The Making of “Tomorrow Never Knows,” The Beatles’ Song That Aired on an Historic Episode of Mad Men

On Sunday night, The Beatles made history again when Don Draper slipped a copy of Revolver onto his turntable and started listening to “Tomorrow Never Knows.” According to Matthew Weiner, the creator of Mad Men, this marked the first time a Beatles song appeared on a television show (excluding the band’s live TV performances during the 1960s). And the privilege of playing a Beatles tune came at a cost — a reported $250,000.

If you’re not familiar with “Tomorrow Never Knows” (listen below), we’ll tell you a few simple things about it. According to Steve Turner, author of A Hard Day’s Write, this was John Lennon’s “attempt to create in words and sounds a suitable track for the LSD experience” (John discusses his first encounter with the drug here), and it was also the “weirdest and most experimental piece of music to appear under the Beatles’ name at the time.” Without a doubt, this psychedelic tune would have fit hand-in-glove with Mad Men’s fifth episode of the season, when Roger and Jane drop acid at a psychiatrist’s dinner party. But it sits comfortably too in Episode 8. Just as the song marked a tuning point in the band’s sound, so too does it presage a turning point in Mad Men’s narrative. We begin to see individual characters moving in new personal directions and the show itself entering the later radical 60s.

Above, we’ve included a clip where Paul McCartney, George Harrison and George Martin talk about the making of “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Wikipedia actually offers some more good details on the song’s structure and recording. Below you’ll also find the original track.

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Comments (9)
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  • Me impactó e impresionó, todos fuimos testigos de ese efecto de revolución dentro de la mente de Don Draper, de todas las canciones de Revolver, que hayan elegido esa, para mi fue inesperado, momento histórico!

    It was witnessing a revolution in the mind of Don Draper, of all the songs on the album Revolver, they have chosen the most intriguing song, was unexpected for me, a historic moment!

  • rob says:

    The finale of The Prisoner plays “All You Need Is Love.”

  • Roland Rance says:

    It’s not the first time a Beatles song has been played in a TV show. A 1965 episode of Doctor Who included a BBC clip of the Beatles singing Ticket to Ride. This clip is hiostorically important, since the BBC later inexplicably wiped all of its Top of the Pops tapes, so the brief extract on Doctor Who is believed to be all that remains of the group’s TotP appearance.

  • Gordon Shrimp says:

    The Beatles had a Saturday morning cartoon show on ABC in 1966 that exclusively played actual Beatles studio recordings. Sally and Bobby no doubt would be watching that show this season on MAD MEN.

  • growler says:

    Also, a verse and chorus of “All You Need is Love” featured prominently in the final episode of “The Prisoner.”

  • TC says:

    There is something magical about watching true artists during the creative process.

  • Rob Baker says:

    The BBC and ITV in the UK have/had a blanket agreement with the relevant collection societies enabling them to play recordings (even the Beatles) without asking permission.

  • Asa says:

    “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” was played on 90s sitcom “Mad About You” (ep “Yoko Said” aired 11/12/95).

  • Nathan Howard says:

    I’m pretty sure there was an episode if the wonder years dedicated to Fred savage looking for the Beatles

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