After seven emotionally scarring seasons and more awards than creator Matthew Weiner probably knows what to do with, Mad Men finally ended last year, bringing to a close one of the most compelling dramas in American television history. But before we start sobbing into our carefully-ironed linen suits, how about a recap of the series’ most powerful music moments? Behind some of the show’s most game-changing and heart-breaking scenes have been songs both popular and obscure that cut to the core of Don’s existential crisis, of Peggy’s professional and emotional struggle and of Joan’s quiet, smirking defiance. So in celebration of a show that changed everything, here’s Mad Men’s greatest uses of music. Goodbye Don, it’s been a blast.
Don rejects The Beatles (season 5, episode 8)
Despite Matthew Weiner shelling out $250 000 for “Tomorrow Never Knows,” Don Draper was less than impressed with The Beatles track and barely got two minutes in before turning it off (and yet he likes Merle Haggard just fine). The turning point in the series, as Don’s grip on the world around him begins to loosen.
Harry and Don attend The Rolling Stones (season 5, episode 3)
Don and Harry find themselves trying to connect with the Rolling Stones for a pitch. Unsurprisingly, the two fail miserably. And instead of meeting the era’s poster boys for rebellion, the two men linger backstage among teens who treat them like the father-figure fun-police they are. An episode that shows the gulf between the ad firm’s grey corporate thinking and the counter culture world springing up around them.
Megan sings Zou Bisou Bisou (Season 5, episode 1)
There’s more than a few ways to embarrass Don Draper, but singing for him at the birthday party he didn’t ask for is probably the most effective. Trying to be thoughtful, Megan performs Gillian Harris’ “Zou Bisou Bisou.” This effectively horrifies Don, and signals the end of their marriage. As well as our inclination that Harry is just the worst.
Sal re-enacts ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ (season 3, episode 2)
Proving to his wife that he’s memorised “Bye Bye Birdie,” the closeted Sal Romano performs the song and ultimately gives his sexuality away. However, despite Sal’s great performance, it’s his wife’s slow realisation that his home. (It’s just a shame Sal got fired before we could find out how their relationship panned out.)
Don and Peggy dance to ‘My Way’ (season 7, episode 6)
Considering their similarities and evolving power dynamic over the course of the series, Don and Peggy’s relationship is easily the show’s most interesting. That’s why “powerful” is an understatement when, in rare moment of vulnerability, the two share a dance to this Sinatra classic following a heart-to-heart about their regrets. They’ve had a few…
Bert Cooper returns from the dead (season 7, episode 7)
When Bert Cooper appeared to sing and dance posthumously at the end of season seven’s first half, it almost felt safe to assume Don was dying, too. Instead, he was reminded via grief-induced hallucination that money can’t buy happiness – which explains why the season’s second half sees him driving across America after walking away from SC&P.
Trudy and Pete perform The Charleston (season 3, episode 3)
Pete Campbell is a desperate man. Desperate for recognition, success, and validation, he channels his desperation into a dance with his wife in season three, monopolizing the dance floor as he does with business – all while staring into the eyes of Don and Roger, whose approval he’s thirsty for. (But boy, can they move.)
Peggy quits Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (season 5, episode 11)
Frankly, there are few moments more satisfying in life than watching Peggy take one last look at the office she left behind to The Kinks’ ‘All Day and All Night.’ If only she knew that in less than a season she’d be coming back.
Don takes Sally, Bobby, and Jean to his childhood home to the sound of Judy Collins (season 6, episode 13)
After being suspended from work, Don chooses honesty over mystery and takes Sally, Bobby, and Jean to see the home he grew up in. Finally, he was letting them see real parts of his life – or as Judy Collins sings best, ‘Both Sides Now.’
Bobby Vinton soundtracks Betty shooting birds (season 1, episode 9)
Betty Draper has always been more than the role society placed her in. Enter: her act of aggression in response to a neighbour threatening to kill the family’s dog. Set to Bobby Vinton’s ‘My Special Angel,’ the moment sums up Betty’s act perfectly.