Down by the Water

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This article is about the PJ Harvey song. For the Decemberists song, see The King Is Dead (album).
"Down by the Water"
Single by PJ Harvey
from the album To Bring You My Love
B-side "Lying in the Sun"/"Somebody's Down, Somebody's Name"
Released February 6, 1995 (1995-02-06)
Format CD, 7"
Recorded September–October 1994 (1994-10) at Townhouse Studios in London, United Kingdom
Genre Alternative rock
Length 3:15
Label Island
Writer(s) PJ Harvey
Producer(s) Flood, John Parish, PJ Harvey
PJ Harvey singles chronology
"Man-Size"
(1993)
"Down by the Water"
(1995)
"C'mon Billy"
(1995)

"Down by the Water" is a song by English alternative rock musician PJ Harvey. It is the seventh track and lead single from her third studio album To Bring You My Love, released in February 1995 on Island Records. The song was written by Harvey and self-produced with Flood and John Parish.

The song diverged significantly from Harvey's former indie rock and punk blues influence, opting to use electronic instruments such as a synthesized organ and an orchestral ensemble. "Down by the Water"'s lyrics narrate the tale of a woman drowning her daughter and references the traditional American folk song "Salty Dog Blues."

"Down by the Water" was Harvey's mainstream breakthrough in the United States, where the song reached number 2 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart and received extensive rotation on MTV and college radio stations. The song received critical acclaim upon its release, charting in Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Composition[edit]

"Down by the Water" was written by Harvey and self-produced with Flood and John Parish. The song opens with vocals and a heavy organ played by Harvey. As the song progresses, it incorporates several elements including percussion instruments, drums and an orchestral ensemble. Pete Thomas conducted the string arrangements for the song and the musicians in the ensemble included Sonia Slany on violin, Jocelyn Pook and Jules Singleton on viola, and Sian Bell on cello.[1] The song derives elements from blues and electronica, due to notable use of synthesized organ.

The song's lyrics narrate the story of a woman committing filicide. The woman drowns her daughter "down by the water" and "won't see her again." "Down by the Water"'s final coda features Harvey whispering the lines: "little fish, big fish swimming in the water / come back here, man, gimme my daughter." The refrain was based on Lead Belly's rendition of the traditional American folk song "Salty Dog Blues." In 2005, Harvey used the song's lyrics as an example in Spin to demonstrate that her songs were not autobiographical. She said: "some critics have taken my writing so literally to the point that they'll listen to 'Down by the Water' and believe I have actually given birth to a child and drowned her."[2]

Release and reception[edit]

The song features extensive use of a synthesized organ and features an orchestral ensemble.

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"Down by the Water" was released in the United Kingdom and Australia in February 1995 on Island Records. It was the lead single from To Bring You My Love and pressed on CD and 7" vinyl. The CD single featured one b-side, "Somebody's Down, Somebody's Name", and the 7" and Australian CD single included a second b-side "Lying in the Sun." The song charted in four countries upon its release; peaking at number 78 in Canada,[3] number 28 in Ireland,[4] and number 38 in the United Kingdom.[5] The song charted in two charts in the United States; peaking at number 48 on Billboard' Hot 100 Airplay,[6] and reaching number 2 on the Modern Rock Tracks[7] "Down by the Water" became a modern rock radio hit due to extensive rotation on MTV and college radio stations.

Critical reception to "Down by the Water" was positive. Allmusic editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine noted the song was an Allmusic pick and called Harvey's song-writing "tighter and more melodic than before," adding that "the menacing 'Down by the Water' has genuine hooks."[8] Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times noted that was one of To Bring You My Love' "most gripping moments" adding "she speaks with the captivating clarity and force of someone reaching for a final, life-saving anchor."[9] "Down by the Water" was later nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance at the 38th Grammy Awards.[10]

In 2005, Diplo sampled "Down By The Water" for a remix of the Mike Jones single "Still Tippin'" [11] and then again the following year on Plastic Little's indie rap track "Now I Hollar." [12]

Music video[edit]

The music video for "Down by the Water" was directed by Maria Mochnacz.[13] Due to To Bring You My Love's large promotional push by Island Records, the video received a higher budget than Harvey's two previous music videos for Island. The video was recorded over the course of two days in London with a large crew, by contrast to the "anti-pop" video for "Man-Size," and was shot on 35mm film. Two camera assistants, Seamus McGarvey and Mike Valentine, recorded the separate scenes of the video. McGarvey recorded the dancing scenes and Valentine recorded the underwater scenes.[14] A body double replaced Harvey for some of the underwater sections.[13]

The video features Harvey dancing in a red satin dress with a large wig and excessive make-up. Harvey dubbed her appearance as "Joan Crawford on acid" in an interview with Spin in 1996.[15] Describing the video in an interview with JBTV, she said: "it was a hard video to make actually that one. It was two days worth of jumping in and out of a swimming pool. Well, one day was just in the swimming pool and the other day was just dancing on a rotating platform but it was quite hard-going after all," adding "it was quite scary as well because I was jumping in with a wig which was really, really heavy so it was quite difficult to get to the surface again. And wearing high-heel silver shoes, not the best thing for swimming in."[16]

The video was nominated for Best Female Video at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards.[17]

The video was featured on an episode of Beavis and Butt-head.

Track listings[edit]

UK CD single (IS CID 607)
  1. "Down by the Water" – 3:15
  2. "Somebody's Down, Somebody's Name" – 3:42
UK 7" single (IS 607)
  1. "Down by the Water" – 3:15
  2. "Lying in the Sun" – 4:32
  3. "Somebody's Down, Somebody's Name" – 3:42
US promotional CD (PRCD 6921-2)
  1. "Down by the Water" – 3:15

Personnel[edit]

All personnel credits adapted from To Bring You My Love's liner notes.[1]

Musicians
Guest musicians
Technical personnel

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1995) Peak
position
Canadian RPM Top 100[3] 78
Irish Singles Chart[4] 28
UK Singles Chart[5] 38
US Billboard Hot 100 Airplay[7] 48
US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks[7] 2

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b To Bring You My Love (CD). PJ Harvey. Island Records. 1995. LC 0497. 
  2. ^ Maerz, Melissa (October 2005). "PJ Harvey: Shedding light on British rock's electrifying dark star". Spin 21 (10): 82. Retrieved 4 July 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "RPM 100 Hit Tracks – April 24, 1995" (PDF). RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 4 July 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "The Irish Charts - All there is to know". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 4 July 2012.  N.B. User must define search parameters and enter either "P.J Harvey" into Search By Artist or "Down by the Water" into Search By Song Title.
  5. ^ a b "PJ Harvey | Artist | Official Charts". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved 4 July 2012. 
  6. ^ http://www.unforumzed.com/showthread.php?2904-PJ-Harvey-Chart-History
  7. ^ a b c "PJ Harvey Album & Song Chart History | Billboard.com". Billboard. Retrieved 4 July 2012. 
  8. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. To Bring You My Love – PJ Harvey at AllMusic. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
  9. ^ Hilburn, Robert (26 February 1995). "A Potent Artist for the '90s: Singer-songwriter PJ Harvey". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 July 2012. 
  10. ^ "CNN – List of Grammy nominees – Jan. 4, 1996". CNN. 4 January 1996. Retrieved 4 July 2012. 
  11. ^ http://www.thefader.com/2010/01/21/i-blame-coco-f-robyn-caesar-diplo-remix-mp3/
  12. ^ http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/9700-shes-mature/
  13. ^ a b "PJ Harvey Down by the Water 1995 Video – Maria Mochnacz – Photographer and Director". mariamochnacz.co.uk. Retrieved 4 July 2012. 
  14. ^ "PJ Harvey Down by the Water, 1995 – Maria Mochnacz – Photographer and Director". mariamochnacz.co.uk. Retrieved 4 July 2012. 
  15. ^ Aaron, Charles (1 January 1996). "Artist of the Year: PJ Harvey". Spin (1 January 1996): 58–60. 
  16. ^ PJ Harvey (1995). JBTV with Polly Jean Harvey (TV). Event occurs at 00:24–01:05. 
  17. ^ "MTV Video Music Awards | 1995". MTV. Retrieved 4 July 2012. 

External links[edit]