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Sunday, 30 August 2015

"Signs" Division or Unity, Love or War....

Little commercial jingles, or catchy song fragments from favorite groups, often play in the backdrop of my mind. Most often; I discover a tune creeps to the forefront shortly after it has danced across my waking consciousness. Often; I don't want the jingle to persist, yet marketers ensure it does. Some say; the most effective way to dislodge a pesky tune is to take a few moments to hum another. What if the tune in question persists over many years, popping in and out for no apparent reason, would this suggest the ditty represents something more than just another archived piece of media entertainment? There are times when mass media, in the form of music, art, or literature seems to have the uncanny ability to speak directly to the heart of who we are. Certain thought forms appear capable of transforming a nation, while at the same time, intruding deeply into the persona of a given individual.

Like most of us; I consider myself to be an aficionado of popular music. My taste varies greatly, however, there are a few groups which make lyrical statements capable of defining the spirit of my life and the essence of my ideology. Rush, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Santana, John Lennon, Leonard Cohen, Elvis Presley, represent just a few favourites that pop into my mind as I pen this essay. Having stated a few bands of choice; one would assume, if one particular tune were to stick in my head over decades of time then the song would probably be the work of my most preferred group, however, this has proven not to be the case. Point in fact; as much as I love Rush, or am forever moved by John Lennon's "Imagine", these personal cornerstones of pop culture rarely, without prompting from the radio or a spinning C.D., rush to the forefront of my minds eye.

For me; the one and only song which continually plays in my mental backdrop is from a group I never followed. Their single top ten hit spoke to me with such intensity it instantly became a staple of my memory archive. The song was written by Les Emmerson, it was released in 1971 by his group entitled "Five Man Electric Band". This progressive rock group hailed from Ottawa, Canada, in a very small way they helped form the hippy resistance of 70's pop culture. The song in question made it to number three on the American Band Stand hit list. Possibly you know the song to which I refer? Its title was "Signs", somehow it managed to resonate perfectly with the sentiments expressed by the youth of the day. The song rallied countless youth to rebel against the corporate and government machine. The lyrics, as illustrated below earnestly demanded freedom from the oppression of what we then called "The Man".

Today, as I recollect the purposefully charged lyrics of Mr. Emmerson, I choose to reflect upon the songs nature whilst taking a quick moment to ask why, this one song, above all others, has been my constant companion for over 40 years. I never owned a copy of the album, never followed the group, hell, I even had to look them up on the internet to discover who penned this short little jewel.



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 upstandin' young man
I think you'll do"
So I took off my hat and said, "Imagine that
Huh, me workin' for you"
Whoa

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'
Will be shot on sight"
So I jumped on the fence and I yelled at the house
"Hey! What gives you the right
To put up a fence to keep me out
But to keep Mother Nature in?
If God was here, he'd tell you to your face
'Man, you're some kind of 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 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've got to have a membership card
To get inside"
Uh!

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
Sign



Division Verses Unity:



Generations of music come and go; each leaves a signature upon the masses distinct from the previous. Quickly changing social morals, mind programming, and a bevy of cultural influences, ensure the next generation of music will brand upon the youth of the day a unique form of outrage. Music speaks to our heart; the beat tugs on our primal nature preparing us for lyrics cleverly crafted to echo the most powerful thoughts, feelings and emotions each of us covet. Bands, talented enough to resonate with youthful consumers, discover their product can move masses with such fervor they can irrevocably alter the path of society. Speaking to this point, recent history illustrates the role music played during the 1970's by shaping a path toward peace, love and unity, when, all signs indicated, elite masters would have preferred to align with the war machine. 
Our masters, resolutely molding the essence of society, comprehend the vastly important function music plays in steering the piss and vinegar of youthful exuberance toward destinations which do not wholly conflict with the overarching direction of elite rule. The powers that be appear to walk a fine line of censorship; like all puppeteers, the trickery of illusion only succeeds if they manage to remain completely hidden from the spectator. Pulling the strings of the society puppet, their mandate is to manipulate us without our knowledge. In fact; if done correctly, we must believe it is our steam, our outrage, our desires which manifest the designs of humanities future.

From my perspective; the 70's taught our masters a keen lesson in what can happen if they take their eye off the musical entertainment ball. No one could dispel the fact that, for a short while, in the crazy years of hippy love, the elite lost control of the stage. Masters yanked on strings discovering, to their horror, the tiny puppets were acting out a play of their own design, a play most definitely in contrast to the masters vision. How did the puppet master react? They looked at the little puppets whose strings no longer worked then simply swept them off the stage, John Lennon, Bob Marley, too many others to mention. Too much loss for the world to bear. We wept while they consolidated the reigns of power, tightened the grip of control then forcefully directed music away from love, peace and unity toward fear, violence, commercialism, and despair.

Now; some forty years removed from the hippy era, we find the music industry voice has taken a 180 degree turn. This day, can you name any vocalists advocating love, freedom or unity? To be fair; I am not up to date on what the kids listen to, however, from what I do hear, the messages seems to be very commercial, egotistical, corrupt, fear biased drivel. I feel sad for the poor young women trapped in today's musical genre. From my jaded perspective, it seems these young ladies are forced to promote themselves as sex toys. Their lyrical messages, at least in my mind, appear to take a backseat to their tawdry appearance or disingenuous lifestyles specifically designed to jolt the consumer with opulent vulgarity.

Possibly, my age is catching up to me? Perhaps, I, like those of my time, lament the past, desire more from the future, and feel the children of our time are not quite the captains of change we envisioned they would become. Could it be; I am turning into the Fuddy Duddy I thought my parents represented when I was the youth they viewed as bereft of decorum, respect, and integrity?


Seeing The Signs:


I am, and always have been, a rebel. For the most part, I have stood against elitism, fear, injustice, government, authority, most importantly, I have dedicated my life to rally against divisiveness. Now, I can see the lyrics of Mr. Emmerson have in fact hit close to my heart. More than any other song, they spoke to my future, a path I was not capable of vocalizing or envisioning at the tender age of ten. None the less, unbenounced to me, these words were the seeds which would spawn the Oak of personal resistance.

Now, as I look in the mirror, I see a long haired freaky person seated on the outside of an elite construct, I feel sick as I to peer into the fabric of a society gone mad. Signs have in fact blocked out the scenery, they are breakin' my mind, they continually tell me to do this, not that, they still demand I quietly conform to elitist signs. Never did I want a membership card, nor would I ascribe it just that one being should, in any way, dominate another.

There are signs everywhere we look, signs which should cause us pause, signs which beg us to confront societal injustice. One third of the world population lives below the poverty level, this is a sign. Over one billion of our brethren are starving to death, can you read this sign. Education is falling apart, children being dumbed down, why can we not understand this is a sign. Our health, and the well being of our environment, hijacked by greedy corporate profiteers, do we even know how to read these signs? We are a people divided; borders, rules, religion, class structure, race, sexism, sports, education, do you see everywhere there are signs? Some of the signs prove we are losing the best of what make us human; fear replacing love, division instead of unity, ignorance trumping knowledge, greed in lieu of sharing, religion where there should be spirituality, war when we all want peace, money where compassion belongs, corruption where there once was cooperation, hunger when we should demand nourishment, violence where there once was caring. Insanity abounds, it compels us to read the signs. If we fail to read the countless signs, our corporate masters will ensure a future biased toward, love, unity, compassion and the many attributes we covet, will never come to pass. Presently, the next generation has a right to ask; why didn't you react to the signs? Where was your outrage? Why did you allow the hippy message to die, why did you not carry that torch? You dropped the ball, you sold us out, you, spellbound by the snake of opulence, chose to turn your back on love, peace and unity! The question I pose to each of you today, can you read the signs, are you going to stand against "The Man".  Are you ready to read the signs?

Sign, sign,

 

Everywhere a sign,

 

sign! 



In Lak' ech, brethren, prosper with love.... read the signs.... fight the man....