"Walt Grace's Submarine Test, January 1967" as written by and John Mayer....
Walt Grace, desperately hating his whole place,
Dreamed to discover a new space,
And buried himself alive,
Inside his basement, tongue on the side of his face when,
He's working away on displacement,
And what it would take to survive.

'Cause when you're done with this world,
You know the next is up to you.
And his wife told his kids he was crazy,
And his friends said he'd fail if he tried,
But with a will to work hard,
And a library card,
He took a homemade, fan-blade, one-man submarine ride.

That morning, the sea was mad and I mean it,
Waves as big as he'd seen it,
Deep in his dreams at home.
From dry land,
He rolled it over to wet sand,
Closed the hatch up with one hand,
And peddled off alone.

'Cause when you're done with this world,
You know the next is up to you.
And for once in his life it was quiet,
As he learned how to turn in the tide,
And the sky was a flare,
When he came up for air,
In his homemade, fan-blade, one-man submarine ride.

One evening,
When weeks had passed since his leaving,
The call she'd planned on receiving,
Finally made it home.
She accepted,
The news she'd never expected,
The operator connected,
A call from Tokyo.

'Cause when you're done with this world,
You know the next is up to you.
Now his friends,
Bring him up when they're drinking,
At the bar with his name on the side,
And they smile when they can,
As they speak of a man,
Who took a homemade,
Fan-blade, one-man submarine ride.


Lyrics submitted by eltroyo11

"Walt Grace's Submarine Test, January 1967" as written by John Mayer

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Walt Grace's Submarine Test, January 1967 song meanings
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39 Comments

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  • +5
    My InterpretationWalt Grace survived.

    "And his wife told his kids he was crazy," his wife did not believe that he would succeed.

    "She accepted the news she never expected," this confirms that he survived against her expectations.

    "Now his friends bring him up when they're drinking," his friends reminisce because he had the courage to change his life, to move on. He did not die.

    It's a positive, motivational story.

    If you are afraid of change you will take the side of his wife and friends, if you are looking for change and adventure knowing that it will bring adversity and struggle, you will take Walt's. John Mayer hid this ambiguity excellently in his lyrics.

    "Cause when you're done with this world
    You know the next is up to you"

    One of his best!
    fuekewlon May 23, 2012   Link
  • +1
    Lyric CorrectionAs much as I prefer "this", I think the lyric is "desperately hating HIS whole place"

    And in the last verse, I believe it is "and they smile when they CAN as they speak of the man".

    Perhaps John's best songwriting to date...but that may just be my bias for good folk storytelling.

    Question will always be (hopefully he never reveals): did Walt live or die? Everyone, I suspect, will have their views.
    kimbeeon May 17, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis is hands down one of Mayer's best songs. In reference to the first comment made, I think Walt did survive. I think thats the "News she never expected". She expected a call saying they had found him dead at sea. But she got a call from him saying he had made it. I think he packed up and left his family to start a new life because he was too unhappy where he was.
    SeanMurphhon May 21, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe first thing thing I thought upon truly listening to these lyrics is "Taking on Water" - a track by John Mayer that was never released and he only played a live several times.

    I think it hits on the same theme of being unsatisfied and hoping for more; dreaming of more. Then pushing off to "sea" hoping merely on a sail or, in this case, a homemade submarine looking for more.

    I agree with one of the previous couple of posts that this is quickly going up on the list of the most relatable songs he has. Nothing compares to breaking out of a comfort zone in the name of avoiding mediocrity. The line, "Now his friends bring him up when they're drinking" really hit home for me. Sometimes I think that's all of us ever really want - to be remembered.
    Pier3592on May 23, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI agree with fuekewl. His friends talk of him in the bar because he did the thing he believed in. They though he was just a crazy s.o.b. but he proved them all wrong by pulling it off. I definately think he survived,, his wife got a reverse charge call from Tokyo from him saying he had made it and wouldn't be coming back again...
    I really love this song,,, i find it really inspirational,, follow your dreams nomatter what anyone says!
    Would make an awesome short film wouldn't it?!
    rivimelon May 23, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentDefinitely definitely one of the best John Mayer songs to date. I've never heard anything like it, the sound is completely different from anything he's ever done and it's soo very satisfying. Beautiful and inspiring in the highest regard. I don't think there is anything that inspires us more than listening to a story of success.
    .distance.eleven.on May 23, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWalt, congrats, you made it.

    Mayer's best song to date IMO.
    kennedyAMon May 24, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWalt Grace did not Die! He buried himself ALIVE inside his basement cause he was working so hard on the submarine. The lines ''He's working away on displacement and what it would take to survive''' indicates hes not planning a suicide mission. He must have read about submarines and how to build them cause - " with the will to work hard and a library card''. He worked so hard cause he wanted to discover new things in life.

    The lines ''And his wife told his kids he was crazy and his friends said he'd fail if he tried'' makes it even more easy to understand how everyone in his life thought he was a crazy S.O.B destined to fail. One evening his wife got a call, a call she didn't expect, cause she thought he'd be dead at sea. But she's proven wrong ''She accepted the news she never expected'' A call from TOkyo.. Walt Grace made to the other side of the world!!

    Really guys as John puts it '' when your done with this world, the next is up to you'', it doesnt matter what anyone else thinks. call you stupid whatever, work hard, effing prove them wrong!!
    VANatseaon May 25, 2012   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningIn song, the lyrics deliberately attempt to confuse and give two separate outcomes. In reality though, once you understand the the lyrics, you realise that they are full of clarity and ultimately carry a positive message. So here it is:

    "Walt Grace, desperately hating this whole place dreamed to discover a new space and buried himself alive inside his basement, tongue on the side of his face meant he's working away on displacement and what it would take to survive."
    -Read as a sentence it is quite straight forward, showing that Walt Grace is teaching himself how to build a submarine that will get him to the other side of the world. His toungue on the side of his face deep in thought, buried alive in books and so on. This represents the personal struggle of someone who desperately wants a change in their life and knows that the only way to achieve that is through hard work an dedication, which is what he sets out to do.

    "And his wife told his kids he was crazy and his friends said he'd fail if he tried but with the will to work hard and a library card he took a homemade, fan blade, one-man submarine ride."
    - Like so many great ideas and goals that seem to be unattainable, so too does the notion that a man can build a submarine that can take him half-way across the world. Everyone doubts that it's possible, and once again, with a burning desire and belief in what he's doing, he isn't listening to what everyone else here thinks. Ringing true of so many great visionaries of past and present who proved everyone wrong.

    "That morning the sea was mad and I mean it waves as big as he'd seen it deep in his dreams at home from dry land"
    - He knew realising his dream of change wasn't going to be easy, the waves represent the hardships and obstacles needed to overcome to achieve something great, and with foresight, he knows that it wont be easy, which is the meaning of the dream - That it will be a struggle.

    "and pedaled off alone."
    - Your dreams are yours and to pursue them means relying on only yourself to achieve them. Others may help along the way though ultimately you go it alone. The pedalling shows that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step - or in this case, a great dream begins with pedalling his submarine off into the sea"

    "And for once in his life, it was quiet, as he learned how to turn in the tide"
    - For once in his life, there is no one doubting him/his dream as he learns to overcome these obstacles.

    "and the sky was aflare when he came up for air n his homemade, fan blade, one-man submarine ride."
    - Coming up for air means that he has managed to stay on top of these obstacles and overcome them.

    "One evening, when weeks had passed since his leaving, The call she planned on receiving finally made it home"
    - Despite her doubts, his wife ultimately planned on recieving a phone call from his saying "I made it"

    "She accepted the news she never expected, The operator connected the call from Tokyo"
    - He made it to the other side of the world. He achieved the unachievable, he made it to the other side of the world. And he got there with no ones help but his own. (had he sunk, he would be at the bottom of the ocean, no one would have found him, hence there would be no call)

    "Now his friends bring him up when they're drinking at the bar with his name on the side, and they smile when kid, as they speak of the man who took a homemade, fan blade, one-man submarine ride"
    - His local bar is celebrating the amazing achievement he made. His friends are smiling and kidding, suggesting positivity and victory ie. "can you believe it!? that son of a b, made it! In a submarine he made in his basement!" They speak proudly of him

    "Cause when you're done with this world You know the next is up to you"
    - When you want a change, no one else has the power to make that change but yourself. And the story of Walt Grace is example of this.

    :)
    r0z24on May 26, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI believe that he lives. His wife called him crazy and clearly didn't expect him to make it. Therefore when John says "the call she planned on expecting," he is implying it is the call confirming Walt's death. However, the next line "she accepted the news she never expected" shows that the call did not confirm his death at all, but rather was probably Walt himself.
    Clueless24on May 29, 2012   Link

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