Walk on the Ocean

Album: Fear (1991)
Charted: 18

Songfacts®:

  • Is the ocean a metaphor for heaven? Is the song about Jesus?

    To answer these questions, we asked Toad the Wet Sprocket lead singer Glen Phillips, who writes their lyrics. He told us that the band's guitarist Todd Nichols had composed the music, so Glen bashed out a lyric for the demo in about five minutes. A few weeks earlier, he had taken a vacation with his wife to Orcas Island in Washington State, so he had images of cleansing water in his cortex. "I wrote down literally the first thing that came across my mind," he said. "The lyric and the chorus, I have no idea what it means, unfortunately. Then I tried rewriting it and nothing ever really worked. I tried to make the chorus mean something, and eventually said, 'Well, it sounds like I know what I'm talking about.' So we just left it as is. It was the least-conscious, least-crafted lyric."
  • The verses in this song tell a semblance of a story, but Phillips describes the chorus as "nonsense" (wood becomes bone?!).

    He likens this songwriting style to Nirvana's where the song might not make much sense, but it makes you feel something.
  • Fear was Toad the Wet Sprocket's third album, and their breakthrough. Released in August 1991, the album picked up steam when radio stations started playing its second single, "All I Want." The anti-rape but often misinterpreted "Hold Her Down" was the next single, and that one flopped. "Walk on the Ocean" was then issued as the last single from the album, and it was a hit, reaching its peak chart position in January 1993.
  • Apparently, some people thought this was a Billy Joel song when they heard it. When Joel appeared on a Howard Stern town hall presentation in 2014, Stern asked the singer about it and said he was convinced it was one of Billy's songs when he heard it. Joel said he had never heard the song before.

Comments: 2

  • Ken from TexasThis song makes me cry. I'm not sure why. Before I ever read the lyrics, I heard the line, "Wood becomes bone" as "Woe becomes hope". Songs that pour out of a writer with minimal effort are often the best. The universe speaks to us on multiple levels.....we just have to listen.
  • Jim from UsaOdd that they say the lyrics were mostly random. It comes across as something profound about insincere small talk and people in general.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Tony Banks of Genesis

Tony Banks of GenesisSongwriter Interviews

Genesis' key-man re-examines his solo career and the early days of music video.

Lita Ford

Lita FordSongwriter Interviews

Lita talks about how they wrote songs in The Runaways, and how she feels about her biggest hit being written by somebody else.

Mark Arm of Mudhoney

Mark Arm of MudhoneySongwriter Interviews

When he was asked to write a song for the Singles soundtrack, Mark thought the Seattle grunge scene was already overblown, so that's what he wrote about.

Yacht Rock Quiz

Yacht Rock QuizFact or Fiction

Christopher Cross with Deep Purple? Kenny Loggins in Caddyshack? A Fact or Fiction all about yacht rock and those who made it.

Charlotte Caffey of The Go-Go's

Charlotte Caffey of The Go-Go'sSongwriter Interviews

Charlotte was established in the LA punk scene when a freaky girl named Belinda approached her wearing a garbage bag.

How "A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss" Became Rock's Top Proverb

How "A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss" Became Rock's Top ProverbSong Writing

How a country weeper and a blues number made "rolling stone" the most popular phrase in rock.