"Fold, Spindle..."

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Mar 1 00:42:56 UTC 2002

At 5:44 PM -0500 2/28/02, Mark A Mandel wrote:
>On Thu, 28 Feb 2002, Richard Gage wrote:
>#       The impersonality of identification numbers became a staple
>#of 1960s counterculture: Phil Ochs sang "You've given me a
>#number and you've taken off my name."

This line comes from his "I'm Gonna Say It Now", a 1965 song which begins
Oh, I am just a student, sir, and I only want to learn
But its hard to read through the rising smoke of the books that you
       like to burn
So I'd like to make a promise and I'd like to make a vow
That when I've got something to say, sir, I'm going to say it now.

Oh, you've given me a number and you've taken off my name
To get around this campus, why, I'd almost need a plane
And you're supporting Chiang Kai-Shek, while I'm supporting Mao
So when I've got something to say, sir, I'm going to say it now.
I have no idea where if anywhere this song was supposed to be "set",
but I always imagined (when I listened to it in the 'sixties) that it
was U. C. Berkeley, and I pictured the "you" as someone very much
like Clark Kerr, which makes it dovetail nicely with the role of
Berkeley and Kerr in the Free Speech Movement from this same period
as discussed earlier in this thread.  I have no idea if Phil Ochs
went to college at Berkeley or anywhere else, but thanks to the
wonders of the internet, we can view photos of him playing his guitar
and singing, along with Joan Baez, I. F. Stone and others at a big
Free Speech Movement rally on campus there just a year or so before
the song was written.  (See
http://home.att.net/~enfield/fsm_gallery.htm, which comes up when you
google on "Phil Ochs Berkeley".)   As additional evidence, we have
this testimony, from another site
``The BBC has produced a 26 part documentary called something like A
PEOPLE'S CENTURY-- it's an attempt to provide a social history of the
twentieth century from a non-elitist perspective, i.e., interviews
and film of "average" folk struggling through the century. I believe
episode #20 is concerned with the sixties: Civil Rights, anti-war
movements and the like. In the section dealing with student rights,
especially the rights of college students to change curriculum,
living conditions, and related matters, a short clip of Phil is
shown: he's singing I Going To Say It Now to a group of students,
almost certainly in California, and probably at Berkeley.''
I'm not sure whether this is coincidence, synchronicity, or
seriality, but I think it's nice.


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