Idioteque

Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • "Idioteque" is not a real word. The title may imply "idiotic." It does not appear in the lyrics.
  • This electronic track has been described by lead singer Thom Yorke as "the happiest song we've ever written." He's being cheeky: the song takes place in a bunker during what appears to be an apocalypse.
  • This features two samples taken from the 1976 album First Recordings-Electronic Music Winners. The composer is Paul Lansky and the title is "Mild Und Liese." Says Lansky on his website: "I like the effect they get in 'Idioteque' by combining sustained and percussive sounds." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France, for all above

Comments: 12

  • Medium Pimpin' from DenverOne of my favorite Radiohead songs...(seems appropriate at the moment noodlidoodle)
  • Noodlidoodle from Singaporehello from 2020. ha ha
  • Sirius from LuxembourgI read it as Idio-Tech, the Web and its social media as places of ideological warmongering, where everything is allowed. But the dissolution of the basis of political discourse is as serious as a nuclear fallout, and could lead to one. Mobiles chirping, it's the social media giants who take the money and run. I know the song is 20 years old, but a guy like Thom Yorke would easily have foreseen this.
  • Anima Mundi from South AfricaI love the individuality of this song, there's no song like it. However, I don’t agree that it’s about Global Warming, I don’t think Thom Yorke would be so blatant in his lyric writing.

    Global warming could easily be featuring as the subjects are linked but I believe it’s fundamentally about warmongering and specifically the invention and use of nuclear warfare (i.e. idiot technology), as well as the interdependent political and military governing transformations during that time where the trend of governing masses by force through fear began.

    "We're not scaremongering - This is really happening" is reference to Newspaper headlines for that time period. “This is really happening” refers to the threat/fear of Communism. “We're not scaremongering” refers to Truman, and later Eisenhower defending/justifying their threats and use of the bomb for which they were criticized for as most Government Officials at the time declared the bomb both morally reprehensible and militarily unnecessary, calling Truman (and later Eisenhower) scaremongers and warmongers.

    As stated below, it’s quite clear that a madman is being described however I believe it's a reference to Eisenhower and/or Nixon who was the initial inspiration for the Madman Theory later adopted by Nixon and the warmongers of that particular decade. Truman was recorded as laughing hysterically and boasting like a town crier after the bomb was deployed.

    The ice age reference; when the inventing scientists of the atomic bomb (specifically Robert Oppenheimer) started having moral qualms and petitioned to call it off they used the reasoning theory was that the smoke and emissions from the bomb could prevent solar output to earth for unknown periods of time which could cause a 'freezing' snowball effect ending in a modern day ice age.
  • Natalia from Sofia, BulgariaI don't think the song is about global warming :D In my opionion it is about a madman, who is in a madhouse. His trauma is perhabs a disaster/corporations stuff.
    "Here I'm allowed everything all of the time"
    It's clear. If you are mad you are allowed to speak whatever occurs to you. It is typical for Thom Yorke that his lyrics are just words stuck in his head while being insomniac.
  • Chris from Brooklyn, Nywilliam: "Here I'm allowed everything all of the time" --- that's the corporations talking - they can run amok; get away with anything -and it's all allowed to happen..

  • Tyrone from Lahinch, IrelandWell the United States has the largest amount of carbon emissions per capita in the world.
  • Brandon from Columbus, OhChina is the number one producer of greenhouse gases, actually.
  • William from Roanoke, VaIdioteque is about the discussion taking place in the world around the Kyoto Protocol, which at the time was being signed and ratified by nations.

    "Who's in the bunker?/Women and children first"

    Bunkers are safety shelters against disasters (tornadoes, bombs, nuclear explosions). In emergency situations, it is often practiced that women and children are given priority in safety devices or rescues. Yorke is taking the position that a disaster is occurring and we must be saved.

    "I laugh until my head comes off. I swallow 'till I burst"

    Scientists at the time pretty much all agreed that global warming was occurring, at man-made activity was heavily involved; however, opposition to the protocol often was skeptical of man-made activities being involved, or downright denied it. Yorke is 'laughing' because he finds it amazing that people could flat out deny it; he is 'swallowing' his tongue because he is mad; the main opposition to the protocol was the United States, the single largest producer of man-made greenhouse gases.

    "I have seen too much/You haven't seen enough/I laugh until my head comes off"

    Clearly, the first line here refers to the overwhelming, and very scary, evidence for global warming. Those opposed to the treaty or were debating it 'wanted to see more' because they 'hadn't seen enough.' Obviously, the 'idiocy' of skeptics and those opposed is laughable.

    "Here I'm allowed everything all of the time"

    I don't know.

    "Ice Age Comin'"

    The final result of global warming is a radical shift from a hot earth into a freezing earth: hence, an ice age.

    "Let me here both sides"

    Again, a reference to skeptics and the undecided.

    "Throw them in the fire"

    A reference to burning things deemed 'threatening' in order to ignore and/or destroy the threat. Again, I believe Yorke is referring to the skeptics, deniers, and the religious who do not believe that global warming is happening.

    "We're not scaremongering, this is really happening"

    Pretty obvious here; a message to the critics/opposition: we're not trying to scare you in order to support some underlying motive, global warming is really happening.

    "Mobiles quirking, mobiles chirping"

    Two different meanings of "mobile" being used here. Those 'quirking' are people who are easily moved by emotions, impulsions, etc. By quirking, they are switching sides, being indecisive, or having bizarre reactions to something: in my opinion, Yorke is simply referring to everyone who has not yet accepted global warming.

    Those 'chirping' are cell phones, probably lobbyists and politicians discussing the issue.

    "Take the money and run"

    A reference to the United States, in 1999, when the Senate voted unanimously against signing the Kyoto Protocol; activists believe business lobbyists, especially those whose businesses would be negatively affected by the Kyoto standards, were behind the one-side vote. Yorke probably believes that at least some politicians knew what they were doing was wrong, but to give up the campaign funding from some of these companies was too much: so, take the money and run.





  • Nick from San Antonio, TxI thought idioteque was a play on words with discotheque, but I think that is because I pronounce the title that way.
  • Pat from Cheverly, Md I can't really interpret this song in anything other than a recent sense in that I think it makes references to how things are now in 2007 (or at least post 9/11). Had I heard this song back in 2000 when it was released, I would've been able to make a more accurate interpretation.

    Anyway, to me, this song is about how generations to come are going to have a lot to deal with. They'll be surrounded by technology ("mobiles chirping, mobiles quirking") that will overshadow ideals from recent times that were once held in high esteem ("deaf and lost are the children"). "Ice age coming" seems to refer to growing threats of nuclear war and global warming, again in a more recent sense. That's about all I get from it.
  • Zach Anderson from Medway, Mawhy has no one commented? This song kicks a**.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Billy Steinberg - "Like A Virgin"

Billy Steinberg - "Like A Virgin"They're Playing My Song

The first of Billy's five #1 hits was the song that propelled Madonna to stardom. You'd think that would get you a backstage pass, wouldn't you?

Frankie Valli

Frankie ValliSong Writing

An interview with Frankie Valli, who talks about why his songs - both solo and with The Four Seasons - have endured, and reflects on his time as Rusty Millio on The Sopranos.

90s Metal

90s MetalFact or Fiction

Test your metal - Priest, Maiden, and Beavis and Butt-head show up in this one.

Mike Scott of The Waterboys - "Fisherman's Blues"

Mike Scott of The Waterboys - "Fisherman's Blues"They're Playing My Song

Armed with a childhood spent devouring books, Mike Scott's heart was stolen by the punk rock scene of 1977. Not surprisingly, he would go on to become the most literate of rockers.

Queen

QueenFact or Fiction

Scaramouch, a hoople and a superhero soundtrack - see if you can spot the real Queen stories.

Amanda Palmer

Amanda PalmerSongwriter Interviews

Call us crazy, but we like it when an artist comes around who doesn't mesh with the status quo.