“Baby Blue,” the memorable 1972 Badfinger track that closes Breaking Bad as an ode to blue meth, was creator Vince Gilligan’s idea. His music team didn’t agree. Thomas Golubić, the show’s music supervisor, kept picking alternate “blue” songs, all of which Gilligan politely rejected. “When he said, ‘I think this is the right song for the closing of the finale,’ I didn’t really hear it,” Golubić says. “I thought it was an odd little love song.
“But in came the dailies, with that wonderful crane shot moving over Walter White, and once we played the song, [we thought], ‘Oh, I get it now,'” Golubić continues. “This is a love-affair story of Walt and his love of science, and this was his greatest product – his greatest triumph as a chemist. It wasn’t about Walter White as a criminal or a murderer or an awful person. It was him ending on his own terms. It felt creatively right.”
“Baby Blue,” inspired by the late Badfinger singer Pete Ham’s ex-girlfriend, Dixie Armstrong, was a Number 14 single, the last Top 20 hit in the British band’s career. Although it appeared in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed in 2006, it’s obscure compared to classic-rock Badfinger fixtures such as “No Matter What” and “Come and Get It.” That is likely to change – the song’s Spotify streams jumped 9,000 percent in the first 11 hours after the Breaking Bad finale, and iTunes sold 5,000 copies Sunday night, according to Billboard, when it has never sold more than 1,000 in a week.
Gilligan, a Badfinger fan, wasn’t thinking The Departed when he picked “Baby Blue” for the finale. Golubić didn’t realize Scorsese had used it until it was too late. “I thought, ‘Oh dear God,’ this song was in the Departed soundtrack. If someone uses a song in an incredibly iconic and wonderful way, the last thing I want to do is utilize it again,” he says.
“Baby Blue” has an appropriately bittersweet history – the band’s label, the Beatles’ Apple Records, rejected its album Straight Up until George Harrison, then Todd Rundgren, finished its production. Three years later, Ham committed suicide at 27. “To me, it was a lovely nod of respect to a band that had a very hard time of it,” Golubić says.
As for Marty Robbins’ “El Paso,” the song Walt hears from a glove-box cassette tape as he’s driving a Volvo back to Albuquerque, Golubić says it was written into the script. He confirms the show’s title, “Felina,” is an anagram for finale, and Robbins’ pioneering 1959 gunfighter ballad focuses on a Felina who kisses the narrator’s cheek as he dies. “It seemed like the perfect song to end Walt’s last ride into town,” Golubić says.