Atlantis

Album: Barabajagal (1969)
Charted: 23 7

Songfacts®:

  • This song begins as a long narrative poem in which Donovan tells of the legendary island of Atlantis. Exotic and mythological images were on the minds of many Hippies in the '60s, and Atlantis was the symbol of the conterculture moment with the hope that if true love is found, Atlantis will be reached. The only sung lines in the song are:

    Way down beneath the ocean
    Where I wanna be she may be
  • The background vocals are credited as "Donovan's fans." It is rumored that Paul McCartney, who had earlier contributed to Donovan's hit "Mellow Yellow," sang backing vocals, although some sources state that the song was recorded while McCartney was in Scotland.
  • In America, this was released as the B-side of "To Susan On The West Coast Waiting," which entered Billboard's Top 40 in March 1969 and left after just two weeks, peaking at #35. "Atlantis," though, started getting some airplay and climbed to #7 in May.
  • The song was used in a violent scene in the movie Goodfellas. Asked by Uncut magazine what he thought about his song being used in the film, Donovan replied.

    "I embrace the use of my songs in film, TV and ads, as it is the most direct way to communicate today. Then the question is, do I care whether it's in a violent scene? But I've studied film and I know about juxtaposition - you can't present a violent scene with a violent piece of music, you have to contrast it with the opposite. When I knew it was Scorsese's film, I didn't even have to see the scene – I said, fine, let them use it. It's caused a lot of disturbance in my fan world, but it was an honor to be asked by a great director to use 'Atlantis' in a violent scene as it points out the futility of violence."
  • Donovan re-recorded the song as a parody "Hail Atlantis" on the animated series Futurama. He also redid the song with the German group No Angels for the German soundtrack of Atlantis: The Lost Empire entitled "Atlantis 2002." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Sara - Silver Spring, MD, for all above

Comments: 6

  • Finatelli from São Paulo,brazilI'd like to do an observation: The correct lyrics is" Way down below The Ocean...and not " ..beneath The Ocean.
  • Larry from CanadaRandy, no I'm not a Nam vet ... I did however spend a 30 year Navy career commencing in '73. A number of my earlier peers did see a somewhat different side of Nam than an Army guy and your sentiment about this tune and Donovan himself is spot on for a lot of us. Thankyou. Sara ..., yes , a lovely song and for those that wish to remain literal in their life, so be it. You are correct, their comments rank right up there with stupid. This is a meaningful ballad of love and hope. So well put together. Enjoy it, for what it is.
  • Randy from Fayettevile, ArWhen "Atlantis" was entering the Top Ten in 1969, I was entering Vietnam, courtesy of the US Army. I still love the song & Donovan. The song was popular while I was in "Nam & got good airplay by AFVN (the military radio station there). So, whenever I hear it on these oldies stations now it bring back some good & some bad memories of the times. My brother bought the album "Barabajagal" in 1969 so when I got out of the Army and got home I got to hear & love that LP. Actually, I've been a Donovan fan since his "Catch The Wind" hit from years earlier. So, this is a special song to me.
  • Oldpink from New Castle, InMartin Scorsese used this song in the movie "Goodfellas" for the scene where Billy Batts is brutally beaten to death by Joe Pesci and Robert Deniro.
    The juxtaposition of this beautiful song with incredible violence is a very shocking moment, and very effective.
  • Sara from Silver Spring, MdOn a website about Atlantis it says that many of the things described in the song are not the way Plato described them: Plato did not write of a "great flood" but of floods and earthquakes.
    Africa wasn't a neighbor, the Alanteans did not know of their fate, there were ten Altantean kings not "twelve", etc.
    I'm sure this is just taken from the original view of the song and Donovan did his own view after reading a book on Atlantis.
  • Sara from Silver Spring, MdIt's "Hail Atlanta" not "Hail Atlantis" on Futurama. It was written around the same time as "Hey Jude" but not as long.
    Oddly enough Stephen King a devoted Donovan fan refers to this in a negative light (as stupid) in
    the book Hearts in Atlantis while on an episode of
    "Stargate Atlantis" Jack O'Neil refers to it as a "negative Donovan song". That is pretty stupid enough. Such a pretty song has been riduculed again and again!
see more comments

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