Fast food giant McDonald’s has never been at a loss for advertising gimmicks to help sell its various and sundry “Mc”-branded burgers, shakes, and fries. This was, after all, the chain that built an entire advertising campaign blatantly inspired by the hallucinatory kids’ shows of Sid and Marty Krofft. But one of McDonald’s oddest and most memorable promotional stunts occurred in 1988-89, when the restaurant chain introduced a contest that took the form of a flexi-disc vinyl record called “The $1,000,000 Menu Song.” Though they play like regular vinyl records at 33 1/3 RPM, flexi-discs are thin and bendable like paper, so McDonald’s printed up a bunch of copies of the record and stuck them into newspapers, attached to sheets of coupons, as advertising supplements. The way the contest worked was this: Each disc contained a recording of a cheerful but inept chorus singing its way through the entire McDonald’s menu. If the singers could make it all the way through the menu song without screwing up, the disc was a winner. Unfortunately, the odds of winning were one in 80 million, so the chorus invariably fumbled the lyrics before getting to the part about low fat milk and orange juice.
“The $1,000,000 Menu Song” was meant to be ephemeral from the moment it was committed to vinyl, but a few flexi-discs have survived from the late 1980s. And at least one has made it to YouTube. Sadly, this is the version in which the chorus screws up. Not a winner.
The flexi-disc carries no credits, but the melody of “The $1,000,000 Menu Song” is clearly swiped from the 1974 novelty hit “Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me),” written by Norman Dolph and performed by a group of studio musicians under the name Reunion. If anything can drive the McDonald’s jingle from one’s subconscious, it is this insidiously catchy creation.