• Burn The Witch

    Article by Ey@el and music & lyrics by Radiohead

    Original en français

    To those who have been paying attention, last weekend on the night of 30th April to 1st May called Walpurgis Night or Beltane Fire Night, also known as Witches Sabbath, some pagan celebrations were held in places (for details, see Related articles). It is therefore no coincidence this date was specifically chosen by Radiohead to make their comeback to the music scene after a lengthy absence of five years with this meaningful single and video clip.


    Stand in shadows,
    Cheer at the gallows:
    This is a round-up.

    This is a low flying panic attack.
    Sing the song on the jukebox
    That goes:

    Burn the witch!
    Burn the witch!

    We know where you live...

    Red crosses on wooden doors,
    If you float, you burn.

    Loose talk around tables:
    Abandon all reason,
    Avoid all eye contact,
    Do not react,
    Shoot the messenger.

    This is a low flying panic attack.
    Sing a song of sixpence
    That goes:

    Burn the witch!
    Burn the witch!

    We know where you live...
    We know where you live...

    © Thom Yorke, 2016

    About this song

    Pioneers at every level in terms of both music and asset management as well as distributing their own music, the intelligent, educated fivesome (not to call them aliens in rock music), who came close to being consumed by the music industry in the mid-1990's, have since learnt how to deftly juggle their way into the Matrix in order to preserve their independence and creativity and protect themselves as individuals. Still without a proper record deal (their music is distributed via an independent label which does only that), the launching of their new single resulted in some kind of cleverly orchestrated media event as they... disappeared completely from the web without prior notice!

    It all started on Saturday morning when some British fans received mysterious cards by post displaying the Radiohead logo (a mutant bear) and a strange message inviting them to sing a sixpence song and burn the witch. “We know where you live” it stated. The news, of course, went viral and caught the attention of online mainstream media who also reported it. On Sunday, by mid-afternoon, first the band's official website then their various social media accounts began to fade progressively over time to completely blank in the evening. Ultimately, all their posts including banners and profile pictures were removed. A great relief ensued on the following day when the first excerpts from the above clip were gradually revealed (in dribs and drabs). The complete video only became available in the evening prior to the official release of the single on the various commercial music streaming platforms.

    And what a wonderful surprise! First, the stop-motion animation clip directed by Chris Hopewell (who also contributed to the "There There" video in 2003) using plasticine characters is obviously inspired by both Trumpton children's television series (first shown on the BBC in 1967) and Robin Hardy's Wicker Man (1973) — a cult movie ranking among the 100 Best Movies ever produced in the UK at the British Film Institute — of which it is actually a 4-minute retelling.

    Musicwise, the rich, diverse influence of Jonny Greenwood — who spends his time off Radiohead composing film scores with symphony orchestras and recording ethnic or “world music” albums with Indian and Israeli musicians — is clearly felt in the part using violins as previously glimpsed and hoped with "Spectre" recorded (but ultimately rejected) for the latest Bond movie (see Related articles). Having had a hard time digesting the whole of Radiohead's discography within a relatively short period of time, I didn't expect I would get into this track from the first notes. Thom Yorke's superb clear voice is literally bewitching.

    For the record, this title would have been written thirteen years ago during the sessions of twin albums Kid A and Amnesiac. Apparently, the band would have tried to rearrange it on many occasions to no avail. Until now.

    Lyricwise — while early scraps can be found on the booklet cover of Hail To The Thief as well as on a page entitled "The Diet of The Worms" on their official website as from 2004 — a reference is made to "Sing A Song of Sixpence", an old British nursery rhyme that goes:

    Sing a song of sixpence,
    A pocket full of rye ,
    Four-and-twenty blackbirds
    Baked in a pie.
    When the pie was opened
    The birds began to sing.

    Considering the present world situation, notably the worrying rise of nationalism in Britain, France, and almost everywhere in Europe, these lyrics might be understood as a criticism of all the political-media witch hunting actually going on.

    I, however (and it's my own view), also see in this whole How-To-Disappear-Completely launching operation — where an entirely blank Facebook page recorded millions of likes (sic) — an urge for some people to put their own house in order. To anyone who will listen, of course. With all due respect, I don't know how to say it (please, don't burn me — actually I wouldn't float, I'd sink straight away!), but given the way some jumped to mind-blowing conclusions purely based on assumptions, I wouldn't be surprised that Radiohead might have wanted to try an experiment at the same time. I don't know whether it turned out to be a great enjoyment or disappointment. My guess would be just a confirmation of what they knew already. Now, anyone may read between the lines and find his own meaning. After all, as Montaigne (much liked by Thom Thumb) would say, what do I know?



    Here I go again: check my lyrical spoof below.

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