“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 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. After watching that episode I was reminded of something in my box of memorabilia – Richard Nixon may not have won the election in 1960 but in a very tragic roundabout way, he did win the election in 1968 and soon after he paid a visit to Britain to meet with our incumbent Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. I know this because I still have my 1969 school exercise book devoted to the pursuit of “joint-up writing”, something we were all just getting to grips with at the tender age of eight.


Last time I shared something written by my own fair hand, CC from Charity Chic Music commented that my handwriting was much better than his at the same age – That would be down to the long hours spent perfecting it in Mrs Fraser’s Primary Four classroom. I think this February entry was one of my first perfect 10 scores, but from then on they just kept on coming. And this has been one of my downfalls in life – I am from the kind of family where if you got 99 out of a 100 in a test, there would be some praise but mainly the question would be, “What did you get wrong and why?”. This drive to get perfect scores in whatever I turned my hand to has led to much anguish over the years and of course when it comes to the world of work it is nigh impossible, especially nowadays when constant “firefighting” seems to be the order of the day. So, although I seem to be living the life of Riley at the moment, sometimes watching television during the day no less, a lot of it is down to the fact that yet again I had to walk away from a job I felt I could no longer do “perfectly” because of our new agile working set-up. Instead it is being done by someone who will do it “well enough”, certainly not perfectly, but everyone will be happy with that.

But I have become side-tracked by Richard Nixon – Time to get back to 1960 and what was happening on Madison Avenue. Mad Men depicts the American society and culture of the 1960s, highlighting cigarette smoking, drinking, sexism, adultery, homophobia, anti-semitism, 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   (?!)

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.

Wives and Lovers by Julie London:

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


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 recorded for the film of the same name and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might finally work out the answer to his question, "What's it all about?"

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

  1. Always good to hear Julie London although maybe not Wives and Lovers!
    Your description of your former workplace could equally apply to mine.
    Firefighting and ticking boxes. Management who don’t seem to bother or care. A total House of Cards situation with no foundations and no succession planning to replace the organisational knowledge of the lucky ones walking out the door.
    It will all go Pete Tong shortly I fear.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I do love a bit of Julie London from time to time.

      I’m afraid there is no place in the modern day workplace for a perfectionist and although this is the first time I’ve walked away totally, I have in the past moved sideways or converted to part-time just to get out of climbing the ladder any further. It would drive me mad, turning out substandard work in order to meet meaningless deadlines, but such is life. And yes, don’t get me started on succession planning – There is about 120 years of experience about to disappear in the next few months from my old organisation and lord knows it will never be able to be replaced.


  2. Blimey Alyson, your handwriting at age 8 was better than mine has ever been – that 10/10 was well deserved! Mrs S & I binge watched our way through all the series of Mad Men a couple of years ago, the earlier seasons were definitely the strongest.
    I’m still in touch with a few of the people I worked with in the coffee business up to a few years ago. ‘Firefighting’ is the right word for it these days, from what I hear. Utter stressed out misery is another way of putting it. I’m glad I’m out of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    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.)

      I am going to try and make a go of our little online business so that I don’t have to return to that world any time soon but I do feel desperately sorry for my 21-year-old daughter who has very long stressful days at her place of work – They will all burn out by the time they get to 25!


  3. 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).

    Once again, you have my sympathies re: the workplace situation. There is no place for perfectionists in today’s workplace, just survivors. All I do is spin plates and hope to keep them spinning. I wish I had the time to do my job properly, but all I really have the time to do is keep those plates spinning and, yes, fight fires.

    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.

      My career was a bit like snakes and ladders, I kept climbing the ladder only to get inordinately upset when I couldn’t do things properly and slipped down again for a while. I’ve taken a bit of a gamble on lots of outcomes with this most recent big change but we’re only here once so had to be done. Sorry you’re having a hard time at work but it seems everyone is nowadays – Good to be able to switch off at the end of the day and if blogging helps that’s a good thing.


  4. 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

  5. What lovely handwriting – brilliant that you’ve still got your old exercise books and love the fact that they were such topical examples of text too. I have some of mine but from the days before joining up letters – which seemed so proper and grown-up at first, didn’t it? – so it’s not quite as interesting. Just lots of lines of Aa and Bb etc….
    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!
    As for your work and all discussed above about ‘firefighting’ it seems so wrong and how did it get to this? I’m so glad I’m out of the traditional workplace now, but even then I don’t remember it being like that in my early working days and, although it sounds a bit Luddite-y to say this, I wonder if it’s gone that way due to better technology. Modern technology is great in so many ways but it’s like there’s always a downside – without computers and internet, etc. things were hard and time-consuming to do, but somehow it seems that now it’s all *too* fast – so everything moves/happens/changes too fast for mere humans to simply keep up with. Steam-driven computers, that would’ve been the answer 🙂


    1. Actually this is the only exercise book I still have from Primary School but it was in with my teenage memorabilia so I must have wanted to keep it. Sadly my writing is not quite so formal and exact nowadays but considering we don’t even write much in longhand at all nowadays, it is a skill that will probably die out!

      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!

      As for the workplace, yes it is all firefighting nowadays and I’m glad to be out of it – Technology is somewhat to blame as management still haven’t quite cottoned on to the fact that just because it’s possible to collect all this data, it isn’t any use to anyone until it becomes information. There will be a backlash, I am sure.


  6. 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!

    Liked by 1 person

    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!


  7. 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 gentlemanly 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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