"We Work The Black Seam" as written by and Gordon Matthew Sumner....
This place has changed for good
Your economic theory said it would
It's hard for us to understand
We can't give up our jobs the way we should
Our blood has stained the coal
We tunneled deep inside the nation's soul
We matter more than pounds and pence
Your economic theory makes no sense

One day in a nuclear age
They may understand our rage
They build machines that they can't control
And bury the waste in a great big hole
Power was to become cheap and clean
Grimy faces were never seen
Deadly for twelve thousand years is carbon fourteen
We work the black seam together
We work the black seam together

The seam lies underground
Three million years of pressure packed it down
We walk through ancient forest lands
And light a thousand cities with our hands
Your dark satanic mills
Have made redundant all our mining skills
You can't exchange a six inch band
For all the poisoned streams in Cumberland
Your economic theory makes no sense

One day in a nuclear age
They may understand our rage
They build machines that they can't control
And bury the waste in a great big hole
Power was to become cheap and clean
Grimy faces were never seen
Deadly for twelve thousand years is carbon fourteen
We work the black seam together
We work the black seam together

Should the children weep
The turning world will sing their souls to sleep
When you have sunk without a trace
The universe will suck me into place

One day in a nuclear age
They may understand our rage
They build machines that they can't control
And bury the waste in a great big hole
Power was to become cheap and clean
Grimy faces were never seen
But deadly for twelve thousand years is carbon fourteen
We work the black seam together
We work the black seam together


Lyrics submitted by Novartza

"We Work the Black Seam" as written by Gordon Matthew Sumner

Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing

Lyrics powered by LyricFind


We Work The Black Seam song meanings
Add your thoughts

10 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +1
    General CommentThis was written at the time of the coal miners' strike, which culminated in Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's deliberate decimation of the British coal industry. Sting was an opponent of nuclear energy (and of Mrs Thatcher's Conservative government) and would have largely sympathised with the miners, but recognised that times had changed. The song is about his anger at the way the change came, and his concern at a nuclear-powered future.
    butterfingersbeckon January 23, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentJust stumbled upon these posts and curiously, the Carbon-14 thing has always bugged me.

    I always imagined that he was on the one hand expressing concern about nuclear waste, but at the same time making fun of people who use bogus facts to prove their case (a big bugbear of mine). As you say, the Carbon-14 allusion is totally meaningless, because it's naturally occurring and perfectly safe. If I remember rightly, it's normally 4 or 5 half lives before things are generally considered safe, so if Carbon-14 were dangerous, it would be say 25,000 years anyway.
    Rather typical of me to let this fact get to me for the last 20 years, but thenthe song was released while I was studying for Physics A'Level...
    Baltion September 21, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI don't know if he's saying that nuclear energy is bad or that fossil fuels are bad. It's a great song, like all the others on the album, i just can't figure it out.
    enchiridionon January 17, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's a play off on the William Blake poem "Jerusalem" where Blake talks about farm land being replaced by the "dark satanic mills" which are coal factories. Here, they talk about coal being replaced by nuclear power. It's really quite sad.
    PirateQueenon January 03, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentof interesting note, is carbon 14, which is the radioactive isotope used for carbon dating. it's not generally considered deadly, as all carbon based life contains some of this radioactive isotope.
    is sting implying that there's something deadly about knowing the age of carbonous material? coal, perhaps?
    curious that he wouldn't decry the radioactive material used in nuclear power, uranium 235.

    what do you all think about that?
    sippyon March 15, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentO.o I think I should have payed more attention to Chem class. Didn't understand a word you said, mate. lol
    What I do know is that this song simply sneds tingles as I hear it. It sounds fantastic! And if it weren't on such a politicla issue, it would be my favourite song. *nods* That's all I had to say :)
    AprilMoon1991on September 07, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSippy, this has always bothered me too. I think the answer is that Sting either mistakenly picked the wrong radioactive isotope or he realized that not many things rhyme with "uranium". I'm sure he was trying to make the point that nuclear waste is a big problem, and two times the half-life of carbon 14 is nealry 12,000 years. But there's no reason why reducing the amount to 25% would be how long it is deadly and, bigger point, carbon 14 isn't in nuclear waste! Thanks for mentioning this, Sippy -- I sought out this song just to make that point myself!
    rikdadon September 18, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think the Carbon 14 lyric is deliberate. It means to me that as dangerous the "machines that they can't control" are, humanity will always be more dangerous. (Based on the fact that Carbon 14's in us but not in nuclear waste)

    Alternatively, it could be a reference to carbon dating, which would underline the plight of the British mining industry. I don't think this is as likely though, it seems a bit far-fetched.
    thedoctor1812on December 05, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIn the mid last century, Political leaders in the world were fascinated by the nuclear power, which can reduce the running cost of the power generation significantly. Coal mines were closed and replaced by nukes, many have lost their jobs and lives particularly in the northern part of the UK.

    The song is for those who gave two fingers at Mrs.T's funeral.
    "your economic theory makes no sense".
    After almost three decades this song was written, British energy / economic strategy has proven to be wrong by Japan (ie. Fukushima). The nuclear energy is not cheep in a long run.

    An Irony is that the economy of Sting himself (who also came from the northern part of England) was thriving in the Thatcher era.
    tetziidaon May 01, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's amazing that the anti-Thatcher sentiment spawned such a vast music movement, but very little happened here in the USA during the parallel Reagan era, which was just as destructive, if not more so. Who would have ever thought that Johnny's "There's no future in England's dreaming," would echo for decades afterwards.
    winston444on November 16, 2013   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top
explain