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The Radiohead song that came to Thom Yorke in a dream


Radiohead fans – and Thom Yorke followers specifically – know especially well that they can dip into a dream-like state while listening to their music, even if that’s not what you might expect from the band all of the time. But Thom Yorke’s voice and composition make it more than possible for mellow tracks to slip into what can feel like a hypnotising condition.

For those who have followed Thom’s solo works – or his compositions outside of Radiohead such as 2018 Suspiria soundtrack, upon which his voice only appears a select few times, but when it does, is broken up by careful piano and ambient orchestra – you’re already well aware of just how versatile Yorke and his inspirations are.

Speaking of his impulses, Thom Yorke has found inspiration in many places, including his own dreams. In fact, the Radiohead song that came to Yorke in a dream might not surprise you. The track in question is ‘How to Disappear Completely’, which appears on their 2021 album KID A MNESIA, capturing the inspiration and atmosphere he describes almost perfectly.

Discussing the origins of the song, Thom Yorke once commented: “I dreamt I was floating down the Liffey and there was nothing I could do. I was flying around Dublin and I really was in the dream. The whole song is my experiences of really floating”.

The song in question captures that floating quality both with the depth of sound and somewhat drifty nature. As for the lyrics, portions of the songwriting transpired as a result of a conversation Yorke held with R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe, in which Stipe suggested that he deal with his issues by pulling the proverbial shutters down and saying: “I’m not here, this is not happening”.

As for the instrumentals, the live strings in the background were performed by the Orchestra of St. Johns, and, of course, the arrangement was written by none other than Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood. Although the full orchestra adds to the atmosphere of the song, it also doesn’t stand as a simple string section. In true Radiohead fashion, the strings are produced in an ambient echo, meant to mimic that same dreamy quality that inspired the song in the first place.

The way in which the strings blend with Thom Yorke’s voice and the acoustic guitar, all of which are produced with this slight distance, makes for an eclectic, harmonious mix. It almost sounds as though it’s working towards a peak of some kind right before the ending cuts back, once again to feature Thom Yorke’s haunting vocals.

Even with the wistful nature of the song and production, Thom Yorke may have found some inspiration in one other corner. The song shares a title with the book How To Disappear Completely And Never Be Found by Doug Richmond, a short story collection released in 1986. All of the stories in the collection somehow focus on taking a French exit, or leaving without saying goodbye before the function is over.

If you’re curious about Radiohead’s new song that Thom Yorke quite literally dreamed up, you can take a listen to it below, and have a listen to the rest of the album.