Five Songs For Your 'Mad Men' Playlist

Photo: Frank Ockenfels/AMC

Hive Five: Our Daily Listicle of Musical Musings

It's anyone's guess what creator Matthew Weiner has in store for Mad Men's hotly anticipated sixth season, and when the show premieres this Sunday, April 7, we probably won't know what hit us until a few days have passed. That's the beauty of Weiner's craft, after all: The drama unfolds at a heart-stopping pace, and only when the facts sink in do we begin to make sense of the imagery, emotions and meanings. What we do know, however, based on several hours of research and catching up on previous seasons, is that the soundtrack is bound to be awesome.

Music is wired through the heart of the show, conveying as much, if not more about characters as the clothes on their backs. But while we love to indulge in our share of nostalgia, the beauty of Mad Men is that it isn't very nostalgic at all. Instead of serving up a redundant historical recap a la VH1's I Love the '60s, we get a spectrum of lives playing out in small moments as history unfolds in the background. The music in Mad Men has a similar effect—you don't really notice it until suddenly you do—and none of the songs are expected. Just ask Ann Margaret's "Bye, Bye Birdie."

To ratchet up the suspense and give a sense of what's sonically in store, we've compiled a groovy playlist that we could imagine hearing on the show. Get excited:

1. The Jefferson Airplane, "Today" 

True to form, Weiner's kept mum on when Season 6 is supposed to take place. Season 5 left us in 1967, and judging by the show's official poster, brilliantly rendered by 75-year-old Brian Sanders, an actual mad man himself, we can expect to be transported back to 1968, a turbulent time for America and race relations especially. The Jefferson Airplane birthed a legend with their second album, Surrealistic Pillow, but playing "White Rabbit" would be oh-so cliched. With its gentle guitar plucking and nod to pre-plugged in Dylan, we think "Today" would be a more fitting -- and expressive -- music choice.

2. The Doors, "When the Music's Over"

Jim Morrison embodied everything a liberated woman could want in the late 1960s. Bookish, poetic and sexually ferocious, he was the Free Love equivalent of the fifties' swivel-hipped Elvis. For Peggy, a woman coming into her own and who's freed herself from the glass ceiling at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, we think this ode to turning on (and turning on) would be just the ultimate.

3. Herbie Hancock, "Speak Like a Child"

The era of smoky bars and martini lunches hasn't ended for Don Draper, a man who still sees himself very much in the past. With its fusion of West Coast cool and traditional dinner jazz, Herbie Hancock's soulful "Speak Like a Child" straddles the changing tide quite nicely. Here's hoping Don puts it on his Crossley to try to impress Megan.

4. The Supremes, "Up, Up and Away"

What would 1968 have been without Motown? Really, the booming sound was just too big to ignore. A band of policemen figure in Sanders' poster, conjuring up the idea of racial tension as this was when Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were both assassinated and riots erupted in Chicago and LA. This swingy, sugar-coated tune reflects America's fading innocence, while giving a wink to that heady new pasttime, smoking pot.

5. The Beatles, "A Day in the Life 

Don flipped off "Tomorrow Never Knows" faster than we could yell at our screen -- the song cost $250,000 to license, according to The Times -- and Weiner's made it known the Beatles "were the band of the 20th century." So can we expect to hear something off the seminal Sgt. Pepper's? Perhaps, but only if it speaks to the times and the pain of the times truly changing.