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
There's a poem by Philip Larkin that may or may not have something to do with the inception of the song's lyrics:

Myxomatosis
by Philip Larkin

Caught in the center of a soundless field
While hot inexplicable hours go by
What trap is this? Where were its teeth concealed?
You seem to ask.
I make a sharp reply,
Then clean my stick. I'm glad I can't explain
Just in what jaws you were to suppurate:
You may have thought things would come right again
If you could only keep quite still and wait.
On the High & Dry single (UK CD2), from 1994, one can see something that looks like a handwritten sketch for a short story which might have been the inspiration for 'Myxomatosis'. Thom had been fascinated with the term since being a child:



Though the short story itself never got published in full, it can be assumed that in terms of it's theme it mainly surrounds the mongrel cat/rabbit disease aspects.
By the time the band recorded Kid A in 1999, Thom had created a set of lyrics by cutting the original short story into pieces and adding new, more politically motivated lines like "it got edited fucked up", which were informed by the media reaction to the Jubilee 2000/Drop The Debt movement, which Thom was involved with during that period.
Whether the music existed at this point already, is uncertain, but possible.

The following lines headlined a number of succeeding pages, that appeared in radiohead.com in october 1999, with each of them appearing at the top of a page as a link to the next one, and in this order:

we boild the head
we dug into the meat
he did some of his card tricks
he shook hands with the excluded
gave them all some promises
his smiles must be made
of high tensile plastic
. he said:
oh man it was so nice
she ate me up for breakfast
i slept with hoo i like
i sat in the cupboard and wrote it down neet
just as ah saw it yeah just as ah saw it
but it got edited fuctup
strangled/beaten up
A few lines related to this song can be found in the hidden Kid A booklet [click to enlarge]:
'Cuttooth', which was written in the summer of 1999, features the chorus "I don't know why I feel so tongue-tied/I don't know why I feel so skinned alive", exactly the same as in 'Myxomatosis'. The early lyrics to 'Myxomatosis' from the Kid A period, that are known and posted above, don't include these lines, but the set might not be complete, and it can't be ruled out that the lines, that would become the chorus, were associated with 'Myxomatosis' already in one way or another.

Like nearly every song that Thom wrote during the Kid A period, the lyrics for 'Cuttooth' sound like they were assembled using a technique of pulling cut up lines out of a top hat. So it is well possible that 'Myxomatosis' doesn't recycle old 'Cuttooth' lyrics, which is the immediate impression one gets, but that instead 'Cuttooth' uses lyrics that belong to an early version of 'Myxomatosis'. In that case the connection between these songs would be the same as the one between 'Optimistic' and 'Where I End And You Begin'.
In the 2003, the following scan from Thom's sketchbook appeared on radiohead.com as the background to a page that featured the lyrics to 'Myxomatosis'. This still contains the "Just as I saw it, yeah just as I saw it" line, and therefore either dates back to the Kid A/Amnesiac period, or indicates that Thom's demo for Hail To The Thief and perhaps even the version from the rehearsals in spring 2002 could still include that line:

In late 2001 or early 2002, Thom recorded the Hail to the Thief demo with an all-electronic arrangement.

This demo version was given to Cristian Vogel to remix, and was released as 'Remyxomatosis' on the 2+2=5 single. Therefore the remix gives a good impression what Thom's (otherwise unavailable) electronic demo sounded like. It still contains the "mafia geeks" verse, which isn't included in the album version anymore.

In February 2002, when the others heard the demo version, they were apparently pretty excited about it, and in fact this was the song the band started work with when rehearsals began in april 2002. 'Myxomatosis' was now rearranged entirely, getting away from the electronic arrangement completely by deliberately trying to come up with the sound of keyboard-heavy bands from the 1980s like Tubeway Army.
In 2002, the song was played eight times on the Iberian Tour, with a few lyrical and structural differences. The second verse included "held" instead of "screwed", and there was an additional "mafia geeks" verse at teh end. The recording presented here comes from the concert on july 30th 2002 in San Sebastian, Spain:


the mongrel cat came home
holding half a head
proceeded to show it off
to all his new found friends

he said I been where I liked
I slept with who I liked
she ate me up for breakfast
she held me in a vice

but now I don't know why I feel so tongue-tied

I sat in the cupboard
and wrote it down in neat
they were cheering and waving, cheering and waving
twitching and salivating like with myxomatosis

but it got edited, fucked up
strangled, beaten up
used as a photo in Time magazine
buried in a burning black hole in Devon

I don’t know why I feel so tongue-tied
don’t know why I feel so skinned alive

my thoughts are misguided and a little naive
I twitch and I salivate like with myxomatosis
you should put me in a home or you should put me down
I got myxomatosis, I got myxomatosis

yeah, no one likes a smart ass, but we all like stars
but that wasn't my intention, I did it for a reason
it must have got fucked up, strangled, beaten up
I got myxomatosis, I got myxomatosis

yeah, we boiled up the head
we dug into the meat
he shook hands with the cripples and he gave them all milk
he did a few card tricks for his mafia geeks, but now

I don’t know why I feel so tongue-tied



This video comes from August 1st 2002 in San Sebastián, Spain. A change was made to the song compared to the previous night: the "mafia geeks" verse was left out. The reason for its removal probably was the band's intention to keep the songs rather short. The next and last pre-session performances on august 5th and 6th are also like this (on august 5th Thom forgets that the verse is not part of the song anymore, which leads to quite a messed up ending section), and the studio version would also follow this structure:
In September 2002, the band attempted to record this arrangement in L.A., but the released version was tracked in the band's Oxfordshire studio after their return back to England.
On March 30th 2003, the rough mix of the song leaked and it represents the state of work from February. This version is similar to the released version, with the main difference being that the keyboards are not as present in the mix. Unlike in the final mix they also wander across the stereo spectrum. The band had yet to discover that it wasn't the rhythm, but the keyboards that made the song work when brought upfront:

Myxomatosis (Rough Mix) by CitizenInsane,
Thom: "A lot of that was experiencing being on the outskirts of the whirling vacuum, which is current politics, really. When you get to the center, or you start to sort of see the center, you know, like a tornado, there's just basically nothing there. And 'Myxomatosis' was really sort of born out of that. Born out of this idea like... well, again I guess, like 'Punch-up' as well, it's like 'well, I was there, and no, it wasn't like that'. But yet... I must be ill, because what I saw and what was reported was a totally different thing. Very specifically provoked by something that happened a few years ago, the 'Drop The Debt' thing, that just stuck with me when we went to Cologne. I mean, I've talked about this before, how all these nice old ladies and quakers and stuff were all there protesting the G7 or 8... I can never remember who they dumped off last. We handed in this petition with millions of signatures, or whatever, to Schröder at this thing in Cologne. And there was a small riot... there's a protest, that turned into a riot, back in London. Reclaim The Streets were involved in all that, I'm quite sure they weren't involved with the rioting. But somehow the British press, obviously the Murdoch papers in particular, because they love this sort of shit, were just writing it up as if all these old ladies and all these nice quakers were somehow anti-capitalist lunatics - and it was all part of the same coordinated protest - which was just nonsense, you know. And the whole thing was just written up so badly and everyone was ignoring the fact, that there was actually millions of people's fixed signatures on this thing. It was... I don't know. It just stuck with me how utterly powerless people are to really represent what goes on, if other people elsewhere see fit... if they see a nicer and more convenient story to be written another way, they can write off the wishes of millions of people in a split second at editorial decision, which I feel is immoral."

Jonny: "That's all playing around a lot with the idea of how keyboards used to be, they used to sound frightening, and Tubeway Army style, I suppose, or slightly out of tune. You forget that presumably in the 80s when keyboards were being recorded people would be playing them. And even if a band just had keyboards in it, they'd have to one at a time play keyboards onto tape, which is a really alien concept, because of computers and sequencing and how music is made today. So, that was done like that, pretty much."

Ed: "Well, it was a tricky one, because it was... the version, that Thom did on it, it was - he demoed it - it was really sort of... it was very digital, it was very... it was really great, but it was a bit of a different beast, in a way. And we wanted to incorporate the live thing. And the Tubeway Army thing was the perfect thing to do. But again, we had to find an approach to it, and we didn't quite get it in L.A., but we eventually got to loop Phil's drums, and then we did a sort of a live rough in the control room. And then other stuff was added. It's that totally playing something in the spirit of how you think they might have made records in '79, '80, or whatever."

Jonny: "And it was one of those occasions where you're recording, and the element you think is the key to the song, the rhythm, actually isn't, and it's in the detail. It's just in the single keyboard lines. And as soon as they became overpowering and took over the song, the song started working. And the rhythm was just a way to lead you through the song, but it wasn't the feature anymore. And suddenly it had this atmosphere attached to it, which is why it works, why it's on the record, really."
NME: A fearsome keyboard noise makes this sound like Add N To (X). Could be a song about people in public life, but whatever, has terrifying words...

Thom: "Hoorah!"

Jonny: "I think it's exciting because right towards the end we realised that the rhythm might not be so important and, as we turned it down and turned up the keyboards..."

Thom: "The evil worm keyboard..."

Jonny: "...it became the right thing."

Thom: "I was trying to cut it up and make it make sense, and driving myself around the fucking bend. It's about the whirlwind thing, you get to the centre and you realise there's nothing there. There's nobody home at all. That's been my experience."
Thom: "It's actually a short story kind of thing that I wrote and then cut up. And I never write short stories. About the only one I've ever written. I used to write them at University. In fact, I managed to blag my way on a course for creative writing on University, just because I didn't want to do Spencer. What was his name? Spencer… yeah, something like that. Very old, very big, thick book. I was not having any of that. Anyway, where am I? Erm…oh yeah. Myxomatosis is a man-made disease, you see, and I think I May have it. I think it's got a lot of that absurdist thing in it. There's obviously something wrong with me. I mean I'm obviously missing something here. I must be ill, cause when I listen to the radio I just go 'Uurghhh!' and it makes me very angry. I am one of those people, I shout at the TV."
Thom: "The day I know how the others would respond to something, is the day it's time to quit. But I don't know that. Myxomatosis is a really good example of that. I didn't expect them to wanna get into that track at all. And when we got together after they had some demos and stuff, that was the one that everybody said first 'we gotta do that somehow, because that's amazing', and I was like 'wow, really?' I was really surprised and really excited, cause it's like, I expected them to wanna go near the song ones first, you know, and they didn't. I don't know where it is, but there's certain points in that song where the drums keep flippin' and stuff that... I think it's some of the most exciting stuff we've ever done, really."

"I remember my parents pointing out all these dead rabbits on the road when I was a kid," Yorke says. "I didn't know that much about the virus, or even how to spell it. But I loved the word. I love the way it sounded. The song is actually about mind control. I'm sure you've experienced situations where you've had your ideas edited or rewritten when they didn't conveniently fit into somebody else's agenda. And then - when someone asks you about those ideas later - you can't even argue with them, because now your idea exists in that edited form."

"It's hard to remember how things actually happen anymore, because there's so much mind control and so many media agendas," he continues. "There's a line in that song that goes, 'My thoughts are misguided and a little naive.' That's the snarly look you get from an expert when they accuse you of being a conspiracy theorist. In America, they still use the conspiracy theorist' accusation as the ultimate condemnation. I've been reading this Gore Vidal book [Dreaming War], and I know Vidal is always accused of being a conspiracy theorist. But the evidence he uses is very similar to the evidence used by a lot of well-respected British historians. Yet they still call him crazy. To me, that's part of what 'Myxomatosis' is about - it's about wishing that all the people who tell you that you're crazy were actually right. That would make life so much easier."

This self-analysis is noteworthy, because it speaks to where Yorke is coming from intellectually. However, it avoids one trenchant question: What does mind control have to do with a virus that kills rabbits?

The answer is "nothing."
Thom: "When we got into programming, or spending like two or three days working on sounds before they went down, or whatever, towards the end it wasn't such a big deal. Because everybody now understood the necessary boring bits in the recording, you know what I mean? And it was sort of alright. [to Phil] Remember 'Myxomatosis', when I'd spend more or less 24 hours straight cutting up what you'd done on the drums. And like... the only way to have got it done was just like 'ok, leave me alone and I'll try and do it'. And it worked, it was worth doing. But that wouldn't have happened before, when we were doing Kid A and Amnesiac, because it was an insecurity thing. People were like 'well, why are we spending two days doing this? Why are we spending two days cutting up drums or programming this bit here or this bit there. Bla bla bla. And now it's like 'yeah, whatever, fine. If that's what we need to do, let's do it'."
Listen to "Myxomatosis", wherein the narrator is so haunted by the discrepancy between personal experience and media-reported reality he succumbs to paranoid illness. Yorke can be very funny about his suspicions (although his "Lizards you see, we're being overrun by lizards" is more of a joke at David Icke's expense that a serious explanation). In general, he's had his fill of being seen as a complaining, trouble-making rock star, as evidenced by "Myxomatosis"'s lines: Now no one likes a smart ass/But we all like stars."

"Paranoid, miserable, that's me, isn't it?" he says. "That's my job. Too clever by half. But we all like our stars, our celebrities..."
Thom: "And then a song like 'Myxomatosis' - when we did it in the studio, we kind of liked the sound of it but it really frustrated us, because we didn't really understand where it was going. And then we played it live and the last three or four times we got this absolutely amazing reaction. It was like a train crash, you know?"
In 2003, a sample from the song, called 'R106', was made available in the Loophole section of radiohead.com. This might even be a completely different version, coming from the spring rehearsals or being an outtake from the 2002 sessions, it's hard to tell from the short snippet:

This recording comes from the November 27th 2003 show at London's Earls Court, and was made available in September 2004 as a free download on www.MustVote.com for a campaign that encouraged people to register for the upcoming US presidential elections:
During the spring of 2008, the band reworked 'Myxomatosis', adding a bass part to the "I don't know why I feel so tongue-tied" break. There was also a change in the lyrics towards the end of the song: Thom used the second half of the previously discarded "mafia geeks" verse and joined it with the first half of the "smart ass" verse.

This new arrangement was premiered during the matinee performance of their 'BBC Day' on April 1st 2008, which is the source for the recording given here. In the lyrics below the red section represents what's been taken out compared to the 2002 live versions:

yeah, no one likes a smart ass, but we all like stars
that wasn't my intention, I did it for a reason
it must have got fucked up, strangled, beaten up
I got myxomatosis, I got myxomatosis

yeah, we boiled up the head
we dug into the meat

he shook hands with the cripples and he gave them all milk
he did a few card tricks for his mafia geeks, but now

I don't know why I feel so tongue-tied

Live performances #83 to #105 during the touring for The King of Limbs:
  Hail to the Thief 09/'11 02/'12 march 2012 april 2012 05/'12 june 2012
Go to Sleep [2] 01 03
The Gloaming [26] 27 01 03 05 06 07 13 15 09 11 12 14 17 18 21 29 31 01 03 05 06 08 10 11 13 15
There there [26] 27 29 01 03 05 06 07 09 11 13 15 09 11 14 17 18 21 29 31 03 06 08 10 11 13 15
Myxomatosis [23] 28 29 29 01 03 06 07 09 11 13 15 09 11 12 14 29 31 01 05 06 10 11 15
Live performances #106 to #130 during the touring for The King of Limbs:
  Hail to the Thief july 2012 september 2012 october 2012 november 2012
The Gloaming [29] 10 11 13 15 25 27 29 20 22 23 25 26 29 30 06 08 09 11 12 14 15 16 18 06 09 12 13 16 17
There there [28] 10 11 13 15 25 27 29 20 22 23 25 26 29 30 06 08 09 11 12 14 15 16 06 09 12 13 16 17
Myxomatosis [25] 11 13 15 27 29 20 22 25 26 29 30 06 08 09 11 12 14 15 18 06 09 12 13 16 17
A Wolf at the Door [1] 14
  Hail to the Thief may 2016 06/2016 july 2016 august 2016 sept./oct. 2016
2 + 2 = 5 [17] 24 26 28 03 17 02 08 26 29 31 06 08 20 21 11 30 04
The Gloaming [16] 20 23 26 28 01 17 08 27 29 31 04 06 21 11 30 07
There there [17] 20 21 24 26 28 03 17 02 08 27 29 31 04 06 20 30 07
Myxomatosis [6] 26 27 01 26 29 04