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Five Man Electrical Band

Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This was originally released in 1970 as the B-side to the unsuccessful single "Hello Melinda Goodbye." Re-released in 1971 as the A-side, it became a hit. (thanks, Jeanne - Lincoln, IL)
The song is about the lower class being looked down upon and denied access to what the rich have in America.
In 1991, this was a #12 US hit for Tesla. They released it on their third album, which was named Five Man Acoustical Jam as an allusion to the band. In Tesla's unedited version they replace the phrase "Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind" with "F--kin' up the scenery, breakin' my mind." (thanks, Clayton - Blount County, AL)
Tesla's version was one of the first acoustic hit songs of the '90s and helped launch the "Unplugged" trend. MTV started their series of Unplugged concerts shortly after their cover came out.
Five Man Electrical Band
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Comments (24):

On April 15th 1972, the Five Man Electrical Band performed "Signs" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
Eleven months earlier on May 23rd, 1971 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 at position #96; and on August 22nd it peaked at #3 (for 1 week) and spent 18 weeks on the Top 100...
The week it was at #3 on the Top 100; "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart" by the Bee Gees was the #1 record and "Take Me Home, Country Road" by John Denver with Fat City was at #2.
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
I like how he seeks a world without being under control of arbitrary authorities.
- Cyberpope, Richmond, Canada
Actually, Five Man Electrical Band is not a one-hit-wonder in the US. Three months after 'Signs' they hit #26 with 'Absolutely Right'.
- Gary, Clementon, NJ
Actually they do use the phrase long haired freaky people. No disrespect towards those folks who keep chattering about Tesla's cover but that is bluddy annoying. We are not talking about the various covers nor are we talking about edited/unedited versions. Aside from all of that the song is still good. Too bad it and a bucket load of others are never played on what passes for oldies stations these days.
- Hugh McPhee, Wick, United Kingdom
I like the hippie free society image. But even the Beats had to buy their property. It ain't free.
- Jim, West Palm Beach, FL
Yes, esskayess. Paul McCartney could probably buy out Donald Trump. Yet he is considered a 'man of the people'.
- Jim, West Palm Beach, FL
Jay: Bands (and actors) who scream the 'no and corporations are evil' schlock reach the depths of hypocrisy.
- esskayess, Dallas, TX
Mike: At least a collection plate gives you the option. The government variety doesn't.
- esskayess, Dallas, TX
If the bum got a haircut and took that job at the beginning, he'd have money for the collection plate!!!!
- Matt, Vancouver, BC
Thank-you Jim from Ontario
- Rick, Belfast, ME
Where I come from Five Man Electrical Band was not a one-hit wonder. They had 4 or 5 good radio hits back in the early 70's. The song 'Juliana' (check the tube) is a good one. Also 'Money Back Guarantee'
- Jim, Thunder Bay, ON
Even though this was a "one-hit wonder", it shows why the 70's music is still around! One of the best from the 70's..........
- Rick, Belfast, ME
Isn't the original lyric, "So I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my only sign"? If not, I've been singing it wrong for nearly 40 years. LOL No matter. It's still my all time favorite.
- OC, Humid, FL
No....but he DOES have a collection plate.
- Mike, Matawan, NJ
This is a great song. Everywhere else he is rejected or restricted, but welcomed in the Christian Church. Jesus doesn't have signs!
- Bryan, Fort Washington, MD
MSD did this,too. I also love Tesla's version's too.
- Jennifer Harris, Grand Blanc, MI
In the lyrics, The Five Man Electrical Band says "upstanding young man" not "outstanding" as used in the Tesla version. Being an origional hippy from the 70's I enjoyed both.
Jim Mac Clay
Phila. Pa.
- james, philadelphia, PA
Politics aside (though I tend to side with the song), this is just great rock 'n' roll! One of my favorite hippie era songs.
- Norlyn, Geneva, IL
the thing about it being about communism is bolshevick(bs) i think its about how signs are restictive and annoying.
- dan, baltimore, MD
This song is about communism, pure and simple. He's against private property.
- James, Gettysburg, PA
Especially when Tesla plays at their beloved small club type of venue, this song is always one of the most enjoyable live-music experiences ever!
- Robin, Orangevale, CA
In the edited version, the lyrics are "So I got me a pen and a paper and made up my own little sign" while the unedited version says "So I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own f*ckin' sign". The edit is evident in the way "little" sounds slightly "off". The word actually escaped radio censors for a long time, even in conservative Utah, actually.
- Derek, Logan, UT
It's a contradiction. I'm sure both bands had signs outside of their concerts stating "Must have a ticket to enter". To quote the song "What gives you the right?". And I'm sure with the royalties these bands have made they have invested in real estate (and posted "No Trespassing" signs).
- Jay, Atlanta, GA
This song shows how an individual must decide whether individuality of expression or conformity to societal standards is the preferred way to live. The singer's choices are with the former, and he, then, must put up with the partiality of others as a consequence of that choice.
- Rich, Westons Mills, NY
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