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
The inception of 'Kid A' lies in a bit of music Thom programmed on a sequencer ("the 505"). That sequence was already called 'Kid A' when the song began to take shape. Thom formed the lyrics by pulling lines from cut up writings out of a top hat, and to him they must have been related to incredibly violent imagery, as he refused to sing them straight - at least during the making of the record, in subsequent live performances he would. For the album version he recited the words rhythmically over the backing track while Jonny manipulated the pitch of his voice using the ondes Martenot, which was connected to a vocoder. Thus Jonny wrote the melody, and Thom felt largely irresponsible for the track, the content of which he considered to be so devastating. It is Thom who plays bass on the album version.

Two entries from Ed's Diary are related to the song. The first indicates that 'Kid A' was finished relatively early in the sessions, being mixed in late november 1999 already. So it doesn't come as a surprise that the track doesn't appear on the list of songs that the band was working on in early march 2000:
Undated (mid-november 1999), posted on december 1st 1999
-i've tried to write something about what we've been doing in the last five weeks - there have been the day-by-day accounts which have been of the 'we did this and then we did that' variety..........all incredibly boring to read. then there have been a couple of 'essays' written whilst stoned late at night, only to be re-read the next morning. pretensious old tosh. all have been discarded. it's easy to get extremely self-conscious doing this. we're in london at present and nigel is mixing; he has been for three days. which means that we have actually finished six or so tracks. this has been our life for the last five weeks - we had a list of about ten songs which was then further narrowed down to six. they are definitely different....................there's an eight piece brass ensemble in a charles mingus style on one - eight 'jazzers' came down for the day and blew their stuff all over 'everyone - the national anthem'. they were fantastic............thom and jonny conducted. what a day. there's 'optimistic', there's another which started off as a thom doodle on the 505........there's also the paris version of 'lost at sea'.........the batsford 'morning bell'.it is different. but that's what we do. what has also become evident is that the summer panic that led to two months rehearsal may have been a little premature.....or at the very least a little on the hysterical side.there was some good stuff recorded in paris, copenhagen and batsford. i've been listening to alot of the copenhagen tracks and out-takes and the overall sound is great. pretty dark but then that session was hardly a chuckle-trousered affair.
tuesday, november 23rd 1999, posted on december 1st 1999
not such a great start to the week. of those six songs that nigel mixed only one is right - kid a. but nigel is pretty optimistic about the others, he knows what he wants to do with them. so we draw up another list of songs to be worked on in the next three weeks.next a meeting with chris, bryce and brian (the management). they've left us alone up until now, realising that we needed time - time basically to sort our shit out. i think their aim was to refamiliarise us with the workings of the this industry that we operate in. for instance nowadays if we want to tour, about five months notice is required, for booking the venues, notifying our crew, etc. it seems like a long time for just some gigs. part of the problem is we've really given it no thought at all - and suddenly you're presented with these facts of life. we want to do gigs,but we have to make this record - and then we don't even know whether they'll work as a live entity. sometimes it seems like it's so fucking complicated.
This drawing by either Thom or Stanley appeared in the scrapbook section of radiohead.com and probably stems from the Kid A period:

He [Thom] describes the indiscernible words to the whispering electronic title track as "the most vicious I've ever sung".

[...]

Q: "Is the title a reference to Carl Steadman's book, Kid A in Alphabet Street?"

Thom: "No. It just seemed to work. I think the best ones are usually like that. Often, if you call it something specific, it drives the record in a certain way. I like the non-meaning. All sorts of bizarre things have come up in relation to it. But the one I like is based on the idea that, somewhere, some errant scientist has already created the first completely genetically cloned baba - Kid A. I'm sure its happened. I'm sure somewhere it's already been done, even though it's illegal now."
Thom: "There's one track where I didn't write the melody, all I did was talk into a mike and Johnny played the melody. So it's like a vo-coded thing, where the keyboard's singing and all I'm doing is mouthing words that I'm picking out of a hat."

Q: "Is that the title track, 'Kid A' itself?"

Thom: (Ignores the question) "And then there was quite a lot of not really what you call songwriting in the sense of sitting in a room with an acoustic guitar and plucking at your heartstrings. It was much more about editing, getting a bunch of stuff together, throwing a bunch of stuff onto a computer, onto the tape machine and making it coherent afterwards, like you'd edit a film or something. But actually fundamentally what you're ending up with is still songs."
Q: "I was very struck by the way sometimes the vocals are very disguised, I mean particularly on 'Kid A'. Was that something you were deliberately trying to do?"

Colin: "With regards to Thom I suppose... I think he's obviously someone who's very into the fine voice that he has. At the same time he's always looking for new ways to try, you know, and express different persona. And the way of doing that is by treating the voice. He sang through a vocoder and the notes were triggered by the Ondes Martenot you were playing at the same time as he was singing, wasn't it?"

Jonny: "Yeah, that's right."

Colin: "Was pretty mad."
Turning the voice into an instrumental texture, Other-ising it via effects, allowed Yorke "to sing things I wouldn't normally sing. On 'Kid A', the lyrics are absolutely brutal and horrible and I wouldn't be able to sing them straight. But talking them and having them vocodered through Johnny's Ondes Martenot, so that I wasn't even responsible for the melody... that was great, it felt like you're not answering to this thing."
This page appeared in radiohead.com during the Kid A period under the title 'FRoZZen'. Apart from lyrical fragments connected to 'In Limbo' and 'Knives Out' it also contains a reference to the "ventriloquist":

lundi-fastnet-irish seas. pharisle pharoah hebrides. knives out. catch da mouse. squash his head. put him in the pot. no sense it letting it go to wlud odsgfocggsg scygsdycoucgoudycgoucghoopfacedowninthecarpetifievergetupagainy
gcygdscygsdygxdouxycuocgscgcygscgscgsocgsodcf.


n o s o ulllaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
aahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
hhhhhhhnosenseinlettingitgo.




(ventriloqist)

A further Kid A era page, titled 'chickens bred bald', interestingly connects the lyrics of 'Kid A' with those of 'Follow Me Around', which was another song the band worked on during the Kid A sessions (click here for a clearer presentation of the text):

i am the bloody pied piper rats and children follow me out of town a scarecrow that dont scare the crows nowadays i get panicked i have ceased to exist my words you know are out of ink. drooling looney tunes moving room to room did you lie to us tony? we thought you were different but now were not so sure now you know were not so sure. we can blow a hole in anything thatchers children see you on the way back down. kill the enemy within unhinged cowboys and indians moving statues yur safe until you look away. i would like to change back now please to the shadow of my former self. iam the bloody pied piper. & the rats and the childrenll fllow me around so you hade better make it worth my while. please allow me the suspension of your disbelief the benefit of the doubt.

never say anything
be instrumental






remember: your present is you.

choose a good costume

The complete lyrics to this song can be found in the hidden Kid A booklet [click to enlarge]:
The song had to be drastically rearranged for live performances. In contrast to the studio version, Thom's vocal is not distorted, and for practical reasons he also sings the melody instead of talking and having the pitch manipulated externally. Thom plays piano, Colin and Phil add bass and drums, Ed and Jonny are on guitars, with Jonny switching to keyboards in the second half. He also plays harmonica at the end. This version comes from july 4th 2000 in Berlin:

The song was played like this at about every third gig of the summer 2000 tour, but not for the rest of the Kid A tour in september and october. 'Kid A' also wasn't heard during the Amnesiac tour. The limited amount of initial live performances suggests that the band was not wholly convinced by the new arrangement.
For the Hail to the Thief tour the song was rearranged again and was played fairly regularly throughout 2003. In this incarnation the song was also a firm part of the 2006 US tour, where it was played at almost every gig. Since then it has made a handful of appearances during the touring for In Rainbows.
Mark Russell: "I wanted to ask you also about the vocal treatments, 'cause maybe this comes back to what you were saying about being bored with the limitations of your instrument, or trying to find new sounds. So I was really struck by the way sometimes the vocals are very disguised, I mean, particularly on 'Kid A', there's almost a Stephen Hawking sound to the vocal. Is that something you were deliberately trying to do?"

Colin Greenwood: "With regards to Thom... I think, he's someone who's very into the fine voice that he has, and at the same time he's always looking for new ways to try and express different personae, and a way of doing that is by treating the voice, you know, and the... I don't know which track..."

Jonny Greenwood: "'Kid A'."

Colin: "Oh yeah. Well, that was a vocoder whose notes... he sang through a vocoder, and the notes were triggered by the Ondes Martenot that you were playing at the same time as he was singing, wasn't it?"

Jonny: "Yeah, that's right."

Colin: "That was pretty mad."
Ed: "'Kid A' [...] was a name of a sample on... originally on the 'Kid A' song... erm... and I don't know, it's one of those names that is great from its spawn... Thousands of rumours amongst, you know, Radiohead fans, or whatever, and they all have their own theory, and that's great, that's what it's about."
Live performance #69 during the making of The King of Limbs:
69. january 24th 2010 The Music Box Theatre at The Fonda Los Angeles, CA USA Link
Live performances #70 to #87 during the touring for The King of Limbs:
Live performances #88 to #105 during the touring for The King of Limbs: