If you clap on the one and three, you can’t really get into the game, Faces.

It takes more than the minimum amount of rhythmic ability to play. You want to have at least 10 people for a good session. Each player chooses a sign, or face..to present to the rest of the players in time with the music. On the following beat, the sign of another player is given. Whenever you see your sign done by someone else, you pick it up and keep it going by doing another sign, and so on. The key is always the rhythm. We played this game in the band room and at parties. We had parties just to play this game.

We grew to know each others signs by heart….Marlene was touching the nose, Gwen tugged her ear, Penny stuck out her tongue, Ronald used the universal sign for masturbation. I forgot what Tellis’ was, and many of the others. (Who touched the elbow?…the black power fist?) One of my favorites was the sign Donzell came up with because to do his sign you had to bring your hands up from your side, about 10 inches to the front at about eye level. Let your wrists go limp, then vigorously shake and shimmy your fingers. (Who had the Black Power fist?) Donzell’s sign was probably the most often used in the game because it was like an expression of frustration.

The first game, I think, broke in the band room at Northwestern High. We had so many players, we had to start eliminating people who kept messing up. Faces evolved into a core group of about 10 who were really good. It was a group effort whose sole mission was to go through the entire song without anyone once missing a sign. The two tunes most associated with Faces are Doctor John’s “Right Place Wrong Time” and our theme song, “Fencewalk” by Mandrill.

In the chunk funk of Fencewalk were many places to stretch out rhythmically. We got so good we changed the rules so you could do a little extra signing…as long as you finished up on the beat. Folks were waiting until the last possible millisecond to sign. Another thing we liked to do was fake out somebody by simply appearing to do a particular sign.

Billy Cobham’s “Red Baron” took about 7 minutes, and if we made it through that tune without losing it, we cheered like we just won tickets on the Freedom Train.

William Stephenson

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