Everywhere A Sign

Les Emmerson the lead singer of Five Man Electrical Band wrote a song titled ‘Signs Signs, Everywhere a Sign’, which was an anti-establishment prophetic look at class divisions and property rights taking place during the hippie generation.  Emmerson wrote the song after taking a road trip on Route 66 in California, where he noticed a plethora of billboards were obscuring the beautiful scenery.  This made him wonder who is allowed to put up signs that interfere with nature and who gets to make the rules that appear on so many signs.  Five Man Electrical Band was originally a Canadian group called The Staccatos, but they changed their name after moving to Los Angeles and ‘Signs’ came out on their second album Good-byes And Butterflies in 1970.  Five Man Electrical Band packed it in 1973 and the other members of this band were bassist Brian Rading, keyboardist Ted Gerow, and drummers Rick Belanger and Mike Belanger.

The signs in this song are focused on restrictions, rules, warnings and essentially subdividing and splitting people apart, to create a culture based upon endless things that people are not allowed to do.  The signs become a focal point for the singer to vent his frustration about society.  The song is a true ‘hippie’ tune, rebelling against the status quo, by not wanting to be told what to say, how to dress, or where to go.  We are surrounded by signs, the interpretation of which creates our reality. The study of signs and how meaning is derived from them is called ‘semiotics’.  We are bombarded by signs, not just images, but the words, voicing, gestures, posture, attire, and movements of the messengers, as well as the music and sound effects that accompany the presentation; not to mention the chosen media itself.

And the sign said “Long-haired freaky people need not apply”
So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why
He said “You look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you’ll do”
So I took off my hat, I said “Imagine that. Huh! Me workin’ for you!”
Whoa-oh-oh
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?
And the sign said anybody caught trespassin’ would be shot on sight
So I jumped on the fence and-a yelled at the house
“Hey! What gives you the right?”
“To put up a fence to keep me out or to keep mother nature in”
“If God was here he’d tell you to your face, man, you’re some kinda sinner”
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?
Now, hey you, mister, can’t you read?
You’ve got to have a shirt and tie to get a seat
You can’t even watch, no you can’t eat
You ain’t supposed to be here
The sign said you got to have a membership card to get inside
Ugh
And the sign said, “Everybody welcome. Come in, kneel down and pray”
But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all
I didn’t have a penny to pay
So I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own little sign
I said, “Thank you, Lord, for thinkin’ ‘bout me. I’m alive and doin’ fine”
Woo
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

Written for Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Signs of any kind

16 thoughts on “Everywhere A Sign

    1. I think that just the opposite is true, as for the last several years I worked as a substitute teacher and kids today are not being brought up by their parents to follow rules, they let the brats do what ever they want because they don’t know how to control them. I can’t even tell you how many times students threw stuff at me when I turned my back to them to write something on the board. There are no consequences for bad behavior, so they pretty much do whatever they desire.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I guess I was thinking more of peer rules. Adult rules, or control, as you say, are pretty much non-existent. You never hear some kid committed suicide because an adult criticized them on Facebook. (Just had a conversation along this line with a friend. 🙂 )

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi, JIm! Cool you’ve joined in on Cee’s B&W photo challenge.
    That’s one of my favorite songs from way back. Love to sing along to it. 🙂
    The video sure has some funny signs!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Long-haired freaky people need not apply” / So I tucked my hair up under my hat….”

    When I was in the US Army reserves in 1968-74, I was a long-haired freaky person (i.e., hippie) at the time, but I had to spend one weekend a month and two weeks every summer on active duty. I didn’t want to cut my long hair, so I bought a short wig and would put on my army uniform and would tuck my hair under the wig. So I can relate to this song.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.