Anachronism check

 Posted by on October 14, 2008 at 10:52 am  Anachronisms-Continuity-Goofs, Season 2
Oct 142008

Paul Levinson may have the best headline for a Mad Men recap: Welcome to the Hotel California. He asks a question I think is worth chewing on:

But back to Dylan – Peggy says she’s heard him on the radio. In 1962, Dylan did have his first album out. Nothing from it was played on WABC or WMCA or any of the rock ‘n’ roll AM stations in New York. There was no FM as we now know it until 1966. Bob Fass and Radio Unnameable didn’t get to WBAI until 1963 … So where did Peggy hear Dylan on the radio? I can’t think of any radio station, but I haven’t had a chance to do any research, so I’m all ears…

Often, when we think we’ve spotted an anachronism, we’re wrong. This show is very well-researched. But this is an intriguing question and I think Levinson might be right.


  41 Responses to “Anachronism check”

  1. Radio was a much more diverse medium back then. Even the "rock 'n roll" stations were really just top 40, and if you look at what top 40 was back then, it was a lot more than rock 'n roll. I am guessing that there may well have been other stations that played other music.

    However, there was one thing that stuck in my craw–the use of the word "concert" to describe a performance of any music other than classical music. I don't believe the term "concert" was used in 1962 to describe a nightclub performance. I think people may have said "show" or "performance" instead. But I am used to hearing the occasional term on Mad Men that I don't think people used in 1960 or 1962, such as "Absolutely" as a single-word sentence.

  2. NYC is a pretty diverse place there's no reason why she couldn't have heard it on a smaller radio station in the area.

    I read on TWOP that the Mercedes Joy is driving is a 1963 model that wasn't out until the summer of 1963.

    I don't think concert has ever been limited to classical music and I know I've heard absolutely as a one word sentence in films from before this era.

  3. I was 15 and a sophomore in Bishop (now Saint) Neumann High School in Philadelphia in 1962. I remember clearly hearing Bob Dylan on at least two A.M. stations in Philly while listening to my transistor radio in the meeting room of "The Rocket", my High School newspaper. For the first time in my life, after listening to Dylan on the radio, I thought of something more important and relevant than girls, cheesesteaks, girls, Frank's orange soda, girls, pretzels with mustard. girls. the Phillies, girls, Italian hoagies, girls, "water ice", girls, scrapple, girls, and oh yes… Algebra (and girls while in algebra class – especially since this was an all-boys High School).

    – Peter G

  4. Regardless of the radio stations availability, I think they chose Dylan to show what sorts of directions Peggy (and Kurt) are defining themselves. Instead of being a Jackie or Marilyn, Peggy is going to be more of the Joan Baez/Joannie Mitchell type (funny that they are both Joans). Artistic license granted.

  5. Re: #2

    I'm not so sure about "absolutely." Now if they said "abso-fuckin'-lutely" — yes, anachronism.

  6. portias, that's "Joni" Mitchell.

    latenac, Kurt is European, he could easily be grabbing the word "concert" as meaning "musical performance" even if it wasn't American vernacular (which I'm not sure about).

    Thanks everyone for the info on radio and other stuff. So informative.

  7. Concert just means musical performance that's all it means. The poster for Bob Dylan's 1961 concert calls it just that, a concert –

  8. Radio Unnameable wasn't the only vehicle for new music on WBAI in the early 60s – Dylan performed eleven songs and did an interview with Cynthia Gooding in March, 1962. There is no conclusive evidence that the performance was ever broadcast on the air, but doesn't that make it a wonderful theoretical source for our fictional friend Peggy to have first heard that the times were about to a'change? Now we'll have to visually poke around for an FM radio in her apartment. Here's a link to the transcript of the 1962 WBAI Dylan interview:

  9. In 1962, folk music (which is the category Dylan would have been slotted in at the time) was at its peak as a popular musical genre. Groups like Peter, Paul, and Mary and The Kingston Trio were all over radio and television. Dylan himself wasn't nearly that big yet (his first album didn't sell), but he was already a celebrated figure within the folk community, especially in New York City, so it's not improbable that he would be heard on the radio there (or, as Peter G attests, in Philadelphia.)

  10. Bob Dylan's first album — self-titled — was released in late March of 1962, so it would have been out for quite some time by the time of this episode. There were no singles from the album (Dylan's first single was not released until November 1962), but Dylan was fairly well-known in folk circles in New York by mid/late 1962, so Peggy having heard Dylan on a NYC radio station is not at all inconceivable.

    As for the use of the word "concert," that would be certainly true of nightclub shows and the like. Dylan, however, had played Carnegie Chapter Hall by late 1961, and played other formal venues in New York typically reserved for classical acts within the next couple of years. (The early folk-revival musicians — Dylan; Peter, Paul and Mary; Joan Baez; the Weavers etc — were all unique in that they were popular-music musicians who played in classical venues in cities, in addition to the more standard nightclubs, stadiums, and college auditoriums). So, the use of the word Concert for Dylan in this area, depending on context, would be totally appropriate.

  11. What about college radio stations? Were they around back then?

  12. Deborah thanks for the correction. I am not really sure what the internet etiquette is about this.

  13. I think you are right about the Dylan/radio problem.

    I think I found another anachronism. When DD makes his call from Palm Springs, he puts the old rotary dial phone in his lap with the back facing the camera. The connection at the back is a plug in, not the hard-wired connection that Bell used up until the mid 70s.

  14. @ Jackie # 13 – Good point, college radio was very much ahead of Top 40 radio. I became the Program Manager for my college radio station (WWVU – the VOICE of Villanova University!) in 1968. And even then, we were far ahead of Top 40, playing the original Progressive Rock (now considered Classic Rock), "Acid" Rock, Folk, Jazz, and, by then … protest music.

    However, Peggy is not in College, so in reality she probably didn't hear Dylan from that source. As was stated earlier, there is no doubt in my mind that Dylan was being played on progressive, small radio outlets in a city the size of New York.

    – Peter G

  15. I'll concede the point about the use of "concert", but not in connection with a nightclub performance. And while "Absolutely" was as much a single-word sentence as "Awesome", I just don't recall it being in general usage at the time. I believe it might have been considered an anachronism of the time, along the lines of the Currier and Ives, Guilded Age-like rendition of the term in the advertisement for Pitney Bowes–"Absolutely, Mr. Pitney", "Positively, Mr. Bowes".

  16. Re #15 Peter: Peggy could probably still tune into college stations if they were close enough. There are bunch of schools in the NYC area, though I'm not sure how far the college radio waves or whatever reach into Brooklyn. Maybe Brooklyn College had a station too?
    I listened to my local college station all the time while I was in high school.

  17. @ davivid #9

    Very cool link!

  18. @ #17 Jackie.
    Good point Jackie – my college at the time was hard-wired into the campus and barely radiated to its environs. But I would imagine some of the colleges in NYC actually broadcasted – correct.

  19. Unless Joan walks in carrying a tray of four skinny lattes from Starbucks, I don't care. It's a TV show, and they do an excellent job of getting 99.9999% of of the details right. Remember the movie Good Night and Good Luck when a bunch of journalists sat around a conference table with their 16 oz. bottles of drinking water at the ready? We'll never see an error like that on Mad Men, and I salute them.

  20. i think Peggy was simply hitting on whats-his-name (Kurt, i think) and trying to impress him with her openess to what's new and hip. hearing someone on the radio isn't the same as making the commitiment to buying his album or even listening to the music.
    it might be the same as saying: "yeah, i've heard Radiohead on the radio, and sure, i'll go to their concert with you." i've never heard Radiohead on the radio, i don't think they're played on Commercial Radio, but if i were interested in dating – hell, i'd lie (it wouldn't have been the first the time)

    the show may even have been using the point of the anachronism of Dylan NOT being on the radio at the time, as a show of how desperate Peggy wants to fit in and go along to get along.
    doing some quickie research on Wikipedia tells me that Dylan's first album ahad only been released Mar 19, '62 – and it wasn't well recieved selling only 2500 copies. his first "real" single ("Blowin' in the Wind") was first sung in April of 62 (in the village) and wasn't released as a single until 1964.

    in my (very) brief research, i can't find Dylan performing at Carnegie Hall until 1963 though, so maybe Kurt was lying a bit too.

  21. Bob Dylan played at Carnegie Hall in fall, 1961. He also appeared at a club called Gerde's Folk City in the Village. There was quite a lot of buzz about him (I found eight stories between 1960 and 1963 in the NY Times archives.) If Peggy followed the folk scene, which was very big in the early 60s, then she would have read about him, and then possibly noticed him when she was listening to the radio.

    I'm also wondering if Father Gil is a Dylan fan — we know he's a folk fan.

  22. Brenda, it's even possible that Father Gill has at some point mentioned folk music to Peggy, or sparked her interest.

  23. Deb and Portia…just as an aside, Joni Mitchell began her singing career in Canada with her real name, Joan Anderson, so I guess everybody's right!
    Here's a YouTube clip of "Joan" from 1965

  24. re fm radio, fm goes back to the 1930s, and in ny i believe by 1939; the war shut down production of radios, and then litigation in the industry by rca stopped development. by late 40s back but different place on dial. fcc authorized stereo broadcast by 1961 (but stations already simulcasting in both am and fm in some cases); able to order fm radio for cars by 1962.
    re ny, if dylan would have been on wabc in 1962, then he would have been in fm. otherwise don't know, but there were multiple fm stations there, as well as all over the county. question is if they programmed him. i didn't ever hear of him until 1963, but i hated folk music, he got some publicity re the march on washington in 1963.

  25. Dylan was on the radio in NYC in 1962, but you'd have to have been pretty hip to hear it. I have a bootleg recording of the show. You can read about it here:

    He played at Carnegie Hall in 61 and 63.

  26. One small correction — playing Carnegie Chapter Hall (which Dylan did in 1961) is slightly different than playing Carnegie Hall (which Dylan did in 1963). The former refers to an adjoining building where there are a number of smaller recital halls. What was then known as Chapter Hall is now called the Chapter Room, and is quite small.

    That said, by late 1962, Dylan had certainly played on the air extensively in his town of residence — not just with cuts from his first album, but also with live radio performances, which were a lot more common then, especially in the NYC folk world. One famous Dylan performance — from the Cynthia Gooding radio show in NYC in February 1962 (even before his first album) — still exists on tape in wide circulation. It is very likely that this program was re-run several times throughout the year in the city, and that several more like it — all of which are likely long-gone in recorded form — followed.

    There is nothing at all implausible about Peggy having heard Dylan on the radio in late 1962. Granted, it is true that Dylan was still a little bit of an underground character before Peter, Paul, and Mary made a hit of "Blowin in the Wind" in July 1963, but folk music was everywhere at the time. Peter, Paul, and Mary's debut album (from which we heard Father Gill play a song a few weeks ago on Mad Men) spent much of 1962 as the number one album in America, and performers like Joan Baez were also being consumed en masse across the country. In the hometown of the folk revival, NYC, there were many, many others who would have been on the radio frequently: David Van Ronk, Theo Bikel, Eric Von Schmidt, the Smothers' Brothers (doing comedy folk). The idea that Peggy — a single girl in Brooklyn — would have been listening to a folk-oriented station and that Dylan came on is not only believable, but in fact, somewhat likely.

  27. […] + Non-sports: This is horrible news; “Mad Men” brings up Dylan, but factually? […]

  28. Peggy actually asks if Dylan sounded the same as the record. So I assume she has the record.

  29. thanx sdb and jimishelter. being only 8 in '62 i was unaware of anything except The Lone Ranger and Romper Room. Musically i wasn't alive until Feb '64 with the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, so it's hard not to hear the name Bob Dylan pop up on a tv show and have some of the characters not know who he is.
    To Elise's point: yes, Peggy did ask if he sounded the same as on the album, which makes me then ask: why didn't she say, "OOOh I have his album" or "Hey, I heard his album." instead of "I heard him on the radio." ?

  30. They played records on the radio. She might well have said it that way without ever owning the album.

  31. Yeah, I think people spoke about hearing 'records' the way we say hearing 'songs'. Paul Simon always talks about 'records'.

  32. hey there folks…

    i'm not sure if anyone brought this up…but is it possible that Peggy was not telling the truth…and just saying that to "be cool"? I'm not saying she's a dishonest person…but then again…look at what her job is…..

    just a thought…

  33. […] Anachronismen bei Mad Men Schlampen die sonst so detailverliebten Producer der großartigen Show etwa bei ihrer Musikrecherche? Oder konnte man Bob Dylan 1962, zum Zeitpunkt seines ersten Albums, in New York wirklich schon im Radio hören? (Link) […]

  34. Considering Peggy still blinds people with her earnestness I doubt she was lying. Anything's possible though.

  35. Honestly, I just don't think that Peggy would lie. She is trying to "choose boys" who appeal to her sensibility; pretending to lie about her tastes doesn't achieve that goal.

  36. while it would shock me if she was lying…i have trouble discounting it completely….

    she might not be lying completely…just enhancing the truth perhaps?

  37. Jack, Peggy is perfectly capable of lying, but she is also very goal-oriented. Lying here would not achieve her goals, y'know?

  38. i hear ya on that one….i guess my spitballing had too much spit and not enough ball.. đŸ™‚

  39. […] radio­ in­ O­c­to­be­r 1962. Do­ th­e­ math­ at B­asket O­f­ Ki­sses (vi­a­ Vide­o­­gum). A­lso­­, d­epend­i­ng […]

  40. Deborah,

    If Peggy's goal is to appear a little more interesting, a little more "cool," then professing a liking for Dylan could move her closer to that goal. It's always plausible to say, well, I really don't know that much about him. I've said that truthfully and I've known it to be said untruthfully. Call it a "fib."

    Dating often involves a little fudging of the truth. Anyone who says they've never done it has either never dated or they're fibbing, y'know?

  41. […] in­ O­cto­ber 1962. D­o­ th­e ma­th­ a­t Ba­sk­et Of­ K­isses (via­ Videogum­). A­l­s­o, dep­en­di­n­g how bi­g […]

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.