As you might have noticed if you’ve been reading Flavorwire this week, Mad Men is back Sunday, and the new season takes us to 1966, a year when — as baby boomer mythology has been reminding us mercilessly ever since — the acid was good, the love was free, and the counter-cultural revolution was kicking into full swing. (Not that we can imagine Don Draper donning a kaftan and heading down to Haight-Ashbury to wander around in circles pointing at trees, mind you.) But having heard the news that the producers had to can a song from the soundtrack (Dusty Springfield’s “The Look of Love”) for being from 1967, we thought we’d take it upon ourselves to put together a mixtape of some contemporary tunes that might well appear on the show in Season 5. And yes, we’ve even included Bob Dylan! Rejoice, denizens of the comments section.
The Kinks — “Dandy”
Ray Davies’ lyrical disembowelment of a serial philanderer was allegedly inspired by his younger brother (and Kinks bandmate) Dave, but it could just as easily have been written for a certain advertising executive: “When you’re old and gray, you’ll remember what they said/ That two girls are two many, three’s a crowd, and four you’re dead… Are you feeling old now?/ You will always be free/ You will need no sympathy/ A bachelor you will stay/ And you’re alright.”
The Beach Boys — “Hang on to Your Ego”
Not that many of the denizens of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce really need any encouragement to indulge their collective egos — but still, we couldn’t help but notice the relevance of some of the lyrics from this song, a Pet Sounds outtake that resurfaced on the album’s 1990 reissue: “They come on like they’re peaceful/ But inside they’re so uptight…”
The Beatles — “Tomorrow Never Knows”
Conversely, the Beatles’ lyrical depiction of ego death — inspired by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, apparently — ties nicely into the themes of identity and self-discovery that have driven much of Mad Men‘s narrative over the course of its four seasons thus far. It’s also, of course, a remarkably innovative piece of recording, deploying tape loops played back at varying speeds to create the strange noises that fade in and out of the mix over the course of the song.
The Monks — “Oh How to Do, Now”
Meanwhile, a world away from Madison Avenue, 1966 found a bunch of ex-GIs stationed in Germany releasing their one and only studio album, a garage-rock classic whose legend has only grown over the decades since. The Monks’ sense of style was unconventional — they embraced the monastic robes and tonsures suggested by their name, along with, um, nooses around their necks — but they certainly understood the concept of a strong brand image.
Frank Zappa — “I Ain’t Got No Heart”
For a man almost as well known for his sense of humor as his jaw-dropping musical prowess, Zappa could write an unexpectedly depressing song from time to time, and this song’s lyrics relate an inability to commit that’d be all too familiar to certain characters in Mad Men.
13th Floor Elevators — “Roller Coaster”
Although thus far Mad Men has focused on the early 1960s, the emergence of the counterculture was something that the show tackled obliquely in Season 4, and we’re including this acid anthem because it does a better job of capturing what we feel must have been the burgeoning spirit of the times than the tired hits that get trotted out on classic FM radio year after year. Will this season find any of the cast embracing the exhortations of “Roller Coaster” to “open up your mind and let everything come through”? If so, the results will make for intriguing viewing.
Ennio Morricone — “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”
Clint Eastwood spends enough time with a stogie in his mouth during this most iconic of Westerns to make Don Draper proud. Eastwood’s character also basically embodies the macho culture of the era: “There are two kinds of people in this world: those with loaded guns, and those who dig. You dig.” Raaargh.
Ike and Tina Turner — “River Deep, Mountain High”
Agonizing relationships are a recurring motif in Mad Men, and there were few more tortured musical relationships than that of Ike and Tina Turner. For all that they produced some sublime music together — including this song, arguably their creative high water mark — Ike’s brutal treatment of Tina, which reached its nadir as his cocaine addiction worsened in the 1970s, is sadly something that’ll forever overshadow that music.
Bob Dylan — “Just Like a Woman”
We’ve always found the denouement of this song’s chorus — “But she breaks just like a little girl” — more than a little creepy, but it’s perfect for the similarly creepy and emotionally questionable attitudes that most of Mad Men‘s male characters display toward their female counterparts. And similarly…
James Brown — “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World”
A theme song for the advertising world!