Thom Yorke from Radiohead vfideo Street Spirit.

Radiohead ~ Street Spirit (Fade Out) [2⊘15]

The music video for “Street Spirit” was filmed over two nights in a desert outside Los Angeles. Directed by Jonathan Glazer, he described it as a “turning point” for his work, feeling that Radiohead had “found their own voices as an artist” and that “I got close to whatever mine was, and I felt confident that I could do things that emoted, that had some kind of poetic as well as prosaic value“.

Rows of houses all bearing down on me
I can feel their blue hands touching me
All these things into position
All these things we’ll one day swallow whole

Songwriter Thom Yorke said the track was inspired by the American band R.E.M. and the 1991 novel The Famished Road by Ben Okri, featuring a three-headed spirit that leads the main character down a road, likely inspiring the song’s title and alluding to its crux. In 2018, Pitchfork wrote that the song “channels a sense of capitalist dread that even class-conscious Britpop artists repressed.”

Ascribed to the book Radiohead: From a Great Height, Yorke describes the song with some difficulty, “Its core is a complete mystery to me. I wouldn’t ever try to write something that hopeless. Our fans are braver than I to let that song penetrate them, or maybe they don’t realize what they’re listening to. They don’t realize that ‘Street Spirit’ is about staring the fucking devil right in the eyes… and knowing, no matter what the hell you do, he’ll get the last laugh. The devil really will get the last laugh in all cases without exception, and if I let myself think about that too long, I’d crack.”

He continues, “It’s why we play it toward the end of our sets. It drains me, and it shakes me and hurts like hell every time I play it, looking out at thousands of people cheering and smiling, oblivious to the tragedy of its meaning. Like when you’re going to have your dog put down and it’s wagging its tail on the way there, that’s what they all look like, and it breaks my heart. I wish that song hadn’t picked us as its catalysts, and so I don’t claim it. It asks too much… I didn’t write that song.

This machine will, will not communicate
These thoughts and the strain I am under
Be a world child, form a circle
Before we all go under

Street Spirit, while a well-crafted, plaintive ballad full of depth of tone and feeling, hits the heart with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. It’s a vortex of purest despair, struck with every plucked string, and its waterfall of emptiness doesn’t stop until the final note. The descending vocal line of the song’s outro imitates the unrecoverable realization that the music describes.


Cracked eggs, dead birds, scream as they fight for life
I can feel death, can see its beady eyes
All these things into position
All these things we’ll one day swallow whole

Immerse your soul in love.”



Gratuitous data blessedly derived from Wikipedia here

22 thoughts on “Radiohead ~ Street Spirit (Fade Out) [2⊘15]

  1. Even if I didn’t understand the lyrics, the song would still sound sad. And the visuals are sublime.
    There’s an old song named “San Francisco” sang by Scott McKenzie that (to me) sounds sad despite the lyrics not being so. Don’t know why, but this Radiohead song brought it to mind.

    1. Thank you, Jai. You reminded me there was more to Thom’s description of the song, so I’ve updated the post to include some of those darker details I had inadvertently left out.

      That is a beautiful song (just checked it out and I really like it). The chosen chords are melancholic to me, even if the lyrics are less so as you said. They seem imbued with nostalgia for something I cannot remember, but still seem to miss terribly.

      1. I’ll have to go back and revisit your post.
        Your descriptive words—melancholic, nostalgia—pinpoint much better what I feel when listening to “San Francisco.” Sad wasn’t really adequate, but was the best I could come up with at the time.
        I’m enjoying the videos you share, along with the song analysis.

      2. And I think you are my people as well…and I don’t even know what to call you. DisturbedByVoices is quite a mouthful. 🖤😊

      3. Good to virtually meet you, Rann…my friends call me jai (there’s a reason for the small “j”, and someday, I may—or not—tell you why. 😉🖤

      4. Hmm…now you have me wondering what that book might be. Are you basing your belief on your enjoyment of the book, the author’s mastery of prose, or the plot? Or all that I mentioned? Or something entirely different? I’ve read a lot of great (to me) books, and in my humble opinion, Stephen King does a great job of drawing one into a story, usually starting out with mundane people and placing them in extraordinary circumstances. For years, The Stand was my favorite book, though critics would never describe it as a great book. But recently, I finished The Expanse Series, and loved its scope and imaginative plot. In case you don’t already know, The Expanse is sci-fi, and some of the novels were made into a series available on Amazon Prime. Yes, in addition to creepy books and movies, I like sci-fi too. Dark sci-fi, of course. 🖤

      5. Enjoyment, mastery of prose… beauty. I read all of King’s books, up through Needful Things (he is a master). His books hook you, and so I would go without sleep to finish them. My favorite is Different Seasons, but I am way behind now… The critics, his detractors, have long since eaten their foul words. I liked The Stand too. Watched The Expanse; haven’t read the books though. Love dark sci-fi, as well. Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” series, Roger Zelazny’s “Chronicles Of Amber” series, and a rather underknown series called “Yesterday’s Gone” are my favs. I seem to have a thing for anti-heroes… 💀🖤

      6. Antiheroes are much more interesting than your run-of the-mill heroes; they have character.
        I’ve heard of the Ender’s Game series, but haven’t read it—yet. I’ll look into the other two.
        Regarding The Expanse, I read they stopped the series after the sixth of nine novels because the last three books covered a thirty-year time jump. If in the future you read the books, you’ll find that there’s more to the books than in the tv series. They are loooong books.

      7. “Yesterday’s Gone”, although not an older classic, has a really cool antihero in it that likes to go on these long-winded whimsical swearing tirades. His character is really reminiscent of King’s work, kind of like King on steroids and very cool. I’ll check out The Expanse, after The Man in the High Castle…

      8. Are you reading “Yesterday’s Gone” or watching it? I’ve found a series of books of it on Amazon, but on the streaming services I use, don’t see it.

    1. I think a lot of their music exudes a dark tinge, but this song in particular was dark enough that it even bothered Thom Yorke, hence its inclusion here. In Rainbows was the last album I really enjoyed by them, after that they became too esoteric for me… Thanks for reaching out, James!

  2. I loved this album when it was released and still enjoy listening to it today! My favourite tracks change every now and then but, to me, one of my favourite albums!

    1. Truth. The Bends is such a great album and easily one of my favorites of theirs too. Thanks for sharing!

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