"Idioteque" as written by Thomas Edward Yorke, Philip James Selway, Edward John O'brien, Colin Charles Greenwood, Jonathan Richard Guy Greenwood and Paul Lansky....
Who's in a bunker, who's in a bunker?
Women and children first and the children first and the children

I'll laugh until my head comes off
I'll swallow till I burst
Until I burst until I

Who's in a bunker who's in a bunker?
I have seen too much I haven't seen enough
You haven't seen it

I'll laugh until my head comes off
Women and children first and the children first and the children

Here I'm alive
Everything all of the time
Here I'm alive
Everything all of the time

Ice age coming ice age coming
Let me hear both sides let me hear both sides let me hear both

Ice age coming ice age coming
Throw it in the fire throw it in the fire throw it on the

We're not scaremongering
This is really happening happening
We're not scaremongering
This is really happening happening

Mobiles squearking mobiles chirping
Take the money run take the money run take the money

Here I'm alive (the first of the children)
Everything all of the time (the first of the children)
Here I'm alive (the first of the children)
Everything all of the time (the first of the children)

Here I'm alive (the first of the children)
Everything all of the time (the first of the children)
Here I'm alive (the first of the children)
Everything all of the time (the first of the children)

(The first of the children)


Lyrics submitted by piesupreme, edited by Paymaan, ParanoidDroid8

"Idioteque" as written by Edward John O'brien Colin Charles Greenwood

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Idioteque song meanings
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  • +29
    Song MeaningThis album is very literal, straight forward and brilliant. Kid A is the name given to the Atomic bomb. And each track is a progression of life. I don't think you can talk about one track by itself.....everything must be put into the context of the album. Here's the track list. Notice the progression from peace to war to survival.

    1) Everything In Its Right Place: A time of peace and prosperity.
    2) Kid A: This feels like a birth song. A lullaby. Voices are mumbles or what a new born would hear. This is the birth of the Atomic bomb.
    3) National Anthem: An atmosphere is really built for this one. Sounds are meant to represent crowds and people. Government gets more involved in our world. And war is a result. And the next song shows the tolls of a governments involvement.
    4) How To Disappear Completely: This one feels like its from the perspective of a human life that has just been vaporized by an atomic bomb. "Im not here. This isn't happening". A spirit that has left the body. "That there. Thats not me."
    5)Treefingers: This feels like the calm after the storm. Like the eye of a hurricane. Somewhere between the initial blast of a bomb....and the aftermath and fallout.
    6)Optimistic: "Flies are buzzing round my head. Vultures circling the dead.", Its about the survivors of this war that has just happened. And we are questioning what will happen.
    7)In Limbo: This one feels like we are on the run. Trying to figure out where we belong.
    8)Idioteque: We are beginning to feel the fallout. "Whos in the bunker? Who's in the bunker?", "Iceage coming Iceage coming!" The nightmares of war that is still happening.
    9)Morning Bell: This one I feel is about survival. We are still waking up each morning. Surviving.
    10) Motion Picture Soundtrack: Happiness is within our sight.

    Okay I truly doubt that Yorke meant for the album to come off this literal. Or maybe he did? It is known that he was going through some major writers block. Its definitely one of my all time favorites.
    GaryKon August 26, 2012   Link
  • +11
    MemoryI remember the first time I heard this song. I had the entire discography of radiohead on my iPod and had not listened to any of it but OK computer. I decided to listen to Kid A first as thought I would like it the least (Boy was I wrong) due to my dislike of techno. (I now love it though)
    I fell asleep after the national anthem, and I remember hearing the beginning of Idioteque in my sleep.

    I could not hear any of the other songs during my sleep, (even though the volume was basically cranked), only the beginning of idioteque. I then remember feeling sick in my head and stomach, and just about jumping out of my bed when Thom said-

    "Ice age coming,
    Ice age coming,
    let me hear both sides,
    let me hear both sides,
    let me hear both sides"

    I remember getting up and stagering to my toilet, earphones still in, and choking vomit from my throat and spitting it out. I could've taken the earphones off, but I for some reason felt that the song was in my dream and I was just dreaming. It felt like a nightmare, post apocalyptic scenes and stuff (I couldn't see them, only hear thoms voice oO. I then went back to my bedroom and laid on the flor in the fetal position (No joke) and cranked the song in time for the outro, where I fell asleep again.

    That small 5 minute section of that day was the most feeling I have ever gotten from any form of art. To think that a song, just sounds, made me feel sick. The power of radiohead.

    Of course, I woke up and found that it was all real. I was like- "O shit."

    This is not an interpretation, only the sharing of my feelings for this song. Of course, it could've just been the unsettling loudness and bassiness of the music that made me sick in my sleep, but I don't think it was. And even if it was, it didnt stop me from having an immense connection with this song.

    Now, whenever I'm watching Thom perform this live, everyone else is going- "What a cock, he cant even sing and is dancing like a dickhead."
    I know that he is feeling what I felt that night, He is more whimpering and panicking then singing and dancing. This is true art, and this is definitely the most hectic radiohead song in my opinion.
    Benny
    BenHurlson December 20, 2012   Link
  • +6
    General Commentglobal warming.
    Yhorn(sp?) has talked about global warming at live performances and in interviews, and is very concerned. somewhere hidden in the kid a booklet, or perhaps only on certain kid a booklets, there was supposed to be a list of places where polar ice was melting.

    this helps to explain:
    We're not scaremongering
    This is really happening
    Happening
    We're not scaremongering
    This is really happening
    Happening
    Mobiles skwrking
    Mobiles chirping
    Take the money run
    Take the money run
    Take the money

    we're not scaremongering, this is really happening. that seems pretty straightforward to me, towards all the gw deniers. statements about the mobiles, i don't think i even need to say anything about that. and take the money and run, well look how much money is being made by these oil companies. All of this is stuff Yhorn hsa talked about before.

    I am pretty sure that this song is about global warming, with an underlying message about privelage at the expense of others.
    soowton May 04, 2002   Link
  • +4
    General CommentA scaremonger is someone who deliberately instills fear in others to suit themselves. The title is often attributed to people in power who repeatedly reinforce the notion that there is some unseen danger that needs to be united against.

    Many people criticised the Bush and Blair governments for exaggerating the Terrorist Threat as a means of control.

    To say "We're not scaremongering. This is really happening" means pretty much what it says. Yorke is denying that the Global Warming issue is fabricated and saying that it is happening, whether you ignore it or not.

    I don't agree that all Radiohead songs have no meaning. I think Thom doesn't always make them clear, but he doesn't usually just pick names out of a hat to form his songs (though he probably has done at one point or another, just to screw with people).

    I would also think twice before you say that this is a jab at dance/electronic music. Thom uses a lot of similar techniques in much of his music, especially his The Eraser and Kid A. If anything, it's a jab a boring, repetitive, banal music.
    Skam33on May 13, 2008   Link
  • +3
    General Commentwish i could understand radiohead...they are so amazing. too brilliant for me to even attempt to analyze though
    goodbyeskyharboron May 13, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThe tracks title, ‘Idioteque’ is a combination of a pun and a hybridized word. The first part of the word ‘idio’ comes from the Greek prefix ‘ἴδιος’ which means; pertaining to one's self, one's own, or belonging to one's self . The second part is taken from the French words ‘bibliotheque’ (a library), ‘videotheque’ (a video library) and ‘discotheque’ (a DJ club). Bringing these two word fragments together creates an overall meaning of ‘one’s own collection, club or place’. Secondly the word ‘idioteque’ is a play on the word idiotic. As the overall theme of the song is unraveled it will become clearer how these relate to the song.


    3) Lyrics: Apocalyptic Postmodern Anxiety: ‘Idioteque’ & Jean Baudrillard

    Apocalyptic postmodern anxiety is rooted in the fundamental question of how we see our role in the world, our disconnectedness from absolutes and whether we are creating a world in which we can exist. More specifically within postmodernity is found ‘the anxiety of obsolescence’ which is concerned that extreme technological advancement could render humanity or aspects of humanness obsolete .

    The lyrics of ‘Idioteque’ are a mosaic of such anxious postmodern images which predict apocalyptic disaster generated by consumerism, greed, environmental ignorance and war. The opening lines “who’s in a bunker, who’s in a bunker. Women and children first, and the children first and the children first…” sets the scene by painting pictures of war and of the Earth as a sinking ship. Closely followed by the stanza “I’ll laugh until my head comes off, I’ll swallow until I burst…” representing a sense of mania and anxiety an uncontrollable dread that ravages the senses.

    These same lyrics continue in rhythmic repetition relatively unchanged for two stanzas but are interrupted by the addition of new lyrics “I have seen too much, I haven’t seen enough, you haven’t seen it”. Perhaps reflecting upon Yorke’s observation of man-made disasters, destruction and war whilst acknowledging his own lack of foresight and the complete ignorance of others on such environmental and social issues. Yorke is a member and advocate for ‘friends of the earth’ and ‘warchild’ two organisations involved in environmental and war aid respectively, thus further suggesting his seeing too many problems and not seeing enough action if any at all!

    The next fraction of the montage is a repeated lyrical phrase continued throughout the remaining piece as a literary motif: “here I’m allowed everything all of the time”. This appears as a tongue in cheek statement towards global authorities and capitalist consumerism as echoed in the song title. I.e. the elite self-seeking clubs that ravish the Earth for profit, who aim to accumulate as much as possible without regard for social-environmental ethics. This is further consolidated in later lyrics stating, “Mobiles squawking, mobiles chirping, take the money and run”.

    Such clubs could be likened to those that Jean Baudrillard has named the “neo-capitalist cybernetic order that now aims at total control” who are aided by the mass media and who have effectively destroyed all that is real and valuable in society where reality has been replaced with a complex system of simulations and media-constructs to generate profit. Baurillard has also reasoned that independent thought, effectual action and hope are made impossible through the command of this code further amplifying Thom’s woes that we have seen too much but haven’t seen enough.

    The reality of the consumer and media driven market is apparent yet Baudrillard further paints a conspiratorial and relentless dystopia comparable to Orwellian and Huxleyesque science fiction also referenced in Radiohead’s lyrics and in their general bleak perspective of the future . Thom has also communicated that many of his politicized lyrics in this decade have been driven by fear for his children’s future .

    Furthermore in ‘Idioteque’s’ lyric are the repeated lines “ice age coming, ice age coming” suggesting an impending apocalyptic disaster. This phrase in reference to the song and Radiohead merchandise is most likely referring to global warming . The expression ‘let me hear both sides’ following this apocalyptic prophecy indicates the scientific division between global warming as man-made or as natural cyclic phenomenon.

    Baurillard is also suspicious of technology and finds irony in technology eluding humanity and becoming beyond our control . Hence we find this paralleled in the above mobile phone reference, where the sounds created have been animised, i.e. squawking and chirping like a bird. Another technological theme underlying ‘Idioteque’ is it’s sole usage of electronic musicality accompanied only by fragile human vocals. The main chord sequence is sampled from the 1972-3 ‘mild und leise’ by Paul Lanksy and also samples ‘short piece’ by Arthur Krieger both of which are among the first computer generated pieces of music . ‘Mild und leise’ is ironically based around a Richard Wagner leitmotif from the opera ‘Tristan und Isolde’. Hence an electronic expression of a purely orchestral work from the modern era being resampled and recontextualised to communicate a sense of postmodern angst.
    Clevolutionon October 02, 2008   Link
  • +3
    My InterpretationI always thought this song was about the Holocaust.
    Jews being sent to concentration camps where they'd sleep in bunkers...
    In the camps, children, the elderly, and pregnant women routinely were sent to the gas chambers immediately after arrival...

    Here I'm allowed
    Everything all of the time
    Here I'm allowed
    Everything all of the time

    I think that's talking about our time, now, how we're allowed everything all the time, whereas Jews weren't

    "Ice age coming" could be about how the Jews were being killed and much of their race would be wiped out, like many species that went extinct after the Ice Age

    Let me hear both sides
    Let me hear both sides

    This could be about wanting to hear both sides of the argument/the Holocaust... like wanting to hear what the Nazis could possibly say to justify their actions, and wanting to hear the Jews' side too to understand their side... I feel like the Holocaust is such a CRAZY part of history, maybe wanting to hear both sides of it would be a way to figure out how it could have possibly happened, to try to figure it out... I don't know... We all know it happened, I mean it was just so sick.

    Throw it on the fire
    Throw it on the fire

    I don't need to explain that...

    We're not scaremongering
    This is really happening
    Happening

    A scaremonger is a person who spreads frightening or ominous reports or rumors.
    This goes back to what I was saying- It was such an ugly time. And before people knew where they were actually being sent, they wouldn't believe the rumors about the concentration camps because they thought they were being sent somewhere better... Some knew, deep down, and they would tell whoever they could to not board the trains, to flee and never return. Like this:

    Take the money and run
    Take the money and run

    The book "Milkweed" by Jerry Spinelli helps to illustrate that.

    ...Also,

    I'll laugh until my head comes off
    I'll swallow until I burst
    Until I burst

    That part could be talking about the gas chambers- swallowing the gas until you die
    It could also be talking about becoming insane, or laughing about the insanity of the situation, the absurdity of it, the state of disbelief you're in if you're a Jew or just not a Nazi...

    I have seen too much
    I haven't seen enough

    From the perspective of a Jew, maybe in a camp,
    "I have seen too much" death, too much destruction, too much of all of this...
    "I haven't seen enough" as in I haven't even lived as long as I wanted to or as long as I was supposed to, I'm here in a concentration camp, and I'll be killed before my 'time'

    I think every song can be interpreted differently. I went through like 6 pages of comments and didn't see any about the Holocaust, and I hope I'm not repeating anything someone's already said
    fernanda1on June 29, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI agree with one the earlier interpretation of the song, the scaremongering line practically gives it away. It’s an illustration of paranoid living, especially around the time that this song would been written in, that Y2K period. Eck. I swear I heard on the radio so many possible dates for the “impending world apocalypse”, and some people went crazy stocking up their storage room. A similar paranoia built up for the cold war, and other threats of mass destruction from any Others, this includes the Cuban Missile Crisis. Point is, there’s always an impending threat, but since it always on the verge of happening whether it happens or never happens isn’t important, because its in a state of perpetual happening. We may be imaging things and we get paranoid of our own inherently destructive nature, so we built apparatuses to defend ourselves: bunkers. We send our women and children to the bunkers, because they are rationally the hope for the dominion of MANkind (women are need to re-populate the earth, and the children are the future, so that why they must go in the bunker first). However, we are building solutions to the problems we create, and building up defensive against ourselves. The only real defence is to change of ourselves, which is basically not going to happen. But yes, I could see how some people got the Global Warming interpretation from the Ice-age coming line, the earth is supposed to cool and adjust itself after it warms up, same thing with the nuclear winter interpretation.

    Thom always seems to add some sort of corporate techno-mob mentality line. But I love them: Mobiles skwerking / Mobiles chirping
    We must communicate people… the end is nigh. Well that or just engage in mindless banter.
    I really liked how someone tied this song with that line from Optimistic: Dinosaurs rule the earth. Clever.
    the_reckoneron November 05, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentAs corny as this will sound, I think this song is about global warming and other environmental problems. Of course, I'm aware that many people think global warming is a lot of scaremongering and false alarms. Maybe that's why Thom wrote such a heart-wrenching but enigmatic song to get his point across. Maybe this review is bastardizing his message or maybe I'm totally wrong, but here's what I think...
    "I'll laugh until my head comes off; I'll swallow until I burst"- hailing from (and scared by) a hedonistic family, this seems like something I'm very familiar with. People have a tendency to abuse good things until they end up doing much more harm. Swallowing food is a good thing (it keeps you alive), until it turns you greedy, bloated, and prone to heart attacks. Laughter is a good thing, but now we use it as a drug. We abuse it and accept the cost of making people feel bad for our temporary highs. This is like the abuse of our natural resources. Using them helps us build civilization. But now businessmen capitalize off them out of pure greed. So what if we're using cheap labor and the cheap plastic packaging and doodads we produce are worthless? So what if we're destroying all that we live off and that gave us beauty, worth, and life to begin with (the environment)? We're making money, right? The same concept applies to war. Let's go kill innocent people because we might get something (*cough cough* oil *cough cough* Iraq) out of it.

    "I have seen too much; I haven't seen enough; You haven't seen it"- Kind of like a twist on the title of "An Inconvenient Truth." Even though there's an OVERWHELMING (open any National Geographic, Smithsonian, etc.) body of evidence that global warming (even if you don't believe in "global warming" per say, incredibly increased carbon dioxide levels that make the seas more acidic, leading to the current plight of fish and jellyfish population explosion, and supported by cold hard ice samples, should at least be able to pass through your cynisism) people will ignore it because they don't want to believe it. They face two choices: possible disaster or a lifestyle change. People don't want to give up their overfed, overindulgent lifestyles, so they'll pretend they haven't seen enough evidence.

    "Here I'm allowed everything all of the time"- refer to last two rants. :)

    "Ice age coming.... Let me hear both sides..... Throw it on the fire"- This could be describing the situation of a politician or other influencial person trying to decide what to do about this impending environmental crisis. They choose to go for the quick fix that obviously won't work just to say they've made a decision. Obviously exposing a world to fire will cause more problems than the ice age would have. That's okay though. If the responsibility's off that one person, the rest can be left to future generations.

    "We're not scaremongering. This is really happening."- I think this is self-explanitory. It's kind of like a Cassandra thing (for anyone who knows Greek literature). For those of you who are saying that it's the corrupt politicians who are saying this: scaremongering politicians never need (or would be reduced to) pleading. They get plenty of followers. Who are the most sucessful politicians? Usually radical dictators. It's the ones who warn of the true dangers that are always ignored.

    "Mobiles chirping; Take the money and run"- Cell phones are symbolistic of our absorption in modern technology and our disregard for nature. "Take the money and run" is again saying how greed and corruption are, unfortunately, the most influencial factors on people.

    "Who's in bunker...Women and children first"- Even if my environmental theory is too specific, he's talking about some man-made apoccalypse. War is symbolic for any struggle.

    *Sorry about spelling. It's late.

    cobaltpterodactylon April 26, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI love this song but will someone explain what it is about please
    PunkrawknEmo4on January 12, 2002   Link

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