Somewhere Only We Know

"Somewhere Only We Know" is a song composed and performed by English alternative rock band Keane, officially released as the first single from their debut album, Hopes and Fears (2004). The single became one of the biggest hits of 2004 worldwide and peaked on the UK Singles Chart at number three during its first week of sales. It was also Keane's best-selling single until "Is It Any Wonder?" in 2006.

"Somewhere Only We Know"
Single by Keane
from the album Hopes and Fears
Released16 February 2004
RecordedLate 2003
StudioHeliocentric Studios, Rye, East Sussex, England
Les Essarts, Normandy, France
Songwriter(s)Tim Rice-Oxley, Tom Chaplin, Richard Hughes
Producer(s)Andy Green, James Sanger, Keane
Keane singles chronology
"This Is the Last Time"
"Somewhere Only We Know"
"Everybody's Changing"

In 2013, the song was covered by Lily Allen for a John Lewis Christmas advert.

Composition and recordingEdit

The first demo was composed by Tim Rice-Oxley in about 2001. Rice-Oxley said that the song came from "hammering away on the piano" explaining "I was thinking of something like David Bowie's "Heroes", which you drive along to a really rocking beat...It was one of the first things we recorded for the album."[1] It was first played on the guitar just before Dominic Scott left the band, and recorded as a demo the same year with a Yamaha CP70 instead of the guitar. Keane recorded the final version in 2003 at the Helioscentric Studios, Rye, East Sussex for the album. Keane also played this song at the historic concert Live 8 in London, along with the single "Bedshaped".

A demo version of "Somewhere Only We Know" was leaked into the Internet in 2004. This version features a different length (4:24) and an extra bridge. Chaplin's shouts near the outro of the final version do not feature in the demo.

"Somewhere Only We Know" is a traditional piano rock song. The piano is the most relevant instrument due to its harmonic and rhythmic role. It is played in quavers throughout the whole song, holding the tempo and the rhythmic pattern. The studio version is recorded in 87bpm, and follows a 4/4 time signature, the most commonly used in traditional rock songs. It is in the key of A major. The song form can analyzed as ABAB CBCB, a variation of the strophic form. The verse (A) chord progression is a plain (I-II-V), one of the most used chord progressions in music; the chorus (B) presents a (VI-III-IV-V) progression; the variation of the verse section (C) presents a (II-III-IV-V) progression.

The bass line was recorded by Rice-Oxley. When played live (up until 2007 with the arrival of bassist Jesse Quin), this song uses a pre-recorded bass, which is played in an Apple PowerBook G4. The 16-beat rhythm was made by Hughes.


The song was mixed by Mark "Spike" Stent. 3" pocket CDs were released as a limited edition of 1000, containing the B-side "Snowed Under" as well as links to receive a polyphonic ringtone via SMS. These copies are now valued at £20 due to their rarity. This song was the first Keane item released on vinyl format. The records were numbered and limited to 5,000 copies, only sold in the United Kingdom. The B-side "Walnut Tree" was recorded during the James Sanger sessions at Normandy, France.

The meaning of the song's video and lyrics remain unknown; however, there is speculation that the meaning refers to Manser's Shaw, a place in Battle where Keane members used to visit in their childhood days and the site of the Battle of Hastings, fought on 14 October 1066.

Richard Hughes, Keane's drummer, offered the following explanation of the song on Chris Flynn's fansite:

We've been asked whether "Somewhere Only We Know" is about a specific place, and Tim has been saying that, for him, or us as individuals, it might be about a geographical space, or a feeling; it can mean something individual to each person, and they can interpret it to a memory of theirs...It's perhaps more of a theme rather than a specific message...Feelings that may be universal, without necessarily being totally specific to us, or a place, or a time...[2]


Snowed Under

The song talks about a place called "Manser's Shaw" in Battle, East Sussex where the band used to spend their childhood days. It was inspired by a poem.[3] "Snowed Under" was the only B-side played live during 2004, 2005 and early 2006, because of its appearance on the CD+DVD version of Hopes and Fears, as well as in the Japanese version of it. Like "Walnut Tree", this song was mixed by Andy Green. "Snowed Under" also titles the band's debut album, with the line "someone who understands your hopes and fears".

Walnut Tree

The lyrics talk about waiting for someone under a walnut tree but Rice-Oxley hasn't given a real meaning to this. It appeared on the Music from the OC: Mix 2 soundtrack. James Sanger is credited on this song for his contributions at his studios in France. This song was mixed by Andy Green.

Music videosEdit

There are three music videos for this song:

UK version

Keane appear coming out of a studio and taking a taxi. Then they come across a forest where the "simple thing" aliens live (called Roxleys by some fans).[4][5] Each Roxley represents the spirit of a tree.

This international video was directed by Corin Hardy, produced by Kit Hawkins for White House Pictures and shot between 22 and 23 November 2003. Hardy was influenced by the movie Princess Mononoke and created the "simple thing" aliens, based on the "kodamas" appearing on that film.

The video saga starts with an image of a backstage door shortly before Keane gets through it with Tom holding a snare. They get into a British taxi cab. A little spirit (a "simple thing" alien) is inside the taxi. Then they arrive in a wooded area (in East Sussex, owned by Anthony Becvar, an acquaintance of Corin Hardy). The "simple thing" alien remains in the cab. They began walking through the forest, "an empty land", across a "fallen tree" and finally arrive to a stream. They are now playing the song in the stream. Near the end of the song, the little spirits, Roxleys, appear again and get closer to Keane. Finally lights representing their hearts shine.

United States version 1

The video is the same without the "simple thing" aliens.

United States version 2 and other countries

This video was shot on 29 May 2004 in Hollywood, California and directed by The Saline Project. The song kicks off and Keane are playing a gig on the stage with a photograph of a forest behind them. Soon, the photograph becomes real and Keane are actually playing in the forest it represents. After the chorus, the forest becomes a city, and buildings start to grow. On the last chorus, it starts raining before converting into a forest again. The forest disappears, and then Keane are playing again on the stage.

Cover artEdit

The cover art, designed by Madefire and Alex Lake, represents maple leaves falling, as on the music video. It also relates to the themes of the B-sides, "Walnut Tree" and "Snowed Under". Although neither of these songs appear on the Hopes and Fears album, they are relatively well known due to live performances and soundtracks. The letters reading "KEANE" are also in the background, featuring the red leaves.[citation needed]

Track listingsEdit

Enhanced CD single

Catalogue number: CID849
The CD included two different wallpapers for the PC and the official UK release music video.

  1. "Somewhere Only We Know" – 3:58
  2. "Snowed Under" – 3:51
  3. "Walnut Tree" – 3:40
  4. "Somewhere Only We Know" (CD-ROM video) – 3:56
UK 7" vinyl

Catalogue number: IS849

  1. "Somewhere Only We Know"
  2. "Snowed Under"
UK 3" pocket CD

Released 19 July 2004. It included links for download polyphonic and real ringtones.

  1. "Somewhere Only We Know"
  2. "Snowed Under"

Alternative versionsEdit

German Enhanced CD single

Released 26 March 2004.

  1. "Somewhere Only We Know"
  2. "Snowed Under"
Spanish Enhanced CD single

Released 16 April 2004.

  1. "Somewhere Only We Know"
  2. "Walnut Tree"
  3. "Somewhere Only We Know" (video)
Promo version

The font depicted was used only during the Fierce Panda era.

  1. "Somewhere Only We Know"

Charts and certificationsEdit

Release historyEdit

Country Date Format
United Kingdom 16 February 2004 7" vinyl, enhanced CD single, 3" pocket
Europe 26 March 2004
Australia 17 May 2004

Lily Allen versionEdit

"Somewhere Only We Know"
Single by Lily Allen
from the album Sheezus
Released10 November 2013
  • Tom Chaplin
  • Richard Hughes
  • Tim Rice-Oxley
Producer(s)Paul Beard
Lily Allen singles chronology
"True Love"
"Somewhere Only We Know"
"Hard out Here"

In 2013, English singer Lily Allen released a cover version of the song. It was released on 10 November 2013 in the United Kingdom as a digital download through Parlophone and Regal Recordings. The song was selected as the soundtrack to the John Lewis 2013 Christmas advertisement. The song reached number one in the UK Singles Chart, becoming her third number-one single.[36] "Somewhere Only We Know" is included on Allen's third studio album, Sheezus.

A portion of the proceeds from the sales of the single were donated to Save the Children's Philippine Typhoon Appeal campaign.[37][38]

Allen's version of the song was used for the trailer of The Little Prince (2015), which was shown in French.

Allen's version of the song was also used on an advertisement by Brazilian telecommunications company Vivo in 2015.

The Labour Party used this version in a campaign video for the 2017 general election.[39]

Music videoEdit

The video for the song is a composite made by editor Chris Morris of the John Lewis "The Bear and the Hare" Christmas advert, directed by Elliot Dear and Yves Geleyn, and its making-of video, directed by Jake & Josh (Jacob Hopewell & Josh Hine), allowing the song to run to its full length.[40][41]

Commercial performanceEdit

On 24 November 2013, "Somewhere Only We Know" reached number one in the UK Singles Chart, thus becoming Allen's third number-one single following "Smile" (2006) and "The Fear" (2009).[36] Although the song spent a total of three non-consecutive weeks at the top spot, it did not reach number one on the UK Singles Downloads Chart. It sold 46,279 copies during its second week at number one, the lowest number for a number-one single since Taio Cruz's "Break Your Heart" sold 42,746 copies in its third week at number one in 2009.[42]

In total the single sold over 600,000 copies.[43] According to the BPI, the single was awarded a gold disc in January 2014, representing 400,000 sales. The song was included on the album Now 86! which sold more than 1.1 million copies to become the UK's best-selling album of 2013.[44]

Track listingEdit

Digital download
1."Somewhere Only We Know"3:28

Credits and personnelEdit

Credits adapted from CD single liner notes.[45]

  • Tom Chaplin – songwriter
  • Richard Hughes – songwriter
  • Tim Rice-Oxley – songwriter
  • Lily Allen – lead vocals
  • Paul Beard – producer, arranger, mixer, piano, percussion, programming
  • Paul Sayer – acoustic guitar
  • James Banbury – string arrangement
  • Joe Kearns – engineer and mixer
  • Andy Cook – assistant
  • Will Hicks – assistant
  • Matt Dougthy – assistant
  • Jason Elliot – additional programming
  • Stuart Hawkes – mastering



Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[58] 2× Platinum 1,200,000 

  Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Release historyEdit

Region Date Format Label
United Kingdom 10 November 2013[59]

Other cover versionsEdit

The song is the most covered of Keane's songs, with cover versions by several artists:


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External linksEdit