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
'Like Spinning Plates' was born out of frustration over an electronic version of 'I Will' from the Kid A sessions, which is not available (yet), but we can get an idea what it might have sounded like. This reconstruction uses the vocals of the Hail to the Thief version of 'I Will' and the reversed version of 'Like Spinning Plates', which had its vocals removed:



'I Will' was not going to stay like this, the band was not satisfied with this version. Thom would later dub it "dodgy Kraftwerk". Not knowing what to do with this, someone had the idea to reverse it and played it backwards, which - using our reconstruction - must have sounded something like this:



The reversed backing with its eerie pulse was apprently way more exciting than the ill-fated forward recording, and Thom was also hearing a melody in parts of his reversed vocal of 'I Will', which inspired him to write something he could sing over this recording. He went to his notebooks, pieced a set of lyrics together (perhaps using the "cut up lines pulled out of a top hat" method again), thereby creating a new song, 'Like Spinning Plates'.
However, just singing the new melody and lyrics straight over the pulsing backing track was not good enough. Something different was needed. Perhaps someone had the idea to reflect the fact, that this song came out of turning something backwards, in the singing as well. How about having a backwards vocal track that sounds as if it was sung forwards?

To illustrate what happened now I had to sing the bits myself, since I don't have access to the band's archive. You start by singing the melody and words very normal and make a recording of that:



Good. Now you reverse that recording and listen to it:



You listen to it again and again, and you study the backwards sounds and learn to imitate them. When you think you can do a good copy of what you heard, you make a recording of that imitation in a session that promises lots of hysterical laughter... or endless frustration:



And if you now reverse this new recording, you get the following, and that's exactly how the eery vocal of the studio version was made:



The result is exciting, but it is decided that this vocal is not used in the whole song. The backwards vocal is used for the "verse", the "chorus" uses the normal vocal, but on its last two lines the backwards vocal is flown in as well and you hear a combination of both. In the following two excerpts from the finished track you first hear the reversed vocal, then the straight one, then a combination of both:



This text, written on december 20th 1998, contains two references to the 'I'm living in cloud cuckoo land' line. It appeared in a page of radiohead.com during the Kid A period under the title 'weary/apprehensive':








amateur poetry for yu
cloud fucking cuckoo land.
for christmas i got yu
a still born prepacked newborn slave
to serve your every need
no blood no mess just reheat
ready to make your cushy numbered
mash potatoe comfort dayglo roadsafe trainers
so yor feet can take a rest from the struggle of the behest
responsibilities of power the terrible terrible strain
it must make on yor every waking hour on your playstation trigger finger on yodisco dancing into
cloud fucking cuckoo land
into the wee small hours because we know how to have a good time in 1999
and lose some of that fat kidswatch the world collapse like a discontinued component in a newoutdatedappliance which






yu will soon throw on the scrap heap with the corpses and the fridges with the



cfcs+killerbees.





let s carry on marching into the light for we are gods chosen people 20 12 98.

 

A slightly condensed version of the above text fills the second to last page in the hidden Kid A booklet [click to enlarge]:
The line "the bodies floating downstream" can be found on page 2:
The phrase 'the bodies floating downstream' can also be seen in this text from the Kid A era version of radiohead.com in a page titled '[proactive]':

you willsooon be on the scrap heap in bits and pieces. the cameras will not save you now or then. i saw the sky turn green come on now goddamit hold on to me here come the giant insects with giant teeth and acid blood. godamn yuo for doing this t us. godamn yuo for doing this t us. i am citizen insane all history is frozen. itlll all blow over so(o)n. sleeping leviathan. bodies floating down the muddy rivver in bits and pieces. the steering wheel through the ribs. the shadows swallowing my soul. fall through a blck hole and start again. justa shell remains bleeding on the pavement. you can stuf it with straw and dreess it in bright clothes to scare the crows but they will not be impressed. i dont understand a word you say and you seem so far away, your lips are cold. your eyes are beach stones. everything washes over you like a shipwreck. constant agony. the painkillers send you back n time. the bodies floatinng down stream. the truck loads with machetes. the dead can come back to life cut your tails witha carving knife. like rotten wood. eyes popped out like cigarette machines. the cameras will be gone. the make up will run the set rolled away. and history is at an end the communists have lost control the empire will grow and grow and we shall all be bled to death to feed
These lyrics, that appeared in the 'imaginery prisons' section of radiohead.com at the time Amnesiac was released in spring 2001, also seem to be connected to the lyrics of the song, and show some similarities to the ones posted above:




eyeless faces.
ripples in the water at the beginning.
birds.
flotsam and jetsam.
thousands of bodies limp, dead floating down stream following the tide underwater like shoals of fish.
map.
stick men with huge heads.
skeletons jerking from the future.
machetes.
burnt down churches.
ceasure.


This text apparently appeared in radiohead.com during the Kid A period. It is taken from the song database of ateaseweb.com, but couldn't be found in any archived pages of radiohead.com itself:
so how much can you stand? the flames are lapping up & up, lickin round the legs going in a circle dogs pulling on its chain the wind blows a tune tune to the coming dead. this just feels like spinning plates a temple of hypocrits opportunist. i am no magician. our bodies floating down the muddy river. i jump at the slightest sound/im trying to keep my balance. they have borrowed all the kitchen knives they are killing all the tall thin ones. switch off and walk away.
This page from the Amnesiac artwork contains a line of the song:

The following page appeared in the Kid A era version of radiohead.com under the title 'big fish eat':





spinning plates trick.

spinning plates im spinning plates
juggling plates
juggling plates
spinning plates
spinning plates
spinning plates
spinning plates
im juggling

plates

 

Colin: "With the computer program ProTools you can really try wicked stuff in the studio. On one song, for example, Thom sings backwards. Now that's gonna be a challenge when we play live." [laughs]
A good part of the lyrics can be found in the artwork of Amnesiac:

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. In terms of trying to get somewhere new, I think 'Spinning Plates' is the best of all the record for me. When I listen to it in my car, it makes the doors shake." [laughs]
Q: "It was your personal quest not to repeat OK Computer?"

Thom: "I don't think it was just me - it was everybody, really. What was happening was everyone was saying, 'Well, we've got to start somewhere...' But I was standing, going 'Yeah, but not here'. Then they'd say, 'So where, then?' And I'd reply, 'I don't know'. And the dialogue would just go round and round in circles like that. So we'd launch ideas off and about halfway through them I'd suddenly start screaming, 'This is bollocks! Stop the tape'. And I'd pull the tape off and start something else. Things seemed to be constantly falling apart at that point. Then we'd go back and listen to them a few months later and suddenly we'd realise, 'That's fucking amazing, why the hell did we stop working on that'. That happened with loads of stuff like 'Morning Bell' and 'Spinning Plates'. Basically we'd lost all confidence in what we were trying to do; we didn't have the ability to see anything through. But gradually, as things got back to normal agoin, it became clear what was good and what wasn't."
At the end of those two days, Radiohead decided to issue two single discs. Amnesiac has its share of Kid A-style art games; one song, 'Like Spinning Plates', was built over the backing track of another unreleased song, 'I Will', played backward.
Colin: "The ominous tones of 'Like Spinning Plates'. In Copenhagen, I was listening to Woman's Hour [popular BBC Radio 4 programme]. They were talking about this English composer, whose name I can't remember, who wrote a piece of music for a singer where all the phrasings were backward but she sung it forward. Thom sung the backwards melody. It was recorded forward then listened to backwards and he did the phrasing so as to create backward sounding words but it's sung forwards. It's kind of my favourite track."
Amnesiac's 'Like Spinning Plates' is the track from another, unreleased song, 'I Will', run in reverse. "Thom learned to sing the backward melody forward," says Colin. "You can hear what the words are, but they sound like they're backward."
Q: "I'm not gonna lie to you: there are no hit singles on it and, of course, it's not the much talked about return to the guitar sound of Ok Computer or The Bends either."

Jonny: "Oh really? You actually think so? Well, I'm not sure if I should say it's more accessible... (Jon toys around with a pencil, hitting the bottom of my tape recorder while he ponders the question) ...but on the album you got 'Like Spinning Plates', which I think it's an incredibly emotional song, but not an easy one to grasp. Some tracks on Amnesiac are harder to get into than most on Kid A. It's distributed that way on purpose. So I don't know, I suppose there are possibly more straight ahead songs on Amnesiac and Maybe that makes it easier to listen to in the end. It's hard for me to explain it though."
The most striking departures from the real time three-guitar group sound are pieces such as Kid A's title track, which, with its exquisitely wistful music-box chime and melted-candle Yorke vocal, is worthy of Curd Duca or Boards Of Canada; and Amnesiac's 'Like Spinning Plates', whose dissociated drift reminds me of Robert Wyatt's Rock Bottom updated for the IDM era. 'Plates' is partly built from an earlier song called 'I Will' played backwards. Says Yorke, "We'd turned the tape around, and I was in another room, heard the vocal melody coming backwards, and thought, 'That's miles better than he right way round', then spent the rest of the night trying to learn the melody."
This live performance comes from august 15th 2006, it's a rare soundboard recording from that year:
The song was part of the setlist at Thom's february 25th 2010 Green Party benefit gig in Cambridge:
57. february 25th 2010 Corn Exchange Cambridge UK Link
As part of the initial touring for the "Atoms For Peace" project, the song was played on three occasions during Thom's solo section:
Live performances #61 to #63 during the touring for The King of Limbs:
Live performances #64 and #65 during the touring for The King of Limbs:
  2016 A Moon Shaped Pool tour 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