In 1961, the Kennedy Administration, faced with the specter of an entire generation of young Americans spending unprecedented amounts of time planted in front of television sets, mobilized resources to combat obesity in children. When the President's Council on Physical Fitness commissioned monies necessary for the creation of a singalong juvenile exercise routine, Broadway musical composer Meredith Willson was chosen as the instigator, and Robert Preston (1918-1987), best known as star of the original production of Willson's The Music Man, was drafted into service as exerciser-in-chief. Millions of school children found themselves being forced into martially motivated synchronized movement as this recording was distributed throughout public schools nationwide with instructions that the enrollments be exposed to it each morning. The "Chicken Fat" song has both tortured and "toned up" members of each successive generation of children, sometimes appearing on albums where it was mingled with less militaristic fare like "Alley Cat" but always retaining its gut-busting, compulsory, upbeat intensity. Released in 2000 and reissued in 2006, Kimbo Education's eighteen-and-a-half-minute Chicken Fat CD contains four rigorous tracks to which any group of children may be subjected until they have achieved physical fitness, physical exhaustion, or a sweaty combination of both. The instrumental flipside of "Chicken Fat" is followed by verbal and instrumental versions of something called "Five Minutes for Fitness." Here Preston emits a steady stream of callisthenic imprecations like "right elbow, left knee, left elbow, right knee..." while the studio ensemble plays variations on "Consider Yourself at Home" from the musical Oliver. While this material continues to be used as a goad to get young people to burn off fatty tissues formed during prolonged, sedate computerized gaming sessions, it takes on new significance when entirely removed from its utilitarian context and enjoyed as an absurdist ingredient in weirdly conceived audio collages.
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