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When Betty’s 64

In TV on May 17, 2012 at 4:26 am

BY EMILY VIVIANI

The “Sgt. Pepper”/”Mad Men” theory has maintained its popularity in the social media world. (Credit: Capitol Records/E. Viviani)

Editor’s Note: Two weeks ago, our resident “Mad Men” expert Emily Viviani posited that the Beatles’ classic album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” is actually serving as a structural and thematic template for the fifth season of the series. The theory was quite a hit on “Mad Men” message boards and chat rooms across the country, and was even referenced in a recent article on New York Magazine’s website. Below is an update on the theory and how it fits into the season’s most recent episode, “Dark Shadows.”

SIDE TWO

  1. Within You Without You (Lady Lazarus)
  2. When I’m Sixty-Four (Dark Shadows)
  3. Lovely Rita (Christmas Waltz)
  4. Good Morning, Good Morning (The Other Woman)
  5. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band (Commissions and Fees)
  6. A Day in the Life (The Phantom)

509: “Dark Shadows” (“When I’m Sixty-Four”)

About the song: “When I’m Sixty-Four”

“The song is sung by a young man to his lover, and is about his plans of growing old together with her. Although the theme is ageing, it was one of the first songs McCartney wrote, when he was 16. The Beatles used it in the early days as a song they could play when the amplifiers broke down or the electricity went off. Both George Martin and Mark Lewisohn speculated that McCartney may have thought of the song when recording began for Sgt. Pepper in December 1966 because his father turned 64 earlier that year.

Lennon said of the song: ‘Paul wrote it in the Cavern days. We just stuck a few more words on it like ‘grandchildren on your knee’ and ‘Vera, Chuck and Dave’ … this was just one that was quite a hit with us.” In his 1980 interview for Playboy he said, ‘I would never even dream of writing a song like that.’”[1]

How it relates to 509:

The concept of growing old together is ironically showcased in this episode, as the central plotlines revolve around the shifting marital relationships of Don, Betty and Roger. “Bert, how do you not know I’m getting a divorce?” Roger asks. “Already?” Bert responds. Betty recognizes an opportunity to disrupt Don and Megan’s seemingly blissful new life when Sally is given a homework assignment to draw a family tree. Betty coyly reminds Sally not to forget to include Don’s first wife, Anna Draper— deceased, knowing it will trigger questions and cause tension in paradise on 73rd and Park. Similar to “Getting Better,” the sing-song melody of the Sinatra-inspired[2] tune is undercut by the ominous interrogative structure of its lyrics, which may suggest “Dark Shadows” ahead.

I also think the contrast of the “When I’m Sixty-Four” traditional rhythm, in relation to the overall psychedelic tone of the album, somewhat mirrors the staleness of Don’s pun-tastic Snowball pitch relative to the random slapstick impact of Ginsberg’s competing progressive pitch.

Applicable lyrics:

If I’d been out till quarter to three

Would you lock the door? (Don kicking in the locked door in “Far Away Places”)  

 

I could be handy mending a fuse when your lights have gone  (Don’s note: “Lovely Megan, I went to get a light bulb…”)

 

You can knit a sweater by the fireside

Sunday mornings, go for a ride

Doing the garden, digging the weeds

Who could ask for more? (Betty: “I’m thankful that I have everything I want, and nobody else has anything better.”)

Will you still need me

Will you still feed me (Henry feeding Betty steak)

When I’m sixty-four

 

Grandchildren on your knee

Vera, Chuck, and Dave (Sally’s family tree)

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  1. your theory is completely retarded

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