Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"The Signs Says, Long, Haired Freaky People Need Not Apply!"

At the corner of Johnson and University Avenue circa 1971.
"Signs, sign, everywhere a sign,
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind,
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?"

Signs like these, who needs art directors, ha!

A few weeks ago, someone posted on Google+ a bevy of humorous signs that had slogans to advertise a company's services. They are just chocked full of word play and double entendres, like: At a Towing company: "We don't charge an arm and a leg. We want tows." or, On an Electrician's truck: "Let us remove your shorts." And, one can imagine the companies with employee names like: Uramus B. Dragon, or Al E. Gater, or, Haywood U. Buzzov!

It's kinda fun

The posted article got me thinking about that song by the Five Man Electric Band entitled,"Signs!" In the song, the singer is rebuffed and ridiculed, right and left, for being different which, in the sixties, meant having long hair. They slyly ended with a religious last verse, which I always thought was interesting. The first "hippie" fallout song that touted religion as a way to solve or cope with all the horrible and divisive things happening in the sixties, drug culture included, was, to me, "Get Together" by the Youngbloods. I believe that was in 1968. It seemed strangely different from what was then known as "the devil's music."

Norman Greenbaum's, "Spirit In The Sky"came in a bit later mentioning Jesus and being saved… Nice riff, but Norman Greenbaum!

Okay, enough rock'n roll history! What does this have to do with a billboard for a bank?

The song by the "Five Man Electrical Band" will forever be embedded in my head because my first professional job, was, as ad design student at USL in Lafayette, LA, an overnight job illustrating a gold pocket watch for a billboard. The billboard was newly constructed atop a fashion boutique and adjacent to a "head shop"and was directly across the street from the campus.

I was so proud that an agency thought enough of my talent to hire me for the job and to get paid to do it. That first job paid me $180.00, which was pretty good bread back then. But, more importantly, it proved to me that I could make a living as an artist and that I did have something of value… my talent. This billboard was done before I graduated from USL, before I split to Dallas and turned down a junior A.D. job at Tracey/ Locke and it was before I got accepted to attend the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. It probably was one of the portfolio pieces that helped me get accepted.

Thanks Richard Heubner!

Besides being confident in my athletic prowess, back then, this board helped me feel like I was a valid member of the design community. To me, back then, it was everything more than just a check. So, I told everyone I knew…

Of course, this was in 1971, and all my "long haired hippy people" friends showed their disgust with me for polluting the air, blocking the view of oak trees, the blue skies, and the flowers in everyone's Scott McKenzie head. It was almost like I was someone who had just returned from the Vietnam War!

Ah yes, it is so true, the sign says…

Copyright 2014/ Ben Bensen III

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