“We thought we were trapped in one of those Twilight Zone slow time machines…” With Amnesiac, their second smash hit album of uneasy listening in just over six months, at the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, Radiohead are even more determined to retain their anonymity. As for Thom Yorke, he wants the myth-making to stop… Originally published in August 2001’s Uncut (Take 51). Words: Stephen Dalton
The towering inferno is visible from miles away. Thom Yorke drives towards the horizon, the acrid stench of toxic smoke filling his car. He cranks up the air-conditioning to maximum, but still the rank odour is inescapable. A wave of choking nausea shudders through him.
The Radiohead singer is passing Arscott Farm in Devon, on his way back to Oxford from his country hideaway. Here a mountainous funeral pyre of 7,000 animals, slaughtered under foot-and-mouth regulations, will burn for a week. Maybe longer. By some sick twist of voodoo economics, this grotesque flesh bonfire will pump more potentially cancer-causing dioxins into the food chain than all of Britain’s worst chemical plants. Death stalks the natural world, making it safe for capitalism.
Thousands of miles away, the masked foot soldiers of free trade are using riot shields, tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets to beat down 400 anti-globalisation protestors outside a World Trade Organisation summit in Quebec City. The bad karma police are out in force today.
All these disconnected but simultaneous events somehow link back to Thom Yorke, choking in his smoke-filled car, a tiny speck crawling across the Devon landscape. Rage, nausea, motion sickness, animal corpses in flaming heaps. The vomit, the vomit. And then Thom remembers – tomorrow he has a day of press interviews scheduled in London. Being the planet’s most critically revered rock icon comes with a heavy price.