Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Was "Mad Men" the first TV show to play a Beatles song?

As though she weren't delightful enough already, Megan Draper, Don Draper's second wife on "Mad Men," won a special place in my heart this last week by introducing her husband to the Beatles song "Tomorrow Never Knows." Appropriately, the 40-year old Don pulled the needle off the record halfway through the song, which he surely found incomprehensible. According to the New York Times, this was a Major Moment in television history:
Aside from songs that have been played in the occasional commercial or the Beatles cartoon series that was shown on ABC in the 1960s, the use of “Tomorrow Never Knows” on “Mad Men” is probably one of the only times that a Beatles track has been used in a TV show, music and advertising executives say.
Jeff Jones, the head of Apple Corps, the Beatles’ company, wrote in an e-mail on Monday that it was the first such license in the five years he has been with the group, although he said he could not be sure about earlier uses that predate his time at the company. Mr. Weiner said he was told that it was the only time a Beatles song has been in a television show, other than the band’s live performances.
I have a strong memory of hearing a few seconds of a Beatles song, possibly "I Want to Hold your Hand," playing on Col. Raynor Sarnac's clock radio on an episode of "Call to Glory." I have no idea if this was historically accurate -- whether clock radios existed at the time that could wake people up to music, whether a middle-aged Air Force colonel would be listening to a station that played the Beatles in 1963, etc. -- but I'm pretty sure it happened on TV, nearly 30 years ago. Can anyone back me up on this?
Yeah, that's Elisabeth Shue.
Update: Good point in comments from Matt Glassman: "Life Goes On" used the Beatles' "Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da" in the opening credits every damned episode!


Matt Glassman said...

I take it covers don't count --- Joe Cocker was singing A Little Help From My Friends to open The Wonder Years 20+ years ago.


Matt Glassman said...

Wait a sec! "Life Goes On" Used Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da as the them song, Beatles version, during 1989-93. And apparently there was a licensing dispute with the DVDs, so they changed the theme song for the DVD release. (See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_Goes_On_%28TV_series%29#DVD_release)

So unless theme songs don't count, this is all nonsense.


Anonymous said...

"All You Need is Love" was featured in the finale for "The Prisoner" way back in 1968:


dmarks said...

I instantly thought of the first one Matt mentioned when reading the post. A cover, yes.

Seth Masket said...

Matt- yeah! Why are they dissing Corky?

tohon said...

IIRC this is the first time an master of the Beatles has been used.

Matt Glassman said...


That's possible. Upon consulting Youtube, I now see that the "Life Goes On" theme was a generic cover version of "Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da." I could have sworn it was the original. Dang memory!

TC said...

I know Michael Jackson owned the Beatles catalog before his death, I don't know if he ever allowed their music to be licensed for TV use.

Seth Masket said...

I'm with Matt. I could swear it was the original "Ob-la-di Ob-la-da" in the credits. Not trusting YouTube.

Jeremy said...

The Simpsons used "Golden Slumbers" (sans vocals) on a third season episode, though only the network repeats (and later, DVD) since the rights issues were somehow botched for the first airing.

Potassium With a Capital K said...

Don't forget The Prisoner (Fall Out) and The Monkees (Mijacogeo)! :)

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