The strange 1960s gym-class anthem in Apple’s new iPhone commercial

Ben Yagoda writes for Slate, “If you’ve been watching the NBA playoffs, you have seen an Apple commercial in which various people do exercises, play sports, and monitor their fitness apps to the accompaniment of a rousing song that begins:”

Touch down,
Every morning,
Ten times!
Not just,
Now and then.
Once more on the rise.
Nuts to the flabby guys!
Go, you chicken fat, go away!
Go, you chicken fat, go!

“Sound familiar? If so, you may be a Baby Boomer who knows it from gym class. ‘Chicken Fat’ was a product of President Kennedy’s Council on Physical Fitness, a program that sprang from Kennedy’s sense that the nation’s youth was, collectively, getting flabby,” Yagoda writes. “In 1961, the president appointed Bud Wilkinson, football coach at the University of Oklahoma, to direct the Council and devise a series of exercises youngsters could do to improve their fitness and gauge their progress. Meredith Willson, the composer of The Music Man, which had recently ended its Broadway run, contacted Wilkinson and said he wanted to write a fitness theme. Within a week, ‘Chicken Fat’ was complete.”

“For whatever reason, the record wasn’t used in my elementary school in New Rochelle, N.Y., either, though I well remember trying to perform a sufficient number of sit-ups and squat thrusts to meet the president’s standards,” Yagoda writes. “And roughly half of the Baby Boomers I asked about the song in an informal survey did remember it—some reported that it was being used in gym classes as late as the 1980s. A Coloradan recalled that it was played during swim lessons at her pool, and a Pittsburgh native said it blared through the speakers at his summer camp.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Apple ‘Chicken Fat’ ad suggests iWatch will be companion screen to fitness devices – June 9, 2014
Apple debuts ‘Chicken Fat’ television ad (with video) – June 5, 2014

65 Comments

  1. Never played In my school either. Thankfully it wasn’t. Is Apple trying to appease the 8-12 year old kids. If that isn’t the goal here, then where is Apple going with this. Horrible music. Annoying as a matter of fact. They have done such great commercials through the years. Where are they going with this crap. Come on Apple, grow up.

        1. How much do you weigh? … More what 160 pounds for 170 centimetres, perhaps?
          Sorry to ask, but one could almost feel some sort of frustration in your lines…

          1. “More what 160 pounds for170 centimeters”. What the hell does that mean? English motherfucker, do you speak it? Oh, and by the way, I weigh 194 pounds. 6’2″ tall. And I am in very good shape. Though that has nothing to do with my comments. Nor am I frustrated. Or paranoid like you. The commercial sucks. And it has nothing to do with liking or hating Apple. Quite the contrary, I’m an avid Apple proponent. Just not a mindless fanboy.

            1. Hmmm, “fanboy, dishonest prick”. You just keep piling it on. You appear to be a case of 194 pounds of pure crude and stupid. Thanks Lou.

            2. You seem to hold a rather solipsistic worldview: You think something sucks, so it MUST be terrible, right? Anyone who disagrees is just a mindless fanboy, right? There’s room for all kinds of opinions and tastes, and some of us genuinely like the commercial.

    1. Guess what Lou? The entire point of an ad is to be memorable, and this obviously did the trick. People are talking about it and wondering what is the deal with that song in the Apple ad.

      Mission accomplished.

    2. Lou, I’m thankful my gym teacher from the early 1970’s always played Santana. In fact even today whenever I hear “You’ve got to change your evil ways…baby…” I think of tumbling mats and trampolines!

  2. Lou,

    I respect your opinion, but as a professional musician and someone trying to stay healthy, I think this ad is fantastic. It’s grabs your attention, shows off numerous apps with lots of different sports and is the perfect set up for Apple’s new Health App coming in iOS 6. This is likely also a precursor to the upcoming iWatch. I love the ad and so do my students.

    1. Agree with you, James.

      I teach 5th grade, and am a Spurs fan. A couple of my students asked if I’d seen it (I had) and did I think it was as hilarious as they did (I did). I’m a little young to remember it first-hand, but it sounded so familiar. We searched for ten seconds, and found the tie-in to Meredith Wilson and the Music Man himself, Robert Preston. The kids had just recently seen the movie in music class, so that was cool for them.

      But really, who doesn’t giggle a bit at “chicken fat” sung with such gusto!

        1. Problem is I saw it on TV here first time yesterday and of course the music has no relation whatsoever this side of the pond so horrible and no link to anything here a double negative whammy. Only positive I guess is that it attracts your attention which some of the much better ads of late don’t do because they are so laid back musically.

  3. There are 2 kinds of good ads in the same way there are many good iMacs. G3 and G4 iMacs are memorable, tho not my favorite. 27″ iMac ? This is the way an iMac should be. I would prefer the advertising to be the latter also.

      1. I love both my 27″ iMacs, the one at work and at home, but there is definitely a whole lot more mouse area to cover. I do use a lot of key command shortcuts. But still, wouldn’t trade the screen for anything smaller.

  4. In my opinion, this is the worst Apple commercial I have ever seen. What happened to the class, beautiful commercials like the Think Different and Photo Everyday commercials? I hope this is not an example of that future Apple commercials will be like.

  5. Commercials are supposed to make you buy shit, and the most effective ones today tend to work subliminally – often appearing to have nothing to do with any actual product, but instead made to evoke an emotional response than link your emotions to a brand or corporate identity. This commercial seems very good at being a commercial: it’s attention grabbing, unbearable and nearly un-listenable song inflicts an emotional response that’s not easy to forget.

    I hate this song and commercial, but that’s ain’t saying much – commercials are generally vile, and to appreciate and critique a commercial as if they were art is a passtime for idiots. It’s brain poison, and you are a tool if you “appreciate” anything designed to manipulate you the way commercials do.

    1. You must not be very strong to allow commercials to manipulate you. Commercials can’t do that, they can only inform and entertain. The best cause you to remember the product fondly; the worst either make the product entirely forgettable or leave a negative impression. But that’s it.

  6. When I first heard of this song 2 days ago I thought what a great quirky song to use for something. Obviously, Apple felt the same way. Great commercial, and I love the “you’re more powerful than you think,” tag line.

  7. It’s been on during the ‘World Cup’ also. That’s the cup that’s played for by teams from around the world. Not like the “World Series” joke.

  8. Sorry, but I HATE this song. The ad would have been much better to something like Queen’s “We are the Champions” which, I think, has a more positive message (i.e., “we can beat this” as opposed to “go away you Chicken Fat”). Just my 2¢ worth…

    1. weird I keep thinking of Queen too when I looked at the ad, but originally the throbbing beat of ‘Flash’ kept popping into my head but of course ‘We are the Champions’ is more appropriate to the topic of sports.

      1. Yes, somehow. But one can’t hide the realty forever: overweight is actually a real disaster and there’s no harm to encourage people to lose fat.

  9. To me, it’s the two runners at the end that make it a great commercial. They’re running, challenging each other, and she screams as he passes her. They’re working out, and having fun. That’s the main idea, and the theme song underscores it.

  10. It’s honesty; America is the world’s fattest nation (with UK and Oz not far behind since obesity is a life-degrading global epidemic). The ad needs to draw attention to getting fitter and looking after yourself. Apple serving a bit of ‘Old School’ musical propaganda serves that purpose. This has the potential, if done right, to improve the health of millions of people.

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