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.

by | Permalink | Comments (9) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (9)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • 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

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.