Main Index Pablo Honey The Bends OK Computer Kid A Amnesiac Hail to the Thief In Rainbows The King of Limbs A Moon Shaped Pool Thom Yorke Jonny Greenwood Ed O'Brien Colin Greenwood Philip Selway
A quote from Hermann Hesse's novel 'Siddharta', that is related to the lyrics, appeared in the 'imaginery prisons' section of radiohead.com at the time Amnesiac was released in spring 2001:




"They all became part of the river. It was the goal of all of them, yearning, desiring, suffering; and the river's voice was full of longing, full of smarting woe, full of insatiable desire. The river flowed on towards to it's goal. Siddartha saw the river hasten, made up of himself and his relatives and all the people he had ever seen. All the waves and water hastened, suffering, towards goals, many goals, to the waterfall, to the sea, to the current, to the ocean and all the goals were reached and each one was succeeded by another. The water changed to vapour and rose, became rain and came down again, became spring, brook and river, changed anew, flowed anew. But the yearning voice had altered. It still echoed sorrowfully, searchingly but other voices accompanied it, voices of pleasure and sorrow, good and evil voices, laughing and lamenting voices, hundreds of voices, thousands of voices............."
Siddartha
Herman Hesse


The working title of this song was 'Egyptian Song'. Thom premiered it as a slightly different solo piano rendition on june 13th 1999 at the Tibetan Freedom Concert. The most noticable difference are the opening lyrics:
This page appeared in radiohead.com during the Kid A period under the title 'rare':

i jumped in the river and what did i see? black-eyed angels swimming with me. a moon full of stars and astral cars. all the figures i used to see. all my lovers were there with me. all my past and futures. and we all went to heaven in a little row boat. there was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt. there was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt. there was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt. there was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt.
The song is mentioned in a number of entries from Ed's Diary:
wednesday, december 8th 1999
started by playing 'cuttooth' again - the song needs stamina - sounding better than yesterday....just have to keep playing it. one of those days when it doesn't feel as though we've done much. maybe it's because everyone's tired. there was some protool arranging on 'follow me around' and an attempt to do vocal, piano and drums on 'egyptian song'. was sounding ok. tried playing 'keep the wolf from the door but it's too late and needs thom's rant on it. a bitty day. time to go home. saw only four hours of daylight - how do they cope in scandinavia during these months?
thursday, december 9th 1999
first 'live' performance in front of an audience for exactly (and strangely) a year........it was early morning so it was the 10th. it started with jonny (aka DJ REQUIRED) and thom's dj set and then a last minute executive decision was made to play 'knives out' around the xmas tree. 'amateur hour' will hopefully become a regular night for us - but will be different each time - there will however be ongoing items like phil's puppet show. for those who don't know what i'm going on about - we did a live web broadcast to about 250 people - courtesy of tim bran and those lovely people at the ninja tunes label.

phil and thom also nailed a wonderful version of 'egyptian song' during the day. thom thinks it's the best thing we've committed to tape, ever.
friday, december 10th 1999
still high from the night before. you have no idea how excited we are about this. it's a bit like having our own tv station for three or so hours. there was little/virtually no planning for it, so everything was done on the hoof. so refreshing to do as it seems to take an eternity to get anything done quickly in this business.....and yes it was completely shambolic at times but surely there's nothing wrong with that. i'd love to see more people doing this - can you imagine tony blair and his boys and girls doing a similar thing..........prescott on the wheels of steel: "this one goes out to ken, this is 'going underground'........". 'egyptian song' sounds even better today.
friday, february 4th 2000
what an amazing day. fantastic string arrangements by jonny and what players. many many thanks are due to john lubbock(who conducted and organised) and the string players from the orchestra of st. john's, smith square. the whole session was the complete antithesis to the ok computer experience; firstly rather than de-camping to some london studio we used an old abbey near us with the most fantastic acoustics to record in. i think nigel was totally blown away by the whole sound of it. but most importantly john and the players were so enthusiastic about it all.....jonny has certain things that he wants/wanted to try out that aren't your usual string arrangaments. and rather than dismiss his ideas ( which is what happened on the ok computer session) they were open-minded enough to try them. john lubbock even handed over the conducting reins right at the end for jonny to try out an idea of his. there is no way that he would have been allowed to have done that at the abbey road session. brilliant players and people.

we needed this session after what has seemed an incredibly draining week.
monday, february 21st 2000
all back together again, a week off and our studio tans have faded nicely. everybody seems rested and refreshed for the next five weeks..........nigel wants to get his teeth stuck into mixing, so we decided to set up and record 'cuttooth'. this at eight and a half minutes (by the end) is the long one - did five or six takes of which a couple are pretty good. will review further tomorrow. nigel and jonny are at present getting stuck into going through the various string parts on 'egyptian song'. good to be back.
monday, february 28th 2000
had a funny old meeting last friday..............definitely nursing a hangover from it today.................

nigel was sidetracked last week by 'cuttooth' so he really really wants to do some mixing this week. 'egyptian song' then..........thom plays bass and it sounds pretty much finished. i haven't really been involved in this song so when i hear it i think i'm able to be fairly objective about it.........it has the feel of one of the tracks on the last mark hollis album and it is definitely one of the highlights so far. meanwhile downstairs...................jonny and i are let loose on fucking up phil's drum sound. hours of fun as coz might say. starts off by phil doing some drums on 'kinetic'...................keep getting that ground hogday sensation writing this diary. can't help feeling that this must be an exceptionally boring read except to maybe the diehard muso............
tuesday, february 29th 2000
I froze up upstairs after Nigel has done a good mix of 'Egyptian song'. pick up on 'i will' downstairs.......jonny plays some cool organ on it. trying to do some rhythm stuff on it.
This piece of artwork appeared in the Dead Children Playing book that accompanied the exhibition of artwork that Stanley held at Iguapop Gallery in Barcelona in 2006 (click image for full size):

Q: "'Pyramid Song' and 'Everything In Its Right Place' seem close?" Thom: "They were both written in the same week - the week I bought a piano (laughs). The chords I'm playing involve lots of black notes. You think you're being really clever playing them but they're really simple. For 'Everything' I programmed my piano playing into a lap-top, but 'Pyramid' sounded better untreated. 'Pyramid Song' is me being totally obsessed by a Charlie Mingus song called Freedom and I was just trying to duplicate that, really. Our first version of 'Pyramid' even had all the claps that you hear on Freedom. Unfortunately, our claps sounded really naff, so I quickly erased them."
Q: "Were you in effect suffering from a form of writer's block?"

Thom: "It wasn't really a writer's block because words were coming out like diarrhoea but they were all awful! And I couldn't tell the difference - which was much worse. But that was because, personally speaking, I'd lost all confidence.

Q: "When and how did it come back?"

Thom: "It came back when we recorded 'The National Anthem'. I really, really love that track. 'Everything In Its Right Place' I really, really love as well. And 'In Limbo' I'm still proud of just for the disorientating, floaty feel we managed to capture. It comes from this really peculiar place. On the new one - even though I've heard it too much - 'Pyramid Song' is still a really good one."
Ed: "'Pyramid Song' is probably the best song that we've recorded. What happened was, Thom and Phil... Thom did the vocal and the piano, Phil played the drums at the same time. Did the take, that was great. Then strings were added, and it was pretty much finished then."

Colin: "The inception of the song was when we were in Copenhagen, and Thom went 'round the museum of culture. And there was an exhibition of Egyptian underworld and tomb art. Of people being ferried across the river of death, I don't know what it's called in Egyptian mythology, and he was very effected by it and he went back and sat behind the piano and wrote it. And we had like an amazing version of it on DAT, which was really beautiful, and that we wanted to work to, but it was on DAT, so we couldn't use it. And then we spent the next year trying to piece it together, basically. Six months."
Ed: "We all feel it's the strongest song on the album. When we do release singles, we don't mess about- put your best song out first to let people know an album's on the way."
'Pyramid Song', which Radiohead debuted on tour last year, started as a haunting live studio performance by Selway at the drums and Yorke on piano and vocal. Rolling strings, arranged by Jonny Greenwood, were over-dubbed in the majestic echo of Dorchester Abbay, a twelfth century church about five miles from Radiohead's studio. The result, O'Brien says, "is the best song we've recorded".
Jonny: "It's a different way to approach it... well, in a way you're right about the general mood of the songs changing a bit, as we're not touring with a string section or some instruments that are on the album, but we'll replace them with some others. For instance during the final part of 'Pyramid Song' we use guitars to fill up the sound and make it richer... but yes, I suppose it sounds different".
Ed: "I think 'Pyramid Song' is probably the best song that we've recorded. [...] Basically what happened was Thom and Phil... Thom did the vocal and the piano, Phil played the drums at the same time. Did the take, that was great. Then strings were added, and it was pretty much finished then, you know."

Colin: "The inception of the song was when we were in Copenhagen, and Thom went around the museum of culture, and there was an exhibition of Egyptian underworld and tomb art of people who were being ferried across the river of death, I don't know what it's called in Egyptian mythology... and you know, he was very affected by it and he went back and sat behind the piano and wrote it. And we had like an amazing version of it on DAT, which was really beautiful, and that we wanted to work to, but it was on DAT, so we couldn't use it. And then, you know, we spent the next year trying to piece it together, basically."

Ed: "Six months."

Colin: "Six months."
'Pyramid Song' was released as the first single from Amnesiac on may 21st 2001. It entered the UK Singles Charts at #5, was down to #20 the following week and had left the Top 40 the week after.
In the UK the single was issued in the 2-CD-format, the b-sides being 'The Amazing Sounds of Orgy' and 'Trans-Atlantic Drawl' for CD1, and 'Fast-track' and 'Kinetic' for CD2.
Live performances #169 to #171 during the making for The King of Limbs:
169. january 24th 2010 The Music Box Theatre at The Fonda Los Angeles, CA USA Link
170. february 25th 2010 Corn Exchange Cambridge UK Link
171. june 25th 2010 Glastonbury Festival Pilton UK Link
Live performances #172 to #185 during the touring for The King of Limbs:
Live performances #186 to #207 during the touring for The King of Limbs:
  Amnesiac may 2016 06/2016 july 2016 august 2016 sept./oct. 2016
Pyramid Song [12] 23 27 03 02 27 29 31 06 08 20 03 07
You and Whose Army? [4] 20 26 01 04
Hunting Bears [3] 21 01 04
Like Spinning Plates [2] 28 08