This was the breakout single for Dream Theater. However it was actually a late addition to Images and Words. This was down to former Kerrang! journalist Derek Oliver, who had moved onto A&R work. Having taken the band under his wing, he'd suggested they write one more song for inclusion and this was the result.
The song's working title was "Oliver's Twist" in tribute to Derek Oliver.
After 8 minutes and 11 seconds, this song suddenly ends mid-note. The abrupt finish was inspired by The Beatles track "I Want You (She's So Heavy)
" from their Abbey Road
Lyrically, this song refers to William Shakespeare's play Hamlet, and especially the Danish prince's wish to give in to his desire to gain revenge for his father at the cost of his own sanity. At the end of the song, there is a direct quote from the play, "Oh that this too, too sullied flesh would melt."
This peaked at #10 on the Billboard Magazine Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, to date the only Top 10 hit the band has ever had.
The song's success was a surprise to everyone in the band. "It's over eight minutes long, never meant to be a single," guitarist John Petrucci recalled to Germany's Gitarre & Bass. "Again, the songs being played on the radio were nothing like Dream Theater, but, for some reason, it must have stuck out to where people were calling the radio stations: 'What is that band? Oh my God! I wanna hear that song again.'"
"And that kind of snowballed and grew, and 'Pull Me Under' became a rock radio hit," he continued. "And I remember at the time I was living in New Jersey, on the East Coast of the US, and I'd turn on the radio and I'd hear it all the time. It was a cool feeling."