I have a love / hate relationship with Radiohead. Love in so far that they produce absolutely sublime pieces of music which reach deeper than One Direction. Hate in so far as they rarely deal with happy thoughts … but I guess you can’t always get what you want …
I was struck by the daring attempt to release a chart song that deals with the issues of thought crime, surveillance, being a heretic and other dystopian matter, probably informed by 1984 amongst other works.
Listen to “Burn The Witch” without the video and all appears a bit upbeat. Watch the video and at first glance you are confronted with what appears to be a remake of the children’s programme “Trumpton”. As you look deeper, you begin to realise that not all is well in the village as social cohesion breaks down and a scapegoat is identified for an unidentified malaise. This culminates in a scene from “The Wicker Man”, although it appears that the man who gets burned in the tower then reappears relatively unscathed in the final scene. The animators say that the video refers to Islamophobia and the refugee crisis although the song was written some 10-15 years ago.
Abandon all reason
Avoid all eye contact
Do not react
Shoot the messenger
I’m not quite sure what goes on in Thom Yorke’s mind or why, but “Burn The Witch” certainly deserves a place in popular culture, proving that pop music can address more than “boy meets girl” issues. Since the lyrics are beautifully ambiguous the song has multiple meanings, allowing the listener to project their own interpretation into the piece. Given that the establishment banned Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax” and Prince’s “Sexy MF” I’m surprised and delighted that our leaders allow such potent material into the world … or perhaps they just don’t get it?
Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Book him for your next interactive motivational keynote or longer masterclass on subjects such as Leadership, Creativity, Innovation and Change.