Street Spirit (Fade out)

Album: The Bends (1995)
Charted: 5
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  • This song and video were well received in North America. People found it quite melodic and peaceful, much to Thom Yorke's chagrin. It's one of his darker songs, with strange lyrics and a foreboding message. He didn't especially enjoy playing the song live, but it was one of the most highly anticipated and requested at shows. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Meredith - Toronto, Canada
  • Yorke insisted that he didn't really write this, that it wrote itself. He claimed the band was merely its messengers, for something he called "our purest, saddest song."
  • Yorke has said this was inspired by Ben Okri's 1991 novel The Famished Road.
  • According to Q magazine April 2008 the arpeggio guitar part was played by Ed O'Brien using an instrument constructed by the band's guitar tech "Plank."
  • This became Radiohead's first UK Top 5 single thanks in part to its music promo. The director Jonathan Glazier, was approached by Thom Yorke after the singer had been impressed by Glazier's only previous video, for Massive Attack's "Karmacoma." He would later direct Radiohead's promo for "Karma Police." Glazier told The Guardian Setember 24, 2005: "With Radiohead, it's very much about convincing Thom Yorke of your ideas. But once he's chosen you there's not any interference - he wants you to go off and be experimental. I'd had this idea for ages that I'd seen in nature programs, where they'd film an eagle flying at 1,200 frames per second then cut frames out to slow it down. It's a technique you see in every second ice-cream commercial nowadays but back then it was new. They weren't sure if they wanted to make Street Spirit the next single so I initially wrote this idea up to be used with a different song. We shot the whole thing at night in the desert outside LA. The band are hardly the most rowdy on set. They just slept the whole time. I'd have to wake them once in a while so I could film them being pushed off a chair.

    They'd wake up and do it a bit gruffly then go back for another kip. In the end, I'd spent so much time filming shots of breaking glass and nuns jumping off trampolines that I hadn't got the right performance out of Thom. I had to cut the video together with black windows inserted where he should have been. But the record company liked what they saw enough to arrange for me to go to Germany a few weeks later to film Thom singing. In the end it worked out. That was the film that, creatively, got me up and running."
  • British rock band The Darkness covered this on their 2012 album Hot Cakes. Frontman Justin Hawkins explained: "We included the Radiohead cover because it has been a live favorite for many moons, and we wanted to release a definitive recording of our interpretation."
  • John Dolmayan of System Of A Down covered this song for his 2020 project These Grey Men with Tom Morello and M. Shadows featuring on the track. "That's my favorite Radiohead song," Dolmayan told Songfacts. I always wanted the drums to come in a little earlier, and I approached it with John Bonham's style of playing in mind."

Comments: 19

  • Laurence from Bishop Auckland, United KingdomI think this song is about the inevitability that life is cruel, whether you realise it or not. The last line, in my opinion, is not a ray of hope but it is something all living things do to escape the inevitable. There is no angst in this song, nor depression, just acceptance of defeat and fear.

    BTW im actually a pretty upbeat person. I dont think think this song is anything to get depressed about. It's an affirmation that we are all in the same boat together floating toward the same place.
  • Maurice from Amsterdam, NetherlandsBeautifull when the drums come in..
  • Brigette from Melbourne, Australiathis song makes me feel utter sadness...i dont know how to explain
    its eerie but mellow at the same time but whenever i listen to feels like theres a cool body of water in my lower gut. i usually feel like that whenever im in deep.
  • Evan from Foley, MnI really wonder about the power of songs. Certianly this one is not one to be taken lightly. A group of friends and I once sang this in a group of people and many started weeping. I don't know anything of auras or anything else spiritual, but it was definitely a chilling moment.
  • Cecilia from Portland, OrBeautiful and exquisitely sad. Definitely a good listen-to if you're in the mood for a good cry...but also mellow, so at least you won't find yourself throwing things. One of my all time favorites.
  • James from Victoria, Australiathe lyrics are great, especially the line,
    Cracked eggs, dead birds Scream as they fight for life I can feel death, can see its beady . angst ridden, great song too. much better than any pop music made now. for a great perfomrace of this look up the performace that thom and jonny did for mtv.
  • Victor from Howell, NjI think that this song has one of the most crushing melodies of any modern song...

    There are times I can't handle this song, but I have to anyway.
  • Carlos A. from Santa Cruz, Cathis was the song the definitively made me fall in love with radiohead. i consider myself a pretty optimistic person, but often times feel sub-consciously magnetized towards the sad and melancholic. it was after i read thom?s take on this song (from this website) that i realized how very, very hopeless he feels towards this song. and upon reading the words again, i can?t helo but feel a sort of guilt for not recognizing the apocalyptic theme. but my favorite line in an english written song is taken from this song. i suppose that it?s because of it?s ?no way out? nature that one would have to resort to such hope. the line is the last in the song and if everyone took that advice, the world would be a better place.
    ?immerse your soul in love.?
  • Nate from Pittsburgh, PaRows of Houses all bearing down on me. One of the best songs ever.
  • Robb from London, EnglandAwesome melody so simple yet so gripping. The lyrics especially live haunt you forever and make goosebumps appear constantly.
  • Max from Sydney, Australiaone of my favourite radiohead songsvideos. This song is definitly one of their darker song with some strange lytics but a fantasic song.
  • Rashed from Camden, NjMost enchanting song ever. Beautiful melody, perfect vocals, awesome theme.
  • Shobu from Trenton, NjHaving read the first comment on this page (beginning "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.....") I am now convinced that Thom Yorke is the single most pretentious human being ever to have existed.
  • Christine from SunderlandI love this song and the video is one of their best. i like the video for no surprises better though it makes my lungs hurt just watching him.
  • Kathy from N-u-l, EnglandI didn't particularly like this song, but The Darkness did a cover of it, which is alot more upbeat and tis uber cool. m/
  • Timothy from Metropolis, IlWhen i first heard this song, i put it on repeat and just lied on my floor for 3 hours.(no lie) This song is great and truly powerful.
  • Darksoul from Toronto, CanadaApparently this song was based on the novel "The Famished Road" by Ben Okri which Thom love.
  • Jade from London, EnglandNice quote by Thom Yorke, thank's for writing that Dora! I love this song & only because my Dad love's it. I don't understand why at the moment we are the only two people who have commented on it! LOL!
  • Dora from Sofia, BulgariaThom Yorke:

    "'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 f--king 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."
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