Message 287: Radiohead and Philosophy and How They Get You by the Balls

A new book is in the works, for release in 2009: Radiohead and Philosophy. I’ll be writing a chapter, as previewed here.

The band’s relationship to money has been on everyone’s mind, including those who thought the “pay what you want, no really” distribution method “demeans music.” But money as a problem, as something that corrupts, has been on Thom Yorke’s mind since at least 1998’s Meeting People Is Easy:

It’s like a supply and demand thing. It’s like: ‘Well, this is what they want me to do, you know, this is what they want to hear, so I’ll do more of this. Because this is great and they love me’, and that can be the demise of so many recording artists. You know, because you suddenly, suddenly people start giving you cash as well, suddenly you’ve got money and you get used to this lifestyle and you don’t want to take any risks because they’ve got you by the balls. You don’t want to take any risks because like, why, you know you’ve got all this baggage you’re carrying around with you everywhere. And you can’t let go. You know you’ve got all these things you’ve bought or you’re attached to, or, you know, if you start spending all this money.
That’s how they get you.

Just after this interview with a slightly clueless Australian journalist, shots of Radiohead in the studio attempting to record new tracks are revealing but boring, and boring because Radiohead is bored. The last song we see performed live before the credits role is an early version of “Nude,” a song then untitled. Gee shows us Yorke joking with an MTV reporter that he’d like to call the song, “Your Home Is At Risk If You Do Not Keep Up Repayment,” but he’s not sure if the title’s “catchy enough.” Yorke’s deadpan-dark humor doesn’t spark a giggle in the room, but the risk the title alludes to is exactly the sort of risk Yorke fears losing. As he said, once you’re given money for what you do, you need to keep doing what you do or risk losing what you have. But fearing this sort of risk makes one afraid to take risks, and “that’s how they get you,” that’s how the record companies crack your little soul: that’s how they get you by the balls.


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