I have voices in my head — “earworms” of songs from 1970s TV commercials and show themes. How is it that we were designed to have old jingles play infinite loops in our brains? Last month it was the 1970s Burger King commercial: “Hold the pickles hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us … have it your way.”
Recently the theme from the 1960s western “Have Gun Will Travel” popped into my head and wouldn’t leave:
“Paladin, Paladin, where do you roam?
Paladin, Paladin, far, far from home.”
I haven’t seen this show since grade school, but somehow I remembered all the lyrics and the melody.
And then there’s “Plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is.” Alka-Seltzer forever branded itself with this jingle. Alka-Seltzer also has a great commercial without music: Husband moans in bed: “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing. I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” Wife: “You ate it, Ralph. Take an Alka-Seltzer.” This brain worm lives in my head.
On occasion the Bonanza theme song circles between my ears and with it the Chevrolet commercial played during the show:
“See the USA in your Chevrolet,
“America is asking you to call.
“So make a date today to see the USA,
“And see it in your Chevrolet.”
And old lady Clara Peller in the Wendy’s commercial visits me: “Where’s the beef?” The phrase was so sticky that presidential candidate Walter Mondale in his 1984 debate with Gary Hart for the Democratic nomination used it — “When I hear your ‘new ideas,’ I’m reminded of that ad, ‘Where’s the beef?’”
Some effective commercials play over and over because they were so irritating that they stick. People said the 1960s Wrigley’s Doublemint twins commercials were like that. For me the early Geico commercials were annoying worms.
I don’t know why companies spend millions for good commercials that stick in your head and then abandon them. If I can remember a commercial from 50 years ago, why not bring it back every other year?
McDonald’s has some memorable commercial jingles. I was in Europe in 2004 when I heard Italian guys joking, “Ba-da-ba-ba-baaa, I’m lovin’ it.” This jingle was so original and pleasant, I’d listen to it for the rest of my life.
So many other unforgettable commercials and jingles become earworms:
“Snap! Crackle! Pop! Rice Krispies!”
“Lucky Charms. They’re magically delicious!”
“Mm-mm, good. Mm-mm, good. Campbell Soup is mm-mm good”
“Gimme a break. Gimme a break. Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar”
“The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup”
“Clap on. Clap off. Clap on. Clap off.” (Clapper light switch).
As soon as I start thinking of old commercials, TV show theme songs bore into my head: Rawhide, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Get Smart, Bewitched, The Addams Family, The Munsters, Gilligan’s Island, and Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. Sometimes I ask Alexa to play these jingles and themes to satisfy my urge for the originals.
Well, I’ve created dozens of worms in my head writing this article. Please excuse any I’ve infected you with.
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