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Signs (Five Man Electrical Band song)

"Signs" is a song by the Canadian rock group Five Man Electrical Band. It was written by the band's frontman, Les Emmerson and popularized the relatively unknown band, who recorded it for their second album, Good-byes and Butterflies, in 1970. "Signs" was originally released that year as the B-side to the relatively unsuccessful single "Hello Melinda Goodbye" (#55 Canada).

"Signs"
Signs45RPM.jpg
Single by Five Man Electrical Band
from the album Good-byes and Butterflies
B-side"Hello Melinda Goodbye"
ReleasedMay 1971
GenreHard rock[1]
Length4:05 (album version)
3:20 (single version)
LabelLionel Records
Songwriter(s)Les Emmerson
Producer(s)Dallas Smith
Five Man Electrical Band singles chronology
"Signs"
(1971)
"Absolutely Right"
(1971)

Re-released in 1971 as the A-side, "Signs" reached No. 4 in Canada and No. 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. Billboard ranked it as the No. 24 song for 1971. It became a gold record.

Contents

CompositionEdit

The song was written by Les Emmerson when he was road-tripping on Route 66 in California, and noticed the beautiful scenery was obscured by many billboards.[2]

The song's narrator describes four instances of encountering signs that anger or concern him, as follows:

  • A notice that "long-haired freaky people need not apply" for a job opening. He stuffs his hair into his hat in order to get an interview, then contemptuously reveals it once he has been offered the job.
  • A "no trespassing" warning outside a house. He climbs onto the perimeter fence and berates the owners for keeping people out and fencing in the land's natural beauty.
  • Being told to leave a restaurant because he does not meet its dress code or have a membership card, both of which are displayed on a sign.
  • A sign inviting people to worship at a church. When an offering is taken up at the end of the service, he makes a sign telling God that he is doing well, as he has no money to contribute.

Chart performanceEdit

Tesla versionEdit

"Signs"
 
Cover for the 7" single
Single by Tesla
from the album Five Man Acoustical Jam
ReleasedNovember 1990
RecordedJuly 2, 1990
VenueTrocadero Theatre, Philadelphia, PA
GenreAcoustic rock
Length3:15
LabelGeffen
Songwriter(s)Les Emmerson
Producer(s)Dan McClendon
Tesla singles chronology
"Love Song"
(1989)
"Signs"
(1990)
"The Way It Is"
(1991)

"Signs" was covered and recorded live by Tesla for their Five Man Acoustical Jam album in 1990, peaking at number 8 on the Pop charts.[9] This cover had some minor changes to the lyrics: the line "blockin' out the scenery" was changed to "fuckin' up the scenery," and "made up my own little sign" was changed to "made up my own fuckin' sign". A studio version recorded in 2007, which appeared on the EP A Peace of Time, used the original lyrics.

Track listingsEdit

7" single
Side A
No.TitleLength
1."Signs" (Clean Version)3:11
Side B
No.TitleLength
1."Down Fo' Boogie" (LP Version)3:21
12" single
Side A
No.TitleLength
1."Signs" (LP Version)3:15
Side B
No.TitleLength
1."Little Suzi" (Live Acoustic Version)3:53
2."Down Fo' Boogie" (LP Version)3:21
CD single
No.TitleLength
1."Signs" (Clean Version)3:11
2."Down Fo' Boogie" (Single Version)3:21
3."Little Suzi" (Live Acoustic Version)3:53

Chart performanceEdit

Chart (1990−1991) Peak
position
US Hot 100 (Billboard)[10] 8
US Mainstream Rock (Billboard)[11] 2
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[12] 70

Other covers and samplesEdit

The opening line of the song, "And the sign said long haired freaky people need not apply", was sampled by Fatboy Slim for his song "Don't Let The Man Get You Down", from his Palookaville album.

ApologetiX recorded a parody of the song titled "Lions", telling a Biblical story of a character named Daniel in a lion's den. It was originally included on the cassette of Radical History Tour, and was later re-issued on the "Director's Cut" edition of Isn't Wasn't Ain't.

The Evolution Control Committee used only part of the song's opening line "the sign said long haired freaky people" on the track "Freaky People" from their 2011 album All Rights Reserved.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Top Quality Rock Helps Labels Turnaround Their Profit Picture". Billboard. 6 November 1971. p. RN-34. ISSN 0006-2510.
  2. ^ https://www.cshf.ca/song/signs/
  3. ^ "RMP100 Singles, July 24, 19751". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  4. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  5. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 9/04/71". tropicalglen.com. 4 September 1971. Archived from the original on 7 June 2015. Retrieved 28 December 2016. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  6. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  7. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1971/Top 100 Songs of 1971". Music Outfitters. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  8. ^ "Cash Box YE Pop Singles - 1971". tropicalglen.com. 25 December 1971. Archived from the original on 6 October 2016. Retrieved 28 December 2016. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  9. ^ Joel Whitburn (2008). Joel Whitburn Presents Rock Tracks 1981-2008. Record Research. p. 255. ISBN 978-0-89820-174-1.
  10. ^ "Tesla Chart History - Hot 100". Billboard. Eldridge Industries. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  11. ^ "Tesla Chart History". Billboard. Eldridge Industries. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  12. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 554. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.

External linksEdit