How To Disappear Completely

“That song is about the whole period of time That OK Computer was happening. We did the Glastonbury Festival and this thing in Ireland. Something just snapped in me. I just said, “That’s it. I can’t do it anymore.” And more than a year later, we were still on the road. The lyrics came from something Michael Stipe said to me. I rang him said, “I cannot cope with this.” And he said, “Pull the shutters down and keep saying, ‘I’m not here, this is not happening'”.”Thom Yorke (557)

No Surprises

“‘No Surprises’ is someone who’s really trying to keep it together, but can’t.”Thom Yorke (792)


“‘Electioneering’ is a preacher ranting in front of a bank of microphones. It’s like taking Polaroids of things that are happening at high speed in front of you…”Thom Yorke (792)

The Tourist

“I have days where my mind is going so fast, it’s going as fast as the microwave or the car or the television waves and it’s going so fast you just can’t control it and it’s in a lock and it’s just going to go forever and ‘The Tourist’ was like a sort of prayer to stop it happening.”Thom Yorke (792)
“Everything was about speed when I wrote those songs. I had a sense of looking out a window at things moving so fast I could barely see. One morning in Germany I was feeling particularly paranoid because I hadn’t slept well. I walked out to find something to eat, but I couldn’t find anything, and this fucking dog was barking at me. I’m staring at this dog, and everyone else is carrying on. That’s where ‘hey, man, slow down’ comes from. It sounds like it’s all about technology and stuff, but it’s not.”Thom Yorke (1078)


“[Do you ever get that feeling. Fuck, I’m in this great band, doing what I want. The dream came true!? – Ed] Yeah. That’s why I wrote ‘Lucky’. It really was. We’re in this band, fuck everybody else and this is amazing. You pay for it though.”Thom Yorke (792)

OK Computer (The Album)

“It was about impotence, basically, about that feeling you have when you put down a book or see a television programme that makes you really upset and violent, and there’s no way of expressing that violence, that need to change things. But it’s not the fucking Jam, is it, let’s face it?”Thom Yorke (793)
“I was getting into the sense of information overload. Which is ironic, really, since it’s so much worse now. The paranoia I felt at the time was much more related to how people related to each other. But I was using the terminology of technology to express it. Everything I was writing was actually a way of trying to reconnect with other human beings when you’re always in transit. That’s what I had to write about because that’s what was going on, which in itself instilled a kind of loneliness and disconnection.”Thom Yorke (1078)


“‘Airbag’ is more about the idea that whenever you go out on the road you could be killed. Every age has its crazy idiosyncracies, crazy double-think. To me, for our era it’s cars. I always get told off for being obsessed about it, but every time I get in my car I have to say to myself that I might never get out again. Or I might get out but I won’t be able to walk. I suppose it just comes from being a worrier. But ‘Airbag’ is also about how, the way I’ve been brought up and most of us are brought up, we are never given time to think about our own death. In fact everything you do stems from trying to offset that fear with the idea of immortality. Especially doing what what I do. If you’re a pop star all you’re trying to do is search for immortality. Or that’s the cliché, at least. Yet you’re constantly a knife-edge away from being killed in a car accident. It’s great!”Thom Yorke (794)

Karma Police

“I get stressed pretty easily and having people looking at you in that certain way [acts out curly-lipped malice, laughs – Ed], I can’t handle it any more. That’s what a lot of the album was about. That’s what ‘Karma Police’ was about.. Though it’s a joke as well, you know. “Karma police, arrest this man.” That’s not entirely serious, I hope people will realise that.”Thom Yorke (794)

Paranoid Android

“When the sleeve [in this case for OK Computer – Ed] is being designed we’re just grabbing at whatever phrases we’re hearing at the time. But the most important bit of the artwork is the “Against demons” hex underneath the CD. It’s a sign people used to put on their front doors. Because you do often see the demons in people’s eyes, they’re like fucking devils. Believe that or not. The “Kicking squealing Gucci little piggy” in ‘Paranoid Android’ was inhuman. There was a look in her eyes that I’d never seen before anywhere. Whether that was down to me being exhausted and hallucinating… no, I know what I saw in her face. I couldn’t sleep that night because of it. I was in a bar. Someone spilt a drink over her and she turned into this fiend. I mean, everyone was out of their minds on coke and I’m sure it was that. But it seems to be happening to me a lot. Seeing a look in someone’s eye and, Fucking hell, what was that?, someone walking on your grave, all the hairs on your back stand on end. The “against demons” idea is not about believing in God or the Devil, it’s just that act of drawing a hex on a door to protect yourself.”Thom Yorke (794)

The Gloaming

“It’s about the feeling I had that we’re entering an age of intolerance and fear. I guess it was … I was worrying about what was going to be there when I was gone and Noah [his son – Ed] was left. Which is quite a normal thing for a father to think. But where we live is in the middle of nowhere (in the country outside Oxford), nobody else around, and I find that really amplifies the media, it’s like … being permanently on drugs. I’d go out for a two or three-hour walk, nature all around me, beautiful scenery, but I’d have Radio 4 on the Walkman, the war in Afghanistan had started, some crazy lunatic in the Bush administration talking … all this shit going round and round and round inside me.”Thom Yorke (795)

I Will

“The funny thing about that is ‘I Will’ is actually quite an old song which came from the obsession I had about the first Gulf War – you remember when a missile hit that bunker which wasn’t a weapons dump after all, it was full of women and children? (“I will/Lay me down/In a bunker/Underground”). That stuck in my head ever since, but we didn’t know what to do with the song for yonks.”Thom Yorke (795)

Hail To The Thief (The Album)

“So much of what’s in this record is about trying to keep out of the mind control. It’s like Winston Smith in 1984 for so long is trying to cling on, to question where he is. But after a while it wears you out, you can’t keep on doing it. My partner is studying Dante, the Inferno [she’s called Rachel and she’s working on a PhD – Ed] – it’s a happy household! It is, actually. Anyway, the thing in Dante that I really love – in the translation I’ve read, I mean – is his word for the people who don’t give a fuck. He calls them “the lukewarm”. Brilliant. For a while, I wanted that to be the title of the album [instead it emerges as the subtitle of opening track ‘2 + 2 = 5’ – Ed]. The lukewarm are on the edge of the Inferno, cruising around near the gates but they can’t actually get out. They’re like, “What are we doing here? We didn’t do anything at all.” And in Dante’s eyes it’s, “That’s exactly why you’re here. You did fuck all. You just let it happen.””Thom Yorke (795)

Street Spirit (Fade Out)

“The song ‘Street Spirit’ from The Bends was completely influenced by Ben Okri’s book The Famished Road, which I read on tour in America; and also by REM – it was just a straight rip-off, you know.”Thom Yorke (1301)