Running to 5 minutes 49 seconds, the enigmatic "Life In Dark Water" is the 3rd
track on the 1978 Time Passages
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 emigrated 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!
Alexander Baron - London, England