Meaning of Shark Fin Blues by The Drones & The Story Behind

Australia gave the world AC / DC, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, The Saints and other super-popular bands whose hits thundered all over the planet. However, according to a survey conducted by the Triple J channel, local songwriters recognized the song Shark Fin Blues ( by the rock band The Drones as the best song on the Green Continent.

The story behind of creation and meaning

In search of information about the history of the Shark Fin Blues song, I had to rummage a lot on Australian sites. In the end, interesting data was found on the pages of the online community of alternative music lovers Mess + Noise.

Here is an excerpt (abridged) from an interview with Gareth Liddyard, in which The Drones vocalist/guitarist spoke candidly about how he wrote Shark Fin Blues:

I used the old trick. Many resort to it. I don’t know if they’d like me to tell you their names, but… well, you can write a song on top of another song… So, if you’re a little out of breath, you can take someone else’s song – a song you like – and just write your words over it. Later, when you compose a good chord progression, you overlay it on your lyrics and it’s completely different. Let’s say if there were four chords in their sequence, you might have three or five.

As for Shark Fin Blues, I originally went crazy with Karen Dalton’s song, which may not even be her song. An old traditional banjo song called Same Old Man. I wrote mine on top of it… I remember starting with this Karen Dalton thing. The first draft was crap, but when I finished with her, she became completely different.

It was not the best time in my life. My mother had just died, so I didn’t feel fantastic at all and… Well, I wrote it… I always wanted to write a sailor song…

I really stole a line from Karen Dalton… “floating away on a barrel of pain”? It’s from the same traditional song she sings. I think I took her and created everything else around her. But in the context of her song, she sings about being in New York in winter – which is the fundamental difference – and wants to return to the village. Such is the metaphor of a girl from a rural farm. It seems that this is how the whole maritime story began.

Can this borrowing be considered plagiarism? It is hard to say. As for me, the compositions are too different. In any case, Lydyard did well for not hiding the source of inspiration.

The song Shark Fin Blues is performed from the point of view of a sailor on a sinking ship, around which sharks swim. But he is not particularly worried about the approaching death, because he suffers from loneliness, loss and the futility of being. It’s interesting that The Drones play this sad composition loosely and loudly, which provides it with an original sound.

Release and achievements

Shark Fin Blues is featured on the album Wait Long By the River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By. In September 2006 it was released as a single.

Check out the music video for Shark Fin Blues – The Drones.

Interesting Facts

  • The song Shark Fin Blues is featured in the second episode of the American TV series Rectify.

Lyrics of Shark Fin Blues by The Drones

Standing on the deck watching my shadow stretch
The sun pours my shadow upon the deck
The waters licking round my ankles now
There ain’t no sunshine way way down

I see the sharks out in the water like slicks of ink
Well, there’s one there bigger than a submarine
As he circles I look in his eye
I see Jonah in his belly by the campfire light

See the albatross up in the windy lofts
He gets to beating his wings while he sleeps it off
I hear the jettisoned cries from his dreams unkind
Gets to whippin’ my ears like a riding crop

The captain once as able as a fink dandy
He’s now laid up in the galley like a dried out mink
He’s laying dying of thirst and he says or I think
Well, we’re gonna be alone from here on in

Well you are all my brothers, and you have been kind
But what were you expecting to find?
Now your eyes turn forwards, countenance turns blank
And I’m floating away on a barrel of pain
It looks like nothing but the sea and sky remain

A harpoon’s shaft is short and wide
A grappling hook is cracked and dry
I said why don’t you get down in the sea
Turn the water red like you want to be?

Cause if I cry another tear I’ll be turned to dust
No, the sharks won’t get me they don’t feel loss
Just keep one eye on the horizon man, you best not blink
They’re coming fin by fin until the whole boat sinks

Shark Fin Blues Lyrics by The Drones Alternate

Standing on deck, watching my shadow lengthen
The sun sheds my shadow on the deck
The water is already licking my ankles
Far, far below there is no sunlight

Overboard in the water I see sharks like ink blots
And one of them is bigger than a submarine
While she swims in circles, I look into her eyes
And I see Jonah sitting in her belly near the fire

I see an albatross soaring in the wind
Without waking up, he begins to flap his wings
I hear screams from his bad dreams
They whip on my ears

The captain was once a nasty dandy
And now he’s wallowing in a whaleboat,
Exhausted from thirst, and, it seems, repeats,
That we’ll be alone forever

What, you are all my brothers and you were kind
But what did you expect to find?
Now your eyes are turned inward, your face does not express anything.
And I’m floating away on a barrel of pain
Seems like there’s nothing left but sea and sky

The harpoon handle is short and wide,
Dinghy anchor cracked and dry
I asked why don’t you jump into the sea
And don’t color the water red properly?

‘Cause if I shed one more tear, I’ll turn to dust
No, the sharks won’t get me, they don’t feel the bitterness of loss.
Just keep an eye on the man on the horizon and don’t blink
They swim fin by fin, waiting for the ship to sink completely.

Song quote

There is one song – guess what. I’m tired of it to death… At the same time, it’s only because I’ve heard it too many times. I don’t think it’s crap. She is normal.

Gareth Lydyard

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