In lieu of a recap, it’s better to cover this week’s talking point; the inclusion of a real song by The Beatles, in Mad Men season seven episode eight Lady Lazarus.
It’s another episode heavy on the gloom, the foreshadowing, the subtext, and references to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, in the lead up to (one assumes at this point) the death of at least one cast member (people are predicting the death of Don Draper, or maybe Pete Campbell, for their respective ailments and emotional turmoil, but Megan’s another possibility… leaning over the edge of her apartment balcony after a fight and also being overused this season).
In short, in this episode, the SCDP team is asked to come up with a campaign lightened by a youthful soundtrack. Staff discuss bands with impostor sounds from 1966, reminding the client The Beatles don’t often lend their music to other mediums such as advertising; a nod to Mad Men’s own Matthew Weiner asking to use The Beatles songs and being turned down several times over the show’s five seasons.
However, the estate conceded to a reported six-figure offer which presented the chance to write a whole scene around the song.
The Wall Street Journal claims the rights to use a portion of Tomorrow Never Knows from the Revolver LP (“Revolver”… another violent, portending metaphor?) probably cost ”About $250,000, according to people familiar with the deal. That’s about five times as much as the typical cost of licensing a song for TV.”
The surviving Beatles, along with Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison, okayed the song’s use for which the fee was based on “several factors, including the way the music was built into the storyline.”
Weiner denies the figure above but wouldn’t correct the WSJ. Although he opines: “This music is so important to the 20th century and beyond. How could I pretend that my characters are not actually listening to it?” Asked why use The Beatles, Weiner continued: “People think they know what the Beatles are. Of course the Beatles are one step ahead of you at least,” perhaps alluding to “actress” Megan.
He won over the estate by “writing impassioned letters” and sharing story and scripts, “things I don’t usually do… things that I don’t like doing.” It was agreed based on the “artistic collaboration,” says Weiner, not on the fee being paid.
Near the end of the episode after being handed the record by Megan, who’s dressed down and headed to acting class, Don cues its final song and sits to listen. Only to abruptly stop its play a few minutes later, ponder for a moment, and then sullenly slink off to bed alone.
Asked why Don switches off the record, Weiner replies: “This song and that album is so revolutionary and just paved the way for the idea that you’re in a very popular medium with a huge audience. When you take a risk like that it’s really about the music and not about the audience. You lead them almost kicking and screaming into something new. I just admire that. And I think Don didn’t.”
Weiner contines, in the New York Times: “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. 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.”
The NYT concurs with the WSJ’s estimate of $250,000, with NYT reporting: “According to two people briefed on the deal, who were not authorized to speak publicly about it, Lionsgate, the studio that produces Mad Men paid about $250,000 for the recording and publishing rights to the song. That is an appropriately high price, several music and advertising executives say, since many major pop songs can be licensed for less than $100,000.”
You can listen to the same recording to the song used in the episode.