Message 143: Big Fish Eat the Little Ones

The first lines of “Optimistic”, the sixth song on Kid A reads:

Flies are buzzing round my head
Vultures circling the dead
Picking up every last crumb
The big fish eat the little ones
Big fish eat the little ones
Not my problem, give me some

The phrase “Big fish eat the little ones” is proverbial (according to Morris Tilley’s A Dictionary of the Proverbs in England in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries) and appears in Shakespeare’s play Pericles, Prince of Tyre published in 1609. The third fisherman, in Act 2, Scene 1, asks the first fisherman: “Maister, I marvel how the fishes live in the sea?” The first fisherman responds: “Why, as men do a-land, the great ones eat up the little ones.”

2 replies on “Message 143: Big Fish Eat the Little Ones”

“Optimistic” is one of my favorite songs and that line, “the big fish eat the little ones, not my problem give me some” has always stuck out for me. There seems to be so much depth in those simple words, I find Kid A to be one of Radiohead’s greatest works. They could have tried to release another “Ok Computer,” and flopped but they chose to expand and experiment, which is something that many artists say they do but fail to deliver.

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