Behind the scenes
Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss wanted a song that was a jarring juxtaposition following a shocking moment at the end of the third season's third episode (Jaime Lannister getting his hand cut off).
They commented: "We were thinking a bit about the way 'Blue Moon' was used at the end of An American Werewolf in London, and this time, we wanted a raucous, rollicking drinking song to jolt people at the end ... for the final effect."
Composer Ramin Djawadi stated that everyone in Westeros would know the song in question. "It had to be a fun song, a catchy song,", adding that the Hold Steady topped their list. "Once again, we were spoiled with our first choice!" said Benioff and Weiss.
As it turned out, the Hold Steady's Tad Kubler had played pool with Peter Dinklage a few times in Brooklyn. He claimed that, despite not being a fan of the fantasy genre (he still hasn't seen the Lord of the Rings movies, for example), he'd tuned into the show initially owing to the personal connection and was surprised to learn that he was hooked "There's a great line when Petyr Baelish talks about chaos as a ladder, in this intense monologue. That kind of stuff really drew me into the show." So when Benioff and Weiss called him to ask if his band would be interested in recording a loud version of "The Bear and the Maiden Fair," Kubler knew he wanted in — he just didn't know what that was. "I hadn't read the books, so I faked like I knew," he admitted. "I was like, 'Oh! Of course. That song.'"
During a follow-up discussion with Evyen Klean, the show's music supervisor, Kubler asked, "Do you just want any band, or do you want my band?" He said that Klean assured him the producers were genuine fans of the Hold Steady. "That appealed to my ego," said Kubler. "So of course I was like, 'Sure, we'll do it. Great. Awesome.'" At that point, Kubler felt compelled to admit that he wasn't familiar with the song and asked the Game of Thrones bigwigs to explain what they wanted. "I think 'drunken' was the word they used," he said. "Like 'drunken Pogues.'"
When Benioff and Weiss got the final version of the Hold Steady's "The Bear and the Maiden Fair," they were sitting with George R.R. Martin in Santa Fe, and played it for him on their laptops. "Before the second line was sung, we were all beaming over how great it was," the showrunners said. "By the time the song was over, we'd already finished a bottle of tequila." Kubler chuckles when he recalls the feedback they gave him. "They told me that they were dancing with George R.R. Martin," he said, "so I assumed it involved something like a bottle of tequila."
- Craig Finn – guitar, vocals
- Tad Kubler – lead guitar
- Steve Selvidge – guitar
- Galen Polivka – bass guitar
- Bobby Drake – drums
- Judd Counsell – drums
- Franz Nicolay – keyboards, accordion, harmonica
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