Talk about “Both Sides Now,” (a song that Weiner has used to dramatic effect in a past episode.) As we MM maniacs know, the show plays brilliantly with time, and memory, and the idea of duality and mirror images (aka “life’s illusions”).
As the designer of the original 1967 Bob Dylan’s “Greatest Hits” poster, Glaser’s work became the defining image of the time and Dylan. He reduced the Bard’s profile to a black silhouette, while his curly hair was aflame with colorful psychedelia. Glaser even invented the typeface he used for the one word on the poster: Dylan.
That poster, in turn, greatly influenced the graphic design and ad worlds of the late 1960s, the time Weiner has so convincingly recreated with the show.
Except with this latest Glaser 2.0 version, the overall image also includes the MM-defining graphic of the back of Don Draper’s head, as he drapes his hand with its characteristic cigarette over the back of the sofa, so we can watch him watching.
Indeed, there’s so much duality and illusion to ponder here that thinking about it makes my own head spin.
So speaking of the doubleness, the designer can now bring the truth of his own experience over the years to the work, delivering a perfect double vantage point, a completion of the circle, right?
“Actually, that was a problem,” Glaser told me, when I spoke to him at his Manhattan office. “We had an existing, very powerful icon that people knew, so integrating those two things was difficult.”
It all began with the note he got from the producers that said “We want something like this” -- “and they had cut the hair part out of the Dylan poster and turned it upside down,” Glaser said. And, as he put it: “Very often you can no longer do what you once did. So it’s not exactly the same -- but it seems to be a surrogate for that period. It uses the same shaped forms of the original,” which he describes as “from turn-of-the century Paris, suggesting Art Nouveau and Oriental woodcuts, reinvented for the United States in the 1960s and the West Coast and the music business.”
(At the time, it was Glaser’s response to the prevailing Modernist “Less is more” dictum: “Just enough is more,” he felt.)
Ironically, at the time, every one loved the poster except for Dylan. As Glaser explains it, Columbia Records commissioned him for the poster, and then assembled the album of greatest hits without Dylan's permission or input. So Dylan claims never to have looked at the poster or listened to the album. How’s that for authenticity?
Meanwhile, on to Don & Company: If you recall, when last we saw him, he was a broken-down wreck, stripped bare. After being told to take a leave from Sterling Cooper for coming clean about his real identity during a Hershey meeting, he took his kids to look at the rotting whorehouse he grew up in -- implicitly admitting that he was also the same sort of fixer-upper.
Once again, Weiner is not giving anything away. But I’m relieved that the poster embodies the feeling of the late 1960s. As a fanatic devotee of mid-century design, I feared the insurgency of ‘70s polyester and macramé, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
It looks like we return to 1969.
In the poster’s imagery, Glaser has captured life’s elusive threads and connections. We see a woman’s face and a bottle of wine, among other things. It’s a complicated weave of present and past, creating the necessary depth of field in order to recreate the past. And the search for patterns and connections makes it psychedelic on the one hand, and kind of interactive on the other.
Certainly, Glaser’s recollections are merging into his ongoing life -- how meta can we get? The designer, still active in his business, explains it perfectly. As he told the New York Times: “This was supposed to evoke a feeling of what that moment in time felt like for people who actually experienced it, right? But most of the people who watch the show didn’t live through that era, so it’s a funny idea of simulating for people of what they don’t have any memory of and convincing them in a way that this is what it was like… It’s a complex philosophical issue.”
Yup. I’d explain it as “both sides now.”