“Wives and Lovers”, Mad Men and Julie London

Since giving up work a few weeks ago, my life has taken a serious turn for the better – Suddenly there is enough time for everything I need to do in my life and joy of joys there is also enough time for some things that I don’t really need to do, but am enjoying immensely. One of the frivolous things I don’t really need to do, has been to binge watch one of my favourite television shows, Mad Men, set in the 1960s at the fictional Sterling Cooper advertising agency on New York’s Madison Avenue. Season One begins in March 1960, just before I was born, and it’s almost worth watching it for the clothes alone. Totally impractical but incredibly beautiful.

The show won many awards over the years and has been lauded for its historical accuracy. For fans of music, the song choices for each episode were spot on in terms of evoking the era and how they related to a particular scene or storyline. This song, Fly Me To The Moon by Julie London, featured in the first season of Mad Men. I have always loved her languid voice, especially when singing her signature song Cry Me A River, and Julie’s look and sound were totally appropriate for this glamorous show.

Towards the end of the first season, the upcoming presidential elections feature highly as the agency was to work with Nixon’s team to help him secure that win. They think it’s a foregone conclusion but of course we all now know it turned out very differently back in 1960 and Nixon ended up being pipped at the post by a young Jack Kennedy. Mad Men depicts the American society and culture of the 1960s, highlighting cigarette smoking, drinking, sexism, adultery, homophobia and racism. It kind of reminds us that although we have a nostalgia for the past, we also sometimes have a selective memory.

A song I have in my digital database by Julie London is this one, but not easy to listen to nowadays. Despite the fact I love the songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, the lyrics to Wives and Lovers are just so at odds with how a 21st century woman would think, or more importantly how a man would expect her to think, that they become quite laughable. However if you watched only the first episode of Mad Men, set in 1960, they suddenly seem frighteningly accurate:

Hey! Little Girl
Comb your hair, fix your makeup
Soon he will open the door.
Don’t think because there’s a ring on your finger
You needn’t try anymore   (?!)

Day after day
There are girls at the office
And men will always be men.
Don’t send him off with your hair still in curlers
You may not see him again   (?!)

Wives and Lovers by Julie London:

There is a lot of talk in the media at the moment about certain “unsolicited actions” and “inappropriate behaviour” having been carried out by people in power. Our blogging buddy Jez has written a very good piece about it this weekend (link here) which I would thoroughly recommend. As he says, time and time again we hear the defence that the accused is “a dinosaur”, that their behaviour was acceptable “back in the day” – No, it really wasn’t.

Until next time….

Wives and Lovers Lyrics
(Song by Burt Bacharach/Hal David)

Hey! Little Girl
Comb your hair, fix your makeup
Soon he will open the door
Don’t think because there’s a ring on your finger
You needn’t try anymore

For wives should always be lovers too
Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you
I’m warning you…

Day after day
There are girls at the office
And men will always be men
Don’t send him off with your hair still in curlers
You may not see him again

For wives should always be lovers too
Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you
He’s almost here…

Hey! Little girl
Better wear something pretty
Something you’d wear to go to the city and
Dim all the lights, pour the wine, start the music
Time to get ready for love
Time to get ready
Time to get ready for love

Postscript:

Just in case anyone hadn’t heard of her before, Julie London was an American singer and actress, whose career spanned over forty years. She released 32 albums of pop and jazz standards during the 1950s and 1960s, her signature song being the classic Cry Me a River. Julie’s 35-year acting career began in 1944 and included roles co-starring with Rock Hudson, Gary Cooper and Robert Mitchum. She achieved continuing success in television in the 1970s, appearing in the show Emergency! with her husband, Bobby Troup.

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

14 thoughts on ““Wives and Lovers”, Mad Men and Julie London”

    1. Mad Men really is good isn’t it but I am shocked now at what was seen as perfectly normal behaviour back then. (Then again it sounds as if such behaviour still takes place in certain circles, but we’ll not go there.)

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  1. Another excellent post, Alyson. I loved Mad Men: not just for the evocation of 60s America but for Don’s experiences with annoying clients… which echoed many of my own when I worked in advertising (albeit a much less glamorous ad-world than the one Don inhabits).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m still just on Season 3 so more than half the ’60s to get through but what changes over the course of that decade. Yes annoying clients – Now that I am working on our own little concern again with no-one to answer to except ourselves, we can decide who we want to deal with and who we don’t. A nice feeling.

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  2. Hello there.

    My television-watching has diminished tremendously over the last 10 or more years. I’m not proud of that, because there is far more quality on the tube now than there ever was before.
    I’ve missed out on countless excellent shows. Never saw Mad Men. Never saw Breaking Bad.

    Oh well . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, it is something to be proud of, as you can obviously fill your day with lots of wonderful things taking place in the real world!

      You are right though, there have been some excellent dramas of late (especially coming out of America) but only dip in if you really have the spare time. I’m afraid my viewing and reading both suffered when I was still working and trying to fit in a couple of blog posts in a week but now I am enjoying being able to do both for a while.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Those Wives and Lovers lyrics really do reflect very different times. Thank god things have moved on since then for most of us. I’d have made a terrible 1950s/1960s housewife!

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    1. Yes looking at those lyrics I would have made a terrible 50s/60s housewife too but having thought about it, most of the households I knew back then (my parents, grandparents etc.) were very matriarchal so this song would have had no meaning for them at all. The men went to work and earned the lion’s share of the money but the women organised the home, the finances (my dad got pocket money!), and just about everything else. No running around putting a ribbon in their hair ahead of their husbands coming home, that’s for sure!

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  4. Great post and timely for me as me and my wife are watching “Mad Men” now as well (just finished Season 5). Considering the mores that existed especially in the early seasons of that show, I’m not surprised that a song like “Wives and Lovers” could be a hit without any controversy. Nice tune, abominable lyrics! Anyway, enjoy the rest of “Mad Men” lot of changes coming up thru Season 5. It’s a remarkably well-done show, I love the writing and acting and of course, the fashions!

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    1. It is great isn’t it and unlike watching old movies when the sexism, heavy drinking and smoking was incidental, with Mad Men the themes are all put in there deliberately to make a point. I have actually watched it all the way through before, right from when it started in 2007, but re-watching it without a year between seasons is much more satisfactory.

      I don’t know if you read any of the comments above but I did mention that in 1960s Aberdeenshire the lyrics to Wives and Lovers would have had no meaning anyway, as in most rural families the women wore the trousers. I can’t imagine many of the farmer’s wives where I grew up rushing to fix their hair and make-up before their husbands came in from the fields – One comment about how they looked and I’m afraid there would have been no supper!

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  5. Well, thank you for the mention/link, very kind of you. I’ve never watched Mad Men, but an old flatmate used to rave about it (but they also loved “Lost”, so you’ll forgive my reluctance) however, it’s on my Netflix list of stuff I really should have a look at. There’s just so much of it…..(I am not sponsored. Yet.)

    Oh and I shan’t mention that the date on your elegant handwriting sample is before I was born (just), as that would be most ungentlemanly of me. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No problem – It was a very good piece you wrote and it tied in very well with my Mad Men post and the lyrics from Wives and Lovers. We also watched Lost for the first 2 or 3 seasons but then it got just too ridiculous so we abandoned it. Mad Men on the other hand we watched all the way through to the end and I for one, loved all of it. Maybe because it started off in 1960 which was the year I was born (and why I could do elegant joint-up writing in 1969!) so filled in a lot of the blanks as I find you really only remember topical stuff from about the age of 7 or 8. The old Rock Hudson/Doris Day films paint a very twee picture of life back then but Mad Men tells it like it was.

      PS Yes, thanks for being “ungentlemanly” about the date but at least you now know what Harold and Richard were getting up to just before you were born!

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