Mad Men’s 12 Best Musical Moments

Mad Men is at long last returning from an approximate 10 year hiatus (or so it feels) on April 13. I couldn’t be more excited. To celebrate its return, I’ve picked the best musical moments from Mad Men. Here they are.
Warning: if you’re not completely caught up with the show, spoilers may abound.

12. Betty descending a staircase, season 1, “Sadko: Song of India” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov


Don and Betty go out for a fancy Dinner. Don is waiting for Betty in the lounge area. A woman is playing a harp. He glances up at the staircase and sees Betty, and the music swells as she descends the staircase in slow motion. It’s an absolutely dreamy cinematic moment.

11. Paul Kinsey sings, season 3, “Hello! Ma Baby” as sung by Michael Gladis


Peggy Olsen, Paul Kinsey, and some copywriter no one remembers, are all hanging out in the office trying to work when Paul decides they need pot in order to be truly productive. Kinsey’s former classmate, Jeffrey Graves, played by Miles Fisher, delivers, and with the weed, brings an old rivalry they had back from when they were in the a cappella group, “The Tiger Tones.” Graves insists Kinsey was kicked out because he couldn’t sing; Kinsey says it was because he had mono. To prove he’s still got it, Kinsey busts out the song best known as the Michigan J Frog song, “Hello! Ma Baby”. Graves joins in, leading Peggy to exclaim, “I’m so high.”

10. Don in Los Angeles, season 2, “Misirlou” by Martin Denny


Another great slow motion moment. Don is in Los Angeles with Pete to meet with clients. A young woman walks towards him in slow motion to this enchanting tiki-inspired hit, “Misirlou”, and it’s enough to make Don drop everything and go with her to Palm Springs instead.

9. Peggy quits, season 5, “You Really Got Me” by The Kinks


Peggy, feeling overlooked and underused for some time, decides she’s ready to quit Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. At first, Don doesn’t even take her resignation seriously. First he’s in denial, then he’s angry, then in one of Mad Men’s most touching moments, he takes her hand and tenderly kisses it, and her, goodbye. Tearing up, Peggy tells him not to be a stranger. She takes a moment to collect her things, and by the elevator, herself. The elevator pings, and then BAM – that iconic guitar riff kicks in, she smiles, gets in the elevator, and the episode ends.

8. Don shows his kids his childhood home, season 6, “Both Sides Now” by Judy Collins


Don, sick of lying about who he is, takes his kids to see his childhood home – a dilapidated whorehouse in a rough neighborhood. “This is where I grew up,” he tells them, and “Both Sides Now” begins to play as his young son, Bobby, stares at him in total confusion, while daughter Sally gives Don a look that seems to say, “Ahhh it all makes sense now.”

7. Pete smokes pot at work, season 6, “Piece of My Heart” by Janis Joplin.


Mad Men really knows how to give good slow-mo. In this scene, Pete, realizing he’s bordering on obsolete at work, is basically like, “Screw it” and for the first time ever, smokes a joint – all while in the open, at work. It’s a sign of how much the agency, and the times, have changed. As he takes a drag, the song kicks in, and a miniskirted woman walks by in slow motion, and Pete’s eyes follow her hemline the entire way.

6. Don is all alone, season 1, “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright” by Bob Dylan.


Mad Men does a rare fantasy sequence in which we think Don has made it home from work in time to go away with his family, when actually, the scene was all in his head, or was an alternate reality, a way it could have been. Instead, he arrives home too late, and all alone, he sits on the staircase as Bob Dylan closes out the first season.

5. Pete and Trudy do the Charleston, season 3, “Charleston” by Paul Reeves


Though Pete and Trudy have been having their share of marital troubles, it all disappears at Roger’s party, when they get up to dance and steal the show, busting out their best moves, even the knock knees. It’s like The Great Gatsby meets the Cantina scene from Star Wars.

4. “You Only Live Twice” montage, season 5, “You Only Live Twice” by Nancy Sinatra

Don has surrendered to wife Megan’s acting desires, and helped her land a commercial. As the shoot beings, Don walks away, Megan getting smaller and smaller behind him. That’s when “You Only Live Twice” rumbles in. Don goes to a bar, orders his signature Old Fashioned, and we have a montage of what the other characters are doing at that very moment. Peggy, getting ready for bed, glimpses 2 dogs humping outside her window. Pete is listening to music on headphones. Roger, high on LSD, is basking in his naked glory. We go back to Don, who is approached by a woman asking, “Are you alone?” He thinks about her question, gives her a look, but before he can answer, we cut to black, and that’s the end of season 5.

3. The singing priest, season 2, “Early In The Morning” by Peter, Paul, & Mary and also Colin Hanks


Colin Hanks plays a priest who fancies singing. At home, he picks up his guitar, and plays “Early In The Morning”, singing along. We then cut to the Sterling Cooper office, where Don grabs a beer from the break room fridge. He sits down, the camera pans out, and we realize that once again, Don is all alone. As Hanks finishes a verse, the song seamlessly transitions into the actual Peter Paul & Mary recording, playing out the episode.

2. “Tomorrow Never Knows” montage, season 5, “Tomorrow Never Knows” by The Beatles


Finally – Mad Men uses The Beatles! And you know it must have cost them a pretty damn penny, so they use it the best way possible. Earlier in the episode, Don tries to find a Beatle-esque band to do a song for a commercial, confident he knows what The Beatles sound like – preppy British pop music. It isn’t until the end of the episode, when Megan hands him a copy of “Revolver” that Don realizes he has no freaking idea what The Beatles sound like now. We see what other characters are doing – Peggy is openly smoking pot at work, Megan is happy at acting class, Pete is heartbroken over a woman, then we go back to Don. It’s all too psychedelic for him, and he turns the record off with a scratch. He retreats into his bedroom and it cuts to black. Then, the song picks up right where it left off, triumphantly over the end credits as if to say, “Screw you, Don.”

1. Zou Bisou Bisou, season 5, “Zou Bisou Bisou” as done by Jessica Paré

Some called it cringe-worthy, other called it fabulous. This is the moment when Megan Draper (Jessica Paré) decided to treat Don with a surprise song and dance(ish) performance of the French yé-yé hit, “Zou Bisou Bisou” at his birthday party, in front of all of his friends and co-workers. The reactions from the crowd are amusement, envy, and embarrassment. But tell me you weren’t just dying for her dress.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Don listens to “Going Out Of My Head” in the hallway, Roger gets high to “I Just Wasn’t Meant For This Times” by the Beach Boys, Don walks down the street “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, Betty binge-eats to “Sixteen Going On Seventeen”. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Let’s watch Lost tonight. You can be my black John Locke tonight. My book is available here.

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