The 1960's is my favorite time for art, at least in music and cinema. Mad Men specializes in mocking the 60's. So maybe that's why they don't like the Beatles' most amazing song. They want to mock that decade. (For not being PC enough!)

I don't know. Satire is really hard to do and they suck at it, at least in the two episodes I saw.

cassandra lite said...

Putting that song on was a cheat for script purposes.

It's the last song on the album. Who ever put the needle to the last song on an album that someone you love recommended?

Doing that allowed Matthew Weiner to play the most dissonant song the Beatles had recorded till that time so that he could show what a dinosaur Don Draper is, which is apparently where the show is heading.

Had Draper played any other song on the album, he'd have liked it. Weiner didn't want that. Ergo, he chose Tomorrow Never Knows and had Draper violate every norm. (For those who don't remember vinyl records: It's was far easier to put the needle on an album's first song than to find the very thin blank between two other songs.)

Surfed said...

"Tomorrow Never Knows" made complete sense on blotter acid. All done in the chord of C.

Mitchell said...
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Michael said...

Pretty much everybody who listened to the Beatles then skipped the obligatory Indian track, the way Marx Bros. fans skip the scenes where Harpo gets to play the harp.

Saint Croix said...

Regardless of whether "it is shining" or it was shining back in the 1960s, why did Americans ever willingly consume that lyrical nonsense?

The Beatles aren't amazing because of their lyrics. Back in the USSR is retarded. I love that song. When it comes on the radio, I always sing along. But it's retarded.

The reason the Beatles were jealous of the Beach Boys was not their lyrics. It's the music, the vibe. What we call "music" is 90% music and 10% lyrics. If that.

Back in the USSR was an insipid response to California Girls, which is itself pretty damn silly.

The Beatles were competing with Pet Sounds at the level of artistic craft and harmonies and mind-blowing sounds.

Lyrics just occupy one part of your brain while the real fun is going on somewhere else.

Alex said...

"Tomorrow Never Knows" made complete sense on blotter acid. All done in the chord of C.

Forgetting the sitar drone, the innovative use of tape loops and the scary guitar solo in the middle.

The Crack Emcee said...

Econophile,

Powers, apparently, does not understand the character at all,...How has she not caught on?!

I used to work for Ann Powers, who's not that bright, thinking we all react as she does to celebrity. The truth is, she's the "highly competitive trend-chaser," not Don Draper, so - if you know her - it's easy to see how she'd be confused.

Traditionalguy,

The Beatles were into their Budhism answer to life's questions when they wrote that song.

It is not an answer at all. It is a circular argument that we can handle life by stubbornly believing that nothing is real, especially not ourselves.

People are not that dumb anymore.


Come on, dude, you know Americans still love "lyrical nonsense," being enveloped, and well-indoctrinated, in thought-stopping language. They love it so much that - unlike the era that spawned it - music being made today is forced to take a back seat to the cult-inspired "message music" of the 60s and 70s, making Draper's reaction seem strange to those unaccustomed to looking below the surface. (I once spent an entire evening, aghast, pondering the sociological destruction a line like, "If you can't be with the one you love, Honey, love the one you're with," bestowed on us,...)

Of course, you're right - after 3 or 4 generations, the effect is slowly wearing off, as the hippies leave the Earth - but it's still pretty slow going, being not the result of critical thought but the cultist's dwindling numbers, so there's still a lot of work to do. Considering Don Draper is a beloved character on a popular-but-not-well-done show (for some reason) we can only hope it might have some effect.

Like that horrifying line I quoted above instructs, in this case, I'll take whatever I can get,...

Alex said...

Saint Croix - I disagree. The Beatles wrote many outstanding melodic songs like "Yesterday", "Eleanor Rigby", "Martha My Dear", "Something". That's just the tip of the iceberg.

Alex said...

What's wrong with "All You need is love"?

Alex said...

Thought the big appeal of the series was that it was JFK 60s, not Woodstock 60s.

You realize this episode takes place in mid-1966. It isn't your father's 1960s anymore. Don Draper doesn't get the song, and I suspect neither do you. The rest of us get it.

Lyssa said...

This might be a dumb question that reveals my innocent youth, but would a bonafide adult in the "real world"* have been a Beetles fan in the 60's? Or would it have been dismissed as more of a teen thing, the way we might dismiss, say, Justine Beiber?

* I don't watch the show, either, so I'm not sure how old his charactor is.

As the contrarian hater of pop culture that I've always been, I've always imagined that I would dislike the Beetles if I lived in the 60's.

The Crack Emcee said...

paul a'barge,

The hardest nut to crack is the one where you think everything you see and think is real.

No, the hardest nut to Crack is someone unwilling to test it.

Saint Croix said...

You don't have to like Mad Men, but it's a very well written, well thought-out show.

Art is so subjective. It affects us emotionally. It's like love in a way, or hate. You feel it, or you don't.

I heard Sean Hannity the other day talking about how great disco is. There is no liberal who has felt more disgust at Sean Hannity than I did on that fateful day.

Kill it! And if it rises, kill it again!

Alex said...

I find Mad Men to be a generally well written show, sometimes afflicted with PC madness.

Alex said...

It's generally a rule that you don't like 1966-1970 Beatles music if you prefer what I call "Muzak" or "easy listening". For those that love current alt-rock then late Beatles is a must.

Mitchell said...

Forgetting the sitar drone, the innovative use of tape loops and the scary guitar solo in the middle.

And the seagulls. Don't forget the seagulls.

Darrell said...

Draper's young wife, Megan, was giving him her take on what the younger generation's next big thing would be. And he rejected it. Just like she rejected the success she had just touched at the ad agency--which was more Don's idea of success for her. Don was a child of The Depression. Megan is not. He can, however, appreciate Megan cleaning the hipster apartment in the nude (or underwear because of the cable network). I can identify.

Alex said...

And the seagulls. Don't forget the seagulls.

That's part of the tape loops - which btw were McCartney's baby. People like to remember Lennon as the "avant-garde" artist, but in reality it was McCartney experimenting musically ahead of Lennon. Lennon was experimental with regard to lyrics, using the Tibetan Book of the Dead as a basis for "Tomorrow Never Knows".

EMD said...

The name of the song may be more important to its use in the show than Don's apparent dislike of it.

Think about it in the context of the world of advertising and culture in 1966, and who Don Draper is (or was .. or could be?)

Mad Men has done a great job of leveraging musical themes.

Alex said...

Then you throw Ringo's career best drumming and Harrison's Indian music into the mix and you've got a masterpiece.

Saint Croix said...

Saint Croix - I disagree. The Beatles wrote many outstanding melodic songs like "Yesterday", "Eleanor Rigby", "Martha My Dear", "Something". That's just the tip of the iceberg.

Eleanor Rigby is fantastic. But I think if you wrote it out and read it as poetry, ehhhh. It's the melody that's critical, not the words.

Look, I'm the guy who was singing "Let Milo Open the Door" for about a decade before I was corrected. People get lyrics wrong all the time. It doesn't actually matter that much.

Music is 90% feelings and 10% thoughts. Just like cinema. Which is why the 60's were a great decade for music and cinema.

Alex said...

Still to this day, no one can really convince me there has been a better album then "Revolver". By itself it sounds fresh and listenable. Objectively it was revolutionary and influenced countless bands afterwards. Imagine going from neo-skiffle in 1962 to making proto-techno in 1966. It's mind boggling to the extreme. To see a musician like Crack deriding The Beatles is very strange.

EMD said...

Also, Powers certainly does not understand Draper at all.

Bert's slam of Don a few episodes ago as the best moment in a dull (so far) season.

EMD said...

Music is 90% feelings and 10% thoughts.

To an extent, I can understand this. Take Sigur Ros's beautiful and moving "Hoppipolla"

The lyrics are in a mash-up of Icelandic and the lead singer's made-up language. I have no idea what the hell he's singing about, but damn, I can feel it.

Darrell said...

Spending $250,000 shows how out of touch they are. The same results could have been had by sampling the song for free and just saying the title out loud. The audience would know. They could have used part of the the savings to hire a writer that actually lived and worked during the time period they cover.

rcommal said...

The fact that Powers thinks that Don Draper would have loved the Beatles from the minute they hit Ed Sullivan tells me that she fundamentally misunderstands Draper and thus the show. Given how many episodes there now have been, she's likely never going to get Don, and thus I would have no interest in reading her on the topic of "Mad Men" again.

As an aside, I've never been a fan of that particular Beatles song, but since some guy for whom I really had the hots way back when was obsessed with it, I sure did listen to it a lot, LOL.

In the long run, that wasn't really a good reason to consume it, of course. ; )

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Revlover was released in the US in mid 1966. Draper turned 40 uears old at the start of the season. Therefore; Draper was 40 years of age in mid 1966. My WWII veteran father was 42 years old in mid 1966, he would have hated the song too. I don't see what the issue is, apart from Ms. Powers being very close minded.

Surfed said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Surfed said...

Everyone is talking about everything BUT the acid. The acid infused and informed everything John Lennon wrote during this period. In the beginning it was amphetamines (prellies). The lads blaze through some Chuck Berry at warp speed. Then in their middle period it's all about Bobby and pot, grass, maryjane, tea..."I get high when I see you walk by..." grooviness. Then we arrive at Revolver and it's all acid all the time. Dr. Robert putting something in their cups... What a fun time to be alive and trippin' and gettin' stoned. Society was melting down along with our faces in the mirrors.

The Crack Emcee said...

Saint Croix,

You don't have to like Mad Men, but it's a very well written, well thought-out show.

Art is so subjective. It affects us emotionally. It's like love in a way, or hate. You feel it, or you don't.

I finally got a chance to watch several episodes with a friend, who was totally into it, and found it's "ideas" (such as they were) to be held together by ideological duct tape. I then turned my friend on to The Sopranos (which she had never seen) and she immediately bought every episode on Netflix, starting a nightly marathon that lasted until I left for home.

You've got to be exposed to quality to know it.

I heard Sean Hannity the other day talking about how great disco is. There is no liberal who has felt more disgust at Sean Hannity than I did on that fateful day.

Kill it! And if it rises, kill it again!


Well, reacting like that to what you don't understand is the essence of being a liberal, isn't it? I was in high school when Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" came out, and I bet my best friend (a liberal who reacted as you did) it was the future of music. Having been the one to instruct me in the ways of Rock, he went ballistic at my blasphemy, but years later, being an honorable man, he dutifully paid up. We still talk - and he's still a crazy lib - but, while he may not like what I have to say, he no longer doubts me and he rarely throws hissy fits.

Railing against the truth is futile.

phx said...

Spending $250,000 shows how out of touch they are. The same results could have been had by sampling the song for free and just saying the title out loud. The audience would know. They could have used part of the the savings to hire a writer that actually lived and worked during the time period they cover.

Accountant?

Mitchell said...

Mad Men has done a great job of leveraging musical themes.

Very much agreed.

For example, in “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency,” Sally is terrified that her new brother has made her expendable and Don comforts her, saying “This is your little brother. He's only a baby. We don't know who he is yet, nor who he's going to be. And that is a wonderful thing."

Then the closing credits play Dylan’s “Song to Woody.” That’s lump-in-the-throat material.

Or how about Don wading in the Pacific Ocean as George Jones sings “Cup of Loneliness?”

Great stuff!

Alex said...

Honestly I was shocked that they obtained a master license to the coveted Beatles song. I read that the show's producer had to submit the script to Apple Corps ltd in order to even get a hearing on it.

Alex said...

I'm not shocked that conservatives tend to hate The Beatles. The Beatles were non-conformist and espoused the drug culture, something starched-shirt Republicans are uncomfortable with.

rcommal said...

This may come as a shock to some, but it's possible to appreciate both "The Sopranos" and "Mad Men."

Alex said...

Look, I'm a fairly conservative guy but I can enjoy leftist shows like "Six Feet Under" and "Mad Men" for the little gems they contain.

Ann Althouse said...

"I assume you never took much LSD. Or ever really "dropped out". Or thought any "alternative thoughts"."

Ha ha. This is a good question for long-time Althouse readers. How true is that assumption?

Alex said...

One doesn't need to take acid to appreciate Revolver.

Mitchell said...

Alex, can you give an example of how "Mad Men" is leftist?

I don't see it as very political, at all, but I'd have thought it a little to the right in the sense that Don's a self-reliant, self-made man.

All the characters are duking it out for themselves, so far as I can tell.

The Crack Emcee said...

Alex,

To see a musician like Crack deriding The Beatles is very strange.

Dude, they're good - arguably the best - but still not above criticism. And I didn't diss them but the culture they helped unleash on us, which they couldn't control but (even today) have done little to reign in. I mean, Paul and Ringo still shill for the Maharishi Institute, and that's completely unforgivable.

And this idea that Revolver is still the best thing going? That's madness. Hell, I'm still finding Duke Ellington tracks from the 40s that give The Beatles a run for their money when it comes to adopting a forward stance.

You've really got to remove those cultural blinders, man,...

Alex said...

Crack - every time I put "Revolver" on it sounds cracking to me. It's still fresh in a way that new albums can't match. It just feels "alive".

Darrell said...

It's written by Lefties and that is apparent in every script. Don and Betty throwing all the trash on the ground after their family picnic. I lived during those times and I never saw anyone but punk kids do something like that. Everyone glued to their TVs during the Cuban missile crisis treating it as the end of the world? It didn't happen with the people I knew. Somebody like Peggy enamored about Lefty writers and hipsters? Ditto for the PC takes on race relations and a hundred other things. It's a left-wing view, including their take on how the "others" were acting and what they were thinking and their motivation.

PatCA said...

In the fictional time Don Draper lives in, this song would have seemed extremely strange, threatening even. Megan gives him a taste of the oncoming sea change, but he's not ready for what's coming at him at all.

bagoh20 said...

This is one of those songs where the lyrics are just notes for the voice instrument. I often don't know the words to songs I've loved for decades and this is one of them. The sentences there are irrelevant, but scat singing is a worse option. Lennon wrote a lot of insipid lyrics, and is loved for it. I'm not a big fan of his, but I love the music the all put together.

bagoh20 said...

"Ha ha. This is a good question for long-time Althouse readers. How true is that assumption?"

I'm guessing that a day back in November 2008 was a day that started out with acid for breakfast, a swim in the lake, sex in the poison ivy nearby, and then off to the voting booth.

Joe said...

I would guess that it's because the song is terrible. He might also be metaphysically aware that it was the cheapest song the producers could license for their publicity stunt.

Alex said...

I would guess that it's because the song is terrible. He might also be metaphysically aware that it was the cheapest song the producers could license for their publicity stunt.

Let me guess, you're into Barry Manilow?

Alex said...

TNN is threatening to someone like Don Draper. It's basically a warning shot to his entire generation - "you don't matter anymore".

John Stodder said...

Two things I love: The Beatles' Revolver album and Mad Men.

But I would never have thought Don Draper would be a Beatles fan. Not on Ed Sullivan, not in late 1966 when Revolver came out.

He doesn't like the song because the song is about dropping out. "Turn off your mind." His wife has just dropped out of the business that Draper has given his life to. The scene embodies his anger and discomfort with her decision, which is making him wonder whether he's made a mistake by marrying a younger woman who has the kinds of aspirations younger people were supposedly having back then -- for a life of personal fulfillment, authenticity and the opportunity for ecstasy. To a guy like Don, more a man of the 1950s than the 60s, that all smacks of avoiding responsibility, and mucking around in areas of feeling that are best left unexplored. Hard liquor is the drug of choice for those who must persevere, which is Don's ethic.

Don't forget his conversation with Roger leading up to that scene, where he utters some of the Depression wisdom that formed his generation. All he wanted, he said, was indoor plumbing. Compare that to his wife, who wants to feel good about herself every day, even if she's failing. To Don, that's crazy. It's only allowable in her case because he's rich, but that bothers him nonetheless. She wants to drop out, in part because she can, he's subsidizing it, and there's no reason why he shouldn't subsidize it... but it still bothers him. And those feelings got wrapped up on the song.

She PICKED that song, not just the album, if you recall the scene. This was the song she wanted him to listen to so he'd understand her. (I used to do the same thing with my Dad. I made him listen to the Kinks!) And it disturbed him. Brilliant scene.

bagoh20 said...

"It's basically a warning shot to his entire generation - "you don't matter anymore"."

And that, more than anything, is basic mistake of the entire left side of the boomer generation - to throw away centuries of wisdom and replace it with whatever pops into their heads.

Thorley Winston said...

It's written by Lefties and that is apparent in every script. Don and Betty throwing all the trash on the ground after their family picnic. I lived during those times and I never saw anyone but punk kids do something like that. Everyone glued to their TVs during the Cuban missile crisis treating it as the end of the world? It didn't happen with the people I knew. Somebody like Peggy enamored about Lefty writers and hipsters? Ditto for the PC takes on race relations and a hundred other things. It's a left-wing view, including their take on how the "others" were acting and what they were thinking and their motivation.

I seem to recall an article from a couple of years ago pointing out that every example of a family shown in Mad Men is inherently dysfunctional with infidelity, substance abuse and child/spousal abuse being portrayed as the norm. I get that earlier shows about the 1950s (e.g. Happy Days, Leave it to Beaver, etc.) showed a sanitized and idyllic view of life that was not realistic but Mad Men basically takes the pendulum and swings it in the opposite direction. Part of the reason for Mad Men’s critical acclaim is that Hollywood culture thinks that there is something “edgy” or “truth telling” about seeing everything in America through a prism of rampant racism/sexism/whatever.

Thorley Winston said...

Don't forget his conversation with Roger leading up to that scene, where he utters some of the Depression wisdom that formed his generation. All he wanted, he said, was indoor plumbing. Compare that to his wife, who wants to feel good about herself every day, even if she's failing. To Don, that's crazy. It's only allowable in her case because he's rich, but that bothers him nonetheless. She wants to drop out, in part because she can, he's subsidizing it, and there's no reason why he shouldn't subsidize it... but it still bothers him.

I think a lot of fans are predicting that the two will split up by the end of the season or beginning of next season and that Draper will either end up alone or with someone more like Peggy (but hopefully not Peggy).

LordSomber said...

I'm more puzzled at why Megan liked the song than why Don didn't.
Even though she is a wannabe actress/singer/artsy-type, this song seems alien to someone who craves the stage.
It was just a heavy-handed move by Weiner to show that Times Are Changin'.

John Stodder said...

To Ann's point, why did Americans ever willingly consume that lyrical nonsense?

I don't think "Tomorrow Never Knows" was what Americans loved about that album. They loved songs like "Here, There and Everywhere," "Eleanor Rigby," "Got To Get You Into My Life" and "Yellow Submarine." Mostly the Paul songs.

The John songs on that album were, in addition to "Tomorrow Never Knows," were "I'm Only Sleeping," "Doctor Robert," and "She Said She Said," "And Your Bird Can Sing." They were all influenced by his daily use of LSD at the time. I love the songs, but they aren't generally considered among the Beatles' biggest hits.

The general music-loving audience thinks the Beatles' best albums are "Sgt. Pepper" and "Abbey Road." But Beatles fans tend to prefer "Revolver" because it is so out there, wild, experimental in ways that even Sgt. Pepper isn't. "Tomorrow Never Knows" was a fascinating John-Paul collaboration, in that Paul was using it to experiment with things like tape loops that he had heard modernist composers like Steve Reich and Karlheinz Stockhausen use. Paul didn't like messing around with his potential pop hits -- no tape loops on "Got to Get You Into My Life" -- but he did lots of weird things on John's songs.

Alex said...

LordSomber - true enough I don't see Megan as loving TNN as much. I think "Good Day Sunshine" or "And Your Bird Can Sing" is more up her alley. However TNN is perfect for where Don is.

lewsar said...

my wife and i tried to watch "mad men", but decided that while the show got the 60s thing pretty accurately as i remember it, the whole series was about a bunch of assholes. not a single likeable character in the whole bunch. who wants to sit around and try to amuse themselves watching characters for whom you feel dislike and contempt?

as for "tomorrow never knows", i like it much better now than i did when i was 14 :)

The Crack Emcee said...

Alex,

Crack - every time I put "Revolver" on it sounds cracking to me. It's still fresh in a way that new albums can't match. It just feels "alive".

It's you, not the record. Many feel the same way about Public Enemy's second release, but even P.E. topped themselves - and The Beatles - with even more over-the-top Sgt. Pepper-level production on later albums (Here's a live version of album #2's "Bring The Noise," which unfortunately is all I could find online. You can hear them rhyme - and give a shout out to - Sonny Bono and Yoko Ono after the 2:00 point, proving even they are more aware of the musical legacy that spawned them than you are.)

I, of course, see and hear LOTS of stuff that's better than all of them, depending on what direction I'm looking at music from. I mean, if you have a grounding in musical history and theory, it's kind of hard for anyone from Rock to compete with Jazz artists because they had already mostly done everything by the time The Beatles rolled around, and the fact "the kids" weren't paying attention doesn't change that.

Actually, if you don't have that background, it can make music even more fun because there's so much for you to discover. Acid music? Check out Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "The Inflated Tear" from 1967 to see what you've missed (I'm seriously hating that I can rarely find original versions of classic Jazz numbers on YouTube. This isn't one either,...). On LSD his playful horn line (he's playing three instruments at once, BTW) abrupt dramatic breaks, and crazy piano runs, are simply mind-meltingly breathtaking.

You've really got to explore more, Alex,...

Alex said...

John - I don't look at it like Paul was disrespecting John's song by using them as a canvas for his experiments. More like the pop hits paid the bills so they could experiment. I read McCartney's take on that period and he was very proud of the tape loops.

Mitchell said...

To add a bit to John Stodder's 12:45, it was an episode or two back that Don Draper was on his knees terrifed by the thought that he'd lost Megan because of his conduct at the Howard Johnson's.

There's more than one way to realize you're going to lose someone you desperately need and the full frontal assault that is "Tomorrow Never Knows" was just such a reminder.

Don and Betty were from two different worlds when they met.

That ended badly.

P.S. Don and Betty listened to Perry Como.

"He makes everything sound like Christmas."

The Crack Emcee said...

Alex,

Let me guess, you're into Barry Manilow?

Aggh - such prejudices. I'd take Barry Manilow in his heyday over a lot of what passes for good music from the 60s. I'd say he can out-compose at least half of the hippies who became big. Their fame is totally undeserved when put side-by-side with what was being ignored because it wasn't seen as "cool" - an attitude, term, and idea stolen from Jazz.

In an honest world, someone like Clapton wouldn't even have a career,...

Alex said...

It's a generation gap then and now. My generation looks at Barry Manilow with revulsion and loves experimental art-rock. That's just the way it is.

Darrell said...

Nobody said that it was Megan's favorite song. She picked it because she thought it was at the leading edge of a trend. Don wanted to know what the cool kids were up listening to.

Alex said...

Modern art-rockers eschew easy melodies in favor of complex rhythms and synth noises and an incomprehensible vocal. It's all part of the package man!

The Crack Emcee said...

Here's that link to Public Enemy's "Bring The Noise"....

John Stodder said...

Back to Don for a second: The song's title also plays into another fear he has -- about the future. What will happen to this marriage if she's off having adventures in the theater? Part of why he liked her at the office was sexual jealousy. She's hot, he thinks, so he wants to keep her in his sights. Now she's going to be putting herself in a position where theater types might try to seduce her. Don knows those types a little from his dalliance with Midge. He romanticized his own infidelities as a kind of Greenwich Village existentialism at that time. Now, as we saw from the dream scene, it kind of sickens him. Going back to Ann Powers' mistaken assessment of Don -- the kinds of people who read "Meditations in an Emergency" were not Beatles fans until after Sgt. Pepper, if then. The beatniks were slow to buy into the hippies even though they had marijuana and free-love in common. The beats thought the hippies were stupid and that their music was a corporate scam primarily about clothes and hairstyles.

John Stodder said...

(Sam) Shepard became involved in New York City's Off-Off-Broadway theater scene beginning at the age of nineteen (in 1963). Although his plays were staged at several Off-Off-Broadway venues, he was most closely connected with Theatre Genesis, housed at St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery in Manhattan's East Village....

I'm guessing Megan will end up getting involved with Sam Shepard, or a Sam Shepard-like character at an experimental theater group like Cafe LaMaMa.

The Crack Emcee said...

Alex,

It's a generation gap then and now. My generation looks at Barry Manilow with revulsion and loves experimental art-rock. That's just the way it is.

No it isn't - you're the one who put the wall up. And you could tear it down, too, if you were brave enough to admit you keep your head up your ass.

Look at you - mentioning Manilow in that condescending manner when he's the better artist - who does that help and how dare you? You're just feeding your own ignorance and ego, and propping up culture-killing bullshit, and then patting yourself on the back for it, like you earned it. What a joke!

Talk about explaining my disgust at the world, you just gave an excellent example of why I have it.

Nothing positive can grow as long as there's hippies around saluting their own evil,...

MayBee said...

Nobody said that it was Megan's favorite song. She picked it because she thought it was at the leading edge of a trend. Don wanted to know what the cool kids were up listening to.

Exactly.

And I don't think she quite hit the mark, either. At least not for advertising.

traditionalguy said...

The Beatles were first a very conformist rock band from playing long gigs in Hamburg Germany, and they had a new sound that sang loud but near perfect lyrics in a very energetic way... until they were hit by the 1964-65 drug tsunami and never recovered from the need to get high with their friends.

But they made a mark that will not be erased.

Alex said...

tradguy - I see the "White Album" as a return to sobriety for them.

MayBee said...

Don liked it when Megan could tell him what the kids were into when it helped them produce good advertising.
He even told the copywriters at work that she would know what song to use.

So her choosing that song was disappointing to him as well. It wasn't good for advertising, it wouldn't have wide enough appeal- it reinforced the idea that she was really walking away.

How far will she go?

And what does this song tell us about Pete Campbell?

PatCA said...

Saint Croix, I hated MM too when it started, but it seems to have found its stride. Like Southland, another good show I hated at the start.

Maybe each series got over its "message" and just started telling the story of these human characters.

Alex said...

Don doesn't mind using trendy thing to help push advertising, but when confronted with something shockingly new like TNN he can't deal because it's not on HIS terms.

Darrell said...

And I don't think she quite hit the mark, either. At least not for advertising.

True, but she wasn't suggesting that he use it. "No" is an answer, too, and it helps to know that advertisers may have to forget about losing some of the "cool" kids in order not to lose everyone else. Or to shift your cultural "borrowing" from sound to the visual arts for ads.

Alex said...

It's amazing if you look at 1966 advertising how it was so far beyond what the real arts were. It probably took Madison Avenue another 10-20 years to really catch up. A perfect example is the 1984 Macintosh ad. Maybe that was the first time the "Mad Men" got it.

Saint Croix said...

I mean, if you have a grounding in musical history and theory, it's kind of hard for anyone from Rock to compete with Jazz artists because they had already mostly done everything by the time The Beatles rolled around, and the fact "the kids" weren't paying attention doesn't change that.

Experience is so vital. I feel like I know more about cinema than other people because I've seen more cinema than other people. Authorities become authorities because they specialize in something. They think about it a lot. And they simply are aware of stuff that other people are ignorant about.

People who are really familiar with music have a disdain for pop music. Why? Just a couple of simple chords, repeated. It's not Mozart. It's not jazz.

Real music aficionados listen to all kinds of music. And they recognize who is doing incredible stuff, and who is not.

So you can become an authority in music, or cinema, simply by exposing yourself to it over decades of your life.

And yet what's so odd about this is that music and cinema affects us emotionally. And we never escape that subjective feeling. So while there is good and bad, there are also intense disagreements about what is good and what is bad.

What this means is that some critics will rave about shit and others will flush it. And both of these people can have lots of knowledge and authority. And totally disagree.

Crack writes...

I was in high school when Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" came out

I think that's very important. How old are you when you hear music or see a movie for the first time? Where are you in your life?

It's a subjective experience. Utterly subjective.

Michael said...

"This might be a dumb question that reveals my innocent youth, but would a bonafide adult in the "real world"* have been a Beetles fan in the 60's? Or would it have been dismissed as more of a teen thing, the way we might dismiss, say, Justine Beiber?"

At first, yes, they were dismissed widely as teenyboppers going yeah yeah yeah, but even then there was a sense that if you wanted to know which way the wind was blowing, so to speak, they were the advance guard of what was coming. But what happened very quickly is that the Beatles became more grownup-- going from the puppy love of "I wanna hold your hand" to the ironic take on sexual frustration and indiscriminate starfucking in Norwegian Wood. And even people (like my parents) who didn't buy rock albums bought Sgt. Pepper because it was such a cultural phenomenon; to not own it was to not be plugged in.

Alex said...

and now dubstep is all the rage.

Blue@9 said...

... why did Americans ever willingly consume that lyrical nonsense?

There is a market for nonsense. Most of Buddhism is nonsense to the rational mind. As is Taoism. But at some level people enjoy it, combining words such that they mean nothing. Ever heard of Richard Brautigan? The guy was a huge poet in the 60s, wrote a bunch of nonsensical gibber.

The Crack Emcee said...

Saint Croix,

It's a subjective experience. Utterly subjective.

I've read this argument countless times, here, and it's 100% wrong. It's a cop-out, hopefully allowing the relativism of the speaker free reign, as though saying it destroys al criteria we've had to judge whether, say, The Beatles' collected works were better than Leo Sayer's. It's complete nonsense.

Listen, Alex can scream Revolver is the greatest thing since the discovery of the orgasm, but - even if it's just a nagging thought in the back of his mind - as long as it can be shown (and proven) why Ice Cube's Death Certificate receives and deserves the exact same 5 Star rating as The Beatles' supposed opus, Alex is going to know he's spouting hogwash.

His subjective opinion doesn't mean shit - even to him - because the rest of us are out there. You know, that "terribly debilitating form of the Stockholm Syndrome" paul a'barge spoke of - reality?

Hippies have been trying to escape it for decades (or, more accurately, looking for any goober, like paul, who they could convince of it's worthlessness - of OUR worthlessness) but all they succeeded in doing is landing all of us back on Square One as they exit, so a TV show set in the era of crew cuts is "cool" and we look "forward" to a conservative political sweep of the nation.

How "enlightening."

Smilin' Jack said...

...why did Americans ever willingly consume that lyrical nonsense?

That's pretty funny coming from someone who actually takes Bob Dylan's lyrics seriously.

Saint Croix said...

His subjective opinion doesn't mean shit - even to him - because the rest of us are out there.

Mark Twain defines a "classic" as a book that everybody owns and nobody reads.

If you don't enjoy art, it sucks for you. It might be that you don't get it, or you disagree with it, or it's bad.

It might be you were in a bad mood when you were exposed to it. Or going through a bad time in your life.

I have strong opinions about art. They're my opinions, formed by me, about art as I experience it. I have experienced a lot of art, and so my opinions are of value to other people. I can even (possibly) increase people's enjoyment of art by helping them get it.

Also I like to destroy bad art. So we clear some space for good art. I think it's important to be brutal on bad art.

But all of this is subjective. I can't make other people love, like, or hate a work of art. Their feelings are their own and art reaches them, or it doesn't.

Simply telling people a work of art is a classic will not make it so. Authorities in schools can make people read "the classics." But if the people reading it hate it, those classics will die.

You got to feel it.

John Stodder said...

People who are really familiar with music have a disdain for pop music. Why? Just a couple of simple chords, repeated. It's not Mozart. It's not jazz.

Huh?

Lots of people who are really familiar with music, and who love both Mozart and jazz have a love for good pop music. A great pop song is a kind of miracle in its own right -- a miracle of compression, first of all -- and if you think they're all structured with "a couple of simple chords" then I suggest you're not really the expert you claim to be. From the standards of the Sinatra era, to the complex songs created in the studio by geniuses like Brian Wilson and Lennon-McCartney, to the brilliant lyrics of a Ray Davies to the smooth-surfaced complexity of a band like Steely Dan, pop music can be extremely sophisticated. Moreover, in many of the greatest jazz and classical pieces, the chord patterns are simple, but simple in an artful way.

The way you describe music is like the way some people describe mathematics. It's not really like that. Art can be achieved through the simplest of means. Complexity can be part of a great artistic creation, but it is not necessary to it, so long as the idea is developed in an organic way.

Tomorrow Never Knows is a fine work of art despite it having basically just one chord and an unvarying rhythm, because of the way it was assembled in the studio, because of Lennon's lyrics, the way he signs them and the way his singing was filtered, because Ringo's drumming is brilliant, and because it captured the zeitgeist of its time so perfectly that it still stands for that time and that kind of emotion -- the striving for a Buddhist understanding through mental transformation.

My son is 21, and loves that Beatles song, and thought it was perfect in the show. He's never taken drugs, he has no idea what life was like in 1966, but the song works for him as a piece of art because it has such a powerful, unified effect.

The Crack Emcee said...

Saint Croix,

I can't make other people love, like, or hate a work of art. Their feelings are their own and art reaches them, or it doesn't.

But you're still framing it wrong - what "other people love, like, or hate" is irrelevant to the worth of the work itself. It didn't matter how many critics (or fans) loved or hated The Beatles, or Coltrane, when they came out, but what they created, whose shoulders it stands on, and how it stands up against what else has come or is coming. There's nothing subjective about that. The only way you can make it so is for a work to appear and be appreciated in a vacuum, as Alex tries to do with Revolver, attempting to ignore everything that came before or since. Shit, under those conditions, we each put a "masterpiece" in the toilet after every meal.

All the "it's subjective" argument is, is another version of the Hippie's "don't judge" mantra, the wannabe-clever demand we relinquish society's standards so any group or individual's can be imposed on us (Saying we shouldn't judge is passing judgment on judging - duh). And anybody demanding we go along with that is a charlatan.

Any idea worth holding (or work of art worth admiring) must be subjected to the scrutiny of others - and the value of the work around it. If it doesn't hold up, tough. If it does, welcome to the club. No demand that we change the rules for your favorite will be entertained.

According to the All Music Guide, Revolver's "daring sonic adventures and consistently stunning songcraft set the standard for what pop/rock could achieve." They also said N.W.A.'s "Straight Outta Compton album changed the world forever." Which one is better and why?

That's a debate worth having, but whether Alex or you or I like them is irrelevant to it, because - especially if you like them both - their individual merits are all we have to go on.

And there's nothing subjective about them.

ken in sc said...

Back In The USSR is satire on several different levels. If you listen to the end sound effects, it is the sound, not of a jet, but of a Siberian blizzard.

I've never seen Mad Men.

Freeman Hunt said...

Lyrics just occupy one part of your brain while the real fun is going on somewhere else.

My husband doesn't hear lyrics when he listens to music.

I am not like that at all, and so nearly all of my music is instrumental or in other languages that I can't understand. Lyrics are usually terrible. Really terrible.

Saint Croix said...

A great pop song is a kind of miracle in its own right

I agree with that. And of course as "miracle" implies, it's pretty damn rare. But what's cool about pop or rock is our ability to sing along. You can't do that with jazz or opera or any of the really complicated music.

This is an amazing song that I guess we could call pop. It rivals the Beach Boys or Simon and Garfunkel in its harmonies.

And yet we rarely hear amazing stuff like this on the radio. So it's "pop" but it's not popular.

Lava said...

I remember very clearly listening to that song when I got home and put the album on my little portable record player (btw, the disc was actually in Mono). I was a lot younger than Draper but remember how weird it seemed up against the other Beatle songs of the day....what was that weird background noise? How could a 10 or so kid understand the meaning behind the lyrics? Where was the cool George reverb bits? It was all very strange...and to someone like Draper that likes to be in control, the nature and meaning of the song just isn't his cup of tea.

Saint Croix said...

I really get a kick out of the movie, That Thing You Do!, which is itself a pretty amazing pop song. One of the cool things about that movie is how it recognizes the simplicity and shallowness of pop music, and contrasts that with the smarter, deeper, harder route of jazz.

That song and movie reminds me of early Beatles, which is utterly pop. It's fun and simple, innocent and empty.

From the standards of the Sinatra era, to the complex songs created in the studio by geniuses like Brian Wilson and Lennon-McCartney, to the brilliant lyrics of a Ray Davies...pop music can be extremely sophisticated.

Both the Beach Boys and the Beatles left pop music, and I don't think the Kinks ever did pop music. Pop music is limited. Duran Duran is pop. The Police are something else.

I think "Love You" would make me insane if I was forced to listen to it over and over. Abba makes me insane the first time I hear it. (And yet it's so damn catchy it will stay stuck in my brain).

Sinatra was certainly popular but I wouldn't call his music pop. Kind of swingin' jazz or small orchestra music. Songs For Swingin' Lovers is an amazing Sinatra album. Riddle's arangments are fantastic. And Sinatra's voice, wow.

Here's Under My Skin.

rcommal said...

But what's cool about pop or rock is our ability to sing along. You can't do that with jazz or opera or any of the really complicated music.

Is that so?

rcommal said...

I've heard that song before.

Just sayin'. ; )

(And I'm tired of it.)

Methadras said...

Mitchell said...

Formally beautiful and certainly useful in advancing Don's character arc as he continues to fuddy-duddy himself into the dark shadows, the scene rang false to my music-critical ears.

The rest of the essay is pure fussbudgetry.

The use of "Tomorrow Never Knows" was brilliant. Don Draper is a square, through and through. And let's not forget that Don's knowledge of the Beatles is limited to the 1965 concert at Shea Stadium.

The Beatles reinvented themselves as did Don Draper.

He gets that.


Draper is a square peg in a round hole. He's stuck. He knows it. His previous life is catching up with him and he know he's going to have to deal with it. Playing Tomorrow Never Knows was a brilliant metaphor for what is coming for him. He knows it's coming, he just doesn't know when or how.

Remember, Megan gave him the record, he put it in there when she left. He sat down to listen to it. The look on his face was the giveaway as he was listening to the song. His jig is up and he hasn't got much longer. His edges are already frayed and he's trying to protect his inner core. You can go back and look at his moments when he doesn't want to be a 'square' and gets pulled back into the life of having to be one.

btw, that is one of my favorite Beatles songs. Back then it was a sound engineers orgasm with things never done before. Well done.

rcommal said...

If only Don Draper had been Ben Folds, or at least done this, for example.

(Heh!)

The Crack Emcee said...

rcommal,

But what's cool about pop or rock is our ability to sing along. You can't do that with jazz or opera or any of the really complicated music.

Is that so?

Saint Croix is authoritatively throwing out a lot of babble, which I don't think I've noticed before, but am certainly aware of now:

Duran Duran is pop. The Police are something else.

Aye-yi-yi-yi-yi,....

The Crack Emcee said...

Saint Croix,

This is an amazing song that I guess we could call pop. It rivals the Beach Boys or Simon and Garfunkel in its harmonies.

Good Lord. O.K., that's it. I'm done. Really.