Author Archives: joseph

Message 355: Boxing Gloves

In the video for “A Brain In A Bottle,” Thom Yorke appears wearing boxing gloves:

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From a 1995 Rolling Stone article entitled Radiohead Transform Emotional Turmoil Into Kinetic Pop:

His father sold chemical-engineering equipment and was a champion university boxer. “One of the first things he ever bought me was a pair of boxing gloves,” says Yorke. “He used to try to teach me to box, but whenever he hit me, I’d fall flat on my ass.” When Yorke was 8, his family moved to Oxford. At 10 he formed his first band, and two years later he wound up at a boys boarding school near Abingdon, England, where he spent several of his most unhappy years. He had few friends, fought frequently and, despite his formative training, usually lost boxing matches.

Colin Greenwood, in an interview with The Word magazine (now defunct, article mirrored here), said Thom Yorke’s “bobbly head thing” while dancing is “a hangover from the days when Thom’s father taught him how to box. ‘Thom’s got really broad shoulders,’ says Colin. ‘When you see them go down, boxer-style, that means he’s really enjoying it.'”

Message 347: Little By Little

The OED confirms that the phrase construction “x by x” first appears in English in Langland’s Piers Plowman (the year: 1393). The phrase “little by little” itself first appears in English in 1483. In this: Catholicon Anglicum: an English-Latin wordbook.

Little by little, the phrase “little by little” seemed to have entered the English vernacular c. 1865.


Message 345: Watch Me Dance, I’m A Puppet

From In Rainbows. The song “Up On The Ladder.” One line: “Watch me dance / I’m a puppet / You can almost / See the strings” (line divisions are best guess).

In the video for “Lotus Flower,” we cannot see strings:

What we do see is “peculiar but totally liberated dancing,” to quote Ben Sisario (“Thom Yorke’s New Band, From Many Angles,” October 5, 2009 in the New York Times.

Similar to a later description at another Atoms for Peace concert: “Twitching, strutting, pivoting, hopping, jittering and gesticulating, he let the music propel him in ways that were anything but cerebral” (“A Thinker Finds His Funk“, Jon Pareles, April 6, 2010 in the New York Times.

Consider this dance the antidote to the claustrophobic near-drowning of “No Surprises.”

Yorke’s head is submerged by water, his body is submerged by camera–dry but out of sight (correction here suggested by caitlin, comment below). No dancing. Not even with puppet strings.

The song “No Surprises” is about a form of contentment with failed failover safety. Contentment becomes quiet contempt that becomes a carbon monoxide handshake—suicide as formality. For the video, Yorke underwent entrapment. The making of “No Surprises,” as seen in Meeting People Is Easy, shows the entrapment’s extent. The real claustrophobia, the real risk:

Yorke’s energetic frustration at his inability to hold his breath is the negative image of his frenetic dance for “Lotus Flower.” Dance without a helmet. Doing whatever you want while the cat is away.