The lyrics were adapted from ‘water talk’, a 1967 poem which was featured in her Half-A-Wind show at the Lisson Gallery in London, and reproduced in the 1970 edition of her book Grapefruit.
you are water
we’re all water in different containers
that’s why it’s so easy to meet
someday we’ll evaporate together
but even after the water’s gone
we’ll probably point out to the containers
and say, “that’s me there, that one.”
we’re container minders
In keeping with the album’s themes of political commentary and protest, Ono added references to a number of public figures, among them Richard Nixon, Jerry Rubin, Charles Manson and Nelson Rockefeller. The front cover showed Nixon and Mao Tse-tung dancing naked, which caused consternation among many distributors and stockists. A non-removable sticker was used to obscure many of the copies sold, against the wishes of Ono and John Lennon.
You see how they banned the picture here. Yoko made this beautiful poster: Chairman Mao and Richard Nixon dancing naked together, you see? And the stupid retailers stuck a gold sticker over it that you can’t even steam off. At least you could steam off that Beatles [butcher] cover. So you see the kind of pressure Yoko and I were getting, not only on a personal level, and the public level, and the court case, and the fucking government, and this, that, and the other, but every time we tried to express ourselves, they would ban it, would cover it up, would censor it.
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
The central conceit of the song is that, despite the many differences in people’s wealth, status, looks, actions and beliefs, humanity can be united through its collective spirit. Furthermore, the chorus ends with the line “Someday we’ll evaporate together”, a reminder that death is the great leveller.
‘We’re All Water’ was the longest studio song on Some Time In New York City. An upbeat rocker given Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound production treatment, the recording featured a call-and-response guitar part which unfortunately highlighted Ono’s tendency to sing out of tune.
Lennon and Ono performed ‘We’re All Water’ and ‘Woman Is The N––––r Of The World’ on The Dick Cavett Show on 5 May 1972, backed by Elephant’s Memory.
The song had a final outing on 30 August 1972. Lennon gave two performances, named One To One, at Madison Square Garden in New York, as a fundraiser for handicapped children. ‘We’re All Water’ was featured in both the afternoon and evening shows, but wasn’t featured in either the video release or the Live In New York City album.