Down in a Hole

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"Down in a Hole"
Single by Alice in Chains
from the album Dirt
Released August 30, 1993
Format CD
Recorded March–May 1992 at Eldorado Recording Studios in Burbank; London Bridge Studio in Seattle; One on One Studios in Los Angeles
Genre Grunge
Length 5:38
Label Columbia
Songwriter(s) Jerry Cantrell
Producer(s) Alice in Chains, Dave Jerden
Alice in Chains singles chronology
"What the Hell Have I"
"Down in a Hole"
"No Excuses"
"What the Hell Have I"
"Down in a Hole"
"No Excuses"
Dirt track listing
"Rain When I Die"
(Track 3)
"Down in a Hole"
(Track 4)
(Track 5)
Music video
"Down in a Hole" on YouTube

"Down in a Hole" is a power ballad by Alice in Chains, and the last single from their album Dirt (1992). It is the twelfth song on most pressings of the album and fourth or eleventh on others.[1] The single peaked at No. 10 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks, and stayed on the chart for 21 weeks.[2] The song was included on the compilation albums Nothing Safe: Best of the Box (1999) and Music Bank (1999).

Origin and recording[edit]

Songwriter and guitarist Jerry Cantrell was at first hesitant to present the song to the band, feeling that the song was too soft, but after a positive response from the band, they followed through and recorded it.[3] The composition is written in A minor, utilizing Dorian mode, and is centered mainly around Ab minor - Gb major - Db major chord progression, with Layne Staley's and Jerry Cantrell's vocal parts intricately harmonizing.[3]


Jerry Cantrell wrote the song for his then-girlfriend, Courtney Clarke.[4] In the liner notes of 1999's Music Bank box set collection, Jerry Cantrell said of the song:

["Down in a Hole"]'s in my top three, personally. It's to my long-time love. It's the reality of my life, the path I've chosen and in a weird way it kind of foretold where we are right now. It's hard for us to both understand...that this life is not conducive to much success with long-term relationships.[5][6]

Release and reception[edit]

"Down in a Hole" was released as a single in 1993.[7] "Down in a Hole" peaked at number ten on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. The UK single was released in October 1993.[8] "Down in a Hole" reached the top 40 in the UK and the top 30 in Ireland.

Ned Raggett of Allmusic said that "Staley's...half-strangled but still amazingly evocative heartfelt and almost yearning" and that "the end result feels like a ruined man looking for some sort of comfort."[9]

Stereogum said of the song; "Down In A Hole" is an anthem of loss, revulsion, and depression. But it really is an anthem first and foremost. The verses build slowly to a soaring chorus with an irrepressible melody. Staley's pained howl guides the song, but its power derives from Cantrell's terrific harmonies, which give the piece heft and also a sense of unease."[10]

Music video[edit]

"Down in a Hole" became one of the five video-singles from the album Dirt. The music video was released in 1993 and was directed by Nigel Dick. The video is available on the home video release Music Bank: The Videos. Bassist Mike Inez appears in the video although the original track was recorded with original member Mike Starr.

Live performances[edit]

Alice in Chains performed the song live for the first time on October 5, 1992 at the Coca-Cola Starplex in Dallas, Texas.[11]

Alice in Chains performed an acoustic version of "Down in a Hole" for its appearance on MTV Unplugged in 1996, and the song was included on the Unplugged live album and home video release.[12]

Another acoustic live version of "Down in a Hole" featuring new vocalist William DuVall on lead vocals is included on the Japanese version of Black Gives Way to Blue as a bonus track.[13]

Cover versions[edit]

The song was covered by professional baseball player Bronson Arroyo on his 2005 album, Covering the Bases,[14] which lists the song as "Down in the Hole".[15]

Fuel acoustically covered the song in 2007 on AM Radio.[citation needed]

On his low-key 2007 tour—in support of his album Easy Tiger, Ryan Adams covered the song live with his band, The Cardinals.[16] A cover of the song is also featured on Adams' 2007 EP Follow the Lights.[17]

The Vitamin String Quartet recorded an instrumental version of the song for their 2009 album "The String Quartet Tribute to Alice in Chains".[18]

The Christian metal band Demon Hunter perform an acoustic version of the song on the deluxe edition of their 2011 album The World Is a Thorn.[19]

Swedish metal band In Flames covered the song on their covers EP, "Down, Wicked & No Good", released in November 2017.[20]

In popular culture[edit]

"Down in a Hole" was released as downloadable content for the music video game Rocksmith on December 12, 2017, as part of Alice In Chains Song Pack II, which also includes the songs "Rooster", "No Excuses", "Nutshell" and "Heaven Beside You".[21]

Track listing[edit]

CD Single (659751-2)

  1. "Down in a Hole" (radio edit) – 3:53
  2. "Down in a Hole" – 5:40
  3. "What the Hell Have I" – 4:00
  4. "Rooster" – 6:15

12" Single (659751-6)

Side 1

  1. "Down in a Hole"
  2. "A Little Bitter"

Side 2

  1. "Rooster"
  2. "Love, Hate, Love"

7" Single (659751-7)

Side 1

  1. "Down in a Hole" (radio edit)

Side 2

  1. "Rooster"


Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1993) Peak
Ireland (IRMA)[22] 29
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[23] 36
US Mainstream Rock (Billboard)[24] 10


  1. ^ Steve Huey (1992-09-29). "Dirt - Alice in Chains | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved June 2, 2018. 
  2. ^ "Mainstream Rock - Down in a Hole by Alice in Chains". Billboard. Retrieved November 3, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b "Readers' Poll: Best Rock Headphone Song Ever — "Bohemian Rhapsody" (Queen) Vs. "Down in a Hole" (Alice in Chains)". Guitar World. November 10, 2015. Retrieved June 2, 2018. 
  4. ^ "Down in a Hole by Alice in Chains". Song Facts. Retrieved June 2, 2018. 
  5. ^ Liner notes, Music Bank box set. 1999.
  6. ^ "Alice In Chains - Down In A Hole". U of Music. February 13, 2016. Retrieved June 2, 2018. 
  7. ^ "Mainstream Rock Songs - The Week of October 2, 1993". Billboard. Retrieved November 3, 2017. 
  8. ^ Strong, M. C. (1998). The Great Rock Discography. Giunti. p. 87. ISBN 88-09-21522-2. 
  9. ^ Raggett, Ned. "Down in a Hole". Allmusic. Retrieved June 2, 2018. 
  10. ^ "Dirt Turns 20". Stereogum. September 27, 2012. Retrieved June 2, 2018. 
  11. ^ "Alice in Chains Concert Setlist at Coca-Cola Starplex, Dallas on October 5, 1992". Retrieved June 2, 2018. 
  12. ^ "MTV Unplugged - Alice in Chains". AllMusic. Retrieved June 2, 2018. 
  13. ^ "Alice In Chains Black Gives Way To Blue Japanese CD album (CDLP)". Retrieved June 2, 2018. 
  14. ^ "Red Sox's Arroyo Pitches for Grunge". Rolling Stone. August 5, 2005. Retrieved November 17, 2017. 
  15. ^ "Covering the Bases - Bronson Arroyo". AllMusic. Retrieved November 17, 2017. 
  16. ^ "Down in a Hole".
  17. ^ "Follow the Lights - Ryan Adams & the Cardinals". AllMusic. Retrieved November 17, 2017. 
  18. ^ "Vitamin String Quartet - The Vitamin String Quartet Tribute to Alice in Chains". AllMusic. Retrieved November 17, 2017. 
  19. ^ "Demon Hunter - The World Is A Thorn (Digital Deluxe Edition)". Solid State Records. Retrieved November 17, 2017. 
  20. ^ "IN FLAMES Covers DEPECHE MODE, ALICE IN CHAINS, NINE INCH NAILS On 'Down, Wicked & No Good' EP". Blabbermouth. November 17, 2017. Retrieved November 17, 2017. 
  21. ^ "Rocksmith Remastered DLC 12/12/2017 – Alice in Chains II". The Riff Repeater. December 11, 2017. Retrieved January 23, 2018. 
  22. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Alice in Chains". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved December 23, 2016.
  23. ^ "Alice in Chains: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 23, 2016.
  24. ^ "Alice in Chains Chart History (Mainstream Rock)". Billboard. Retrieved December 23, 2016.

External links[edit]