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“Mad Men”: An Obsessive’s Guide to Cultural References (Season 6, Ep. 8)

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By Craig Hubert | The internet, who now decides these type of things, has been pretty indecisive about “The Crash,” this week’s episode of “Mad Men.” Was its zig-zagging, dream-like structure a nod to the later seasons of “The Sopranos,” where Matthew Weiner used to put pen to paper? Could it have been a giant, allegorical post-Robert Kennedy death-trip? What’s up with them avoiding the race issue? Phew. Let’s put these questions aside, for a moment, and dig into what we’re here for, the cultural references. “The Crash,” as weird an episode as it was, featured quite a few — from more popular books (last week featured “The Last Picture Show”), period-specific drugs, and a few on-the-nose songs, as this show is wont to do.

“Energy Syrum”

Looking around the internet, there seems to be two opinions on who this might be a reference to. The first is Max Jacobson, the real life Dr. Feelgood, who got the name from the Secret Service detail of one of his patients, President John. F. Kennedy. Jacobson was rumored to be running around Madison Ave. at the time, giving patients injections that, in reality, contained less vitamins and more amphetamines. The second is that this is a reference to Dr. Robert Freymann, “a ‘speed doctor’ on East 78th Street in Manhattan who regularly injected his famous clientele with amphetamines to get them through their day (or night),” and who served as the inspiration for the Beatles song “Dr. Robert,” off of “Revolver.”

“Going Out of My Head”

This is the song Don hears as he walks past, and sticks his ear up to the door of Sylvia’s apartment. A little too literal, we’d say. The version used in the episode was by Little Anthony & the Imperials, the original recording. The song, which reached number six on the Billboard Hot 100, has been covered by everybody from Lawrence Welk to Sérgio Mendes.

“Rosemary’s Baby”

Before she is tricked by a woman who is robbing her apartment, Sally is seen in bed reading “Rosemary’s Baby,” Ira Levin’s bestselling novel, which was released in 1967. Let’s hope there aren’t any satanists living next to Don Draper! Roman Polanski adapted the book for his film the  next year.

The Mamas & the Papas – “Words of Love”

That’s the booming voice of Mama Cass that can be heard as the credits role on “The Crash,” an upbeat, carnival-esque tune that fits the mood of the episode perfectly. The song was actually a couple years old in relation to the timeline of the show — it was released on the group’s 1966 self-titled second album, and was released as a single in November of that year.

Image: Jordin Althaus/AMC

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