Lifeboat

[Image: 'On The Fritz' Front Cover]

Sections:

Lyrics

Teacher: Good morning, class!

Class: Good morning, Mrs. Aryan.

Teacher: Today we're going to play a game!

Class: Yay!

Teacher: This game is called Lifeboat. All together...

Class: Lifeboat!

Teacher: Good! Lifeboat is a lesson in values clarification. Can you say values clarification?

Class: No.

Teacher: Values clarification is where your little minds decide which lives are worth living and which lives are worth ... ahem ... not living. Now here's how we play. A big ship just sank. There are five people on the lifeboat. But the lifeboat is only made for two. I'll list the five people on the chalkboard, and you, class, will decide which three will be thrown overboard. Are we ready?

Class: Yes, Mrs. Aryan.

Teacher: Good! First, there's an old, old crippled grandfather. Second, there's a mentally handicapped person in a wheelchair.

Alison: What's mentally handicapped?

Teacher: It means they can never be a productive members of society. Third, there's an overweight woman on welfare, with a sniffling, whimpering baby.

Max: Is the baby on welfare, too?

Teacher: Let's not push Mrs. Aryan...

Sydney: Who else is in the boat?

Teacher: A young, white doctor with blue eyes and perfect teeth, and Joan Collins. Now, class, take five minutes to make your decision. Times up! Well class?

Class: Throw over grandpa 'cause he's getting pretty old
Throw out the baby or we'll all be catching it's cold
Throw over fatty and we'll see if she can float
Throw out the retard, and they won't be rocking the boat

Teacher: Very good! That was fun, wasn't it?

Class: Yes, Mrs. Aryan.

Teacher: For our next lesson, we're going to do an experiment!

Class: Yay!

Teacher: We're going to test the law of gravity, just like Galileo, by dropping two objects out the window, one heavy and one light, to see which one hits the sidewalk first. Now what shall we use for the lighter object? I'm thinking of something small and square...

Class: An eraser?

Teacher: Good! And what shall we use for the heavy object? I'm thinking of something round and bouncy. Tommy, I haven't given you permission to leave your seat. Class, the bell has not rung. What do you... oh! Oh! Class, put me down! Class, put me down this instant! What? What are you? Oh! Oh! Oh!

Class: Throw over teacher and we'll see if she can bounce
We've learned our lesson, teacher says perfection's what counts
She's getting old and gray and wears an ugly coat
Throw over teacher and we'll play another game of lifeboat

Throw over grandpa 'cause he's getting pretty old
Throw out the baby or we'll all be catching it's cold
Throw over fatty and we'll see if she can float
Throw out the retard, and they won't be rocking the boat

Yay!


Recorded Appearances

Bootlegs


About The Song

From Clone Club News Flash Winter 1986, Winter 1986:

When I was a kid in elementary school, I remembered the teacher having us play a game called "Lifeboat". In it, we were informed that a big ship had just gone down, and that there were five people left onboard a lifeboat built for two. After hearing a description of the five, it was our job to decide which three would be tossed overboard.

The game is still being played in various forms in public schools today in order to teach a concept called "values clarification". It occurred to me how absurd it is to teach children that it is their responsibility to decide who is going to live and die, and how at odds that is with the Christian ideal that all human life is created in God's image and therefore sacred. The song "Lifeboat" is the result.

From Who Does Not Want To Be a Clone?, Campus Life, January 1987:

I don't even know if "Lifeboat" belonged on an album. If I had bought the LP, after playing it two or three times, I'd skip over that song. But as a writer, sometimes you have this idea you just have to get out, so you go ahead and put it on the record.

I toured once with Rez Band and stayed with them in their community, Jesus People U.S.A. While I was there, I really hit it off with the little kids--5- and 6-year-olds. We'd do stuff together in the afternoon--play marbles or something. The kids were also really into the music and memorized some of my songs.

Now, one of the guys from Rez Band tells me, "I wish you would come back to JPUSA and talk to these kids about that song. They're singing the chorus in the halls!" [Throw over fatty and we'll see if he can float, etc.] I thought, Oh great! Talk about being a consistent example! There is a risk in writing this satirical stuff...it's going to be misunderstsood. Not just by 5-year-olds, either.

From Now The Truth Can Be Told Liner Notes & Song-By-Song Essays, Now The Truth Can Be Told Insert Booklet, August 23rd, 1994:

The making of this song and it's subsequent video (featuring the "world's ugliest woman") could fill this entire booklet. As a kid, I'd played the infamous "lifeboat" game in grade school, and although I couldn't even pronounce "values clarification," I had a vague notion my parents wouldn't approve of little Stevie and his classmates deciding who deserved to die. How to turn it into a song? Fools walk in where artists fear to tread...

I went into the studio armed with nothing more than a chord chart and a vague concept, and I kept putting off finishing it because I couldn't come up with the right story line. By the eleventh hour I'd thrown together what amounted to a script, but there wasn't any money left to hire the actress to play the teacher. The do-it-yourself ethic prevailed (inevitably taken to its tragic conclusion in the concept video), and I even convinced the parents of a local New Jersey congregation into letting their kids play the class. What ensued on recording day was me (sans dress--what do you think I am, a method actor?) trying to explain satire to twelve impressionable young minds. ("The song we're about to sing should not be sung to our friends at school, because we don't call people 'retard' or 'fatty,' do we?")

What was I thinking? And, not to pass the blame, but why did so many of you keep screaming for that song every night on tour, until I finally had to bow to public demand and don a wig and heels every night for an encore? I learned at least one valuable lesson during the experience--if you must do novelty songs, at least have the common decency to save them for the end of the album so they can be easily ignored.