Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke has a knack for knocking the air out of one’s lungs.
“‘Street Spirit’ is our purest song, but I didn’t write it…. It wrote itself. We were just its messengers… Its biological catylysts. It’s core is a complete mystery to me… and (pause) you know, I wouldn’t ever try to write something that hopeless… All of our saddest songs have somewhere in them at least a glimmer of resolve… ‘Street Spirit’ has no resolve… It is the dark tunnel without the light at the end. It represents all tragic emotion that is so hurtful that the sound of that melody is its only definition. We all have a way of dealing with that song… It’s called detachment… Especially me.. I detach my emotional radar from that song, or I couldn’t play it… I’d crack. I’d break down on stage.. that’s why its lyrics are just a bunch of mini-stories or visual images as opposed to a cohesive explanation of its meaning… I used images set to the music that I thought would convey the emotional entirety of the lyric and music working together… That’s what’s meant by ‘all these things are one to swallow whole’.. I meant the emotional entirety, because I didn’t have it in me to articulate the emotion… (pause) I’d crack…. 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…and it’s real…and true. The devil really will get the last laugh in all cases without exception, and if I let myself think about that to long, I’d crack. I can’t believe we have fans that can deal emotionally with that song… That’s why I’m convinced that they don’t know what it’s about. It’s why we play it towards the end of our sets. It drains me, and it shakes me, and hurts like hell everytime I play it, looking out at thousands of people cheering and smiling, oblivious to the tragedy of it’s meaning, like when you’re going to have your dog put down and it’s wagging it’s 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. (very long pause). I didn’t write that song.”