Rub It In by
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The song “Rub It In” was first recorded in 1971 and then covered by Billy “Crash” Craddock in 1974.  It told of a guy on a beach asking his girlfriend to rub lotion on him, and was moderately titillating, but nothing compared to the music of today. It was not an advertising jingle.  But it was the source of the melody, and the inspiration for some of the lyrics, of a whole series of Glade air freshener commercials in1he 1990s:

That is occasionally TMI for them.

Those commercials have a special meaning for math teachers.  When algebra students are introduced to the concept of a function, one of the first things they are asked to do is to evaluate a function at a given point – “find the value of f of x equals x squared plus three at x=4”, for instance.  When they look at the teacher, confused, and ask how to do that, a common response is “Plug it in, plug it in,” meaning “put that number into the function definition in place of the variable and then carry out the operations called for by the function.”  I don’t know if every math teacher sings this direction to the students, but I know that I do.  (I often get rave reviews from the students, who are not really accustomed to having their math teachers sing to them.)  Sometimes I even insist that they sing it along with me.

I then tell them that “Plug it in, plug it in” comes from a commercial for a plug-in air freshener.  Sometimes I go on to explain the origin going back to “Rub It In”, but that is occasionally TMI for them.

Billy “Crash” Craddock

Sorry for the earworm, although I think it is really a great song.


Profile photo of Jeff Gerken Jeff Gerken

Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Laurie Levy says:

    I hadn’t thought about about that earworm for a while. Clever use for algebra, though. Think I’ll try it next time my granddaughter calls my husband for math help since I’m useless.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    I somehow, missed Rub It In, but really enjoyed the tune. Made me want to get up and dance! More than that, I LOVE that you sing it to your algebra students to teach them to “plug it in” for equations. I remember (and when I had a cat, often used) Glade, so did plug it in, but don’t remember that particular tune used as a jingle. No matter, I really enjoyed learning a new song. Thanks, Jeff.

  3. John Shutkin says:

    Great story, Jeff, particularly for those non-math scholars among us. This was all new to me. And I don’t even remember the Glade commercial.

    Thanks for sharing this with us, Jeff, and I’m so glad you’re contributing to Retro generally.

  4. You definitely would have been my favorite math teacher! This was a fun and informative reminiscence.

  5. Suzy says:

    I don’t remember the Glade commercial OR the Crash Craddock song. I did find another version of the song on youtube that shows Crash singing it while wearing an amazing yellow jumpsuit.

    I do love that you use the phrase Plug It In to remind your math students of how to evaluate functions. If my Math 1A teacher at Harvard had sung to me, I might have mastered Calculus.

  6. Marian says:

    How creative, Jeff, and I really enjoyed how you brought Rub it In into real life, so to speak, even though I don’t remember the Glade jingle.

  7. Wow Jeff, how did that get past the censors back in the 70s? Of course it’s tame by today’s standards!

  8. Fascinating story, Jeff…I had no idea about the connection between the song and the jingle and have to wonder if somebody snuck something by someone. Aside from the catchy word-play, would the manufacturer really want their product associated with something being rubbed in, particularly in a suggestive way? No matter…the important thing is that you got to sing it to your students!

    • Jeff Gerken says:

      And still do sing it to my students. I still work four days most weeks, and will be back to five once the coronavirus crisis has passed. A substitute who can teach math all the way up through calculus, as well as chemistry, physics, and occasionally French and Spanish is in great demand here in southeastern North Carolina.

  9. Who’d a guessed!! Wish you’d been my calc teacher!

  10. Risa Nye says:

    Great song–and one I never heard before! I like to make up lyrics on occasion, most recently to the tune of “Shake Shake Shake Senora” for my little grandson. I was singing “Drink, drink drink your water…” and getting strange looks from passersby. Hey, whatever works!

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