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Barry and Robin Gibb wrote the song while sitting on a darkened staircase at Polydor Records following a power cut. The echo of the passing lift inspired them to imagine that they were trapped in a mine. The song recounts the story of a miner trapped in a cave-in. He is sharing a photo of his wife with a colleague ("Mr. Jones") while they hopelessly wait to be rescued. According to the liner notes for their box-set Tales from the Brothers Gibb (1990), this song was inspired by the 1966 Aberfan mining disaster in Wales. According to Robin, there actually had also been a mining disaster in New York in 1939, but not in 1941.

In the second and third verses, the lyrical lines get slower and slower, as if to indicate that life is about to end for the miners. On the second chorus, the drums get louder. On the second verse, when Robin sings the line "I keep straining my ears to hear a sound," a violin was featured in response on Robin's line.

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