Educating Peter # 2

July 1, 2012

We continue our series in the efforts of my friend Michael (Hi, Michael!) to get me to reappraise my thinking about my least favourite music decade, the 1980s.

Before we get to the song, I must confess that this is actually the third Educating Peter submission that Michael sent me. The second one was a batch of three songs by the one artist. As I started writing about the three songs I realised I was running out of time to post them here today. So I’ve had to go with this third one. I know this probably makes no difference to anyone at all – I just wanted to clarify things so that I don’t get Michael sending me a sharply worded email along the lines of “Hey, what happened to those three songs I sent you?”. And I’ll try to have it ready by next week.

Okey dokey. To the song.

It’s “I Wanna Be A Lifeguard” by American band Blotto. I’ve never heard it before.

Apparently this song charted in 1980, so it could be considered an 80’s song, but I’ve checked and it was originally released (on an EP) in 1979. That’s fine by me.

This will be a running commentary. (Hopefully it won’t be a steam-of-consciousness kind of thing, without any punctuation or grammar that’ll give you a headache. Well, no more of a headache than you usually get when you read my comments.)

Blotto – “I Wanna Be A Lifeguard” (1979)


OK. It starts à laWipe Out“. That’s fair enough. But then an ultra-cheesy organ comes in (at 0:15) that let’s you know precisely what year this was recorded. Now it’s 0:30 and the singer has started singing. “Sellin’ shoes, another loser…”. This is horrid. And immediately after the singer’s opening line, the backing singers sing “Working in a shopping mall”. This is even more horrid. As I’m listening, I’m noticing that the production is anaemic (although the snare drum that’s too loud has been artifically double-tracked to try and give it a beefier sound – it’s not working). I’m also noticing that this would qualify quite easily as a skinny-tie power pop song (or New Wave as it was called back then). Ooh, the melody of the backing vocals reminds me of something. I’ll try to think of what it is as we go along. I’m now paying more attention to the lyrics. It seems that, for the purposes of the song, the singer is a shoe salesman in a shopping mall. “Sweaty socks, a female boxer, what’s she got against fresh air?” This is ghastly. And one thing that makes it ghastly is that he basically yelps “what’s she got against fresh air”. Oh-oh: this is a novelty song. And I haven’t even gotten to the chorus. Gulp. I’m not looking forward to this…

It’s now 0:57 and the chorus has begun. “I want an ocean and some sunscreen lotion”. OK. I can live with that. “Take me to the beach with a thousand pretty girls in reach”. Grrr. The grammar nerd in me wants the singer to sing “…a thousand pretty girls within reach”, but he only had one syllable to sing in that part of the line, so I suppose “…in reach” will have to do. Ah well.

Now it’s 1:11 and this may actually be the chorus. (I have a feeling that the bit from 0:57 until now was a pre-chorus refrain interlude thingy – i.e., a little piece of song between verse and chorus.) The “Wipe Out” drums have come back, and the singer, accompanied by the backing vocals, is singing “I wanna be a lifeguard”. So far, so-so, but now (1:15) the backing vocals are chanting “Help! Help! Help! Help!”. When I heard that my mouth opened, and it stayed open until they stopped. But as soon as they stopped that dreadful chant, and I closed my mouth, the singer sang “I wanna guard your life”. Really? He actually sang “I wanna guard your life”?

I’ve just discovered this song goes for four minutes. And I’ve only listened to one minute and twenty seconds of it so far.

Oh no, it’s 1:20 and the chorus still going. The singer’s singing “I wanna be a lifeguard” again. Please, please, please don’t let those background singers shout out “Help!” repeatedly again… Phew. They didn’t. They just shouted out “Lifeguard!” instead (as if it was “Batman!“). Now the background vocals are singing “Lifeguard” and the lead singer is responding in the gaps. He sings “Hardly any clothes” then “Sand between my toes” then “White stuff on my nose”. Well, why not?

1:42 and the chorus has finished. (Thank you.) Now it’s back to the “Wipe Out” drums. Oh, it’s an instrumental break.

2:09 and the second verse has begun. Wait a minute. The singer’s singing the same thing he sang in the first verse: “Sellin’ shoes, another loser…” I hope this isn’t a direct repeat of the first verse. No, instead of his next line from the first verse he’s singing something different now: “I’m gettin’ fat, what does it matter? Nobody cares at all”. I must admit that I’m not warming to the character in the song. What a moaner. But at least in the next couple of lines he’s singing about looking forward to becoming a lifeguard. In one of those lines he sings “…convert the feet into meters marking distance at the swimming pool”, which I found an enjoyably bizarre line.

2:43 and it’s the second chorus. The backing vocals sound like they’re trying to be The Beach Boys with the way they sing “Be a big man now, get a great tan now”. And the singer just sang “I wanna guard your life” again. Grrr.

3:13 and the chorus is being repeated. Oh no. The backing singers just shouted “Help! Help! Help! Help!” again.

3:50 and the songs ends with a flourish, which I actually enjoyed (as opposed to the previous three minutes and fifty seconds). And the band added a faint sound of the ocean to fade the song gently (although the sound of the ocean ends abruptly on the copy of the MP3 I have).

Well, I’ve now listened to the song in its entirety. I really don’t want to listen to it again.