Thom Yorke (notes from a BBC interview)

In this post, there is a list of the advanced words and phrases from the BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs interview with Thom Yorke. He is the singer and songwriter of the band Radiohead, a very successful and well-known British pop group.   Aggie and I are currently creating a podcast (in which we will explain some of the words) and it will be launched on 11th October!

You can listen to the interview here:

Embed from Getty Images


00:58 He has expanded ideas about what pop music can be and what it can do

Built his own guitar as a child

1:07 Wrote his first song about an atomic bomb 

Radiohead have endured 34 years, and sold over 30 million albums 

1:21 Continued to push boundaries 

Just wrote his first classical piece!

“When an artist starts repeating themselves because they think that’s what the audience wants, it’s all over” 

1:45 You’ve got to be prepared to torch it at any moment 


1:57 We’re hearing a tiny proportion of your total creative output? [LL]

2:01 I wish there were vaults full of other stuff

2:08 You need to feel an unsuredness is that a word?? About where you’re going 

Good music comes because you’re there ready to receive it

2:35 The search for a hit (in the recording studio) → not a hit track but almost the hit of a drug [LL] 

2:45 You get this elation 

it can feed your soul for even years 

3:05 You’ve described it as sensethesia 

It’s a colour or a shape or a movement, I can see it in my head. That’s normal right?

3:32 Of course the eureka moments didn’t really happen when I was 12


3:45 2 virtuoso piano players

For the first time wrote piano music even though he can’t read music 

If you listen to any piece of music enough times you’re going to see through it/hate it 

4:28 Small doses of something very very sweet (when I really need it) 

4:38 tentative, cautious 

4:45 It flowers like the dawn almost 

6:11 You were spellbound [LL]

I only chose that to make it look like I’m smart ! 

6:16 whack one classical piece in there 

6:21 No false modesty on this programme [LL]


When first started had a lot of problems w voice 

6:53 Drinking myself senseless

Had to give up smoking. Found myself in a Harley St Doctors, he was really cool. Explained the exact physics of the voice

7:15 I got really trashed 

Woke up to the sound of Bjork 7:20 warming up 

7:23 That was pretty wild 

It’s 10:30 in the morning and you’re warming up! Started to take it seriously 

One really awful feeling

7:49 That’s when a singer loses their voice on tour 

Don’t want to let anyone down 

8:02 They can see me freaking out 

Convinced myself that I could do it in Brisbane 

Voice went completely, couldn’t even talk, 20,000 people there, walked off

8:26 There was booing 

I forgive myself now

8:59 One of those reiki things (on that night in Brisbane) 

9:09 Complete outer body experience 


9:34 I’m vying for a job on radio 6 

It’s gonna rain on the island 

10:01 Beautifully whimsical piece, very profound 

10:08 Leaves me gobsmacked every time 


Born in 1968 

11:15 Eventually settled in Oxford

11:22 I had a thick Scottish accent which I can still recall now 

11:33 Suburban normal, lived in a cul de sac

Spent a lot of time on my bike 

11:50 Doing stunts on the gravel pits 


Recording stuff off the radio, top of the pops

12:18 Got really obsessed with music 

12:27 Really fond  of breaking electrical things

13:37 I liked the fizz of the cathode ray 

Obsessed with lego 

Started playing guitar at 7 or 8 

Obsessed with Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody

Decided, yep this is what I’m doing 

Rough cut out with a saw 

Didn’t want to sing originally 

13:32 A very very tolerant mum (A friend’s house and made terrible sounds) 


Left eye was shut, no muscles to open it 

Took muscle from arse and they 14:04 graft it on to make it work 

14:15 Just about old enough to deal with it 

Couldn’t understand what was going on 

3 or 4 operations after that 

Asked for an Adidas red tracksuit as his treat after the last one 

14:52 Kids can be quite cruel [LL]

Last operation went wrong: It’s kind of blind, looks good but can’t use it 

Saw this old surgeon  and he said you’re never going to fly in the RAF but at least it looks right 

Decided I liked the fact that it wasn’t the same 

15:39 I kind of thought it was like a badge of pride


16:06 It was like a bomb going off in my head

Could see that it was completely new, not like anything else 

Ask for the whole record ! 


17:55 forlorn and a little isolated [LL, music teacher remembered him as this]

18:11 music school and art school was my sanctuary 

Sanctuary from what? A posh private boys school full of arseholes ! 

18:33 I don’t blend well 

V lucky, head of music and art department saw something in me 

Can’t read music but (Terry?)  teacher didn’t care! Still can’t 

If they had not done that I wouldn’t be here today doing this 

19:43 You had music to shield you from what was going on 

19:49 You hadn’t found a place that you fit in 

Music was my escape, the only thing I could use to 20:02 to resolve the schisms of life

20:10 I could not do without it 

The mathematics of music, 20:17 the frequencies what they do to human beings 

20:30 I might sound completely gaga 

20:41 It’s a sacred thing for me


21:03 Got my big amp 

→ above the tv room 

21:23 Would take me along to gigs 

Very determined 

21:34 I would just go AWOL 

21:36 Report back sheepishly on a Sunday 


21:54 One of those pivotal moments 

Driving to Cornwall, John Peale is on and he, in his 22:17 dour manner announces this track 

22:31 It’s like I’m having a seizure or something 

22:39 I’m completely transfixed 

22:50 Harkens back to this whole period I feel like I missed cos I decided to be in a rock band

Sometimes you listen to a track and you just think Thank God someone’s done this 

23:50 Banging 


23:57 You took a gap year after school [LL]

Wanted to figure out if I was completely insane or if I really wanted to be a musician 

24:08 Did a bunch of dead end jobs 

Sold suits, not very good

24:24 My first fatal flaw was being 24:26 brutally honest 

Would tell these old guys in brown tweedy suits that it really didn’t look very good and then they would leave ! 

24:48 You really don’t have the right motivation 

24:58 You made a demo → quite well received! [LL]

Music shop, magazine demo competition, didn’t think much of it, back in the shop a few weeks later, his photo on the front of the magazine - who is this guy he sounds just like Neil Young, “Who is Neil Young?” So bought his record 

Offered a record deal!

26:12 Neither of us felt mentally ready for what was going on 

Want to be good boys and go to university 

Really wanted to go and study art 

26:56 the art college thing blew my mind 

Wouldn’t have been creatively prepared without fine art college 


27:20 gravitated towards weirdness, ambience, electronic 

Need human voices, those which helped me 

The lyrics - I think wow! Somebody wrote that 

28:09 End up being asked to play a benefit concert with him 

Had to prepare myself by drinking heavily 

He walked past and talked to me and I said “I really want to play after the goldrush tomorrow” and he said “Really? That’s great you can play it on the piano I recorded it on!”

Or trying to cos it’s too high for me 

29:51 A unique voice 

29:58 People have drawn parallels between his voice and yours

30:09 it’s so fragile 

Powerful stuff is the vulnerability 

30:51 That was the final nail for me 


31:20 stretch limos (arrived in America) 

Laid out 100 records for them to sign, looking at this pen like I’ve never done this before! Put us in first class on the plane 

31:44 It was really out of control 

Asked to be on live TV, we’d never done that! We’d been driving around in a 31:49 van doing support gigs 

It felt funny 31:57 bit of a panic 

31:59 imbued this sense of we absolutely didn’t deserve this 

32:06 10 years of overcompensating for that 

Had to always give their very best 

Doors opened way before we were ready 

32:49 How did you cope with it? 

I got angry! 

33:04 More control freakery 

Put my hands on the steering wheel 

33:14 and I white knuckled 

Didn’t care who I hurt and what I said until the end of OK Computer 

Don’t mess with me cos this is what’s happening. He apologised later on. 

We had the best time doing that record 

33:55 Possibilities seemed completely endless 

Wasn’t enjoying it until later on, didn’t want to make a mistake 


REM were very important to us 

34:34 Singer of RAM was my hero 

Was like the hand of god reaching down from the clouds and saying YOU ! And now I’m friends with him! 

People started to look at me like I was jesus in the street 

35:06 I’d call him and say I can’t handle it 

35:14 Use what I taught you about making you invisible

Put the shutters down and walk away 

35:35 taught us how to be gracious with people and have fun 

35:47 They were the link for me between the art and music parts of me 


Woke up every night as a newish father worrying about climate change

Couldn’t look at my little boy without trying to do something 

Very stressful 

Work with Green Peace for many years 

38.22   so boom I’m a hypocrite (flying for work)

38.38 It can become detrimental for all the people that are doing the hard work

39.20 we’re out of time

7th DISC

39.50 the man was a total lunatic

40.17  There’s an elation in…

40.37  I’d be playing banging techno

40.40   I’d drop this track


41.00 Ex wife died at 48

A relaxed dad

Semi-chaotic household

42.50 we just hang out

43.04   It just stuns me (can’t believe they’re anything to do with me

All the Radiohead kids get on - took control of one bus in the last tour

44.38 I want to go to my metaphorical potting shed and carry on tinkering away.

46.00 on the edge of crazy, there’s something really unhinged about the way that she sings it.

46.23 You can up in the morning and rise with it

Book - Suzuki Zen meditation

Luxury - a tape recorder

48.11 I’d prefer to weave myself a yoga mat