Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Where's the Beef?

I just finished reading a great Gumball Studios article on the Where's the Beef phenomena.
The article is a great read, but there was one fact brought up that I NEEDED to know more about: The "Where's The Beef" record!

Let me recap the whole "Where's the Beef" history for those born after 1985 and too lazy to click on the links above.

Wendy's was a moderately successful fast food chain back in the 1980's but it was three words that made them the giant franchise they are today.


Wendy's had hired the Dancer, Fitzgerald and Sample Ad Agency to produce a series of commercials> The commercial tried to show that McDonalds had much smaller beef patties than Wendy's. One of the ads featured a four foot eleven octogenarian named Clara Peller. Clara was a retired manicurist who had somehow ended up on camera. The results were amazing.

Clara and her two old lady companions are given a GIGANTIC bun with a very small meat patty. Rather than be overjoyed with the fact that they now had a bun so large that the three of them could live off of it for a month (AND feed every pigeon they saw) they were outraged!

"Where's the Beef!" Clara yelled and a catchphrase was born.

Soon the slogan was on T-shirts, bumper stickers and any other flat surface Wendy's could find.

So the slogan was put on a vinyl record.

The record was called, obviously, "Where's the Beef" and featured Clara along with Coyote McCloud.

Coyote has been a radio host since 1965. He has worked in all over the south and in a place called "Newark, NY". Up until this point I only knew of a Newark in New Jersey. I guess New Jersey gave it to New York. I am surprised they took it. Or maybe it's a different place all together. I'm not sure and I stopped caring two sentences ago.

Anyway, Coyote counts songwriting among his hobbies, so Wendy's hired him to write and produce a track featuring Clara and her famous line. The song was custom pressed by Wendy's and quickly became the highest selling record of all time (not including records NOT pressed by Wendy's.)

If you would like to hear this little ditty, It is available on the web on It's part of a pretty sweet "podcast" that you can download by clicking here.

The song is the last one on the podcast, so here is a track listing by time:

0:18 Pac Man Fever
2:40 Bruce Willis sings
7:59 Phillip Michael Thomas tries to sing
12:20 Don Johnson rocks
20:00 Mr. T croons "The Toughest Man in the World". This is one of my all time favorites.

and at 25:10 we get to hear Clara sing.

Actually, as you probably guessed, she doesn't sing. She just says "Where's the Beef" over and over as Coyote and a few backup singers do the actually singing. The song features on of those "synthesither beats" that were popular in the 1980's. The song is sort of a rap, but not exactly.
Here are the lyrics:

Where's the Beef

Old lady walkin' in the mid day sun
She stops for lunch in the House of Buns

I was so excited when I heard that she was going into my favorite strip joint on Sunset Blvd. Then I realized it was the name of the fast food place.
Now I just realized that I admitted to be excited about an old lady in a strip joint.
Please, have this whole thing stricken from the record. Thanks.
She orders a hamburger (Well, of course)
They brought her some buns and a chunk of horse

Now I'm repulsed. The lyrics were a bit hard to hear at this point but I am almost positive he said "chunk of horse".
She thought she was getting a heck of a deal
A buck ninety-nine for a whole darn meal
But, when she opened the buns to put on the mustard
Her eyes watered and she got all flustered
She said "I've had burgers well done and rare
now I've got one that ain't even there"
She got no response from ringing the bell
And that's when she started to yell


Clara: Where's the Beef?

FINALLY Clara Peller shows up! I know it doesn't sound like much but it took 40 seconds to hear Clara say "Where's the Beef?"! That first 39 seconds is the longest 39 seconds in the world! It just seemed like an eternity waiting for her to say it. I started the song and before she came on I was so bored I started to do my taxes.
If I ever find out that I only have 39 seconds to live, I will spend it listening to the beginning of this song. That way it will seem like an eternity.
Ah, who am I kidding, I would spend it looking for old ladies at a strip joint.
Young man can't you hear her call
Clara: Where's the Beef?
She don't see no beef at all
Clara: Where's the Beef?
Call a cop to catch the thief
Clara: Where's the Beef?
The one who stole this ladies beef
Clara: Where's the Beef?
Eenie meanie miney mo
Tell us where did her beef go?
Clara: Where's the Beef?
Won't somebody end her grief
and tell her where's the beef

They have now officially exhausted Coyote McCloud's list of "words that rhyme with beef". The desperation is apparent when they start doing the "Eenie meanie miney mo" stuff. Think about it, does that make any sense? Here are some lines that were cut from the song:
"Fee fi foe and fum, why is there no meat on the bun"
"Hickory dickory doc, she waits for meat around the clock"
"Hark the herald angel sings, at least give her some onion rings"
"Jack be nimble jack be quick, man, this song will make you sick"
Can anybody hear me?
I don't think there's anybody back there

At this point is sounds like the song is at the bridge, but it's really the second verse. The "I don't think there's anybody back there" quote was Clara's other line. It never took off, and I didn't quite understand it. It's not like fast food joints don't have people that work in the back. She should have said "I don't think anyone back there speaks English" because, let's face it, most old ladies are racists.
Clara: Where's the Beef?
Biggest rip off you ever saw
I swear there oughta be a law
Woman can't live by buns alone
She's caught in a hamburger "Twilight Zone"

At this point generic Twilight Zone-esque music plays in the background. Truthfully though, how does getting a small burger relate to the Twilight Zone? Now if the burger was trying to EAT her, THAT would be an AWESOME Twilight Zone.
Clara: Where's the Beef?
She asked the boss
He said "Check under the special sauce"
Man this whole thing's too weird for me

Exactly what I was thinking.
Where oh where can her beef be?
What's the secret, tell me how
Three billion sold from just one cow

For those of you who doubted that the commercial was aimed at McDonald's, there's the proof. By the way, the cow's name was Buttercup.

Clara: Where's the Beef? Where's the Beef? Where's the Beef? I don't think there's anyone back there. Where's the Beef? Where's the Beef? Where's the Beef? Where's the Beef? Where's the Beef? Where's the Beef? Where's the Beef?

Carla just says it over and over. It's at this point that you can tell that Clara probably never actually went to a recording studio for this song. Instead, they just played clips of her from the commercial.
You know, I just realized that this song sounds just like Rodney Dangerfield's "Rappin Rodney"! Now I have to find that!

Gumball Studio's Where's the Beef article
Nixon eats a Big Mac
The Tendercrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch Commercial
Burger King's Left Handed Whopper
Kids Meals

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