The Electric Company’s “Sign Song”

From my earliest TV-watching years, I remember we had a movable antenna on the roof that you could orient based on which channel you wanted to watch. You had your pick of three or four channels, depending on your appetite for static and snow.

By the time we got cable TV, thereby enabling our local PBS affiliate, I was already past the Mister Rogers and Sesame Street years. But I was in the demographic sweet spot for The Electric Company. And because nothing ever goes away anymore, I now have the pleasure of sitting in front of YouTube with my daughter and dredging up my favorite bits of 1970s educational TV.

For example, I was trying to remember all the words to the Sign Song that starts off like this: I like fish food, you do too. Don’t look now your hair is blue. Doesn’t sound so clever, eh? Well, here it is. Judge for yourself.

Just you try not humming that later on today.

In fact, looking back years later, I’m amazed at the talent they drummed up for that show. Morgan Freeman was a regular on the show. And although I knew that Tom Lehrer wrote the LY song for The Electric Company, I was surprised to learn via YouTube that he actually wrote a handful of other tunes, including the Silent E and the charming N Apostrophe T number that I only just discovered.

It’s amusing to think that my daughter is watching this on a small screen with low quality video, just like I did in the 70s, only for her it’s a TCP/IP feed to a small corner of my computer monitor.

2 thoughts on “The Electric Company’s “Sign Song””

  1. As a product of the (early 70’s)-California Public School System, I must say that I cannot bear to watch this. In Third Grade this show was actually part of our CURRICULUM. They would wheel a TV in on a stand, with the help of a nerdy fifth grade A.V. assistant(Oh, lucky boy!) and dim the lights. If I remember correctly the teacher would either leave or take a nap at the back of the room as we were forced to endure this show. Perhaps it was more enjoyable in a less prison-like environment.

  2. We had library time at my lower-elementary school (K-3). Maybe three times a week or something like that (and it may have been more in the dead of winter when they wanted to spare us some outdoor recess time, but that’s a very vague memory.) They had a TV-on-a-stand in the library there, and maybe once a week they’d play Electric Company for us. Actually watching it was optional. I played a lot of chess and Oh-Wah-Ree and read things like “Mrs. Frisbee and the Rats of NIMH” because I’d seen all the Electric Company episodes already at home. I think they (often? occasionally?) played Sesame Street for us too, and the consensus was that (even in the early days when Big Bird was the primary point-of-view rather than today’s watered-down Elmo) it was pitched below us, whereas Electric Company was about right.

    Now as for that specific clip – I have to admit that I didn’t recognize the song from Ned’s text description, but about three words into it, it all came rushing back and I was able to get ahead of the ends of most of the lines… it really makes me wonder how much storage capacity the brain has, and how much of mine is filled with this kind of stuff lying dormant.


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