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
During the making of OK Computer, the earliest known lyrical link to the song appeared on radiohead.com. The context for the line "not sleeping okay/trapped in hyperspace" is probably, that during the sessions Thom often wouldn't be able to sleep and spend many hours at night in the internet, chatting with people and posting his thoughts on the band's website:
not sleeping okay/drinking too much.trapped in hyperspace.?.the girl disappeared, smiling and blowing kisses. A white light flooded the room/this was the moment of awakening: the audience were relieved to find themselves in their own company...someo (text unclear) did not awaken, this was a white nightmare: faces aglow with laughing, limp complacency/apparently uninhibited...

perhaps it's inevitable.

perhaps one has to choose between nothing at all.

or impersonating what one is.
The above artwork makes use of two pieces that appear to be rough drafts for the questionnaires seen in the artwork of the Airbag/How Am I Driving? EP (the first three lines seem to be from a separate sheet). The page below is taken from the booklet of that EP, and the last line looks familiar... (click image for full size):

'Up On the Ladder' was attempted first by the band during sessions for Kid A. A number of entries from Ed's Diary relate to it, and it's obvious that the band spent a great deal of time trying to make it work, suggesting that a rather developed and elaborate unreleased version lurks in the archives. Note that it apparently was called 'Up The Ladder' initially:
thursday, july 29th 1999
warts and all, warts and all......... the last two days were brewing up to this.....working on 'up the ladder'. 30 seconds into it & it sounds utter shite. thom stops it. lack of energy. phil gets pissed off. we talk a bit. start up again with a dose of the 'fuck you's. sounds better almost immediately. funny that. oh and the new song from 22nd is called 'move along' for the moment. also played the cminor. lovely sunny day.
friday, july 30th 1999
spend the first 3hrs on 'up the ladder'. things are happening; jonny brings in the 'missy eliot' chord??!! thom starts singing lyrics from another song, cozzie comes with a catchy riff for the chorus and phil is ..funking. with that going on its very easy for me. working through something is such a cliche but if youre in the right frame of mind its so true. finish by playing "lost at sea/in limbo" , "optimistic", "c-minor song". it would be great to have another look at "you and whose army?" next week, and rescue it for the 'lets leave it for a while' pile. plank's not here today as he's in Lobo, Norway with Mike Scott- they have no nights in summer.
thursday, august 5th 1999
much better today... the sun shines in and out of our rehearsal room and we get a lot done... start with 'optimistic' (still sounding great - jonny tries some cool ondes martenot on it - the high stuff is good, not however when he follows the main riff). move on to 'up the ladder' - sounds better with more space. segway into 'follow me around' and a reworking of the 'cminor song' (in a stax stylee). jonny meanwhile is attempting to put the vocal mic through his analogue filters - which looks like a remake of an old telephone exchange. "hello vicar, yes ill put you through to mr kipling"... so the last two songs are punctuated by sudden bursts of unearthly noises, both extremely good and extremely bad.
wednesday, september 1st 1999
i read a rumour from the internet [never believe a single nuance - sd] that we are supposed to be collaborating with 'godspeed you black emperor' on 'how to disappear' - this person cited a number of chance occurences, including such impossible coincidences as 'they came to see us at a gig'. if that were sufficient corroborating evidence then, judging on the bands i've seen recently, you can hear us with 'the divine comedy' and the mighty 'asian dub foundation'.
twice around 'follow me around' - mmm. not great, but salvaged by 'you and whose army' - jonny thinks that voice and guitar are all that's needed until the end part; and it sounds right; or at least it's definitely a place to start. run through 'optimistic', cuttooth', and 'up on the ladder' for nige, who's down for the day to do some wiring and 'studio arranging'.
wednesday, september 8th 1999
a good and long rehearsal. pick up where we left off on 'everything' and move swiftly on to 'optimistic' - it's blinding - definitely the most formed of the songs to put to tape - it comes from the swamp. the music is interrupted by the new bulletin board on our all-new singing and dancing website. v. exciting. and of course most of the messages posted are concerned with the atrocities in east timor. what's the betting that international forces fail to enter east timor before mass genocide is once again committed. if this sounds flippant - it's not meant to - sorry. back to the music - return to 'up on the ladder' -thom has a new arrangement - start stripping the song apart - already sounding better.
thursday, september 9th 1999
'knives out' sounding quite 'smiths-esque'. especially phil who has got that mike joyce thing down to a tee. on to 'optimistic' -must record that soon before we lose it (remember 'lift'?). 'up on the ladder' sounds pretty grim. 'say the word' (or c-minor song); great drum, bass and vocals - personally getting a bit anxious over it, as i can't find anything that works with it, or rather i have an idea but can't get the sound right. makes me a bit neurotic. finish on what i used to call the 'jonny scott walker song' - very short and sweet.
last diary piece for a couple of weeks. how was it for you? i'm finding it a little difficult to set the right tone, but as i'm not a journo i guess that's fair enough. hopefully this is going to be an ongoing thing throughout recording and maybe even touring, so it will get better.
tuesday, march 7th 2000
heard a great story on the six o'clock news on R4. great in the sense that it reveals the true madness of one of our former prime ministers......the pm in question is of course maggie thatcher. ok.............so the spanish foreign minister was reported as saying today that 'lady' thatcher should undergo the same senility tests that senator 'butcher' pinochet underwent a couple of weeks ago. this was triggered by a particular event from last week; the aforementioned butcher of chile was being wisked away by a chilean airforce 707........the plane was apparently taxiing down the runway preparing to take-off when with great ceremony it was stopped in its tracks by a bearer of gifts from thatch herself. she wanted to give a 'leaving' present to the ex-dictator.......the gift in question was a plate commemorating sir francis drake and the english fleets' defeat of the spanish armada.........unbelievable.............or maybe not so, as it's entirely consistent with the train of thought that she's a pathetic anglophile, who never gave a fuck about the rights of individual human beings. and don't believe that bullshit that during the falklands war she went to the aid of the islanders..........nothing like a war to get a country behind you should you be faltering in opinion polls and likely to lose the next election.

apologies for the invective...it slips out occasionally, but when you read books like naomi klein's 'no logo' you can't help but feel that much of the mess we're in now is part of the leagacy of the thatcher-reagan years.

good work on 'up on the ladder' today...good drums and a much better arrangement. will return tomorrow to things i am 'qualified' to write about.
thursday, march 9th 2000
arrived at the studio and some brilliant stuff had been done last night. cozzie finished off his amazing bass thing on the song with no name......bass musos won't believe it. jonny did some cool guitar on 'up on the ladder'. after yesterday it was nice to do some playing ...the sun shone and it feels like spring is on its way. more things on 'up...'
In spring 2001, around the time Amnesiac was released, these lyrics appeared in the 'imaginery prisons' section of radiohead.com. They open with the title phrase of this song, but seem unrelated otherwise:




up on the ladder the insides are removed
we slide like slime through the flock paper walls
but as youre not really listening you wont notice at
all
we are empty and confused it barely keeps us amused
these are bad clothes for rich folks who have joined
the master race
all we want is to be like you
we beg
for the scraps
from your
table
there is really no need to fear
were the orchestra at the ball
trussed up in tuxedoes
for slaveships

unforgiving .
pencil sharp.
well at least.
you look the part.



Since 2004, lyrics similar to the ones above could be found in the Scrapbook section of radiohead.com, but they don't contain the "up on the ladder" line anymore. After all, they might at least be related to an early incarnation of the song's lyrics:

This is not directly related to 'Up On the Ladder' anymore, but a few of these lines had already appeared in the hidden booklet of Kid A in 2000:

And for completeness' sake: the earliest known incarnation of these "beg for the scraps" lyrics, that at that point certainly had nothing to do with 'Up On The Ladder' in any way, appeared on radiohead.com during the OK Computer period:
idle minds
fix upon each other
trace each other and follow, sniffing each other's arse
like a midnight binge
emptying the fridge
all the remains on the kitchen floor.

the bored animals. the stupid dogs.
begging for food at the dinner table.
that helpless look in their eyes.

full up for 30 seconds.
licking the bones like the fucking dumb creatures they are.
soon emptiness creeps back
and idle eyes go searchin for scraps
After no releasable version came out of the Kid A sessions, the song was most likely demoed again by Thom in late 2001 or early 2002, and then rehearsed by the band in spring 2002, as it was played live seven times on the Iberian Tour. The lyrics at the end varied slightly each time.

On July 27th 2002, the band played the song in Lisboa, Portugal:
On August 7th 2002, the song was performed in Salamanca, Spain. It's the only time Thom sang "give me a sign" instead of "line":
In September 2002, a version was tracked during the Hail To The Thief sessions in L.A., but this recording - just like the ones from the Kid A sessions - has remained unreleased so far.
Since 2004, a good part of the lyrics could be seen in the Scrapbook section of radiohead.com (slightly rearranged here to make all of it readable). They are interesting, as they probably are virtually the same as the ones from the unreleased 2002 L.A. recording:

In 2006, this collage, that also features the "not sleeping okay. trapped in hyperspace" line, appeared in the Dead Children Playing book that accompanied the exhibition of artwork that Stanley held at Iguapop Gallery in Barcelona (click image for full size):

On September 25th 2007, this picture of Thom singing in a studio was posted on Dead Air Space along with the line "im stuck in the tardis". It is unknown how old it already was at this point. The name of the file was upontheladder.jpg:

On January 16th 2008, Thom played 'Up On The Ladder' acoustically during the encore of Radiohead's record store gig at 93 Feet East in London. This video is taken from the webcast:
'Up On the Ladder' was not performed during the touring for The King of Limbs.