Mad Men is known for its retro soundtrack, but it’s always the most fun when the characters are hearing the background noise too. Check out these memorable Mad Men episodes that featured musical moments that were actually part of the storyline.
“Lady Lazurus,” Season 5 (“Tomorrow Never Knows” by The Beatles)
The year was 1966. Megan Draper (Jessica Pare) bought The Beatles’ “Revolver” album and told her hubby Don (Jon Hamm) to listen to the final track, a little Lennon ditty titled “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Don showed his age in this scene-he stopped the record mid-song-but he played enough of the track for Mad Men execs to get their money’s worth. At least we hope. According to the Wall Street Journal, Lionsgate paid close to $250,000 to use the song, the first time a master recording of a Beatles song was ever licensed for a TV show.
See Don’s reaction to the pricey Beatles song here.
“A Night to Remember,” Season 2 (“Early In The Morning” by Colin Hanks)
Remember Peggy’s (Elisabeth Moss) parish priest Father Gill? Way back in Season 2, Colin Hanks played the musical man of the cloth, who pulled out a guitar to sing Peter, Paul, & Mary ‘s “Early in the Morning” to an audience of none. The musical montage panned to a lonely Don Draper, who was drinking Heineken solo in the Sterling Cooper break room after first wife Betty told him not to come home.
See Colin Hanks’s solo serenade here.
“My Old Kentucky Home,” Season 3 (“My Old Kentucky Home” by John Slattery)
Season 3 of Mad Men featured one of the series most shocking scenes ever, when Roger Sterling (John Slattery) serenaded his young bride Jane at a Kentucky Derby party — in blackface. Sterling crooned the notoriously racist “My Old Kentucky Home” while sporting smeared dark face paint, even commenting that his wife liked when he sang it at home with a bit of shoe polish on his face.
You can see the controversial scene here.
“A Little Kiss” Season 5 (“Zou Bisou Bisou” by Jessica Pare)
The Season 5 premiere featured Megan singing a birthday song at a bash for Don’s 40th. But this was no ordinary “Happy Birthday.” Instead, a mod Megan chose “Zou Bisou Bisou,” an obscure French tune originally recorded by Gillian Hills in 1960 and later performed by Sophia Loren in the movie “The Millionairess.” Decades later, Pare’s buzzy version was a trending topic on Twitter, but what was a song and dance number doing in the middle of the AMC drama, anyway?
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Mad Men executive producer Matthew Weiner said he incorporated the slinky song into the script so viewers could get to know the real Megan Draper: “I kind of wanted to give her a character moment, especially if the whole season was going to be about their relationship and what it meant to Don,” he said. “I was looking for the right sort of sexy song for her to sing, and for some reason or another I found this song … and it just had the perfect mix of childishness and sexiness that made it a socially-appropriate strip tease.”
See Pare’s performance of “Zou Bisou Bisou” here.
“The Strategy,” Season 7 (“My Way” by Frank Sinatra)
Don Draper likes to do things his way, and on a Season 7 episode of the AMC drama he proved it with a slow dance to the Frank Sinatra song “My Way” with co-worker Peggy Olson. The impromptu dance came at the end of a late night cramming session for the Burger Chef account, and it was genius musical moment on the AMC drama.
Sinatra’s My Way album came out in March of 1969, and the title song proved to be the perfect soundtrack to this scene set in the summer of that year. While Peggy resting her head on Don’s shoulder could have conjured up visions of Paul Anka’s 1963 single “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” (OK, tacky!), we’re glad this classic from Ol’ Blue Eyes turned up on the radio instead.