"Airbag" as written by and Thomas Edward/greenwood Yorke....
In the next world war
In a jack knifed juggernaut
I am born again

In the neon sign
Scrolling up and down
I am born again

In an interstellar burst
I am back to save the universe

In a deep, deep sleep
Of the innocent
I am born again

In a fast German car
I'm amazed that I survived
An airbag saved my life

In an interstellar burst
I am back to save the universe

In an interstellar burst
I am back to save the universe

In an interstellar burst
I am back to save the universe


Lyrics submitted by piesupreme

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

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Airbag song meanings
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  • +12
    General CommentThis song is about getting second chances. The speaker was in a car accident, and is saved by an airbag. His survival is so incredible, it's as if he's been reborn. The feeling is incredible: "in an interstellar burst i am back to save the universe."
    gordopolis82on February 11, 2002   Link
  • +10
    General CommentI think everyone here except ktims has got the general idea of the meaning.

    It is about an immediate AWARENESS of how precious life is at the exact moment right after you avoid an accident, when you realize that you could have died, but didn't. (Technology is the reason he's still alive i.e. the airbag) It is about a feeling of rebirth and being happy to just be ALIVE. I also have a feeling that when he says i am back to save the universe, he means this experience opened his eyes to a greater awarenes of what our existence means, and how he's gonna do things differently now that he has gotten a "2nd chance" at life.

    I definitely agree with wilco, ok computer is a concept album, mainly about how technology affects our everyday life. I think that most of this cd (in subtle and not so subtle ways) goes on to point out how conforming we as a society really are to the values and rules set by our government (political leaders) yet we really have no control, or we may not realize how much influence they (the govnmt) really have, but we don't care anyway.

    And I definitely agree with davidcoyote, I think the same thing about how Airbag is really the last song. Or should be heard right after the Tourist (please refer to the Tourist page for my explanation.) I see it as a cycle the cd starts out with the realization of being happy to remain alive and slowly progresses to a climactic ending. But because Airbag is the first song, signifying rebirth and second chances, the cycle begins again.
    Daisy13on September 04, 2002   Link
  • +5
    General CommentThe song is about the horror of; and surprise at surviving, an RTA (road traffic accident)- to me at least.

    When I triple flipped my Saab into a field this song was obsessive listening for hours when I got home from the hospital that evening.

    Don't stress about the meaning of juggernaut: in the UK (Thom, I guess, speaks "English") it means a large articulated lorry, a semi if you like, a truck with a trailer, the biggest commercial delivery vehicles you see on the roads.

    "The next world war" could be referring to the huge casulties caused by RTAs around the world each year, equivalent to a World War being fought.

    "In the neon sign scrolling up and down"- how do you think a neon sign would appear if you were being spun up and around and then down after hitting a lorry at 70 mph in a Mercedes?

    "In a deep deep sleep of the innocent I am born again" -doesn't this suggest that the driver fell asleep at the wheel?

    "In an interstellar burst I am back to save the universe"- Perhaps Mr Yorke has read that when you have an airbag stop you, you get a bright flash of white light- I suppose from your retina being thrown forward into the vitreous. Also "interstella burst" is a very posh way of expressing "fast".
    matthewsheffieldon July 01, 2006   Link
  • +5
    Song MeaningSo, building on what others have said here, I offer the following possibility. I see Airbag as a tribute song about the amazing, unstoppable and mysterious powers of gasses. Yes, you read that right: it's basically a hero-worship song about gasses. Bear with me, and I'll explain.

    1) Jackknifed juggernaut is definitely describing a tractor-trailer truck (lorry). "Jackknifed" is a very specific term in this context that describes a dangerous moving condition where the trailer pushes past the tractor and their connecting joint forces the tractor up against the side of the trailer while facing in the wrong direction (kinda looks like a jack knife pulled slightly out of its sheath, hence the term). At this point, the vehicle's motion is completely out of control, and a crash or flip-over becomes an extremely likely outcome. In the next world war, this semi would probably be carrying liquefied gas fuel or perhaps even chemical weapons that are also gasses. In addition, those trucks almost always have pressurized air brakes and horns - gasses again.

    2) The neon sign, scrolling up and down may be very slowly leaking the compressed gas that glows in bright colors when electricity is passed through it. I When the pressure of the gas in those tubes drops due to a slow leak, greater distance between the gas atoms means that the electricity takes a more circuitous path through the gas, resulting in a slow, serpentine scrolling of the light that's generated.

    3) "In a deep, deep sleep of the innocent" describes the peaceful state of the compressed gas charge that spends its entire existence quietly and unknowingly waiting to be violently discharged into a car's airbag upon impact.

    After each of the descriptive lyrics above, the phrase "I am born again" is used. In my mind's eye, I see three different types of transformation being undergone by gasses: 1) A violent explosion and combustion of the gas carried by the jackknifed juggernaut when it crashes under combat conditions. 2) A slow leak that permits the neon atoms to slowly leave their compressed brothers. 3) The lightning-fast violent expulsion of the airbag's compressed gas charge. While they are transformed in each of the above instances, in no case are any of the gasses destroyed, hence the "born again" lyric.

    The chorus "In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the universe" is also talking about gasses. Stars, the sustaining sources of the energy that powers all life in our universe, are composed mainly of massive quantities of simple gases which fuel nuclear fusion reactions on an enormous scale. Light, charged particles and other radiation *stream* out from stars, but the only bursts that I know of come from solar flares that result in the periodic ejection of some of the star's gasses at very high speed. Some of these interstellar bursts of gas may eventually collect together to form nebulae, which are basically just huge (light-years wide) clouds of gas out in space. In these nebulae, stars are actually born, beginning the cycle of everything all over again, thereby "saving the universe."

    The punchline of the song for me comes in the last lyric, and it always makes me smile: "In a fast German car/I'm amazed that I survived/An airbag saved my life." The life saved is not that of the passengers or driver of the car, but is (amusingly) that of the compressed gas charge that would otherwise have been blown away in all directions if not for the saving grace of the airbag that instantly inflates to capture it. :-)

    Long explanation, I know, but I really love the song, so I've thought way too much about it....
    thoughtkidon December 26, 2012   Link
  • +4
    General CommentI can't help but feel that most interpretations of this song so far have failed to encapsulate the full spectrum of meaning in the phrase "jack-knifed juggernaut". Juggernaut has several interpretations which are all integral to the meaning of this song: 1) A destructive and unstoppable force (Ok Computer has several allusions to science fiction, juggernaut has been used extensively within this genre to refer to immense machines of war, which ties up nicely with the openning line "In the next world war" and images of intersteller bursts and the universe); 2) colloquially the term is used in Britain to refer to a semi-trailer truck, which ties up nicely with the "fast German car" and "an airbag saved my life"; 3) the term juggernaut is etymologically derived from Indian culture, where it refers to one of the manifestations of Krishna and literally translates as something like "lord of the universe", the meaning of "unstoppable force" is derived from a religous festival in which large crowds gather rather precariously around large chariots depicting the manifestation of Krishna, this ties up nicely with notions of salvation and rebirth.

    Lyrically, the masterful thing Radiohead achieve with this song is to deliberately not give precedence to any of the three meanings of the term juggernaut, allowing for three separate but unified interpretations.
    Dressed2Depresson January 22, 2012   Link
  • +3
    General Commentthis song is about a near-death experience and how technology saved the "hero's" life. OK Computer is a concept album entirely about technology dominating our lives. in this case, technology helped to prolong life, the "hero" feels reborn.
    roger wilcoon May 13, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General CommentUh, guys, i'm pretty sure "in an interstellar burst, i am back to save the universe" is about the airbag itself. "interstellar burst": the airbag pops out; "save the universe": saves a life.
    blanco_meowon July 18, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThis is my interpretation.
    The whole album OK Computer, from which this song is from, is a concept album about how machines are gaining more importance in our lives, and how they'll dominate us soon. So in that context, "airbag" is literally about an airbag saving a man's life in a car crash, and after saving the man's life, it realises that it has the power to save lives, and so it says "i'm back to save the universe". And the "interstellar burst" can be compared to a sudden car crash's impact, kinda like a burst.
    achyuthsankaron November 05, 2011   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI think that this song is about the concept of cryonics (preservtion of people after they have died, so that they can be brought back to life in the future).

    The term "airbag" is a metaphor for the concept of preservation of humans in cryonics(they are put into a "airbag" to be preserved for the future).

    phrases like "in a deep deep sleep of the innocent, I am born agian". This means that these people will not be alive for a long period of time and will be "sleeping" basicaly "dead" and then be suddenly alive.

    Other phases such as "in the next world war", "i am born agian" they will be born again in the "next world war" the future
    "in an intersteller burst i am back to save the universe" the use of cryonics the people dont realise it put years have drifted away and then they are back.

    I think you get the idea how this song relates to this theory
    undermasteron March 25, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General CommentYou're all wrong, except for Gordo. Thom himself has stated that this song is about the incredible feeling you get when you've ALMOST screwed up really bad, but you just missed it. Like when you nearly slip and fall down stairs, or almost get killed in a car accident but are saved, things like that. Just the amazing feeling that you could have been dead if you hadn't fluked out once again.
    rx2kONEon August 13, 2002   Link

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