Turning on With Don (Draper)

Last night’s episode of “Mad Men” ended with Don Draper listening to The Beatles’ psychedelic stunner “Tomorrow Never Knows,” and feeling his soigné sixties self slip away.

Anyone remember when that song first came out, when Revolver was released? Were you an adult, a teen, a tween? Regardless of your age, didn’t listening to that song – which allegedly cost the Mad Men producers $250,000 to use – make you realize the world was changing?

If you were an adult whose life soundtrack was Connie Francis or The Vogues, you probably could sympathize in part with Don, listening mutely and realizing that he no longer had the cultural zeitgeist figured out. If you were a teenager or pre-teen accustomed to the adorable Beatles singing poppy, danceable songs, “Tomorrow Never Knows” might have made you a little uncomfortable, as much great art does. It was a huge departure for the Fab Four. Consider that “Rubber Soul,” the Beatles’ previous album, included accessible melodies like “Michelle” and “Drive My Car.” Revolver – and its haunting last track — made us realize that the mop-tops who sang “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” were so Yesterday.

Accompanied by John Lennon’s fuzzy, far-away vocals, sitar music, haunting drums and tracks played backwards, “Tomorrow Never Knows” came from the book “The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead by Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, and Ralph Metzner. The song signaled that the era’s most influential musical group was moving forward, dragging pop culture with them, and we had no choice but to follow or become irrelevant.

I think that Don must have been thinking this while he listened to the lyrics, sitar, drums and distortion. While he listens, the scene cuts from the 40-ish Don, to his 20-something second wife Megan lying on a stage (after quitting her comfortable advertising job earlier in the day to pursue the bohemian life of an actress), to Don’s coworker Peggy getting high in the office with hunky colleague Stan (When will those two get together???? My guess is when Stan grows his hair and gets rid of the striped shirts.)

Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream, Don! Or grab another hit from those bottles beckoning from your credenza.

While it’s been 46 years since the debut of Tomorrow Never Knows, its lyrics have a strange resonance for those of us struggling to tune out from the constant electronic disruptions of our plugged-in lives. Those lyrics are the perfect meditation for the rest of your day:

Turn off your mind relax and float down stream
It is not dying, it is not dying

Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void,
It is shining, it is shining.

Yet you may see the meaning of within
It is being, it is being

Love is all and love is everyone
It is knowing, it is knowing

And ignorance and hate mourn the dead
It is believing, it is believing

But listen to the colour of your dreams
It is not leaving, it is not leaving

So play the game “Existence” to the end
Of the beginning, of the beginning