Today's Craig Schaller column was boring, so instead I'm going to dissect the lyrics of a semi-popular classic rock song.

In this maiden, and likely only, installment of Songspin, we take on Canadian rock heroes Five Man Electrical Band, and their 1971 smash No. 3 hit, "Signs".

Off we go!

And the sign said "Long-haired freaky people need not apply"

First line of the song, and we've already got trouble. Is it either of long-haired and freaky people that need not apply? Must you be both long-haired and freaky in order to be excluded from contention? Is there even a job available in the first place (note the complete lack of mention of any "help wanted" on the sign, sign, everywhere a sign).


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!"

Let me get this straight. Presumably the singer is, at minimum, long-haired, if not both long-haired and freaky. He "tucked [his] hair up under [his] hat"? First, you look like a tool. Second, how big was the goddamn hat?


Maybe the reason the poor shopkeep offered you a job was because he was afraid you were going to pull a comically oversized six-gun on him. But, I guess you made your point about not judging a book by its cover. I'm sure that hippie-hating local small business owner will change his opinion about freaks now that one of them has played a deceitful trick on him. Bravo.

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?

[cuts down railroad crossing sign]

[tomorrow's newspaper headline: "TRAIN HITS SCHOOL BUS - NO SURVIVORS"]

And the sign said anybody caught trespassin' would be shot on sight

At least we're now provided with some type of setting for our little mini-dramas. Texas!

So I jumped on the fence and I yelled at the house,

Dirty homeless man yells at inanimate object; reinforces worst stereotypes.

"Hey! What gives you the right?"
To put up a fence to keep me out or to keep mother nature in?"


I dunno? Local zoning bylaws? Land use regulations? Over a half-millennium of common law jurisprudence regarding private property rights? Just some educated guesses here.

If God was here he'd tell you to your face, 'man, you're some kinda sinner!'"

Maybe I'm mistaken, but I'm pretty sure there's a commandment advising you not to covet thy neighbour's property. I know, I know, it's buried towards the bottom of the list, but it's there somewhere.

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?


"Fuck you, 'One Way Street'!"

Now, hey you, mister, can't you read?
You've got to have a shirt and tie to get a seat

Look, buddy, even in 1971 I think McDonald's had a "no shirt. no service" policy. You ain't exactly a martyr walking into Chez Panisse bare-chested and expecting service with a smile. Wearing a shirt as pants doesn't count, dipshit.

You can't even watch,

Personal story for you. When in university, I worked in the warehouse of a home furnishings store. The store hired a guy named Harvey to work in the office. Very quickly, Harvey proved far too dumb and socially awkward to be in a position that required the ability to answer a phone, count money, or interact with humans expecting a degree of customer service.


So, Harvey got tossed into the warehouse with the rest of us idiots. After working for about a week, Harvey came to me, and said: "Hey Doug [ed.: this was really awkward, because Doug isn't my real name], now I know that the big dolly is for moving big things, like fridges. And I know the little dolly is for moving littler things. So I've got one question for you. What's the medium-sized dolly for?"

On another occasion, me and a co-worker were finishing up loading some furniture onto a customer's truck, and Harvey came up to us and said "are you guys Jehovah's Witnesses?" Before we even had a chance to respond, he followed up with "why do you always knock on my door in the mornings?"

Anyway, it was pretty clear after another week or so that Harvey wasn't working out, so our boss hauled him into the office to give him the bad news. When he was told he was fired, Harvey buried his hands in his face, started weeping, and asked plaintively: "can't you guys keep me on like a day a week to clean up or something?"


The point of those stupid stories is that the line "you can't even watch" is even sadder than poor ol' Harvey. Poor, stupid, ol' Harvey.

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

Membership has its privileges. One of them is the lack of raving derelicts interrupting your third date with Kathy.

And the sign said, "Everybody welcome. Come in, kneel down and pray"

Ah yes, the last refuge of the disheveled hippie: the religious right.

But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all, I didn't have a penny to pay


You know what? I'm not surprised.

So I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own little sign

You filthy hypocrite.

I said, "Thank you, Lord, for thinkin' 'bout me. I'm alive and doin' fine."

Dear Lord, thank you for this day where I hassled a store owner, judged a landowner without fear of judgment myself, and was denied a food boner at a nice restaurant. Amen.

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?


Little known fact: Five Man Electrical Band broke up in 1974, when the band visited Times Square before a New York gig and committed suicide.

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Sign, sign

I got a sign for ya right here: