Message 289: “you take things too SEERIUSLEE”


Thom Yorke. Laughing?

The b-sides for In Rainbows features two moments where we hear Radiohead laugh. “Bangers & Mash” (at approx. 2:32 in) and “4 Minute Warning” (at approx. 0:58 in). Radiohead, in and since Meeting People Is Easy, has been the band that doesn’t laugh. That’s not so true. As Samuel JP Shaw put it, “Radiohead – good humoured? You’re having a laugh.” Um, yes. Another quote:

I believe that to dismiss the band as merely despondent is to miss a trick. Hail To The Thief as an album clearly doesn’t intend to present its listeners with a positive view of the world. However, the way that Radiohead present their manifesto of woe is not without a sense of fun.

Shaw has it right. Just listen to Yorke’s laugh. In Rainbows is less funny than Radiohead having fun. The songs are sexy, languorous–think of “Nude.” It’s fun, the band is having fun, and the song is funny: “You’ll go to hell for what your dirty mind is thinking.”

Now, that’s funny.

4 replies on “Message 289: “you take things too SEERIUSLEE””

Goodness. I’d probably never have noticed those two laughs without you pointing them out. Such details can, however, be revealing. One of my favourite moments of ‘In Rainbows’ is Yorke’s ‘hrum’ (or however you choose to spell it) at the beginning of ‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’. It’s not so much the fact that he did it – in a live performance, it wouldn’t strike me as odd (Yorke’s array of strange noises is vast). But the fact that they chose to keep it in the studio recording is interesting. I can’t help wondering whether this small noise prompted a debate within the band…
(p.s. very glad to see pulk-pull back and running)

And, again, from a recent interview in Word Magazine, in answer to the question ‘What do people most often get wrong about Radiohead?’
Ed O’Brien: I used to think that maybe people didn’t know that there’s actually a great sense of humour in the band. But maybe the webcasts and a few of the things we did last year show that we’re not entirely super-serious all the time. You can’t do what we do without humour. It’s a lot easier to be melancholic in music. We struggle with songs of joy. That’s the tough part.’ (see

Good point about the “hrum” in “Weird Fishes.” He does it again at the very beginning of the b-side, studio-version of “Down is the New Up.” He recently said (no citation, sorry) that this was his favorite song from the _In Rainbows_ sessions. Given that and the “uhhs” and “hrums” one would think they’re just getting more comfortable with the recording process. I’m sure there’s a dissertation somewhere waiting to be done on recorded “hurms.” I would be curious to know when extra-musical sounds started creeping in–Jelly Rolly Morton had them, but scripted. Thelonious Monk left in his grunts and groans. The list could go on.

Well indeed. I suppose they add a little humanity to the record; maybe even an attempt to break the boundary between our concept of studio and live recordings. And more often that not, those little laughs are memorable. I’m less surprised by the sound of ‘Down is the New Up’ – the song has that slightly raw, laid-back style anyway… ‘Weird Fishes’ starts, however, with such a clean tight drum beat that the ‘hrum’ is a strange intrusion. Nit deliberate, but deliberately left there.
Funny how the little laughs can almost make a song. I’m finding myself warming all the more to Bjork’s ‘Earth Intruders’ on the basis of the way she seems to be breaking into a laugh on one the final ‘march’s..

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