"Climbing Up the Walls" as written by and Thomas Edward/greenwood Yorke....
I am the key to the lock in your house
That keeps your toys in the basement
And if you get too far inside
You'll only see my reflection

It's always best when the light is off
I am the pick in the ice
Do not cry out or hit the alarm
You know we're friends till we die

And either way you turn
I'll be there
Open up your skull
I'll be there
Climbing up the walls

It's always best when the light is off
It's always better on the outside
Fifteen blows to the back of your head
Fifteen blows to your mind

So lock the kids up safe tonight
Shut the eyes in the cupboard
I've got the smell of a local man
Who's got the loneliest feeling

That either way he turns
I'll be there
Open up your skull
I'll be there

Climbing up the walls
Climbing up the walls
Climbing up the walls


Lyrics submitted by piesupreme

"Climbing Up the Walls" as written by Edward John O'brien Colin Charles Greenwood

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Climbing Up the Walls song meanings
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  • +18
    General Commentthis song gives me nightmares.
    typoon January 06, 2002   Link
  • +17
    General Commentradiohead is a band where... for example.. say you hear one of their songs.. karma police... perhaps. Once youve gotten done with this song, you say to yourself... man!.. karma police is my favorite song. But, next day later you listen to another radiohead song.. you say to yourself again.. man.. this song is my favorite.. and it keeps going and going. Radiohead is a band amongst others. They dont just have one big hit, theyve got the whole stack.
    streetspiriton March 19, 2003   Link
  • +14
    General CommentWell apparently my interpretation of the song is wrong, but I prefer it to Yorke's mental patients gone wild thing. I'm not saying that my view has any merit or is any better btw.

    When I listen to 'Climbing Up the Walls', I picture someone trapped in their own mind. Their brain is a padded cell and no amount of beating the walls can free them.

    ("Either way you turn, I'll be there. Open up your skull - I'll be there." "You know we're friends till we die".)

    This person is either insane, depressive or even 'normal' - it could be anyone.
    Before I read them on the net, I misheard "that keeps your toys in the basement" as "that keeps you tied in the basement". This fits well with the view that this person is fighting with himself and keeping himself hostage in his own head. But it's wrong.

    For me, "keeps your toys in the basement" symbolises a person's inability to confront and know themselves; self-discovery and being 'normal' (like everyone else) are out of reach, locked in the basement. The "toys" could also be memories and past experiences - these are negative and so are kept in a safe place where they can be ignored, like the 'kids' locked in a safe at the end of the song... these 'kids' are our inner child or our primordial nature, neither of which we are able to get back to or deal with.

    And if you do manage to delve 'too far inside', you end up in a hall of mirrors. It's just you.
    The reflection staring back at you is your worst nightmare, your inseparable friend and enemy. And as you look for something else - an escape, an ultimate truth* or whatever - you just keep running into yourself... another interpretation is that your mind (this could be anyone's mind, but particularly applies to someone with a personality disorder such as a narcissist) is doing this as a defensive mechanism in order to shield you from a truth too disturbing to accept.

    Another dimension to this song is the reference to society's thin veneer of normality, underneath which lies chaos - or a reality that we're not equipped to deal with - and below which we lurk, like chained animals ready to break loose at any moment.

    "It's always better on the outside" - outside yourself.
    "It's always better when the light is off", "It's always best with the covers up" - denial and illusion are better, or easier, than the truth.. they keep you safe and warm.
    "I am the pick in the ice" - I see this as the repressed voice in the narrator's mind. The ice covers the 'voices in his head', but the pick (insanity, introspection or the narrator himself) threatens the stability of this hiding place. The pick could crack this fragile veneer and set everything loose.
    sirsidon July 03, 2009   Link
  • +9
    General CommentAgreed with some others. I think it's about someone with a mental disorder.

    I am the key to the lock in your house
    That keeps your toys in the basement
    And if you get too far inside
    You'll only see my reflection

    The "house" could represent the mind, and the "key" could mean that the person feels that the disorder controls their life. Also worth to note is that it's spoken in first-person, so the person believes the disorder is alive. "Keeps the toys in the basement" could be an allusion to childhood, and how the disorder has effected the person throughout their life. The person is afraid to dwell too much on their mind, however, as they're not sure where the person ends and the illness begins: "and if you get too far inside/You'll only see my reflection". The person is possibly delusional.

    It's always best with the covers up

    The person is hiding under their bed sheets, or possibly closing the blinds; maybe both. Paranoia is another symptom. Alternatively, the cover could by their mental shields against the world to avoid getting hurt.

    I am the pick in the ice

    The person tried to live normally, but the stress of life gets to them, and the disorder only serves to make the crack longer.

    Do not cry out or hit the alarm

    The person feels that nothing can be done to stop the illness. Perhaps they have tried before with negative results.

    You know we're friends until we die

    The person has accepted that the disorder is a part of them forever.

    And either way you turn, I'll be there

    Either way could mean a variety of things, but since the song has a feeling of desperation to escape, I think the two choices are:

    a) Get help, but I'll still be there.
    b) Don't get help, but I'll still be there.

    Open up your skull, I'll be there

    The person has tried therapy or learned about and recognized the disorder within themselves. A step away from delusion.

    Climbing up the walls

    The person feels backed into a corner with no escape.

    It's always best when the light is off

    A step back. The person decides to just let the problem be (or "turn a blind eye" to the situation).

    It's always better on the outside

    The external world will take the person away from the pain for a moment (i.e. TV, junk food, games, sex)

    Fifteen blows to the back of your head

    A fear of unsafe psychiatric procedures is enhanced by the person's paranoia.

    Fifteen blows to your mind

    The person is finding it increasingly difficult to go on as they are.

    So lock the kids up safe tonight

    Paranoia again, or possibly OCD symptom of fear of harming others. Constant rechecking on kids.

    Shut the eyes in the cupboard

    Another line about ignoring the problem .

    I've got the smile of a local man

    The disorder has been with the person so long that they feel it is close to them.

    Who's got the loneliest feeling

    The closeness, however, is not good. The disorder prevents the person from fulfilling life to the full standard, leaving the person with a feeling of lonely emptiness.

    Just my interpretation, of course.



    LoopyLadyon May 10, 2011   Link
  • +8
    General CommentListen to this song late at night, alone, locked in your room with headphones on and your eyes closed. I double-dog dare you. :-)

    I'd have to say my favorite part is when Thom gives his distorted scream at the end... Chilling!
    toadtwson January 14, 2002   Link
  • +8
    Song MeaningI think this song has two parallel meanings: it describes both the danger of having mentally unstable people wandering around, as in the "Care in the Community" program in England; and also of the horror of madness, described from the point of view of madness itself. That's why the chorus says "either way you turn *I'll* be there". There is no escape from insanity, because it is your own mind attacking itself. A very chilling song.
    megabyte800on June 06, 2010   Link
  • +5
    My InterpretationIt's weird no-one else put this, but this is what I always imagined the song to be about:
    I thought it was about evil inside us all, which some people have said, but I think it's specific to the book Lord of The Flies. The Drums and ambiant sounds remind me of a tribe in a jungle.

    "Either way you turn, I'll be there, Open up your skull, I'll be there." This seems to be the beast talking to Simon, saying that he's inside all of them.

    "I am the key to the lock in your house That keeps your toys in the basement." 'Toys' might be metaphorical, since the hunting the boys did in the novel were at first games, and then became serious.

    "And if you get too far inside You'll only see my reflection." Is saying that if you got too far into savagey, you'll become the beast yourself.

    "You know we're friends until we die" The beast telling Simon he should just give in.

    "It's always better on the outside" Simon is an outsider in the group, and because of this he can see the truth.

    "Fifteen blows to the back of your head" This seems to describe Simon's death, which is very violent , and then the scream at the end seems to be the other boys all screaming when they see him, and think he is the beast.

    If anyone's read the book, let me know if you think that's right or not.
    VJGaneshon November 07, 2010   Link
  • +3
    General Commentit means so much. of every single radiohead song ever written, id say this is my favorite. it even beats idoteche. its just incredible. if i am walking down the streets of boston and listening to this, i will sing the lyrics so loud. go to boston. you will hear me.
    ParaniodAndriodon April 12, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General Comment"Fifteen blows to the back of your head
    Fifteen blows to your mind"
    Why Fifteen ?
    Paymaanon December 03, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI don´t think this song is scary is more like instrospective, I think tom is talking about himself, it´s about when you feel that you are traped inside yourself,"either way you turn I´ll be there" "open up your skull..." is like how can you be your worst enemy.
    livgirlon February 15, 2002   Link

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