"Videotape" as written by and Thomas Edward/greenwood Yorke....
When I'm at the pearly gates
This will be on my videotape, my videotape
Mephistopheles is just beneath
And he's reaching up to grab me

This is one for the good days
And I have it all here
In red, blue, green
Red, blue, green

You are my center
When I spin away
Out of control on videotape
On videotape
On videotape
On videotape
On videotape
On videotape

This is my way of saying goodbye
Because I can't do it face to face
I'm talking to you after it's too late
No matter what happens now
You shouldn't be afraid
Because I know today has been the most perfect day I've ever seen

Lyrics submitted by black_cow_of_death, edited by Paymaan

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

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Videotape song meanings
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  • +15
    General Commenthow can radiohead keep doing it?
    as a musician they constantly inspire me yet at the same time make me feel like giving up because i will never be able to write anything as brilliant as this. it's so simple yet so wonderful...
    please keep writing music like this, i dont know what i would do without it
    no_one69on June 12, 2006   Link
  • +8
    General CommentI don't think it's a suicide note. I think it's written from the perspective of someone who is away from the person he loves and the thought that he might die before he gets the chance to tell her pops into his head and so he decides to write this. The song itself could be the 'videotape moment' he is referring to. It is obviously written to someone he loves very much but that he is not able to express these feelings to. This is the person who is at the centre of his life and his thoughts at this moment. Such a beautiful and powerful song. I loved the Amsterdam 2 perfomance. It made me cry.
    eatenbythewormson September 22, 2006   Link
  • +6
    General Comment"When Mephistophilis is just beneath/And he's reaching up to grab me."

    Mephistopheles is a name given to one of the chief demons of Christian mythology that figure in European literary traditions.

    The song is about being judged at the gates of heaven, and the "videotape" is a record of lead singer Thom Yorke's life.
    landonbainon June 26, 2006   Link
  • +6
    General CommentI think the song is about holding on to a memory that's slipping away with time. The song itself is kind of documenting the beauty of the moment. He's capturing whatever he's feeling in the song, much like a videotape would capture a brief section of time. He knew it wouldn't last forever.. whatever that moment was, you can absolutely tell that it was deeply meaningful to him.

    For me though... when I turned 19, my then girlfriend and I used to just lie in bed all day. There were moments were we would just be. I get all these fucked up visualizations of just getting like... transported into the past. Unfortunately that point in time has moved on, and listening to this song transports me to back then. I have a feeling that songs as good as this can only be made with those type of experiences in mind. I don't think I've ever heard a more beautiful song in that way in my entire life.
    Ximalimon March 01, 2009   Link
  • +5
    General CommentIt sounds like a suicide note.
    pumkinhedon August 09, 2006   Link
  • +5
    General CommentAs much as it worries me, I think this song is a rather straightforward goodbye.

    The most important bit of the lyrics, I think, is the "when" at the beginning of the first two stanzas. He's not dead, and he's not being judged. But when it's all over, "this" will be on his videotape. "This", I think is "the most perfect day I've ever seen".

    Now here's where my notion of it may lead me astray. It seems like "No matter what happens now," and "This is my way of saying goodbye because I can't do it face to face." mean that the person is leaving something(someone) they know and love. Not going into danger, just going away.

    Other people in other places have speculated that this song is Radiohead's farewell to their fans.
    fortheloveon October 09, 2007   Link
  • +4
    General CommentThis story ties into Goethe's Faust nicely IMO. Faust is searching for happiness his whole life, and resorts to selling his sole to the devil (Mephistopheles) if the devil can lead him to happiness. Happiness only truly comes, however, when he dies and realizes just how beautiful life actually was. His sole is pardoned and sent to heaven due to the fact he tried so hard to find the happiness he desired. The story ends there, but as he dies and slips into the unknown (I picture this is how Thom see's it) you can imagine that he, for the first time, was not worried at all about what the future had in store because he had no control over his future. He had only his last moments in his present state of human existence in which his life flashed before his eyes and he realized just how beautiful his life and everything in it was. Today has been the most perfect day I've ever seen.
    OptimisticKidAon June 26, 2012   Link
  • +3
    General CommentSuch a fucking beautiful song.
    atomsplitteron July 02, 2006   Link
  • +3
    General CommentWe all agree the song concerns a man reviewing his love in retrospect... I highly doubt it's due to suicide - that's more the listener's imposition... Rather, I think this song is concerned with the lover's hope that his love and positive efforts are an ultimate force for good and that the Universe may judge him fairly for it.

    It's a prayer or meditation that his love will in some way be eternally recorded by and echoed throughout a sympathetic Universe. It is a karmic prayer for forgiveness and understanding.

    Who is watching this videotape anyway, in an age of DVD's no less? In essence, we are all memories that fade as generations pass. Yet we all relate to the hope that the positive things we contribute, experience and offer unto Life will somehow reverberate and carry on beyond us.

    It's purposefully phrased to make us reflect on our own morbidity and, more importantly, the positive emanations we should strive and hope to leave behind. Yet the song also understands that no matter how great one's hope the destiny of the Universe is determined by a force greater than individual hope... Indeed, it is a construct of collective aspirations and ambitions of which our contribution is only a part.

    Love, give and pray. Let's learn.
    steinbeckthepearlon July 05, 2007   Link
  • +3
    My InterpretationI'll try line by line (only what i think)

    'When I'm at the Pearly Gates'
    When I die/am dead (pearly gates is a reference to the gates to heaven)

    'This'll be on my Videotape'
    Videotape probably means a note he leaves behind, could be a suicide note, a will, or some sort of last goodbye.

    'When Mephistophilis is Just Beneath, and He's Reaching Up To Grab Me'
    Mephistophilis is a demon from a German folklore story. In the tale, the protagonist named Faust sells his soul to Mephistophilis as he is not satisfied with where he has been able to get to in life. The name Faust is now sometimes used as a name for someone who at the expense of their moral integrity resorts to extraordinary means to achieve goals. The line is possibly to say that he won't be entering heaven as he has made a deal with the devil and Mephistophilis will now grab him and take him to hell.

    'This is one for the good days'
    Disregard what will happen now and to try and remember the 'good days'

    'And I Have It all Here in Red Blue Green'
    Red Blue Green (RGB) is the colour system used in most visual film. This line is referring to the previous line and saying that the videotape is a reminder to the 'good days.'

    'You Are My Center When I Spin Away'
    When something spins, centrifugal force is what causes things to be sent away (like if you spin quickly and your arms flail outwards). The very center however is not sent outwards as it is spinning but not moving like the rest of the object. This line is like saying you are something to hold onto and not be flung away and out of control.

    'Out of Control on Videotape'
    Saying again how the content of the videotape contains reminders of past days, when they were 'spinning' and the narrator was holding onto the person now watching his videotape.

    'This Is My Way of Saying Goodbye'
    Supports the idea that the videotape is a farewell message

    'Because I can't do it face to face'
    The topic is difficult to talk about likely due to what has happened and why he is now leaving.

    'So I'm Talking To You Before...'
    He is leaving this message rather than have the person find another way that he is gone.

    'No Matter What Happens Now'
    It is unclear what is going to happen now, only that he's leaving.

    'You Shouldn't Be Afraid'
    Ties in with previous line, saying that there is no reason to be afraid despite the unclear and possibly treacherous time ahead.

    'Because I Know Today Has Been the Most Perfect Day I Have Ever Seen'
    While he say's a single day, it may be referring the time leading up to now. The line tells the person that it has still been great up to now.

    After thinking about if for a while, I believe the song is about keeping a large secret from a partner or close friend and leaving suddenly. Possibly because they are going to die, or because they have done something bad that causes them to feel like they can't be with them. The pearly gate line makes it sound like they're dying. But the Mephistophilis line makes it sound like it's something bad he has done. It could also be both. The narrator is calling for the person to not be mad at what they've done or sad that they are leaving but to be happy of the time they have had.

    (I've used the official lyrics from my record sleeve, and not the ones above)
    Tom0on June 10, 2013   Link

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