“Pull Me Under” is the first track and first single from Dream Theater’s 1992 album Images and Words. It was released as the first single from Images and Words, and received positive critical reception and extensive MTV rotation. It is widely considered to be Dream Theater’s signature song.
During development, the song held the working title “Oliver’s Twist”. In a radio interview, Mike Portnoy stated that “…it was just an 8 and a half minute song, and it was just a fluke for MTV and radio play to happen.”
The song’s abrupt ending was modified in their Greatest Hit compilation. When asked about the abrupt ending while at a drum clinic in Atlanta in 1999, Mike Portnoy explained “We had all this tension, and it just kept building and building, and we had no idea where to take it, you know? So we decided to just pull the plug on it, like The Beatles did with “She’s So Heavy”.”
The song was released as a promotional single and as a music video. Based on a shortened version of the song at 4:48 in length, the music video alternates between clips of the band performing and an obscure storyline. The band members were reportedly unhappy with the storyline, saying that it doesn’t have anything to do with the song’s subject matter.
Because it was the only Dream Theater single to achieve such success, “Pull Me Under” is the “hit” referred to in the Dream Theater compilation Dream Theater’s Greatest Hit (…and 21 Other Pretty Cool Songs).
Lyricist Kevin Moore refers to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, as told from Prince Hamlet’s point of view. The lyrics allude heavily to the play, echoing Hamlet’s desire to give in to his urge to gain revenge for his father at the cost of his own sanity. Over the final moments of the song, James LaBrie can be heard singing the song’s only direct quote from the play: “O, that this too, too solid flesh would melt”. Therein, Prince Hamlet is pleading for escape from his mortal trappings.