Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 002
Fri, Jan 18, 2013

“Black Swan”
Thom Yorke


“♫ Do
yourself a
favor & pack
your bags/buy
a ticket & get
on the train
/cause this
is fucked up/

The chorus of Thom Yorke’s “Black Swan,” of “♫ This is fucked up/fucked up ♫” has been my mantra today. It’s difficult dealing with a family crisis when you’re literally on opposite coasts. My little brother is going through a horrible time and it’s just a fucked up situation all around. During these times of trouble, I turn to music and today Thom Yorke’s “Black Swan” saved my life.

Did you know that “Black Swan” originated from a Radiohead Kid A session, as Thom Yorke explained to Rolling Stone when he said, “Black Swan’ has this tiny, shredded segment of something that was one of the library samples we had. It was Ed (O’Brien guitar) and Phil (Selway drums) doing this thing, and I sliced it into bits. The sample was 2000, but the song was 2005.

Thom discussed the genesis of “Black Swan” with Paste Magazine when he said, ““Black Swan’ was kind of an accident; I mean the whole idea for the record wasn’t, ‘Yes, we’re going to make an album now.’ When [producer] Nigel [Godrich] and I were talking about doing it, it was toward the end of the whole Hail to the Thief thing, and I’d been banging on about it for ages and figured it was about time we tried this out. We had lots of random laptop sketches that I finally had the nerve to present to Nigel, and he was like ‘Eh, it’s OK.’ I knew I was going to see him again [in the studio] in another week so I was like ‘OK, next time around I’m going to blow his socks off’ … so, the first thing I did was ‘Black Swan’ and it took me all of 10 minutes.”

But even after ten minutes something was missing from “Black Swan” as Thom explained to Mojo Magazine in 2008, “I was playing bits of ‘Black Swan,’ 6 minutes of mostly drivel, and Nigel’s (Godrich the producer) like, ‘Bloody hell! I’m not interested in any of this.’ I said, I’ve been working on this for ages. It’s great. ‘No it’s not,’ he says. But as soon as I put the vocal on, he was like, ‘OK, now it makes sense.’ It reminded me just how important the voice is.”

Thom would agree that The Eraser wouldn’t have been complete if it wasn’t for the patient production work of Nigel Godrich as Thom told Paste Magazine when he said, “A lot of this record was compiled by doing a huge, mammoth editing job, which Nigel is very good at, where you have a six-minute piece where the first five-plus minutes are really noisy—which, of course, I really like—and then Nigel hears the last 40 seconds and says, ‘I’m having that!’ But when you listen, ‘Black Swan’ is the key that opens up the rest of the record—once you ‘get it,’ all the other songs start falling into place. Because when we were putting this together, I deliberately wanted to do something that wasn’t too long, in order to sustain your focus, and—as you say—everything bounces off each other. I basically wanted it to work like [David Bowie’s] Hunky Dory, but with electronics.”

Hunky Dory with electronics is a perfect way to describe The Eraser. Most of Thom songs have that Bowie-esque cryptic lyrical “The Bewlay Brothers” feel. “The Black Swan” is no different and is the mantra like chorus of “♫ This is fucked up/fucked up ♫” has been spinning in my head. But this time of tribulation my hermano is facing has us, as a familia, feeling helpless. I feel for my brother but sometimes this whole complex situation is so messed up, that I have to spin my wicked “The Black Swan” mantra all over again.