Music Review: The Diving Bell's "Pacific Pearl Co. 1869"

If you read this blog long enough, you'll find out I love folk music, singer-songwriters, and bands that cross traditional genre boundaries.

What especially grabs my attention is bands whose song lyrics tell a captivating story or spark my imagination in some way.

Here's this week's example: a song from a Chicago-based indie folk rock band The Diving Bell. (Full disclosure: The band's founder is my husband's cousin, Steve Hendershot.)

Hendershot and his band collaborated on the video below with the writer whose book inspired the song and the band's name: James P. Delgado, author of "Misadventures of a Civil War Submarine: Iron, Guns and Pearls."

The song is called "Pacific Pearl Co. 1869," and it's about the first successful deep-diving submersible, built in 1864 by Julius H. Kroehl. He intended it to be used in the Civil War, but it was completed too late, and so was repurposed as a pearl diving ship for use off the Pacific coast of Panama.

I hope you enjoy the song — the harmonies, the writing, the strings, and the lead vocals — as much as I did. I hope you enjoy the story, too.

Here's a live performance of the same song that was recorded for submission to NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts contest:

The lyrics are below.

"Pacific Pearl Co. 1869," by The Diving Bell

We sailed the first great submarine
Sank down in that dark machine, oh yeah
We dove where no one had before
Breathing on the ocean floor, oh yeah
Saw the bottom of the world
It was empty, it was cold
We set the craft ashore
Stood there like the fools we were, oh yeah
Just like the fools we were, like the fools we were

The violent will of technology
Transcends every boundary, oh yeah
The bright blue sea turns violet and then black
Seven fathoms deep
Yet we dove to harvest pearls
And found a barren reef
So you can build the first great submarine
And still a failure be
And still a failure be, still a failure be

Julius, the engineer
Poured the rum and built the fire, oh yeah
The ocean is vain and she is cruel
And loath to suffer fools
We passed the bottle and we sang
For history and for shame
Behold the bitter monument
Mourn the deepest diver, spent
O the bitter monument, the bitter monument

The men all went their separate ways
Mostly back home to the states, so yeah
‘Til just the engineer remained
Where his heart and vessel lay, so yeah
At the low tide, he would meet
Her there along the shore
And the wind would echo forth
The beauty of her form and force
The beauty of her form, beauty of her force

That was 1869
In spring 2001
They found her crusted through with pearls
And heard their quiet song
Heard their song, heard their quiet song

More about The Diving Bell

If you'd like to read the full story behind the song "Pacific Pearl Co. 1869," visit this page. To get updates about The Diving Bell's upcoming Midwest shows, visit their website or "Like" the band's Facebook page.

Read more posts in the Groovy Tuesday series here.

You may also like


Unknown said...

What a cool review of Pacific Pearl Co. 1869. Thanks, Rachel!

Rachel E. Watson said...

You're welcome! Thanks for sharing your musical abilities with the world! :)