Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tomorrow Never Knows

The concluding image of last week's Mad Men stays in my mind. Don Draper has had to find Beatles-type music for a sponsor, and he's out of his depth. "When did music become so important?" he asks his wife.
She gives him "Revolver" to listen to, and as the episode ends, he's standing in his perfect living room, listening to "Tomorrow Never Knows." He, of course, looks perfect as only Don Draper can. And the swirling sitars and guitar tape loops, and the lyrics about people who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion, are moving the world into a place where Don's perfection is no longer relevant.
And it's a requiem for jazz. Don Draper is the Playboy ideal. His apartment, even with a wife, is the Playboy Pad. And this is the Playboy of the 50s, of the Kennedy era, of the Peter Gunn era, when jazz was the musical accoutrement to the hip lifestyle. Of course, the Playboy reader was the guy who regularly voted Doc Severinsen as the top jazz trumpeter. Music mattered in this era, the era of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly and Zoot Sims and Lennie Tristano, but to the Playboy reader it was background...the Playboy-approved background. And as Don Draper stands there, perfect, listening to "Tomorrow Never Knows," he is on his way to cultural irrelevancy, as the Playboy reader moves from choosing Doc over Miles to McCartney over Mingus, or for that matter Lennon over Hendrix.

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