It’s amazing what 48 hours can do for an obscure French pop song—but then not all obscure French pop songs are chosen to become the musical centerpiece of the first new episode of Mad Men in nearly two years. From the moment Megan, played by Quebecois actress Jessica Paré, grabbed a microphone to perform a disarmingly sensuous performance of “Zou Bisou Bisou”—a 1961 hit for Gillian Hills, later recorded by Sophia Lauren for the movie The Millionairess—the playful, sexy song lit up social media switchboards everywhere. AMC anticipated the positive reaction, releasing Megan’s “Zou Bisou Bisou” as a single on vinyl, and for the less nostalgic, as a downloadable MP3 on iTunes.
The song, whose lyrics translate to, “Oh! Kiss kiss / My God, they are sweet! …That means, I confess / But yes, I love only you!,” was selected by series creator Matthew Weiner over bigger hits of the era from artists like Nancy Sinatra and Dusty Springfield. I spoke with Weiner recently about the process behind choosing songs for the show, including the unmistakable Mad Men theme song—a short version of hip-hop instrumentalist RJD2’s “A Beautiful Mine.”
Talk about the opening credits sequence and your choice for the Mad Men theme song, “A Beautiful Mine.”
I was driving in my car. I had talked to various artists who I admire. We actually had a temp piece of music when I had originally submitted the pilot to the network, about a year-and-a-half before we made the real show, which was by Beck. I was trying to find different people to try to write something. I love Cake, it’s one of my favorite bands and they have a great tone. But we never really got anywhere. And then I was driving in my car, and I was listening to MarketPlace on NPR and this piece of music was playing between two stories. I called my assistant, who is now a writer on Breaking Bad by the way. Very talented woman, and talented at the time, hard to believe it very hard to find out what was that song at that minute in that episode.
They didn’t have it! No such thing. So she found it for me and we listened to it, and it had everything to it: Big old movie quality to it, and updated beat to it, it had drama. I just loved it. I had [Mad Men composer] David Carbonara cut it down from eight minutes.
How do you decide what songs will appear on Mad Men?
I choose almost every piece of music on the series. I am open to suggestions but usually not interested. I have a very personal relationship with music and am a delusional person to the degree that before the show existed, I kept a file in my iTunes of all the songs that could go one day in the show.
"Zou Bisou" on Mad Men:
Gillian Hills' original: