Life In Dark Water

Album: Time Passages (1978)
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • Running to 5 minutes 49 seconds, the enigmatic "Life In Dark Water" is the 3rd track on the 1978 Time Passages album.

    When he introduced it at the Capitol Theatre, Passiac, New Jersey on November 12 that year, Al said it was a song about being buried alive at the bottom of the ocean in a submarine.

    "I have no idea why I should write a song like this, but I did, so I might as well sing it."

    He went on to allude to the Marie Celeste which he said was a 19th Century sailing boat that was found abandoned in the Atlantic, the crew having apparently left in a hurry with half-eaten meals and half-smoked cigars on board. In fact, Al is wrong here, but the confusion was understandable in a pre-Internet age.

    On December 4, 1872, a ship called the Mary Celeste was found abandoned off the Azores; it had been transporting a cargo of ethanol, and one of the more plausible explanations of the mystery was that there had been an explosion on board, and the captain had made an error of judgment, ordering the ship to be abandoned believing it to have been sinking.

    There was an official inquiry which although inconclusive did not allude to half-eaten meals or anything of that nature. The legend grew for the usual reasons but also in this case because in the January 1884 issue of The Cornhill Magazine, Arthur Conan Doyle (who not only created Sherlock Holmes but believed in fairies!) published a short story called J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement in which he alluded to the Marie Celeste.

    Returning to Al's song, the narrator - who is on a nuclear submarine - may be the last man in the world, having pushed all those red buttons. Then again he may not. The song is so enigmatic, that even the man who wrote it doesn't know what it is really about!

    Al was born in Glasgow and had lived most of his life in England, establishing himself on the London folk circuit before his massive hit Years Of The Cat after which he immigrated to California. Although he had been living in the States only for a short time when this track was recorded, it is noticeable that he uses the very American pronunciation of war-der as opposed to water, although by the new millennium he had realised the error of his ways when the song "Turning It Into Water" was enunciated correctly! >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England

Comments: 4

  • PeteYes the internet has removed all confusion!
  • Richard from TexasI'm friends with Brian Savage. Pretty darned good Sax player!
  • Bf from North Salmon CreekSurely you're leaving that "s" to see who reads to the end of the article... the title of that big hit refers to only one year vis a vis cats. Otherwise, a revealing narrative of an enigmatic song. I just heard it broadcast on my local folk music publicly funded station. I wish Al shares more mysterious songs with us.
  • Tony from San DiegoPretty decent song
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Rock Stars of Horror

Rock Stars of HorrorMusic Quiz

Rock Stars - especially those in the metal realm - are often enlisted for horror movies. See if you know can match the rocker to the role.

Danny Clinch: The Art of Rock Photography

Danny Clinch: The Art of Rock PhotographySong Writing

One of rock's top photographers talks about artistry in photography, raising funds for a documentary, and enjoying a County Fair with Tom Waits.

John Lee Hooker

John Lee HookerSongwriter Interviews

Into the vaults for Bruce Pollock's 1984 conversation with the esteemed bluesman. Hooker talks about transforming a Tony Bennett classic and why you don't have to be sad and lonely to write the blues.

David Sancious

David SanciousSongwriter Interviews

Keyboard great David Sancious talks about his work with Sting, Seal, Springsteen, Clapton and Aretha, and explains what quantum physics has to do with making music.

Taylor Dayne

Taylor DayneSongwriter Interviews

Taylor talks about "The Machine" - the hits, the videos and Clive Davis.

Joe Elliott of Def Leppard

Joe Elliott of Def LeppardSongwriter Interviews

The Def Leppard frontman talks about their "lamentable" hit he never thought of as a single, and why he's juiced by his Mott The Hoople cover band.