Monday, August 04, 2008

I Am A Stranger Here

Back in the day at King George School all the classes would gather on Friday mornings in the gymnasium for singing songs and watching some play performed by our peers. We had a name for it that I have forgotten. I remember one event involving my Grade Six class led by our teacher Ms. (Leona) Friesen. The idea was that we would learn and rehearse to sing "I Am A Stranger Here" by the .

I Am A Stranger Here

Verse 1
Well I’m a stranger here in this place called Earth
And I was sent down here to discover the worth
Of your little blue planet third from the sun
Come on and show me what you’ve done

This was in the early 1970's just about when Watergate broke in the media everywhere. Not that the two were connected, but it was a time when people started to question their governments on what they were doing. We hadn't really taken a look at how were treating the world as we are now doing, but there was a undercurrent of distrust and criticism as epitomized in this song.

As it is when it comes to rehearsals there is a lot of repetition. Everyone has to learn their parts (I don't remember mine), and I imagine there was a lot of waiting for other people to get up to speed. But, the unfortunate victim of this exercise was the song. I came to hate it. I would cringe when I heard it on the radio. I think my brain has selectively deleted the incident of singing it en mass that eventual Friday morning. Even the mention of the group that composed it, the Five Man Electrical Band, gives me chills. That's most unfortunate too. Because now after all these years I found it they were a Canadian group that did well on the American charts. Their best known hit was "Signs."

Verse 1
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 working for you



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

Now that's just a sample of a great song. It sold 1.3 million 45 rpm records in its day. It had a great melody and a good hook. You could not help but singing along. But, I never bought the single or its album or anything that had to do with this band all because of the I Am A Stranger Here incident.

Sometimes great intentions can lead to bad ideas. If it was amusing that thirty Grade Sixers of varying abilities to sing should impress a number of teacher and parents (i.e., adults) on that fateful day; if that was the whole idea (because as children we weren't doing the Ebert thing taking note of how skillfully Mrs. Schultz's class performed King Richard III), then it was a bad idea. Such ideas should be thought through for their potential. Yes, I am still angry after all these years. What a shame. Well, it wasn't my idea that we learn the dang song. As I write this maybe it was because there was no benefit in it for me. No one came to watch our class (or me) participate. I got no reward. How many of my classmates had a parent who really cared enough to come on a cold Friday morning to listen? Well, I have gotten far more deeper than I wanted to go when I started this article...

Like many groups of that era, the Five Man Electrical Band are together again. Much older than during their heyday. They are probably worth seeing in concert. Just hope they don't play that song, what's it called again?

Five Man Electrical Band live on The Mike Bullard Show

1 comment:

Just a Prairie Boy said...

After i wrote this article i spent some time on the band's website. It culminated in leaving a message on their guestbook. I didn't expect a reply from the band, but did receive one from Gary Latendresse via my email account. I was pleasantly surprised. Gary said indeed the band was playing again, having just completed a gig on Saturday night in Barrie that was a lot of fun to do; the audience had a good time too.

It sure was nice of Gary to write back.