The Era of “Cool” Music

Don Draper: the new "Mr. Cool"?

Cool is defined as an aesthetic of attitude, behavior, comportment, appearance and style. Cool is interpreted differently by everyone.  There is no doubt that if you walk down the street, or watching television, you can see “cool” from a mile away.

Mad Men, which begins it’s 4th season Sunday night (AMC, 9:00 pm CST), can be considered the “new” cool.  Why is that?  To me, it’s the theme music done by RJD2 and the selection of the music and songs that help paint the picture of the early 60’s as America was about to go through a historical evolution.

As a connoisseur of television history, I love rediscovering things that I remembered watching as a kid and linking it to something we’re talking about, seeing, or listening to.

Thanks to YouTube, I found some stuff that puts “Mad Men” in a category of cool as it relates to the 1960’s.

The great Henry Mancini was one of the giants in an era of great 20th Century music composers.  He composed the popular “Baby Elephant Walk” and “The Pink Panther.”  Here is one of his early hits, “Mr. Lucky” that was used as the theme to the CBS series of the same name:

Imagine walking down Broadway in New York City, in the rain, puffing on a Lucky Strike cigarette, seeing the flashing neon lights as it reflects off the wet sidewalks.

Mancini also crafted this second classic which was the theme to hit crime drama “Peter Gunn.” “Peter Gunn” is one of my personal favorites because my junior high band played it and I remembered watching several episodes of the series in college.

The great jazz legend Count Basie cooked up this hard-driving theme for “M Squad” starring Lee Marvin that ran on NBC from 1957-1960.

Lalo Schifrin, similar to Mancini, is a giant in composing music for movies.  While he continues performing, his resume includes the Dirty Harry series, Bruce Lee’s “Enter the Dragon,” “Mission:  Impossible,” and “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”  In 1968, he composed the music for the action movie “Bullitt” starring Steve McQueen and Jacqueline Bisset.  The opening credits of “Bullitt” is one of the best in my book and give the movie a “cool” presence.  Not too mention the greatest car chase scene in movie history at that time.

Just for kicks, here is an updated version, done by a group called Noke:

The last one comes from British composer Neil Richardson.  His piece “The Riveria Affair” was used by WOR-TV as the theme to “The 4 O’Clock Movie” and in Warner Brothers paid homage by using it in the opening credits before the start of “Oceans 13” featuring George Clooney and Brad Pitt.

Below is a collage of openings from various NYC television stations with their own “Saturday Afternoon Movie”, “Sunday Morning Movie”, or “The 4:30 Movie” with “The Riveria Affair” being played.


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