Lexington’s Brother


How Thom Yorke Accidentally Predicted 9/11

I was surfing for an article Chuck Klosterman wrote about Radiohead back when Hail To The Thief came out in 2003 during my first attempt at a post (it got deleted) and I found the following excerpts on this blog.  It’s an excerpt from Klosterman’s Killing Yourself To Live, which says that Radiohead’s Kid A predicted 9/11 more than a year before it happened.

From Klosterman’s Killing Yourself To Live…

The first song on Kid A paints the Manhattan skyline at 8:00 A.M. on Tuesday morning; the song is titled “Everything in Its Right Place.” People woke up that day “sucking on a lemon,” because that’s what life normally feels like on the Manhattan subway; the city is a beautiful, sour, sarcastic place. We soon move onto song two, which is the title track. It is the sound of woozy, ephemeral normalcy. It is the sound of Jonny Greenwood playing an Ondes Martenot, an instrument best remembered for its use in the Star Trek theme song. You can imagine humans walking to work, riding elevators, getting off the C train and the 3 train, and thinking about a future that will be a lot like the present, only better. The term KID A is Yorke’s moniker for the first cloned human, which he (only half jokingly) suspects may already exist. The consciously misguided message is this: Science is the answer. Technology solves everything, because technology is invulnerable. And this is what almost everyone in America thought around 8:30 A.M. But something happens three and a half minutes into “Kid A”. It suddenly doesn’t feel right, and you don’t exactly know why. This is followed by track three, “The National Anthem”

This is when the first plane slams into the north tower at 470 mph.

For those who haven’t heard “The National Anthem”, Klosterman is going to describe it in the next paragraph.  Here’s a live version of the song, which seems to change every time the band performs it.

If you don’t want to watch the video, know that “The National Anthem” is basically apocalyptic, chaotic and sounds like society crumbling over the course of five minutes.  Back to the text…

“The National Anthem” sounds a bit like a Morphine song. It’s a completely different direction from the first two songs on KID A, and it’s confusing; it’s chaotic. “What’s going on?,” the lyrics ask. “What’s going on?” It gets crazier and crazier, until the second plane hits the second tower (at 9:03 A.M. in reality and at 3:42 in the song). For a moment, things are somber. But then it gets more anarchic. (Reader’s Note: You might want to consider playing KID A right about now, since I’m not always so good at explaining shit like this). Which leads into track four, “How to Disappear Completely.” This is the point where it feels like the world is possibly ending. People try to convince themselves that they are not there. People keep repeating: “This isn’t happening”. People are “floating” (read: falling) to the earth. We are told of strobe lights and blown speakers; there are fireworks and hurricanes. This is a song about being burned alive and jumping out of windows, and this is a song about having to watch those things happen. And it’s followed by an instrumental piece without melody (“Treefingers”), because what can you say when skyscrapers collapse? All you can do is stare at them with your hand over your mouth.

Time passes. It’s afternoon. KID A’s side two, if you have it on vinyl. Action is replaced by thought. The song is “Optimistic, ” a word that becomes more meaningful in its absence. It has lyrics about Ground Zero (“vultures circle the dead”), and it offers a glimpse into how Al Qaeda members think Americans perceive international diplomacy (“the big fish eat the little ones, the big fish eat the little ones/Not my problem, give me some”). Track seven, “In Limbo” is about how the United States has been shaken out of its fantasy, with “nowhere to hide,” finding only “trap doors that open, I spiral down”……

The text goes on, but you get the idea.  The explanation might seem like a huge coincidence, but given the fact that Radiohead is unquestionably the smartest band Klosterman’s ever interviewed (he’s said it multiple times in interviews and in Chuck Klosterman IV), it seems like the band from Oxford might have seen this coming.  Not with planes flying into buildings exactly, but with the infrastructure of the United States crumbling with one giant blow to its foundation.

Even though 9/11 was a terrible event, the fact that Kid A seemed to predict a 9/11 type of event and a writer recognized this blows me away.

Update: I just read through this part (pages 83-89) in my previously un-read copy of Killing Yourself To Live and it turns out that Thom Yorke had writer’s block when he was trying to write the lyrics on Kid A. So what he did was scribble a bunch of short phrases and whatnot on napkins and toss them into a hat and then pick them out at random.  The coincidence of Kid A and 9/11 is amazing.