Thursday, October 11, 2007

In Rainbows by Radiohead

Lyrics from the songs in "In Rainbows" by Radiohead. These are the official lyrics from the lyrics booklet in the album. I'll post the scans from the pages when I have them. I do realize there are lines that are not actually what Thom sang in the album versions, and some lines are missing that he did sing. But I merely transcribed the official lyrics.

15 Step

you used to be alright
what happened?
did the cat get your tongue?
did your string come undone?
one by one
in procession
it comes to us all
it’s as soft as your pillow

you used to be alright
what happened?
et cetera et cetera
fads for whatever
15 steps then a sheer drop

how come I end up where I started?
how come I end up where I went wrong?
won’t take my eyes off the ball again
you reel me out then
you cut the string

The first song, "15 Step", starts with ‘How come I end up where I started? How come I end up where I went wrong?’. This seems to fit you guys. Every idealism dies in the cynicism of reality. For example, when I arrived here I started thinking: Oh God, these guys are no logo, but gosh, there’s a label on my T-shirt and one on my jacket as well. Then I started looking around and the only thing I saw was logos.

Thom (pointing at his own white trainers): Here, a logo as well! You can’t escape it. I wrote this album from a very harmonious thought. I didn’t want to fight anything, but at the same time I didn’t want to be apathetic. That kind of mood. The others caught up on it as well – that it was a personal record, or at least a human one. It felt good not to attack in any way for once. I didn’t want to judge everything, just sing like how I am, like what I’m feeling. (???)

Is it hard not to judge yourself as well?

Thom: I’m only human, so... it’s about me, but... [long sighing] I’ll let this question pass.
--Oor (2007)

John: “15 Step”, where does this figure in that timeline that we were just discussing in such great detail?

Thom: [laughs] Um, uh…

John: Is it worth trying?

Thom: Yeah, no. It was kind of a cool one because um… uh, I think for a lot of people it was a sort of breakthrough song for us because it came together very fast. I mean, what you just heard is basically one take, um, with almost nothing changed at all. Um… uh… so and it was… it evolved in a very interesting way as well because it was originally extremely electronic, and very much sort of… um, stripped, and noisy. Um, and then we sort of wanted to work out a way of doing it live, um, and then out of that came the one that you heard. And it’s sort of just, you know, everything’s sort of… it turned into something… we agonized over like whether um, the real scrouchy electronic one was good, or whether this one was good, and it was a sort of blindingly obvious that what we ended up with was miles better. And it was very much in the sort of vein of when we finished Kid A and stuff, like say, “Idioteque”, which was, you know, has a very specific sort of sound on the record and then when we sort of try to work out how to play it live, it became something even more sort of bigger and madder. Uh, and the “15 Step” is sort of the same sort of thing, really. Um, it’s sort of got an important lesson that we learned during that period.
--2008-01-03 | XFM Radio Interview


I do not
what it is
I've done wrong
full of holes
check for pulse
blink your eyes
1 for yes
2 for no

I have no idea what I am talking about
I am trapped in this body and can't get out

you killed the sound
removed backbone
a pale imitation
with the edges sawn off

i have no idea what you are talking about
your mouth only moves with someone's hand up your ass

has the light gone out for you?
because the light's gone out for me
it is the 21st century
it is the 21st century
it can follow you like a dog
it brought me to my knees
they got a skin and they put me in
they got a skin and they put me in
on the lines wrapped around my face
on the lines wrapped around my face
are for anyone else to see
are for anyone else to see

I'm a lie

....the waterfall of gadgets family cars and paperback books.
irrelevant struggles
"as specific causes of disease disappear, a growing proportion of people die of what are called stress diseases, or diseases of degeneration caused by stress, that is, by the wear and tear resulting from conflicts, shocks, nervous tension, frustration, bilitating rhythms.."
that's real life. my everyday life.
What about this feeling of never really being inside your own skin? Let nobody say these are minor details or secondary points. There are no negligible irritations: gangrene can start in the slightest graze. A man carried along by the crowd, which only e can see, suddenly screams out in an attempt to break the spell, to call himself back to himself, to get back inside his own skin. The tacit acknowledgments, fixed smiles, lifeless words, listlessness and humiliation sprinkled in his path suddenly sur into him, driving him out if his desires and his dreams and exploding the illusion of being together. People touch without meeting; isolation accumulates but is never realised; emptiness overcomes us as the destiny of the crowd gathers. the crowd drags e out of myself and installs thousands of little sacrifices in my empty presence......
after Raoul Vanegeim the revolution of everyday life
--Radiohead site 2

"I don't know if anybody else has this feeling. When you're walking down the street and you catch your reflection in something like a car window or a shop window and you see your face and you think, 'Who's that?'. You know: 'That's not me, that doesn't represent who I am'. And I think I've recently discovered what the problem is and it's a feeling that essentially you're just in a room full of mirrors. You can shoot at all the reflections, but basically it's all meaningless because you're just trapped and you put yourself there. I've realised recently that it's actually worrying about it that's the fucking problem. It's actually saying, 'No, this is me, that's not me', and being precious about who you are, because I believe now that everyone changes all the time. I think the most unhealthy thing for a human being is to feel that they have to behave in a certain way because other people expect them to behave like that, or to feel they have to think in a certain way because what happens then is basically your mind goes round in circles."
--Thom on Thom
i do not understand what it is ive done wrong
i've been skating on surface now my ice has finally melted
the top has come off the gas is escaping
i do not understand what it is ive done wrong

'BODYSNATCHERS CAME and took the real me'
--(2006 radiohead calendar)

you gotta close your eyes... and groove out to this one. And think of uhh trying to escape from the Stepford Wives. That's what I think of.
--Thom Yorke

You could interpret In Rainbows as a portrait of the 21st century man, who – despite trying to do what’s right – can’t fight the system. ‘You can fight it like a dog and they brought me to my knees.’ The Bodysnatchers will get you in the end.

Thom: Well, the lyrics of "Bodysnatchers" came from cutting and pasting lines fom The Stepford Wives. So there you go. I got obsessed with The Stepford Wives. I wrote lots and lots of excerpts from the book next to each other and started cutting.

Colin: It’s a book from the seventies. There’s a movie now, too. It’s written by Ira Levin, who recently passed away. He also wrote The Boys From Brazil [and, more famous: the horror story Rosemary’s Baby (1967)].’

Thom: The idea that you can be captured by something external, a ghost, comes from The Stepford Wives. At the end of the movie you see a new conscience entering someone’s body.
--Oor (2007)

John: And “Bodysnatchers” is the next song. Was this road tested as well?
Ed: Yeah.

John: This is road tested. Is that fuzzy guitar? Is that guitar or bass?
Thom: Yeah, it’s guitar. It’s um… uh, Nigel has this really wicked old mixing desk that he managed to get off a studio in L.A., which was… it’s the same… exactly the same model—if you’re interested in this, if you’re not then turn off—the…

John: [laughs] [whispers] Don’t turn off!
Thom: No, go on, they won’t. It’s a Motown desk. It’s from like late 60’s. It’s the exact model that they used to record Motown stuff. Um, of course, and if you turn on everything on full, it sounds exactly like a guitar and it sounds like that.

John: I think it sounds brilliant. It kind of sounds like Sabotage or something like that, but at least it was in that fuzzy…
Thom: In my dreams, yeah.
Ed: [laughs] You’re just saying the right things!

John: That’s how it sounds to me. Is it a film reference at all? Invasion of the Bodysnatchers? Near the end I thought…
Thom: Actually, it was a film reference but not that one. It was a… I started the tune um, watching the original Stepford Wives… bizarrely…and cutting and pasting bits from that. But I think it never actually got used. That’s where the tune started from. I got a little bit obsessed by Stepford Wives. Watched it several—three or four times.

John: So in a way I guess that’s about bodies being possessed.
Thom: Yeah, well there’s the bit at the end where uh, yes all the women are finally being turned into the robots or whatever. Anyway… uh. But also the song actually—the title actually came from a very strange ghost story—a Victorian ghost story.

John: Any further elucidation on that?
Thom: No. Pfft. Just, you know… digging up bodies, you know, Sun in the morning and then the bodies come back and get ya.

John: Right. Okay.
Thom: Good stuff!

John: Yeah. The author, do you…?
Thom: No. I can’t remember.

John: [laughs]
Thom: It’s an anthology. Victorian ghost stories.
--2008-01-03 | XFM Radio Interview


don’t get any big ideas
they’re not gonna happen
you paint yourself white
and fill up with noise
but there’ll be
something missing

now that you’ve found it it’s gone
now that you feel it you don’t
you’ve gone off the rails

so don’t get any big ideas
they’re not gonna happen
you’ll go to hell
for what your dirty mind is thinking

nude* it is a mans world. and this one is very confused and will have sex with anything woman who comes within a mile radius. but feels bad about it. so doesnt.

This next one is a new song …this is a song about believing you’re wonderful when you know it’s not true.
--Thom (Meeting People is Easy)

MTV: Thom, the new song you’re doing live called "Big Ideas (don’t get any)", I love that title, by the way too.

Thom: That’s good, actually. I didn’t have a title. I wanted to call it—I mean I don’t know what I’m gonna call it. Recently... when you get a mortgage in Britain for you house, in all the adverts for mortgages and so on they always have this thing at the bottom saying: your home is at risk if you don’t keep up repayment. I wanted to call it that but I don’t know if it’s catchy enough”

Steve: See, the thing for me, about having, and this only came sort of begun to come through, after a few listens, but it strikes me as being a very intimate record. And I think actually being able to do "Nude" and doing it very well... it was quite an interesting ..
Thom: Yeah, I don't think we had ever been able to do that song until now. Even though it's been kicking around for ten years, because, I don't know, it didn't, whatever it meant then, it means something to us now. It's one of those weird things... Um...

Steve: Cause that's the song that's one of the songs, as you say, which has been around for a while,
Thom: I think it was because I hated...I used to hate the way I sung it.

Steve: Right..
Thom: Or at least I, it was just, and probably, as you say, too intimate, and I had felt real uncomfortable with it.

Steve: It's an intimate sounding record though, in places. "All I Need" is very intimate.
Ed: Mmm!
Thom: "Videotape" as well. "Bodysnatchers", not so.

Steve: No!
Ed: *laughs*

Steve: Which is, uh, that strikes me as being one of the, that's the sort of the slight shift in mood this time around.
Thom: There you go! You've got to have some of that.
--Thom and Ed (2007-11-19)

Alright, "Nude" is an old song. What changed that made you get it right?

Thom: That’s the classical case of a song that hasn’t made sense for years, don’t you think, Colin?

Colin: One of the frustrating things of being a member of a band is that some songs mean everything to one person, but not to all of us. So one of us keeps going on and on about it, while the others try and look away. But that’s cool, you know.

Thom: I also felt very insecure about the way I had to sing "Nude". I didn’t know in what pitch. And the lyrics were too intimate, but too sweet as well. It’s only when Colin started knocking about with the bassline, that I could figure out how to sing it and get away with it. Also, the lyrics have fallen into place, while at the time... Nothing has changed about them, but still. They didn’t seem to make sense, and now they do.

It makes me think of a story where one band member wants to leave with a groupie, and the other saying: don’t do that, don’t get any big ideas, don’t give in to the temptation.

Thom: I don’t remember for sure, but "Nude" was written in the OK Computer era. It was more something like: 'Don’t play up your imagination, boy. Watch out so you don’t become something you aren’t.'
--Oor (Dutch magazine)

Old track "Nude" made it on to In Rainbows, even though it had been played live as far back as 1998.

Colin says: “Thom felt it was right now, as he is in a place in his life where the words make sense to him.

“When we wrote it in the early Nineties, it didn’t feel right to him. Thom would say this album was also right for it because I finally came up with a bassline. It’s a soul thing.

“It was like a picture that wasn’t right for years and now it works for him.

“And in the context of the record it’s kind of about love so it works in that setting."
--Colin Greenwood (Sun)

Ten years ago, when we first had the song, I didn't enjoy singing it because it was too feminine, too high. It made me feel uncomfortable. Now I enjoy it exactly for that reason - because it's a bit uncomfortable, a bit out of my range and it's really difficult to do. And it brings out something in me...
--Thom (Mojo, 2008)

I love the title. But when you get mortgage in Britain, they always have this thing at the bottom saying: 'Your home is at risk if you don not keep up with payments'. I wanted to use that as the title. But I‚m not sure if it‚s catchy enough.

its not gone. i havent forgotten it. its just we have not done it recently and the one we did in meeting people just didnt end up anywhere so..
Thom | Meeting People is Easy

POSTED BY Jonny ON MARCH 06, 2001 AT 02:13:13:
IN REPLY TO: Is Big ideas going to be a b side.. :P
POSTED BY GregD ON MARCH 06, 2001 AT 02:08:58:
unless we do it tomorrow.
we wont, tho.

Big Ideas (don't get any) from James Houston on Vimeo.

Weird Fishes/Arpeggi

Weird Fishes: Arpeggi from flight404 on Vimeo.
in the deepest ocean
the bottom of the sea
your eyes
they turn me
why should I stay here?
why should I stay?

I'll be crazy not to follow
follow where you lead
your eyes
they turn me

turn me onto phantoms
I follow to the edge
of the earth
and fall off
yeah, everybody leaves
if they get the chance
and this is my chance

I get eaten by the worms
and weird fishes
picked over by the worms
and weird fishes
weird fishes
weird fishees

yeah I
I hit the bottom
hit the bottom and escape

I hit the bottom
hit the bottom and escape

"Through working with Spike, we realized we were perpetually wedded to Nigel," Greenwood says. By the time Godrich returned, something had shaken loose within the group, and a new way of being uncomfortable presented itself to a band that often seems to thrive on unease.

"On previous records, Thom [Yorke] had a very strong idea of what he didn't want the music to sound like and of the sounds he was interested in," Greenwood says of the band's most demanding member. "On this one, he was more uncertain as to how it should be, with all the stresses and uncertainty that that implies."

You seldom, if ever, hear that in the music, whose lustrous beauty continually runs up against Yorke's anguished lyrics. In Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, for instance, guitar arpeggios roll serenely as Yorke sings about being held captive (by love or some other power), falling to the sea bottom and being eaten there by worms and fish.

"That's one of my favourite songs that we've ever done," Greenwood says, "because the chord sequence is so emotional and melodic, and epic and expansive. It reminded me of Isaac Hayes, and of another song of ours called Let Down, from OK Computer. ... I love the way the words thrash around, and the immolation in the middle, and being buried at the end. It's like emotional scales, with weights being laid out. There you are in your life. Should you carry on? Should you tell the truth, or lie to yourself?"

The other songs approach the same crossroads from different directions, each with a different measure of consolation and desolation. Maybe it's fitting that In Rainbows has been seen as a crossroads disc for the music industry.

“But my favourite is Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, which is amazingly beautiful. The song gives you hope and then it goes down again.

“It’s up and down, with self-belief and self-doubt and emotional rushes and surges.”
--Colin Greenwood (Sun)

Colin: "At the moment we're playing some new ones from the next record..."

dEUS: " you prefer to play. What are you favourites? What are the most instinctual..."

Colin: "I don't... I like them all! I mean, I don't... it sounds boring. I like, um... what do I like at the moment, ehhh... I don't know, new ones I guess, like '15 Step'... 'Arpeggi'. A song called 'Arpeggi'."

dEUS: "Absolutely."

Colin: "Which is a beautiful song."

dEUS: "It is."

Colin: "Yeah. Do you know that song?"

dEUS: "Yeah I know, yeah."

Colin: "It's lovely, 'Your eyes, they turned me. The bottom of the ocean... the little fishes...' It's a beautiful song! It's beautiful 'cause it's a mel... so melodic and beautiful, and so desolate and sad, but so uplifting and beautiful at the same time.
--2006-06-15 | dEUS Podcast

All I Need

I am the next act waiting in the wings
I am an animal trapped in your hot car
I am all the days that you choose to ignore

you are all I need
you are all I need
I am in the middle of your picture
lying in the reeds

I am a moth who just wants to share your light
I’m just an insect trying to get out of the night
I only stick with you because there are no others

you are all I need
you are all I need
I am in the middle of your picture
lying in the reeds

s’all wrong
s’all wrong

Songs like "All I Need" are about obsession, aren’t they?
Thom: That’s why it’s called In Rainbows. That obsession thing, thinking beyond where you are at the time. It’s a phrase I had for a while. It kept coming up in my notebooks. And I don’t know why, because it’s kind of naff. But it seemed to work – it’s one of those weird things. It stuck and I don’t know why.”
----NME (8 December 2007)

John: And it’s great the way it could’ve [undecipherable] to the end. What else can you tell us about “All I Need”?
Thom: Well, we actually used that version that someone recorded off the Chicago sort of phone as one of the reference points. [laughs] What else can I say about it? It was originally done—it was a sort of a beat sequence thing that Colin and I did very rapidly and then got out, and I found again. It was actually written extremely quickly. I got to rehearsal one day early, which is very unusual. I had twenty minutes to meself and wrote the words then… and then… I mean, that was it. It’s sort of, really… It’s extremely full-on. [laughs] That bit in the middle is extremely full-on.

John: Is it about obsession? Is it about… something like that?
Thom: Oh, John! That’s up to you!

John: Well, it’s sort of a personal interpretation.
Thom: Yes, I… Yes. Someone said it’s about music business, which I really think is stretching it possibly a little.
John and Ed: [laugh]

John: What do you think, Ed?
Ed: It’s definitely about the music industry. That’s for sure.
Thom: Right.
Ed: Right. Spot on.
Thom: Yeah [undecipherable]
--2008-01-03 | XFM Radio Interview

Faust Arp

wakey wakey rise and shine
it’s off again on again
off again on again
watch me fall like dominoes
in pretty patterns
fingers in the blackbird pie
I’m tingling tingling tingling
wt’s what you feel not what you ought to
what you ought to what you ought to
reasonable and sensible
dead from the neck up
I guess I’m stuffed
we thought you had it in you
but not
for no real reason

squeeze the tubes and empty bottles
I take a bow take a bow take a bow
it’s what you feel not what you ought to
what you ought to what you ought to
the elephant that’s in the room
is tumbling tumbling tumbling
plastic bags with nothing in them
nothing in them
duplicate and triplicate
dead from the neck up
I guess I’m stuffed
we thought you had it in you
but not
exactly where do you get off?
is enough
is enough
I love you but enough is enough
enough of that stuff
there's no real reason
you've got a head full of feathers
you're gonna melt into butter

A reference to this song was found by 'patches' who posts in the Hodiau Direkton message board, who found in the book The Art of Jean Arp the following poem:

"Et frappe, et frappe, et frappe"

et frappe encore et encore une fois
et ainsi de suite
et une fois deux fois trois fois jusqu'à mille
et recommence de plus belle
et frappe la grande table de multiplication et la petite table de multiplication
et frappe et frappe et frappe
page 222 page 223 page 224 et ainsi de suite jusqu'à la page 299
passe la page 300 et continue par la page 301 jusqu'à la page 400
et frappe ceci une fois en avant deux fois en arrière trois fois en haut et quatre fois en bas
et frappe les douze mois
et les quatre saisons
et les sept jours de la semaine
et les sept tons de la gamme
et les six pieds des iambes
et les nombres pairs des maisons
et frappe
et frappe le tout ensemble
et le compte y est
et fait un.

And strikes again and once again
and then once more
and once twice thrice times up to a thousand
and then begins again most beautifully
and strikes again the big multiplication table and the small multiplication table
and strikes and strikes and strikes and strikes
page 222 page 223 page 224 and on and on to page 299
passes page 300 and continues with page 301 on to page 400
and strikes this once in front twice behind three times above and four times below
and strikes the twelve months
and the four seasons
and the seven days of the week
and the seven notes of the scale
and the six feet of legs
and the even numbers of houses
and strikes
and strikes it all together
and then adds up
and makes one.

And another reference in the same book:
"Place Blanche

This morning I find nothing but memorials of death in my path.
They are trivial objects,
faded photographs,
empty bottles,
shells thrown up by the sea,
a looking-glass that reflects the serenity, the purity, the calm gaiety, the brightness that the inescapable shadow has engulfed.
I am spellbound by these objects that belong to people long dead.
Above these objects movements
as of wispy clouds
or plumes of breath.
They cross vaguely in front of me.
Clocks strike years each minute.
Each minute emits such a profusion of memories
that it assumes the importance of a year.
These minutes look like dark baskets overflowing with black fruit.
Years pass with a fan of ants on their heads.
Whilst keeping its form it writhes within itself and at the same time strives desperately
to divulge a sterile life, a grey desert.
A horny substance, reddish pullulates among these ghostly visions, down these years
and gives me the sensation of human beings swarming on the earth.
Years pass with their vegetal mouths and ingenious fins.
Years that are green lairs.
They give shelter to the fairies in their moulting season.
Years in which I wrote my first poems,
and my ingenious fins displayed themselves without any consideration for their surroundings.
Years pass and chase the little years.
Without pity they slaughter them destroying them in this way their due dissemination.
And one more rigid system is given as a bonus to the world.
Will it show the way towards the ineffable dream?

I am one of the flock of poets and painters,
full of submissions to their shepherd, obeying him.
Like marionettes these poets and painters nod approval,
laugh disdainfully at what was white up to the moment
and is now said to be black.
The shepherd lights up.
The shepherd shines forth more and more.
He loses his human form,
but I hear his voice talking of art.


you can’t take it with yer
dancing for your pleasure

you are not to blame for
bittersweet distractor
dare not speak it’s name
dedicated to all human beings

because we separate like ripples on a blank shore
in rainbows
because we separate like ripples on a blank shoree

take me with yer
dedicated to all human beings

From Dante's "Paradiso" (Canto XIII):
Experiencing that Radiance, the spirit
is so indrawn it is impossible
even to think of ever turning from It.

and not because that Living Radiance bore
more than one semblance, for It is unchanging
and is forever as it was before;

rather, as I grew worthier to see,
the more I looked, the more unchanging semblance
appeared to change with every change in me.

Within the depthless deep and clear existence
of that abyss of light three circles shown -
threefold in color, one in circumference;

the second from the first, rainbow from rainbow;
the third, an exhalation of pure fire
equally breathed forth by the other two.

But oh how much my words miss my conception,
which is itself so far from what I saw
than to call it feeble would be rank deception!

O Light Eternal fixed in Itself alone,
by Itself alone understood, which from Itself
loves and glows, self-knowing and self-known;

that second aureole which shone forth in Thee,
conceived as a reflection of the first -
or which appeared so to my scrutiny -

seemed in Itself of Its own coloration
to be painted with man's image. I fixed my eyes
on that alone in rapturous contemplation.

Like an old reckoner wholly dedicated
to squaring the circle, but who cannot find,
think as he may, the principle indicated -

so did I study the supernal face.
I yearned to know just how our image merges
into that circle, and how it there finds place;

but mine were not the wings for such a flight.
Yet, as I wished, the truth I wished for came
cleaving my mind in a great flash of light.

Here my powers rest from their high fantasy,
but already I could feel my being turned -
instinct and intellect balanced equally

as in a wheel whose motion nothing jars -
by the Love that moves the sun and other stars.

Thanks to emptylee for finding this quote from Dante's "Paradiso".

AVC: "Reckoner" makes In Rainbows, as an album, feel like a transition for the band.

TY: In a way, that's right. But, then again, Kid A was quite a bit of a transition, wasn't it?

AVC: Radiohead seems to make a lot of transition records.

TY: When you're making a record, you should be transitioning.

AVC: Was "Reckoner" intended to usher in a different feel for Radiohead? Everything before that song sounds like your past few records, then "Reckoner" is like the break of dawn or something—everything after it is so subdued and calm.

TY: It's definitely a first-thing-in-the-morning song. You don't write many of those until you have kids. It was something that happened despite us, really. It just happened. Once I'm in the flow of a record, and feel like I'm starting to cover some ground, it gives me a boost to write something that's appropriate to where I am and what we're aiming at. "Reckoner" is like that.

AVC: If "Reckoner" is what you were aiming at, the band must have had something different in mind for the record.

EO: There wasn't any kind of vision. But we were talking about making something a bit more bare-bones.

TY: More space.

Thom: Um, but you know, I—it’s a genuine shock to me that, ‘oh, it’s not blindingly obvious’, ‘cause it’s blindingly obvious uh, to the person who writes it, I think.
Now you’re talking about the content of the lyrics, I suppose.
Thom: Ah, no, well… Uh, well, it’s all kind of the same thing.
Thom: To me. I mean, lyrics obviously is a different thing because the nature… if you’re words are any good then what you, what you’re trying to get across is is is always going to be, ‘meaning’ in the normal sense of the word is not exactly what you’re trying to do. I mean, I think uh—what’s on the top of my head?—a song, like “Reckoner, for example. I’m singing those words because I have to sing those words. Uh, it was necessary for me to sing those words with that [undecipherable] at that time. [laughs] Much like it’s necessary, you know, to have toast in the morning, I mean, or whatever. It’s uh, that’s what has to happen. And the words make you feel good, or they make you feel better, or whatever. They’re there to fulfil something that… some need in you, you know? But increasingly I fall into bad habits where I don’t worry about, you know, meaning afterwards or whatever, which I guess when you’re writing songs you kind of think, ‘Well, maybe I should worry about that’. But actually, I think it’s a deeply unhealthy thing to… you know, it’s sort of a…
Why is it unhealthy? ‘Cause they aren’t going to get the meaning of it anyway or…? Or it ruins it if you’re too straight-conscious?
Thom: No, it reduces… Yeah, it can reduce it. Uh, you reduce the initial energy, your initial response to things, because initial responses are always best, uh, in this particular case. [laughs]
Now, your set of words right there confuse the hell out of me. [laughs]
Thom: Oh good! [laughs]
Thom: So, I’ve illustrated my point.
Very well! [laughs]
Thom: Alles klaar.
--2008-02-14 | NPR Interview

Colin says: “I also love Reckoner, because it’s like happy/sad music. It reminds me of Lucky on OK Computer or Yellow by Coldplay.

“You listen to it because you want to but it still tugs at you.

“When T[h]om’s singing the main melody, it repeats again and again. We recorded our own breaks and we are all playing little percussion instruments and recorded it on this one piece of tape."
--Colin Greenwood (Sun | December 2007)

Steve: You've got, did you have people emailing in all the time, saying, when are you going to do this? Are you going to do this? Uh, which, why we've, through our webpage, people like Dan in Hastings saying, uh: "The New version of Reckoner, surprised everybody,

Thom: Yeah that's because it's not the same song...

Ed: *laughs*

Thom: Um, well there was a song called Reckoner, and, then I like ended up writing a second part to it. And that mutated into the only part to it, and then Jonny wrote another part of it. And, the song, as it was, left the building.
--Thom and Ed (2007-11-19)

John: What else can you tell us about “Reckoner” apart from the Golden Section, which comes up midpoint?

Ed: Well… it’s… What can I say? Um, it was one of the songs that really, truly evolved in the studio. It hadn’t been road tested. It was exciting for the… it was… for us probably it’s one of the most exciting tracks on the record because we didn’t really have a vision for it. It just evolves and I think to hear Thom singing falsetto is really new and it’s uh… It’s kind of… it feels… we weren’t trying to do it, but we were just trying to get it out and do it, you know, try and present something with a percussion and do it differently, and looking back it sort of has a real gospel-y feel. And I think it’s very…

Thom: Really? Reminds me of early rave 1992. It’s just the drumbeat thing, I guess. Uh… um… early rave isn’t 1992. Get your facts right, boy! Anyway, the funny thing was that to be honest the guitar on it was really influenced by… I went to see the Chili Peppers a few times and I really like the way John Frusciante plays. And uh… it was sort of a homage to that, in my sort of clunky ‘can’t–really-pick kind of way.

The breakthrough for Radiohead on ‘Reckoner’ a song that underwent multiple incarnations on its way to ‘In Rainbows’came by way of what Jonny Greenwood calls a “big percussion fest.”

Recording in an English country house, all five members of the group make a loud, cathartic racket, a habit-busting trick the band has practiced since primary school, says bassist Colin Greenwood.

House of Cards

The making of the "House of Cards" video.

I don’t want to be your friend
I just want to be your lover
no matter how it ends
no matter how it starts
forget about your house of cards
and I’ll do mine
forget about your house of cards
and I’ll do mine
fall off the table and get swept under

denial denial

the infrastructure will collapse
from voltage spikes
put your keys in the bowl
kiss your husband goodnight
forget about your house of cards
and I’ll do mine
forget about your house of cards
and I’ll do mine
fall off the table and get swept under

(your ears should be burning)
denial denial
(your ears should be burning)

Uh, this is most definitely a love song.
--Thom Yorke (2008 August 4)

Thom [when asked if the lyrics from "House of Cards" were drawn from his personal life]: "I wish! Well, no, I don't wish. That key-party stuff was a big thing here in the seventies and eighties, and it always fascinated me."
--Rolling Stone, February 2008

John: Very impressive! Uh, “House of Cards” is the next track. A question that can relate to some—well, quite a lot of the songs: Are they more personal lyrically venture for you, Thom? I mean, are they personal things that you’re… Let’s say, well…

Thom: It was very much um, uh… psychic dumping… um, where I was deliberately trying to uh… as much as I possibly could, except for “Faust Arp”, to write quickly and not think about how… what sense could be made about it or not, so… Um, you know… in essence, one of the things I’ve been most wary of—talking about the record at all—is actually taking any responsibility for the lyrics, or having to comment on them, because um… it was…[sighs] I kind of don’t feel answerable to them in a way. Sometimes with these lyrics I’ve done sort of paste them together in a sort of much more constructive way, and you sort of feel there’s a point to explaining how you’ve done it. And I kind of… To me, of all the records we’ve done, this is the one I feel I can least explain anyway. [laughs]

John: Hmm. No, that’s interesting because I was listening to it the other day and thinking that there’s a kind of dream-like quality to the album as a whole, in a way. If you listen to the whole thing… say, if you’re driving along, it’s just kind of there, around you. And it’s almost as if the band are kind of lost in the music as you play together. And there are points when the singing seems as if it could be a shaman, or a shaman dancing as part of some kind of ritual, or something like that. Loosing, getting lost in the music, and…

Thom: Well, there are things… One of the reasons it took so long—and yes, I would love to be a shaman…

John: [laughs]

Thom: [laughs] One of the…

John: Maybe you are…

Thom: Maybe I am… I don’t think I do enough drugs for that. Um, one of the things that was really important—one of the reasons it took so long—was to get this… the pulse right on each tune—“House of Cards” being the most obvious example—where you kind of lose yourself in the pulse, and then the vocals can come in, sort of thing. Which is much like… you know, which is a much more… a dance music thing…much less a rock music thing. You can argue the Stones do it. And sometimes it happens. So I would agree to some extent that there’s this thing about being lost in stuff. I mean, “Reckoner” is absolutely that. You know, I think Nigel… that’s one of the things Nigel’s really, really good at… is finding the bits when we play, when we are lost in stuff. And it’s not necessarily the bits, but we’re enjoying it. It’s usually just before all that. [laughs]

John: [laughs]

Thom: ‘Cause by the time we’re enjoying it, we’re thinking ‘Ey, we’re good!’ And that exact point is where it gets crap.

John: Excellent.
--2008-01-03 | XFM Radio Interview

There’s also a lyric in "Jigsaw…" about exchanging phone numbers, while "House of Cards" has a line: 'I don’t want to be your friend, I just want to be your lover'. Is this Radiohead’s, um, sexy album?

“Oh yeah, most songs on the record are seduction songs. My version of it anyway. I guess it’s something that is not very often apparent, but it became apparent as time went on.”
--NME (8 December 2007)

While listening to the album, it gets more melancholic, and in that it is very different from Hail To The Thief, which was released four years earlier.

Thom : Yes, in some way. But we also had to start the album with something very energetic, because we had been away for so long ... We had to find the best way to give people entrance doors, and also moments of rest within the album, while remaining very coherent with this idea of making the best possible thing. And also, I hope that when they reach a certain point of the album, people get totally lost, not knowing what to expect. I hope this album put them in a state of mind open to all possibilities.

Anyway it is a less angry album, less upset against its era.

Thom : Yes, but I don't know why.

Is it more intimate because it took more time to make it?

Ed : I think that it's the time of the life that imposed itself on us. I was listening again to The Bends and I was struck to hear at what point that album was choleric, whiny, with a lot of energy, but hugely possessed by anger. There was a lot of it as well in Hail To The Thief. But for this very album [In Rainbows], anger was not the most appropriate emotion. For example, one of the things I love this time in Thom's lyrics, is their timelessness. The first lines of the song House Of Cards "I don't wanna be your friend, I wanna be your lover" could be drawn from a song by Sam Cooke, Stevie Wonder, Prince. These words hit right, in something very intimate.
Thom : Hail To The Thief was trying to start a fight, a battle. But I think that when recording In Rainbows, I was very tired of absorbing the external world within our music. And the intimate nature of this album is a kind of personal answer to a strange climate of general fear. It's our way of closing the shutters, to let the survival instinct guide us : not trusting anything else and relying only on the people around you.

Is it easy to do ? What was profoundly different this time ?
Thom : I work with what I have, I make do with what is at hand. For now, I have more than enough of the copy/paste. But also of the "stream of consciousness", of the fact of setting down my thoughts on pages and pages. This time, the first draft imposed itself most of the time. It's doubtlessly the first time that I leave it so much to my instinct. Usually, the songs take time to come out, I think a lot about their meaning. There, I tried to avoid this process and I tried to spit everything out, to make everything spurt at one stroke. What I feared with making interviews, was having to explain all these things that I actually wrote in a very spontaneous way.
Ed : There have been very similar moments to what we used to do before. But it was obvious that there were different things occurring there. And it's only afterwards, during the interviews, that I understood, by listening to Thom expressing himself, analysing himself, that he had really changed some things, but also that this time he didn't want to explain too much his lyrics. Personally, I've been very touched by the lyrics of this album, by what they tell on the human condition and how they get to universality : after all, we are not different from other people.
--Les Inrockuptibles

For example, the song about fish, "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi". People are poisoning the sea, you’re singing, where do the poor fish have to go?

Thom: You know what it is? The entire time I was busy writing, I wanted to get away from these things. I was worried about those themes entering my work. But it was just there, whether I wanted it or not. To me, the most important line on this record is the word denial in "House of Cards", because that’s what it all comes from. Denial in every possible meaning. It was the only time I was aware of that.

What you’re talking about. At the end of the song, you sing your ears should be burning. Burning with shame, no? The human race should be thoroughly ashamed.

Thom: Yeah, you could say that. But of all the lyrics I’ve ever written, I hope that the ones on this record will deliver the widest range of interpretations.
--Oor (2007)

Jigsaw Falling Into Place

just as you take my hand
just as you write my number down
just as the drinks arrive
just as they play your favourite song
as your bad day disappears
no longer wound up like a spring
before you’ve had too much
come back in focus again

the walls are bending shape
you got a Cheshire cat grin
all blurring into one
this place is on a mission

before the night owl
before the animal noises
closed circuit cameras
before you comatose

before you run away from me
before you’re lost between the notes
the beat goes round and round
the beat goes round and round
I never really got there
I just pretended that I had
words are blunt instruments
words are sawn off shotguns

come on and let it out
come on and let it out
come on and let it out
come on and let it out

just as you spill the beans
just as you start unravelling
just as you take the mike
just as you dance dance dance

a jigsaw falling into place
so there is nothing explain
you eye each other as you pass
she looks back and you look back
not just once
and not just twice

wish away your nightmare
wish away the nightmare
you got the light you can feel it on your back
you got the light you can feel it on your back
your jigsaw falling into place (you just got paid)

John: I agree with you. Uh, and I mean, “Jigsaw” almost has a… Is it a reference to “Paranoid Android” with that guitar line at the beginning? I mean, it kind of reminds me of “Paranoid Android”. Or it almost seems as if you could’ve chucked it in there just as a nod to your past.

Thom: Really?

John: Yeah.

Thom: I think it’s more that I only have about three ideas.

John: [laughs]

Ed: Oh, c’mon! I like this. I mean, one of the things for me in this record was I always kept on sort of saying was the lyrics. And one of the things I love about this whole song is that, if I may…

Thom, Please, please do.

Ed: Um, it’s the Friday night in the pub and it’s all kicking off. And there used to be a line in there that wasn’t there but that’s central ‘You’ve just been paid’. And, you know, and it’s all going off and I love that kind of…It’s kind of—to me—it’s totally, you know… For me, when we get our songs right it’s very visual. And I totally imagine kind of like a quiet, thin bar and it’s all kicking off. and people looking at one another, and it’s all in the music and buying more drinks, and that euphoria at the end of the week. And you get to that—you get to the last section and it’s all building up and it’s just that glorious feeling, you know? 11 o’clock and before it all goes nasty and you kind of have enough booze inside you, and it’s all… And the world doesn’t get better than this in this very moment and that is… that’s what I love about this song.

Thom: And half an hour from now it’s all going to get [undecipherable]

Ed: [laughs] Yeah, exactly! [undecipherable] that first kebab.

John: [laughs]

Thom: Or you wake up in the morning and you don’t know what her name is.

John and Ed: [laugh]

John: So that moment is when the jigsaw falls into place. Before it all goes wrong.

Thom: Yeah.
--2008-01-03 | XFM Radio

With many of the lyrics on In Rainbows written in the first person, are we to take it this is a more personal record?

Thom: With Hail to the Thief I was using the language of the impersonal, but the fact I’m using a different language on this doesn’t necessarily mean I am personally reflecting it on me.”

What about the night out that you described in "Jigsaw Falling Into Place"? Did you experience that first-hand?

“I would never say it was personal because it’s always a set of observations. “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” says much about the fact I used to live in the centre of Oxford and used to go out occasionally and witness the fucking chaos of a weekend around here. But it’s also about a lot of different experiences. Personally, I was really surprised that it’s going to be the single. The lyrics are quite caustic – the idea of “before you’re comatose” or whatever, drinking yourself into oblivion and getting fucked-up to forget. When you’re part of a group of people who are all trying to forget en masse it is partly this elation. But there’s a much darker side.”

There’s also a lyric in "Jigsaw…" about exchanging phone numbers, while "House of Cards" has a line: “I don’t want to be your friend, I just want to be your lover”. Is this Radiohead’s, um, sexy album?

“Oh yeah, most songs on the record are seduction songs. My version of it anyway. I guess it’s something that is not very often apparent, but it became apparent as time went on.”
--NME (8 December 2007)

We don’t actually pick the singles, unless we have a very strong opnion about it. Nowadays it’s what people play on the radio. We’re not the best judges of that. So we leave that to our very good friends who help us out on that. Kevin and our management. It was actually the last song to make the album. We had 16 songs and it nearly didn’t make it onto the record and ironically it’s the first single. I like this song. Thom kept saying it’s a Friday night record: You’re in the pub, it’s all kicking off. You had a few drinks, it’s the end of the week. You just got paid and this is what happens. You wanna have a dance, you see a girl in the corner. You’ve had a few drinks, you smile. The look, you know all that stuff. I love this song. It’s remembering what Friday nights were like.
--Ed O'Brien

At least tonight it's beautiful
I am yours and you are mine


when I’m at the pearly gates
this’ll be on my videotape
my videotape
my videotape

when Mephistophilis is just beneath
and he’s reaching up to grab me

this is one for the good days
and I have it all here in
red blue green
red blue green

you are my centre when I spin away
out of control on videotape
on videotape
on videotape
on videotape

this is my way of saying goodbye
because I can’t do it face to face
so I’m talking to you before…
no matter what happens now
you shouldn't be afraid
because I know
today has been the most perfect day
I have ever seen

AVC: If "Reckoner" is what you were aiming at, the band must have had something different in mind for the record.

EO: There wasn't any kind of vision. But we were talking about making something a bit more bare-bones.

TY: More space.

EO: "Videotape" is the best example. We've had a tendency to pile on overdubs and tracks and fill everything up. I can't help but feel that we suffered from that. We just piled stuff on. You look to the essence of a great song: You've got great vocals, with lovely lyrics and a great melody, and you've got something that backs that. After Hail To The Thief, it was great to hear Thom's Eraser. You've got great vocals up front, in your face, not back in the mix futzing with all the other melodies and stuff going on. Keeping that was definitely in the cards.

By then, several sessions has also taken place at Nigel Godrich’s Hospital Studio in London’s Covent Garden. There, in December 2006, Thom Yorke felt the first real glimmer of achievement. “We were looking for something that had a real effect on us, an emotional impact, and that happened when we were doing "Videotape" and I was semi kicked out of the studio for being a negative influence. Stanley and I came back a bit worse for wear at about 11 in the evening and Jonny and Nigel had done this stuff to it that reduced us both to tears. It completely blew my mind. They’d stripped all the nonsense away that I’d been piling onto it, and what was left was this quite pure sentiment.”
--Mojo | February 2008

John: Like it. “Videotape” is the next track. And when you were sequencing the album. Did you always think this is the best way to end the record?

Thom: Well, no. Mm, Nigel and I for ages thought it should be the first track, until some… Chris, our manager, pointed out, you know—having come in from the outside, we’d been locked in the studio for a while—‘You must be bloody kidding! They’ll just play that and say forget it’, ‘cause it’s pretty dark, but um… I think that was only just because it was the thing at that particular moment that we were most proud of, you know? So…

John: So usually I mean, that’s the one that you want to share first and say ‘Hey! Look what we’ve done!’

Ed: Mm, not necessarily. I think—no, not necessarily. I think it’s like every song has its place and if I was… in the morning—well, I don’t play the songs to friends—but if I were to. I mean, it depends, if I come back from the pub and—maybe one o’clock in the morning—and sit and have a smoke that would probably be a good one to start with. But it might not be a good one at ten o’clock in the morning. You know what I mean? It’s like, I like that thing someone said once about ‘every song has its hour of the day’ almost.

Thom: That’s true.

Ed: So, it seems… I think the reason that Nigel… I remember Nigel said he wanted it to be at the start of the record because it’s just literally Thom’s voice. You’ve got the piano but you just got his voice, and we haven’t done that for a while, you know? The thing that was cool about the rest of us, when we heard The Eraser and it was like ‘Ooh… his vocals are loud! Ooh! I like that!’

Thom: ‘Why can’t he do it with us?’ [laughs]

Ed: [laughs] No, exactly. ‘Why does he want to bury it in all our noise?’

Thom: Just giving you space, chap! It’s alright.

Ed: That’s right. Hiding? No. And so I think that it’s great for that because it’s really—the voice is upfront and, you know? It’s such a great lyric.

John: Mm, yeah. Well, it’s a great way to end the album, great way to start it, then. And, of course, people can shuffle it around if they want to.

Thom: If they must.

John: Listening to the whole of In Rainbows. Something: Phil has got in touch with the programme and wanted to know that in the past, at some point, Thom, you had said that “How to Disappear”, you reckoned, was probably the best thing that Radiohead...

Thom: Oh, yeah.

John: …had ever done. Is there anything on In Rainbows you think you could’ve, as a band, have reached that pinnacle again?

Thom: Uh, me personally it would be “Videotape”. Because it was one of those songs where it was absolutely sort of—we just didn’t know how on Earth we were gonna do it; and, you know, and to end up with this really stripped-down thing where you’re hearing all this extra stuff—it’s maybe there, maybe not—you know, it’s just… it exists on a different sort of weird… There’s something else going on which you can’t hear, but it’s going on, and it transforms you hopefully, that’s the idea. “How to Disappear” was a similar thing. There’s a point in there where it’s like… You know the old Murakami?

John: No.

Thom: Uh, Japanese author. Japanese-American author. And in his books they always have this—well, it’s a constant theme of like having holes in walls that you go through and then you’re sort of a parallel… You break through to the other side sort of thing. And I think that’s the aim of records for us. Making music is—every now and again you get those bits where you break through to the other side.
--2008-01-03 | XFM Radio Interview

Tuesday, October 9, 2007