"Street Spirit (Fade Out)" as written by Thomas Yorke, Edward John O'brien, Colin Charles Greenwood, Jonathan Richard Guy Greenwood and Philip Selway....
Rows of houses, all bearing down on me
I can feel their blue hands touching me
All these things into position
All these things we'll one day swallow whole
And fade out again and fade out

This machine will, will not communicate
These thoughts and the strain I am under
Be a world child, form a circle
Before we all go under
And fade out again and fade out again

Cracked eggs, dead birds
Scream as they fight for life
I can feel death, can see its beady eyes
All these things into position
All these things we'll one day swallow whole
And fade out again and fade out again

Immerse your soul in love
Immerse your soul in love


Lyrics submitted by piesupreme, edited by GoodOldFashionedLoverBoy, Peyman

"Street Spirit (Fade Out)" as written by Thomas Yorke, Edward John O'brien, Colin Charles Greenwood, Jonathan Richard Guy Greenwood, Philip Selway

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Street Spirit (Fade Out) song meanings
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  • +31
    General CommentQuote from Thom:

    "'Street Spirit' is our purest song, but I didn't write it.... It wrote itself. We were just its messengers... Its biological catylysts. It's core is a complete mystery to me... and (pause) you know, I wouldn't ever try to write something that hopeless... All of our saddest songs have somewhere in them at least a glimmer of resolve... 'Street Spirit' has no resolve... It is the dark tunnel without the light at the end. It represents all tragic emotion that is so hurtful that the sound of that melody is its only definition. We all have a way of dealing with that song... It's called detachment... Especially me.. I detach my emotional radar from that song, or I couldn't play it... I'd crack. I'd break down on stage.. that's why its lyrics are just a bunch of mini-stories or visual images as opposed to a cohesive explanation of its meaning... I used images set to the music that I thought would convey the emotional entirety of the lyric and music working together... That's what's meant by 'all these things are one to swallow whole'.. I meant the emotional entirety, because I didn't have it in me to articulate the emotion... (pause) I'd crack.... Our fans are braver than I to let that song penetrate them, or maybe they don't realize what they're listening to.. They don't realize that 'Street Spirit' is about staring the fucking devil right in the eyes... and knowing, no matter what the hell you do, he'll get the last laugh...and it's real...and true. The devil really will get the last laugh in all cases without exception, and if I let myself think about that to long, I'd crack. I can't believe we have fans that can deal emotionally with that song... That's why I'm convinced that they don't know what it's about. It's why we play it towards the end of our sets. It drains me, and it shakes me, and hurts like hell everytime I play it, looking out at thousands of people cheering and smiling, oblivious to the tragedy of it's meaning, like when you're going to have your dog put down and it's wagging it's tail on the way there. That's what they all look like, and it breaks my heart.

    I wish that song hadn't picked us as its catalysts, and so I don't claim it. It asks too much. (very long pause). I didn't write that song."
    noneedfordavon May 23, 2002   Link
  • +8
    General CommentThe song is meant to be the darkest thing writeable. Thom Yorke said it was about "fighting with the devil and losing every time." He has trouble playing it at concerts, because it's so draining to look into the eyes of a cheering audience when singing of total despair.

    Whatever. I'm one of those cheering idiots. The song tries to be about death and dread and evil, but just starts coming through as a commentary on dead end life instead. I'm not sure if what Radiohead is trying to pull off is even possible with words, and I'm inclined to believe that if they can't do it no one can.

    It's still an incredible song, still my favorite Radiohead song. Maybe it's the enigma of such a great song talking about such an aweful thing that makes me just unable to feel the meaning of it.
    ballzofsnoon April 26, 2002   Link
  • +5
    General CommentI agree with what most people say here, this song is the reflect of our own world crushing down.
    Thom didn't say it was about the devil himself, he stated it´s about knowing that the devil will have the final laugh.
    I feel so related to this song, my life hasn't been so dark and desperate, but it's been quite ironic, quite harsh in many ways. Realizing that your biggest dreams, your biggest hopes, your need for a complete change will never be.
    The darkness that surrounds this song is overwhelming. No words could truly describe it.
    medton May 07, 2010   Link
  • +4
    My OpinionGod...

    Every time I let myself get into this song I get this indescribable negative feeling... Like nothing else. Almost like you take everything bad and mix it together. Lonliness, sadness, bitterness, emptiness...

    The line "Immerse your soul in love" is the most painful for me.

    Because you know it's just a joke.

    This song really is Hell.
    Maelthornon May 14, 2009   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThe correct lyrics are:

    Rows of houses, all bearing down on me
    I can feel their blue hands touching me
    All these things into position
    All these things are one to swallow whole
    And fade out again and fade out

    This machine will, will not communicate
    These thoughts and the strain I am under
    Be a world child, form a circle
    Before we all go under
    And fade out again and fade out again

    Cracked eggs, dead birds
    Scream as they fight for life
    I can feel death, can see its beady eyes
    All these things into position
    All these things are one to swallow whole
    And fade out again and fade out again

    Immerse your soul in love
    IMMERSE YOUR SOUL IN LOVE
    jhienklesonon March 12, 2003   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThis song is the tunnel with no light at the end, and Thom hates it when he looks into the crowd at concerts and sees people singing along with smiles on their faces, but to me, that's not the way that things should be.

    Cause every person in that room knows the song is true. It's inescapable; sometimes life just throws things in your way that you can't get round, sometimes things just don't work out and everything gets completely lost, and sometimes people give up on all hope entirely, and that danger, that fear is always there and always will be.

    But despite how hopeless and pointless all that seems, if you can stand in a crowd of a thousand people that all know it's true, doesn't that make you feel a whole lot better, knowing that you're part of this battle and you're not alone? Knowing that you've got something in common with all these people, doesn't that just turn a couple of the tears you're crying into hopeful ones? I know it did for me.

    It's sad, but when he says there's no saving grace, no redemption in it, he's wrong, because there's redemption in all music. If you can relate, then you're not on your own, and I think that matters a hell of a lot.
    3lanceron August 24, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis is the best song of radiohead,it has everything, the nusic is incredible, and the lirycs are just poetry.
    livgirlon February 19, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General CommentFor those of you who think this song is about anything other than the Devil himself, do a little research. Thom has come outright and said exactly what it was about. He disavows having written the song himself and claims he was just a tool to do so. They only play it at the end of the concert because it is just so draining for him to play. Although, I have to say I am a little surprised it's so depressing because I felt that the last two lines gave some hope...or at least some comfort to the song and to life. Head the word, immerse your soul in love!! It's all we have people!!

    I have extremely mixed feelings about this song. It is incredibly intense and emotional. At the same time, melodic and flowing. It hurts me to hear it but I play it all the time. Some songs you can feel in your bones and they just strike you as though you were just hit...this is defintiely one of those songs!!
    drietovenareson June 10, 2003   Link
  • +2
    General CommentAm i the only one who is a little freaked out by the idea that this song is the voice of the cosmos? that this is what the universe is trying to tell us? i can see why thom yorke would be loath to play this song if (he really believes that) it wrote itself.

    Funny, I don't see the last lines as being particularly hopeful or redemptive. It's not that i'm an especially morbid or pessimistic person, but in the context of the song and the way he sings it, "immerse your soul in love" sounds more like a defense mechanism than a light at the end of the tunnel. that is to say, there ISN'T a light at the end of the tunnel; how else are you going to keep that kind of revelation out of mind but by "thinking happy thoughts?" he might as well be singing, "immerse your soul in paperwork." anything to distract yourself from the knowledge that your soul, and your love, and everyone you surround yourself with will fade out in the end.

    on the other hand, the line "form a circle before we all go under" and the fact that he always sings "fade out again" suggest that it wouldn't be the first time, which i suppose does cast the song in a spiritual/cyclic/reincarnate light. or else thom sees death as merely the last disappointment in a lifetime of "fading out." me? i think the cosmos was just looking for something to pad the syllabic count of the chorus, like "oh yeah" or "baby," or "tonite."

    also, i think everybody who's getting all sanctimonious and "oh, your interpretation is WRONG because THOM YORKE said it was about blah blah blah..." need to shut the fuck up. if you accept thom's insistence that he did not actually write the song, then how is HIS interpretation of it any more valid than some message-boarder's? because he's in a band? ooo, err. he knows about philosophy and whatnot.
    owennnnnnnnnnon July 11, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI think this thread needs a post that offers a single, plausible, comprehensive view of the song, as comments so far seem semi-developed or at least semi-articulated. eatenbytheworms’s comment might be the exception, but it depends upon Jung’s idea of the “collective unconscious” which is just plain ridiculous (believe me!). To over-simplify, Jung tried to explain why we all have a fear of snakes, knowing fine well that Freud’s explanation (that it’s because they look like penises) was ludicrous. He did so by claiming that everyone’s unconscious mind is part of one giant entity called “the collective unconscious”. Therefore, because people from snake-inhabited countries have learnt to fear snakes, so has everyone else –– everyone is part of the same mind! Ha! Jung also claimed he had an animal companion (invisible to you or me) with which he had regular conversations. Cuckoo.

    Anyway... the song. Thom Yorke, in the passage that’s posted on page 1, says this: “Its lyrics are just a bunch of mini-stories or visual images as opposed to a cohesive explanation of its meaning”. He set these images to music to “convey the emotional entirety. That's what's meant by 'all these things are one to swallow whole’”. Basically, the images are not too important in themselves, but (perhaps like a mosaic) work to create a single, larger image and evoke a single feeling – “a dark tunnel without the light at the end”.

    The second verse, however, has no images. Yorke doesn’t mean a physical machine here: what’s meant by ‘the machine that will not communicate’ is the machine of language, or the machine of music (‘machine’ being interchangeable with ‘system’). “I meant the emotional entirety because I didn’t have it in me to articulate the emotion” – these lyrics are about the failure of words and the failure of music to express how he really feels. The knowledge that he will inevitably die produces a feeling he cannot communicate. (See ‘The Castaway’ by William Cowper - a poet who was actually insane bartleby.com/41/….)

    my_nothing mentioned the poem ‘Aubade’ by Philip Larkin, which, if it was indeed an influence, explains a lot: it too is about the hauntingly inescapable fact that you will most definitely die (poemhunter.com/poem/aubade/).

    I find the line “And fade out again and fade out...” interesting as its context changes. If you look at the lyrics, in the first and third verse what fades out are “all these things”, as in the images themselves, which fade away as the observer dies (i.e. “all these things are one to swallow whole and fade out”). In the second verse, however, it is “we” who fade out (i.e. “Before we all go under and fade out”) – we all die, we all fade out.

    The song, in a nutshell then, is about the inevitability of death and the (inexpressible) feeling that the knowledge of this produces. However, rather than wallowing in the fact that life is hopeless and ultimately meaningless (something it does not deny), it seems to advise you to do three things with life: “be a world child”, “form a circle” and “immerse your soul in love”. To “immerse your soul in love” is the most obvious of the three exhortations – love is one of the most pleasurable and desirable experiences available and so immersion in it distracts you from the knowledge of certain death. Being a “world child” is a bit more ambiguous – it may be advice to travel the world and learn and experience as much as possible, or it may be advice to appreciate everyone and everything in the world equally (or it may be both). “Form a circle” is more ambiguous still – it may be a continuation of the idea of acceptance (a circle of people holding hands), but a circle is also a symbol of eternity (a line without beginning or end) and so perhaps “forming a circle” means that we are to forget about such things as conclusions, ends, and death: we should avoid the disturbing knowledge of our certain death by deluding ourselves with notions of forever and eternity.

    --“looking out at thousands of people cheering and smiling, oblivious to the tragedy of it's meaning, [is] like when you're going to have your dog put down and it's wagging it's tail on the way there. That's what they all look like, and it breaks my heart”--
    Fortunatuson July 16, 2008   Link

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