Mad Men’s “Lipstick”

How I came to compose “Lipstick” for Mad Men.

“Lipstick” is one of my most loved music cues from the series “Mad Men.” The funny thing is that I never composed music for that famous scene in season 1. It’s true but hard to believe, right? After scoring the pilot episode, I worked on episode 102, the second episode in the series titled “Ladies Room.”

Mad Men's Lipstick

“Office Tour”

In “Ladies Room,” Paul Kinsey gives Peggy Olson a tour of the office, and they make a lunch date for another day. When I went to the early cut of the episode, I decided that scene could use a bit of upbeat score to accompany Paul and Peggy through the scene, pausing for his quote of Rod Serling’s “submitted for your approval,” which I would never ever step on! So I scored it with a medium swing small big band sound to give it a bounce, as the actors had when walking through the set. I was happy with the cue and was expecting it to easily go into the final cue. So I sent it to the editor to show producer Matthew Weiner, expecting the best.

Ladies Room Mad Men, Peggy Olson and Paul Kinsey
Mad Men’s Paul Kinsey and Peggy Olson

It didn’t go well 😔 – rejected. I tried again, but “no” once more! I gave up, and the scene remains “dry”, without music. Honestly, I needed a few episodes to learn what worked for Mad Men. This was an early lesson that I needed to learn – only so much underscore could be tolerated by the producers of the show. I myself have a light touch in scoring, so I had a good start, but there is always a learning curve.

Mad Men’s “Office Tour” returns as “Lipstick”

Ladies Room Mad Men, Peggy Olson

In episode 6, I was surprised to find that my cue from the “Office Tour” fitted perfectly with the montage of the “Belle Jolie” lipstick.

The editor, Malcolm Jamison, later told me that Matthew Weiner felt sorry for me because Malcom’s temporary music was so good. But it turned out that my cue worked even better! He was stunned when he learned it was a Carbonara original! So, although the process for “Lipstick” was not traditional, it all worked out for everyone. And in fact, the cue was used more than once in the Mad Men series.

So, thank you Malcom and Director Andrew Bernstein for transforming “Office Tour” into “Lipstick”.

“Lipstick” on Spotify

Okay, less about Lipstick and more about “Mad Men” here:

And check out the infamous Mad Men Christmas Conga!

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