"15 Step" as written by and Thomas Edward/greenwood Yorke....
How come I end up where I started
How come I end up where I belong
Won't take my eyes off the ball again
You reel me out then you cut the string

How come I end up where I started
How come I end up where I belong
Won't take my eyes off the ball again
You reel me out then you cut the string

You used to be alright
What happened?
Did the cat get your tongue
Did your string come undone
One by one
One by one
It comes to us all
It's as soft as your pillow

You used to be alright
What happened?
Etcetera etcetera
Facts for whatever
Fifteen steps
Then a shear drop

How come I end up where I started
How come I end up where I belong
Won't take my eyes off the ball again
You reel me out then you cut the string

Lyrics submitted by black_cow_of_death, edited by JAlcachofa, Paymaan, violetmav, bluebirdy, Wormsie, SpellingNazi, mellowcat

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

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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15 Step song meanings
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  • +16
    My InterpretationThis song is obviously about Thom Yorke's frustration with the Mario Party minigame "Shy Guy Says". Think about it, 'first you reel me out then you cut the string', 'won't take my eyes off the ball again' (ball, in this case, meaning shy guy's flags). It makes perfect sense.
    lankeyjb202on August 30, 2010   Link
  • +12
    General CommentIt is about frustration of not being able to break a pattern in your life, although you know you make bad choices. You always end up in the same messed up situation.
    ElSon October 24, 2008   Link
  • +11
    General CommentRe why 15 Step and not 15 Steps - probably to make the title sound like it's a type of dance, like the two-step... only in this case, if the gallows theory is correct, the 15-step is the dance of death.

    I think the gallows and being hung thing is a metaphor for giving up in life, because no matter how hard you try, you always end up "where you started" - so in the end, you just give up trying and settle for what you've got. It's the sad realisation that any dreams or idealism you had when younger are going to come to nothing - and I think this is what Thom's referring to when he says "It comes to us all, it's as soft as a pillow", rather than death itself.
    sproutboyon March 05, 2008   Link
  • +9
    MemoryI remember watching a documentary that said there used to be 15 Steps on a gallow, so someone who was getting executed would take there final 15 steps up the stairs and onto the gallows.

    Hence "15 Steps and there a sheer drop"

    I could be wrong though ...
    forallthecowson May 02, 2011   Link
  • +6
    General CommentAfter hearing the album version, and in the context of the album possibly being about love and relationships, I think this song introduces the reason the narrator is in the state that he's in (very clear in Bodysnatchers). I think it can be interpreted as being about a married man whose wife no longer pays attention to him. At times he gets the feeling that things in the relationship could get better, but then they deteriorate. I think the line 'it comes to us all/it's as soft as your pillow' could be about how this downfall in the relationship happens little by little and at first we don't notice it... it starts with the other person ignoring him at times, and then it becomes a pattern.

    But I'm sure there are other possible interpretations and that's just one.
    eatenbythewormson November 26, 2007   Link
  • +5
    General Comment120 steps is a standard quick march, but (british & commonwealth) riflemen march at 140. Not sure about its utility as an explanation given how left-wing Radiohead are. But thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    Much more useful as an explanation: 15 steps (steps in UK english = stairs in US english) is the approximate height of a long-drop gallows. This provides the guiding metaphor for the song (repeated mentions of 'cut the string', 'soft as your pillow' being the hood, 'silence is golden' and 'one by one in procession' being the death march, and of course '15 steps then a sheer drop' being the main event.

    Now, what's it about other than the metaphor? About love and possibly betrayal, I'd say. You love someone, perhaps take them for granted, then they pull the trapdoor on you and you're on your ass and stunned and single again.

    Not too tough an interpretation if you speak the language. No brits on this board?
    mangleon January 29, 2008   Link
  • +5
    General CommentFor some reason all this 'if it's Radiohead, it must be political' really bothers me. It just shows what good a job the press did in stereotyping Radiohead's music for whatever reason.

    I've tried to think of the songs in In Rainbows outside the context of the entire album, and it's definitely possible to get any kind of interpretation from most of them, but what's the point? Why force things into the songs that we are not meant to hear?

    Granted, Thom has said that once the songs are released, they're not really his, and it's up to us to interpret them. But he also urged people to be more open minded about this album. He actually made comments about the stereotyping of his songs when he did interviews when The Eraser first came out. First of all, remember it's just music, regardless of how powerful music is in some of our lives. Second, sometimes what we feel when we listen to a song is more important than what the lyrics are saying. Language is far more limiting than music.
    eatenbythewormson October 20, 2008   Link
  • +5
    General CommentI think this song is about someone getting hanged at the gallows...
    How come he ended up where he started? He took his eye off the ball...

    Hanging is how we're born... reeled out, and then cut the umbilical chord
    And how some are executed one by one in procession
    15 steps up a gallows
    then a sheer drop
    soft as a pillow

    NoWonderImSunburnedon June 15, 2009   Link
  • +5
    My InterpretationI feel like much of Radiohead is a reflection on the way modern society gets into one's brain like an infection, and the songs are internal dialogue between the afflicted mind and the clear mind
    leviathan626on December 01, 2010   Link
  • +4
    General Commenti like the idea of it being BOTH -- a political song and a rejection-in-relationship song. it has the broader meaning and the more personal meaning. i think radiohead is good at that... because all their songs you can take something for yourself and it's going to be different. and i sound like a nut, no?

    p.s. i about died when they played this at bonnaroo. and i loved how people tried to clap along but couldn't because the beat is somewhat unique. i gave up right away.
    luxamnesiacon July 21, 2006   Link

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