The JFK assassination, the smoking backlash, divorce, psychiatry, the women’s movement. Mad Men practically relishes in unraveling the world it built inSeasons 1 and 2, and in its next two seasons, fans saw the decay of an entire set of assumptions about American life played out by Don Draper and company, with music — folk, showtunes, garage rock, adult contemporary, and even late-perioddoo-wop — that matched the mood perfectly.
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- „Bye Bye Birdie,“ Ann-Margaret
Definitely an acquired taste, this title song from the Hollywood adaptation of the hit Broadway play is annoying to many — then again, Ann is playing a whiny teenager.
- „To Be Loved,“ The Pentagons
The show revisits the California (!) doo-wop group it made famous again in Season 2 with this excellent make-up ballad, which consoles its singer with a backup chorus that actually chants „cheer up“!
- „Memories of You,“ Ben Webster
Duke Ellington’s favorite tenor sax soloist had an amazingly lyrical way with a swing ballad, which this sentimental yet startling number makes clear.
- „Come On Twist,“ Jody Reynolds (original version)
Best known for his spooky hit „Endless Sleep,“ Jody wasn’t above doing dance numbers either, and this is better than a lot of the „twist“ songs that cropped up during the craze. Actually, it’s more reminiscent of Shirley and Lee’s „Let The Good Times Roll.„
- „Darling Say You Love Me,“ The Ramblers
One of Joe Meek’s pre-Beatles UK beat bands, the Ramblers were instrumentalists who weren’t afraid to Meek’s string section take over on the ballads. (Though they probably didn’t have much choice.)
- „I Followed My Heart,“ Pete Mann
Mann was an ultra-obscure rockabilly artist who only put out four sides during his career, including this „Don’t Be Cruel“-styled number... which, like the others, probably didn’t succeed because of Mann’s oddly strangulated vocals.
- „Sixteen Tons,“ Tennessee Ernie Ford
A major smash and a huge boon for the popularity folk music, this country’s artist’s rendition of an old work song was a little gimmicky but still potent, as well as an anthem for oppressed workers everywhere.
- „There’s a Small Hotel,“ Bobby Van and Kay Coulter
A Rodgers-Hart musical number from 1936’s On Your Toes that was repopularized in 1957 thanks to Frank Sinatra’s effortlessly swinging reboot.This version, from the 1954 Broadway revival, is a more standard take.
- „The End of the World,“ Skeeter Davis
Although she was a country singer, Skeeter’s big pop hit was a lovelorn ballad any teenage girl could easily relate to, especially with its appropriately overblown sense of loss.
- „Song to Woody,“ Bob Dylan
That’s Woody Guthrie, of course — Bob’s mentor, who he’d visited on Woody’s deathbed. With the dying man’s approval, Bob launched his solo career, giving this series another chance to show the massive cultural changes that were already underway for its characters.
- „Shahdaroba,“ Roy Orbison
The Big O’s operatic voice was a perfect fit for exotica, even the kind that merely used the Middle East as flavoring for its anguished pop dramas. From his peak Momument label period.
- „Where Is Love,“ Bruce Prochnik (from Oliver!)
This successful British musical adaptation of Charles Dickens‘ Oliver Twisthad just made its Broadway debut in 1963, just around the time the events of Season 3 take place. This, Oliver’s big number, is easy enough to relate to out of context.
- „I Know a Place,“ Petula Clark
Pet’s follow-up to her huge hit „Downtown“ gets even more explicit about the joys of chucking the workaday life and going out to the clubs, a mid-60s metaphor for freedom that was not lost on the show’s producers.
- „Sidewalk Surfin‘,“ Jan and Dean
As the first song about skateboards to hit the Billboard charts, this was another cultural signifier of the mid-60s, one that could easily be construed as foreshadowing with all that background stuff about „busting your buns.„
- „Hot Dog! Here He Comes,“ The Trilites
More late-period California doo-wop, this time by a Sacramento combo (two girls, one guy!) who made exactly two singles before reforming as the West Winds and then the Looking Glass (not the one of „Brandy“ fame).
- „The Name Game,“ Shirley Ellis
Certainly one of the more fun novelty singles of the era — sort of a dance song for the mouth. Shirley Shirley bo birley bonana fanna fo firley fe fi mo mirley, Shirley! How good were you at this game?
- „Tobacco Road,“ Nashville Teens
They were actually from the UK, and nowhere near the fictional East Georgia slum, but these garage-rock one-hit wonders made a big noise with their one US chart entry.
- „Signed D.C.,“ The Brave New World
A very obscure Pacific Northwest garage-rock band that combined the style of the region with California psychedelic hippie consciousness, and did so to fantastic effect on this cover of the Arthur Lee song.
- „(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,“ The Rolling Stones
A perfect artifact from the era, sure, but also a clever self-referential selection: Mick complains that a life suggested by advertising just can’t seem to make him happy.
- „Bleecker Street,“ Simon and Garfunkel
From the duo’s most earnestly folky album comes a dour yet beautiful portrait that already demonstrated Simon’s penchant for wordplay and social commentary.
- „Ladder of Success,“ Skeeter Davis
One of those pop songs from the period that sounds innocuous but is actually devastating lyrically, making it perfect for the glossy yet ruthless Mad Menuniverse.
- „Do You Want to Know a Secret,“ Santo and Johnny
Exactly what you’d expect from the instrumental duo that brought you „Sleepwalk“: slack-key guitar, pop orchestration, and an arrangement that really brings out the Latin flavors of this Beatles ballad.
- „Welcome to My World,“ Jim Reeves
„Gentleman“ Jim’s ultra-smooth, loungey style of country washes right over you on this, one of his signature hits; it has a seductive plushness that’s perfect for the time and place.
- „Old Cape Cod,“ Patti Page
Patti’s expert multitrack harmonies are so seductive and calming that they’ve been used in any number of movies and TV shows, and even sampled for a „chill“ track by Groove Armada.
- „I Enjoy Being A Girl,“ Doris Day
There’s not much more you need to add to a scene when America’s Sweetheart sings a very unironic version of this Rodgers and Hammerstein hit from Flower Drum Song.
- „Trust in Me,“ Etta James
Though she sings it in her usual powerful, even demanding, way, it’s hard to resist Etta’s urges to „cling to me, Daddy.“ A timeless declaration of (and insistence on) devotion.
- „I Got You Babe,“ Sonny and Cher
America’s favorite hippie lovebirds, for that is what they were in the mid-60s, close out this playlist with their own take on the subject; one that suggests, in its own subtle way, that money may not be the answer to everything.