Last night, HBO’s True Blood launched its fifth season with an episode called “Turn! Turn! Turn!”

The season premiere featured a couple of classic songs and one new take on a timeless hit. “Turn! Turn! Turn!” played as the credits rolled, but it wasn’t the iconic version by The Byrds. Instead, it was a new version recorded by Kentucky rock band My Morning Jacket.

Music supervisor Gary Calamar, who has been nominated for a Grammy twice for True Blood‘s soundtracks, says that they almost weren’t able to get the song cleared for the show. “The Byrds made the song famous, but this arrangement was written by Pete Seeger,” he explained in an exclusive interview with CBS Local. So, the legendary folk singer would have to approve of their usage. “Pete Seeger’s publicist was overly cautious, and didn’t know if his classic song would be right for this bloody, sexy vampire show.” At first they were turned down.

“But I used my secret weapon – begging – and got them to change their minds.”

(If you watch the show and missed last night’s episode, stop here to avoid spoilers).

Early in the episode, two of the characters – vampires Bill Compton (played by Stephen Moyer) and Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard) –have been captured by their enemies. As they’re being transported in the trunk of a car, Paul McCartney’s “Silly Love Songs” plays on the stereo. Calamar points out that “We didn’t pay as much [for the song] as Mad Men did for The Beatles!” (A recent episode of that program licensed “Tomorrow Never Knows,” reportedly paying a quarter of a million dollars to do so. )

Later on, another vampire – Jessica Hamby (played by Deborah Ann Woll) – hosts a party with some local college students. The red headed vampire is seen leading her new pals through a rendition of The Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb” on Guitar Hero, while her (sometime) love interest Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten) plays the plastic axe. While an actress from a different vampire franchise (Twiilght’s Kristen Stewart) played Joan Jett in the recent Runaways biopic, after watching this scene, it’s apparent that with some black hair dye, Woll could have easily landed that role.

At the end of “Cherry Bomb,” a lovesick Jason leaves the party with a girl he’s just picked up, Jessica launches into yet another classic: Foreigner’s “Feels Like The First Time.”

As for the rest of the season, Calamar reveals a few musical secrets. Next week’s episode, “Authority Always Wins,” features a cover of John Mellencamp’s “Authority Song” by New York rockabilly singer Bosco Delrey.

Later in the season, Iggy Pop duets with Bethany Cosentino from indie pop group Best Coast on a new song called “Boot And Rally” for an episode of the same name. That project was a particular thrill for Calamar: “When we watched the show, there was a song that the writers kind of penciled in that didn’t really work,” he says. “And we were thinking should we change the title. I suggested we have someone write a new song called ‘Boot and Rally.’” That “someone” turned out to be Calamar himself, who worked on the song with another writer named James Combs.

But how did they get the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer on the song? Pop’s people reached out to the True Blood team early in the season, to offer the services of the Stooges frontman, who counts himself among the show’s faithful. A huge fan of the punk rock legend, Calamar says “It was a major thrill! I can barely believe it, it’s amazing.”

This season will also feature a new song by much-buzzed about newcomers Alabama Shakes, a previously released cover of Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” by New York punk/pop group Care Bears On Fire, and Los Lobos covering the World War II era hit “We’ll Meet Again.”

True Blood airs every Sunday night at 9 pm ET on HBO.

— Brian Ives, CBS Local


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