Ode to Sgt. Don Draper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Matthew Weiner is using “Sgt. Pepper” – structurally, lyrically and thematically – as a template for Mad Men’s fifth season.

Note: My favorite television show on earth is Mad Men. Last spring, a friend asked that I write weekly review of the series’ most-recent fifth season. In the process, I developed the theory outlined below. My hypothesis was originally posted here by YiNews.

On June 1, 1967, the Beatles released “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Don Draper” turned 41 (or maybe 21?). It’s true! And in my mind, Sunday’s seventh installment of “Mad Men’s” fifth season confirms it: Matthew Weiner is a genius.

I know I may be crazy, but for a show all about 1960s America, there’s a notable shortage of John, George, Paul and Ringo in the world of  Sterling, Cooper, Draper and Pryce. However, this season is beginning to make me think they’ve been with us all along.

Please entertain my theory: Sunday’s episode, the seventh hour of the thirteen slotted to make up Season 5 marked not only the end of Act I, but also the end of “Sgt. Pepper’s” Side One.

 Bold (subtle) moves! Weiner is using “Sgt. Pepper” – structurally, lyrically and thematically – as a template for Season 5. Each track is an episode. Chronologically, Side One has been nearly identical to the season’s first half (with the exception of the transposition of “Tea Leaves” and “Far Away Places”).

SIDE ONE

  1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band  (A Little Kiss,Hour 1)
  2. With a Little Help from My Friends (A Little Kiss, Hour 2)
  3. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (Far Away Places)*
  4. Getting Better (Mystery Date)
  5. Fixing a Hole (Signal 30)
  6. She’s Leaving Home (Tea Leaves)*
  7. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! (At the Codfish Ball)

SIDE TWO

  1. Within You Without You (Lady Lazarus)
  2. When I’m Sixty-Four (Dark Shadows)
  3. Lovely Rita (Christmas Waltz)
  4. Good Morning, Good Morning (The Other Woman)
  5. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band (Commissions and Fees)
  6. A Day in the Life (The Phantom)

*switched

501: “A Little Kiss, Hour 1″ (“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”)

About the song: “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”

“In November 1966, on the flight back to England after a holiday, McCartney conceived an idea in which an entire album would be role-played, with each of The Beatles assuming an alter-ego in the ‘Lonely Hearts Club Band,’ which would then perform a concert in front of an audience. The inspiration is said to have come when roadie Mal Evans innocently asked McCartney what the letters ‘S’ and ‘P’ stood for on the pots on their in-flight meal trays, and McCartney explained it was for salt and pepper. This then led to the ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ concept, as well as the song.” [i]

How it relates to 501:

In the finale of Season 4, Don is coming back from vacation where he had just impulsively proposed to Megan. The premiere episode of Season 5 is the curtain opening on their life together, the start of the show. Similarly, McCartney was struck with the impulse to create a song and album structured like a theatrical performance and based on role-playing, while on a flight back from vacation. Evans’ innocent curiosity (what the letters “S” and “P” stood for) is even reminiscent of Sally asking Don about the “Anna + Dick ’64” painted on the wall of Anna’s house in the Season 4 finale. “That’s my nickname sometimes,” Don explains. The sounds of an orchestra tuning up very clearly mimics the sounds of the bustle on Madison Avenue that play in the opening scene of the premiere. I guess the real question is: who is Billy Shears?

Applicable lyrics:

It was twenty years ago today, (Don Draper the character was born. This episode marks his 20th, not 40th, birthday)

So may I introduce to you

The act you’ve known for all these years

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. (Don Draper’s been an act for years.)

That the singer’s going to sing a song

And he wants you all to sing along

So let me introduce to you

The one and only Billy Shears (Who is this new character? Happy Don? Megan?)

And Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. (He’s not the headlining act of this episode – someone new is).

502: “A Little Kiss, Hour 2″ (“With a Little Help from My Friends”)

[Instrumental bridge and transition into “With a Little Help from My Friends.” My guess is that this was what the psychedelic music (Sally waking up scene) was all about.]

About the song: “With a Little Help from My Friends”

Lennon and McCartney deliberately wrote a tune with a limited range…The song was written for and sung by The Beatles’ drummer Ringo Starr as the character ‘Billy Shears.’”[ii]

How it relates to 502:

Season 5 premiere: June 1, 1966 (Don Draper’s/Dick Whitman’s 40th birthday). “Sgt. Pepper’s” was released just one year later. The lyrics directly relate to the plot of the episode, which features Megan singing a song to Don at his birthday party and his reaction to the performance. This episode is also one of the first times we see Don interacting with “friends.” But he’s still not looking for loads of friends; he really just wants Megan. (“Do you need anybody? I just need somebody to love.”) I also I think the lyric “Would you believe in a love at first sight?  Yes, I’m certain that it happens all the time,” is in direct reference to Joan’s reaction to Don’s proposal to Megan in the Season 4 finale: “It happens all the time.”

Applicable lyrics:

What would you think if I sang out of tune,

Would you stand up and walk out on me.

Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song, (“Zou Bisou Bisou”)

And I’ll try not to sing out of key.

Do you need anybody? (Don & Megan)

I need somebody to love.

Could it be anybody?

I want somebody to love.

Would you believe in a love at first sight?

Yes I’m certain that it happens all the time. (Joan’s response to Don and Megan)

503: “Tea Leaves” (“She’s Leaving Home”)

About the song: “She’s Leaving Home”

Paul McCartney:

“John and I wrote ‘She’s Leaving Home’ together. It was my inspiration. We’d seen a story in the newspaper about a young girl who’d left home and not been found, there were a lot of those at the time, and that was enough to give us a story line. So I started to get the lyrics: she slips out and leaves a note and then the parents wake up … It was rather poignant. I like it as a song and when I showed it to John, he added the long sustained notes, and one of the nice things about the structure of the song is that it stays on those chords endlessly. Before that period in our song-writing we would have changed chords but it stays on the C chord. It really holds you. It’s a really nice little trick and I think it worked very well. While I was showing that to John, he was doing the Greek Chorus, the parents’ view: ‘We gave her most of our lives, we gave her everything money could buy.’ I think that may have been in the runaway story, it might have been a quote from the parents. Then there’s the famous little line about a man from the motor trade; people have since said that was Terry Doran, who was a friend who worked in a car showroom.”

The newspaper story McCartney mentioned was from the front page of the Daily Mirrorabout a girl named Melanie Coe. Although McCartney made up most of the content, Coe, who was 17 at the time, claims that he got most of it right. Her parents wondered why she had left… “She has everything here.” [iii]

How it relates to 503:

This episode is about how unhappy (and bored, and fat) Betty is her new marriage, but how she doesn’t understand why. Much like a father, Henry loves her unconditionally and has given her everything, but it’s clear that Betty, who is like a little girl, would still like to runaway to “a man from the Motor trade,” aka Don (remember that before he was an ad-man, Don was a car salesman). Structurally, the long-sustained notes running throughout are similar to the bed of stability and tedium that she feels in her new life as Mrs. Francis (“She has everything here.”). Also, the parallel story of Don at the Rolling Stones concert concerned for the little Lady Jane (“None of you want any of us to have a good time, cause you never did.”) references several of the lyrical themes.

Note: Melanie Coe, who shares the name of the Pete Campbell from Ken’s short story in “Signal 30,” was 17 and this episode closes with Betty and the song “ Sixteen Going On Seventeen.”

Applicable lyrics:

The plot is almost sequentially identical to the song (see the full lyrics here, and just replace “handkerchief” with “Bugles,” and “Meeting a man from the Motor trade” with “Telephone call to Don”). Specifically, note these lyrics:

She (what did we do that was wrong)

Is Having (we didn’t know it was wrong)

Fun (fun is the one thing that money can’t buy) (Lady Jane)

Something inside, that was always denied, for so many years…

She’s leaving home…bye, bye (Birdie?)

504: “Mystery Date” (“Getting Better”)

About the Song: “Getting Better”

“The song’s title and music suggest optimism, but some of the song’s lyrics have a more negative tone. In this sense, it reflects the contrasting personas of the two songwriters. In response to McCartney’s line, ‘It’s getting better all the time,’ Lennon replies, ‘It can’t get no worse!’  Referring to the lyric ‘I used to be cruel to my woman/I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved/Man I was mean but I’m changing my scene/And I’m doing the best that I can,’ Lennon admitted that he had done things in relationships in the past that he was not happy about.”[iv]

How it relates to 504:

“Mystery Date” is about how Don and Megan’s happiness is threatened by Don’s adulterous and misogynistic tendencies. The song title, “Getting Better,” is appropriate since the entire episode is about Don being sick. Instrumentally, Harrison’s use of the Indian tambura correlates nicely with the exoticism of Don’s violent fever dreams. Obvious parallels can also be drawn to the ending of Joan and Greg’s marriage. The ironic relationship between much of the melody and lyric, as it relates to the episode tone and plot, mimic the emotions of the episode’s closing song: the Crystals “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss).”

Applicable lyrics:

It’s a little better all the time (It can’t get no worse) (Confliction)

I have to admit it’s getting better (better)

It’s getting better

Since you’ve been mine (Megan)

Me used to be a angry young man

Me hiding me head in the sand (reference to Faye Miller’s “Get your head out of the sand” advice to Don in Season 4)

You gave me the word, I finally heard

I’m doing the best that I can (Don trying to change)

I used to be cruel to my woman

I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved

Man, I was mean but I’m changing my scene

And I’m doing the best that I can (Fever dream)

505: “Signal 30″ (“Fixing a Hole”)

About the Song: “Fixing a Hole”

“In a 1967 interview, McCartney said that the following lines were about fans who hung around outside his home day and night, and whose actions he found off-putting:

See the people standing there,

Who disagree, and never win,

And wonder why they don’t get in my door

Reportedly, McCartney was inspired to write the song after mending a hole in the roof of his Scotland home. However, he has stated that the song was ‘about the hole in the road where the rain gets in, a good old analogy.’”[v]

How it relates to 505:

Lyrically, it directly correlates to the plot: Pete allowing his mind to wander (the high school girl and the prostitute) and working to keep himself busy with his new life in the suburbs, mending a leaky sink (instead of McCartney’s hole in the roof). But in the end, he still has a disagreement (fistfight) with Lane, and doesn’t win. The door he wants to walk through is Don’s. Metaphorically, it’s Pete’s character – hopelessly inadequate. Rhythmically, you can hear the base guitar metronome of the drippy faucet throughout the song.

Applicable lyrics:

I’m fixing a hole where the rain gets in

And stops my mind from wandering

Where it will go. (Leaky sink)

See the people standing there who

Disagree and never win  (Pete and Lane fight)

And wonder why they don’t get in my door. (Pete’s desperation for Don’s approval)

Silly people run around they worry me (reference to University of Texas gunman, Charles Whitman)

506: “Far Away Places” (“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”)

About the Song: “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”

Lennon’s son, Julian inspired the song with a nursery school drawing he called ‘Lucy — in the sky with diamonds.’ Shortly after the song’s release, speculation arose that the first letter of each of the title’s nouns intentionally spelled LSD. Although Lennon denied this, the BBC banned the song.”[vi]

How it relates to 506:

Come on.

Applicable lyrics:

Picture yourself in a boat on a river (“It’s like a boat trip! You don’t cast off thinking

about sinking”)

With tangerine trees and marmalade skies (Maybe a stretch, but the cinematography

with Howard Johnson’s roof consuming the background- Don’s marmalade skies)

Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes

And she’s gone (The scene where Don finds Megan’s sunglasses in the lot, and she’s gone)

Lucy in the sky with diamonds

Lucy in the sky with diamonds

Lucy in the sky with diamond (Repetition of the same day three times)

507: “At the Codfish Ball” (“Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”)

About the song: “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”

“Lennon was inspired to write the song by a 19th century circus poster for Pablo Fanque’s Circus Royal, Rochdale, that he purchased in an antique shop on 31 January 1967, while filming the promotional video for ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ in Sevenoaks, Kent. Lennon said ‘Everything from the song is from that poster, except the horse wasn’t called Henry.’ (The poster identifies the horse as ‘Zanthus.’) Mr. Kite is believed to be William Kite who worked for Pablo Fanque from 1843 to 1845.’”[vii]

How it relates to 507:

Thematically, this episode was a lot about preparation and disappointment. Peggy has the expectation of a marriage proposal and ends up with something similar, but “sinful.” Sally is growing up (Go-go boots! Makeup!) and excited about her chance to accompany Don, Roger, Megan and her parents to a fancy event “for the Benefit” of Mr. American Cancer Society. But all the magic of the night gets, as she said, “dirty.” The event itself – Don receiving a noble award for something that was done out self-interest – similarly follows the episode’s maniacal undercurrent. Much like the episode itself, “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” lyrically and musically plays like an invitation to something grand that actually turns out be a creepy circus. The background music throughout the episode follows the melodic structure almost identically [most notably in the ending scene, where everyone is sitting and the table in silence, deflation or shock (Sally)]. Also, Don’s “promotional” motive for writing the anti-smoking piece in the New York Times nicely parallels: “Lennon was inspired to write the song by a 19th century circus poster…that he purchased in an antique shop…while filming the promotional video for ‘Strawberry Fields Forever.’” (Don:  “It doesn’t matter why I wrote it!”)

Applicable lyrics:

For the benefit of Mr. Kite

There will be a show tonight (American Cancer Society Benefit)

The Hendersons will all be there (the important, rich people Roger was trying to schmooze)

Having been some days in preparation

A splendid time is guaranteed for all

And tonight Mr. Kite is topping the bill! (Dirty.)

If you’re still on board with me on this, things are about to get really weird:

If my hunch is correct, than the Season 5 finale will play to the tempo of “A Day in the Life.” Considering Weiner’s love of running us around in circles, I thought it was notable that “the opening sounds of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” were taken from a February 10, 1967 orchestra session for ‘A Day in the Life.’” This is especially curious when you consider that the sounds heard on the streets of Madison Avenue during the civil rights scene that opens “A Little Kiss” are meant to mimic the tuning of an orchestra on February 10, 1967. Well, if the world is Weiner’s audience, I guess the New York Times is his orchestra.

I would bet my Sterling’s gold that the Season 5 finale, “The Phantom” (“A Day in the Life”), lands on February 10, 1967 and opens with real-life history lesson (“I read the news today, oh boy…”). If you listen to the rest of the song, it’s difficult not to suspect that the plot of “The Phantom” will in many ways draw on the themes we were introduced to, given Pete’s many names and the mini-orchestra in “Signal 30.”

508: “Lady Lazarus” (“Within You Without You”)

About the song: “Within You Without You”

“‘Within You Without You’ was composed on a harmonium following a dinner party at the London home of Klaus Voorman, the German artist and musician whom the Beatles first met in Hamburg. Written by George Harrison, it was the only non-Lennon-McCartney song on the Sgt. Pepper album. The song was George Harrison’s second full-blown Indian recording, after Revolver‘s “Love You To.” Although regarded by some as a dull interlude in the otherwise masterful Sgt. Pepper, ‘Within You Without You’ encapsulated the exploration of spiritual themes that had become popular in 1967′s Summer of Love.” [viii]

How it relates to the song “Tomorrow Never Knows”:

“The song was also included on the 2006 remix album Love. For this album, George Harrison’s vocal and sitar parts were mixed over McCartney’s bass and Ringo’s drum parts from “Tomorrow Never Knows,” although the opening lyric, ‘Turn off your mind…Relax and float downstream…It is not dying…it is not dying,’ comes from ‘Tomorrow Never Knows,’ as does the set of reversed sound effects utilized in the mashup. During part of the second verse of the mashup version, the drums and bass of ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ are silenced, replaced by the tabla percussion parts of ‘Within You Without You.’ Also, Harrison’s vocals are heard in the song’s intended key of C major. The blending of these two songs is considered the most effective form of mashup on the album.” [xi]

How it relates to episode 508, “Lady Lazarus”:

Thematically, the song relates to several of the spiritual allusions touched upon in this episode. Sylvia Path’s “Lady Lazarus” was textually based on the concept of reincarnation, which correlates with the Indian instruments and Hindu beliefs that inspired Harrison melodically and lyrically to create this song. The concept of divorcing oneself from their ego is also explored in this episode, as Don allows Megan to leave his kingdom at SCDP and pursue her dream.

Love healing the world is touched upon during Pete and Beth’s drive from the train session when Beth explains that she could never live in the city because of her empathy for all the homeless people. Pete says, “I guess were supposed to get used to not seeing them,” and Beth replies, “Yes, that’s exactly what happens.”  Beth also suggests the smallness of humanity through her comparison of Pete’s eyes and the photographs of earth from space. “It didn’t bother you to see the earth tiny and unprotected, surrounded by darkness?” Later, Pete and Harry discuss the images, with Pete asking Harry if they made him feel small and insignificant.

The notion that internal change comes from within oneself is touched upon in Don and Pete’s attempts to transcend themselves through another person (Megan and Beth), and finding they are still alone. The idea of one’s material success contributing to the loss of their soul could relate to Megan’s artistic appetite, feeling better failing at something she loves than succeeding at something she’s good at, etc. and to Don’s reluctance to get with the times.

Applicable lyrics:

We were talking-about the space between us all

And the people-who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion (Everyone’s playing a part, also could be referenced through the numerous strange telephone calls)

With our love-we could save the world-if they only knew (Beth hates poverty)

Try to realize it’s all within yourself

No one else can make you change (Megan and Beth will not solve your problems)

And to see you’re really only very small,

And life flows on within you and without you (Photos of earth from space, reincarnation)

We were talking-about the love that’s gone so cold and the people,

Who gain the world and lose their soul-

They don’t know-they can’t see-are you one of them? (Don, turning off the Beatles)

509: “Dark Shadows” (“When I’m Sixty-Four”)

About the song: “When I’m Sixty-Four”

“The song is sung by a young man to his lover, and is about his plans of growing old together with her. Although the theme is ageing, it was one of the first songs McCartney wrote, when he was 16. The Beatles used it in the early days as a song they could play when the amplifiers broke down or the electricity went off. Both George Martin and Mark Lewisohn speculated that McCartney may have thought of the song when recording began for Sgt. Pepper in December 1966 because his father turned 64 earlier that year.

Lennon said of the song: ‘Paul wrote it in the Cavern days. We just stuck a few more words on it like ‘grandchildren on your knee’ and ‘Vera, Chuck and Dave’ … this was just one that was quite a hit with us.” In his 1980 interview for Playboy he said, ‘I would never even dream of writing a song like that.’”[x]

How it relates to 509:

The concept of growing old together is ironically showcased in this episode, as the central plotlines revolve around the shifting marital relationships of Don, Betty and Roger. “Bert, how do you not know I’m getting a divorce?” Roger asks. “Already?” Bert responds. Betty recognizes an opportunity to disrupt Don and Megan’s seemingly blissful new life when Sally is given a homework assignment to draw a family tree. Betty coyly reminds Sally not to forget to include Don’s first wife, Anna Draper— deceased, knowing it will trigger questions and cause tension in paradise on 73rd and Park. Similar to “Getting Better,” the sing-song melody of the Sinatra-inspired[xi] tune is undercut by the ominous interrogative structure of its lyrics, which may suggest “Dark Shadows” ahead.

I also think the contrast of the “When I’m Sixty-Four” traditional rhythm, in relation to the overall psychedelic tone of the album, somewhat mirrors the staleness of Don’s pun-tastic Snowball pitch relative to the random slapstick impact of Ginsberg’s competing progressive pitch.

Applicable lyrics:

If I’d been out till quarter to three

Would you lock the door? (Don kicking in the locked door in “Far Away Places”)  

I could be handy mending a fuse when your lights have gone  (Don’s note: “Lovely Megan, I went to get a light bulb…”)

You can knit a sweater by the fireside

Sunday mornings, go for a ride

Doing the garden, digging the weeds

Who could ask for more? (Betty: “I’m thankful that I have everything I want, and nobody else has anything better.”)

Will you still need me

Will you still feed me (Henry feeding Betty steak)

When I’m sixty-four

Grandchildren on your knee

Vera, Chuck, and Dave (Sally’s family tree)

510: “Christmas Waltz” (“Lovely Rita”)

About the song: “Lovely Rita”

“This song is about a female traffic warden and the narrator’s affection for her. The term ‘meter-maid’ was largely unknown in the U.K. prior to the song’s release. It is American slang for a female traffic warden, now officially known by the gender-neutral term parking attendant. According to some sources, the song emanates from when a female traffic warden named Meta Davies issued a parking ticket to McCartney outside Abbey Road Studios. Instead of becoming angry, he accepted it with good grace and expressed his feelings in song. When asked why he had called her ‘Rita,’ McCartney replied ‘Well, she looked like a Rita to me.’[xii]

How it relates to 510:

This episode explores Don’s relationship with Joan.  Their performance for the Jaguar salesmen and the innocent flirtation they exchange over cocktails mimics the whimsical musicality of McCartney’s improbable romantic fantasy about his muse for this song, the meter-maid he names Rita. I suspected that Joan would play Rita in this episode when Lane tells Joan in the Season 5 premiere that she was irreplaceable at SCDP because the other secretaries “Couldn’t operate a parking meter, they’re imbeciles!” (right before he tells her “it’s only a matter of time before they find out he’s a sham,” which also kind of works well with this episode). Don’s comment that Joan received so many flowers he used to think she was dating Aly Kahn (the name under which he sends her roses later in the episode) also relates to the song, since Aly Kahn was the husband of the Hollywood starlet Rita Hayworth. His suggestion that she was initially intimidating to him could also be a nod toward the lyric “made her look a little like a military man,” which could also be referenced through Roger’s “Cause the Army is treating you so well,” comment. Sadly, unlike in the song, Rita is the one who gets served in the episode.

Applicable lyrics:

Lovely Rita meter maid

Lovely Rita meter maid (Lane’s parking meter comment in “A Little Kiss”) 

Made her look a little like a military man (“Cause the Army’s treating you so well.”/Intimidating Joan)

Took her out and tried to win her

Had a laugh and over dinner

Told her I would really like to see her again

Got the bill and Rita paid it

Took her home I nearly made it (Don to Joan: “I struck out.”)

Over the past six weeks, I’ve learned a lot about the the Beatles. I didn’t know that before Yoko, John Lennon – like Kenny Cosgrove – had a wife named Cynthia. Or that Paul McCartney – like Bert Cooper – had a penchant to go shoeless. Maybe this matters, but probably not.

I just finished reading the little-known gem, “Turn me on, Dead Man: The Complete Story of the Paul McCartney Death Hoax” by Andru J. Reeve. It’s an interesting read, which traces the origin and trajectory of the rumor-turned-hoax that McCartney was killed in a car accident in January of 1967 and replaced by look alike, William Campbell Shears.  In 1969, American college students in particular clung to the notion, forming clubs and organizations devoted to deciphering the “clues” that alluded to his death, which they were convinced permeated the lyrics, melodies and images, dispensed to the masses throughSgt. Pepper’s, the White Album and Abbey Road.  People really believed it, and after reading the book, I understand why. It’s really really cool. It was a conversation and a unifier, but maybe mostly it was an excuse to listen one more time.

No, I don’t think it will do us any good to watch “Mad Men” episodes in reverse, upside-down or in French. Nor am I suggesting my theory is anyway comparable in depth, influence or sensational wonder, to that which reverberated through the notorious death hoax. However, I do think there are similarities in the flavor of analysis.

Like the tantalizing genius of a somewhat cryptic Beatles’ track, there is something weighted, baited and lingering about “Mad Men”’s poignant silences, detailed discourse and structural control. Things we love that feel random but true impress upon us a need for interpretation. It’s nice to believe a kind of secret code is folded into the dialogue and drama of “Mad Men.” It’s an excuse to watch one more time, ingest one more detail and feel a bit closer to understanding the timeline of a marvelously unpredictable series. So for these reasons and for the sake of completion:

511: “The Other Woman” (“Good Morning, Good Morning”)

About the song: “Good Morning, Good Morning”

“Inspiration for the song came to Lennon from a television commercial for Kellogg‘s Corn Flakes. The line “It’s time for tea and Meet the Wife” refers to a BBC sitcomMeet the Wife. At Lennon’s request, George Martin brought in Sounds Incorporated to provide the song’s prominent brass backing. Lennon asked engineer Geoff Emerick to arrange the animal noises heard at beginning (and end) of the song so that each animal heard was one capable of devouring (or frightening) the animal preceding it. The final sound effect of a chicken clucking was so placed that it transforms into the guitar on the following track, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)“. The song has an unusual rhythmical feel and does not use the same time signature throughout.”[xiii]

How it relates to 511:

The fact that the song “Good Morning, Good Morning” was inspired in part by a television commercial is similar to “The Other Woman” in that the plotline of the episode directly reflects the implication of the Jaguar campaign. The animal sounds that pervade the song mimic the primal flavor of the episode’s carnal subtext. As commenter Jared Ravich noted, the two times that “good morning” is said in the episode directly precede the most pivotal scenes: Pete’s bold proposition to Joan and Peggy giving Don her notice. The apathy of the lyrical protagonist could allude to the partners’ meek objections to the episode’s tawdry transaction.  The suggestion that “nothing has changed” could be aligned with Joan and Peggy’s inclination that although they’ve established themselves as integral assets to SCDP, the fact that they’re women will forever taint their professional reputations. Ravich also commented that he thinks the final scene, as Peggy’s footsteps overpower the clamor of the conference room celebration, rhythmically echoes the song’s final arrangement of animal sounds with Ringo’s steady drumbeats.

Applicable lyrics:

Good morning, good morning 
(1. Caroline to Joan and 2. Dawn to Don)

Good morning, good morning 

Nothing to do it’s up to you

I’ve got nothing to say but it’s OK (The partners’ mild objections and Don’s exit from the meeting)

And you’re on your own you’re in the street (Joan’s evaluation of her position and justification for accepting the offer)

After a while you start to smile now you feel cool

Then you decide to take a walk by the old school

Nothing is changed it’s still the same (Women in the workplace etc.)

I’ve got nothing to say but it’s OK 

512: “Commissions and Fees” (“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band (Reprise))”

About the song: “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band (Reprise)”

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” is a somewhat modified repeat of the opening song at a faster tempo with heavier instrumentation. The track opens with McCartney’s count-in (retained in the manner of “I Saw Her Standing There“, the first song on their first album); between 2 and 3, Lennon jokingly interjects “Bye!” Starr starts the song proper by playing the drum part unaccompanied for four bars, at the end of which a brief bass glissando cues the full ensemble of two distorted guitars, bass, drums and overdubbed percussion.

The idea for a reprise was Aspinall’s, who thought that as there was a “welcome song”, there should be a “goodbye song”. The song contains broadly the same melody as the opening version, but with different lyrics and omitting the “It’s wonderful to be here”section.”[xiv]

How it relates to 512:

Since this song is a reprise of the opening track on the album, I looked for similarities between this episode and the season’s premiere.  There is a notion that “A Little Kiss” is a welcome whereas “Commissions and Fees” is a goodbye: “A Little Kiss” is oriented around a celebration of Don’s birth, while “Commissions and Fees” is an account of Lane’s death. This correlation could have been alluded to through Pete’s superfluous inquiry at the partners’ meeting about the upcoming birthdays. The episodes similarly inversely mirror each other in that in the premiere, Lane finds a stranger’s wallet and sees to its return, whereas in this episode he is caught embezzling money. Also, the premiere episode closes with Lane accepting applications for a new hire, and this episode closes with his tragic resignation. Additionally, a few of Lane’s lines from the premiere episode eerily foreshadow his fate this season, namely “I’ll be here [at the office] for the rest of my life,” and “It’s only a matter of time before they discover I’m a sham.”

Applicable lyrics:

We’re Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

We hope you have enjoyed the show

We’re sorry but it’s time to go. (Suicide and resignation)

513: “The Phantom” (“A Day in the Life”)

About the song: “A Day in the Life”

“According to Lennon, the inspiration for the first two verses was the death of Tara Browne, the 21-year-old heir to the Guinness fortune and close friend of Lennon and McCartney, who had crashed his Lotus Elan on 18 December 1966 in Redcliffe Gardens, Earls Court. Lennon’s verses were adapted from a story in the 17 January 1967 edition ofThe Daily Mail, which reported the coroner’s verdict into Browne’s death.

“I didn’t copy the accident,” Lennon said. “Tara didn’t blow his mind out, but it was in my mind when I was writing that verse. The details of the accident in the song—not noticing traffic lights and a crowd forming at the scene—were similarly part of the fiction.”

The second verse contains the line “The English Army had just won the war”; Lennon was making reference to his role in the movie How I Won the War, released on 18 October 1967. In Many Years from Now, McCartney said about the line “I’d love to turn you on”, which concludes both verse sections: “This was the time of Tim Leary‘s ‘Turn on, tune in, drop out‘ and we wrote, ‘I’d love to turn you on.’ John and I gave each other a knowing look: ‘Uh-huh, it’s a drug song. You know that, don’t you?’.”

McCartney provided the middle section of the song, a short piano piece he had been working on independently, with lyrics about a commuter whose uneventful morning routine leads him to drift off into a dream.

The final verse was inspired by an article in the Daily Mail in January 1967 regarding a substantial number of potholes in Blackburn, a town in Lancashire. However, Lennon had a problem with the words of the final verse, not being able to think of how to connect “Now they know how many holes it takes to” and “the Albert Hall“. His friend Terry Doran suggested that they would “fill” the Albert Hall.”[xv]

How it relates to 513:

Many of the episodes this season foreshadow Lane’s death through various allusions to mortality, but the season finale was the first episode that plays with the concept of rebirth (the episode concludes with the song “You Only Live Twice”). Set during Easter season in the wake of Lane’s suicide, most of the character plotlines ended with some version of a fresh start. Pete’s mistress Beth receives electroshock therapy, which expunges the affair from her memory. Peggy and Joan excel in their new professional positions. SCDP gets a new floor to renovate. Megan (via Don) gets a part in a commercial and Roger takes LSD.

The song “A Day in the Life” mirrors the episode insomuch that the song opens with the description of a tragic, morbid accident, then touches on people’s response to it and moves quite jovially into a jingle about a monotonous morning commute and the protagonist’s desire to “turn you on.” Similarly, the drama of this episode traces the characters’ subconscious responses to Lane’s suicide. While everyone appears to be maintaining composure and routine, they all seem to be simultaneously fighting an internal urge to reevaluate and rejuvenate their existence. Don, however, is just fighting a toothache.  (See “Mystery Date”/“Getting Better”). So it makes sense that his version of “reincarnation,” which we sense in the final scene of the episode, looks a lot more like retrogression. After all, as Don is told, “It’s not your tooth that’s rotten.”

Applicable lyrics:

He blew his mind out in a car (Lane’s suicide)

He didn’t notice that the lights had changed

A crowd of people stood and stared

They’d seen his face before (Adam visions)

I saw a film today oh boy (Peggy and Don at the movies.)

I’d love to turn you on (Affairs and drugs.)

Woke up, fell out of bed,

Dragged a comb across my head

Found my way downstairs and drank a cup,

And looking up I noticed I was late. (Megan: “Don, you’re gonna be late!”)

Somebody spoke and I went into a dream (Adam dream sequence)

Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire (Pete: “I fell asleep and ran into a ditch.”)

[i] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sgt._Pepper%27s_Lonely_Hearts_Club_Band_(song)

[ii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/With_a_Little_Help_from_My_Friends

[iii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/She%27s_Leaving_Home

[iv] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_Better

[v] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fixing_a_Hole

[vi] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_in_the_Sky_with_Diamonds

[vii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Being_for_the_Benefit_of_Mr._Kite!

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