The Epic Pricetag ‘Mad Men’ Had to Pay to Use the Beatles’ ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’
The Beatles’ landmark album Revolver was released 54 years ago today (August 5.) The album served as a massive turning point sonically and creatively for the band, which is exemplified by the album’s closing track “Tomorrow Never Knows.”
It’s something Mad Men creator/writer Matthew Weiner took note of when he wanted to close out a particular episode of his series that took place in 1966. Season 5, Episode 8 of the AMC series finds the bulk of the Mad Men characters at unique turning points in their lives and career, particularly when Megan (Jessica Paré) leaves Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce to pursue a career in acting.
At the end of the episode, Megan advises her significantly older husband, Don (Jon Hamm), to listen to “Tomorrow Never Knows” as a way to better understand the music younger people are into. Don puts the album on his turntable and sets the needle on the track. As the song plays, the viewer sees a brief montage of the other characters coming to grips with their current and very different realities. Don, however, is clearly not impressed nor does he want to “float downstream” or “surrender to the void” and turns the song off before it ends.
So, how much does it cost to perfectly soundtrack a strange moment like this? $250,000.
Weiner told The New York Times of the deal, “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.”
Weiner added, “It was hard because I had to, writing-wise, commit to the story that I thought was worthy of this incredible opportunity. The thing about that song, in particular, was, the Beatles are, throughout their intense existence, constantly pushing the envelope, and I really wanted to show how far ahead of the culture they were. That song to me is revolutionary, as is that album.”