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The following page, called 'Little Crocodiles!', appeared in radiohead.com during the Kid A period. This text would be edited and restructured to form most of the actual lyrics to 'Optimistic'. It also contains a line, that would be used in 'Where I End And You Begin' (which was written during the same period as 'Optimistic'), "the dinosaurs roam the earth":

flies are buzzing round my head flies are buzzing round my head picking up every last crumb the big fish eat the little ones the big fish eat the little ones not my problem give me some. not my problem give me some. you can try the best you can try the best you can money for the generals. how could you be so naive? digging deep into your pockets the will of allah the word of god you can try the best you can try the best you can
the best you can is good enough. why dont you stop beating yourself up? this one isnt jesus turn that hippy bullshit off. i find it difficult to be optimistic. id really like to help you but its just not convenient call me back
some other time. burnt spaghetti wires i am an optimist the best you can is good enough this will not save you will not put the world to rights will not solve your
marriage this wont be on sky tv i dont believe you you you mean it the best you can is good this wont tell you what you need to know optimistic foolish
arseholes tell you what you want to know this one drops a payload this wont cure your loneliness this wont bring the disappeared fodder for the animals living on animal farm
you can try the best you can you can try the best yo can the best you can is flies are swarming round my face. flies are swarming round my face. not now man i got problems of my own. howd i ever get into this mess? unless ofcourse youre trying to hide something. the flies buzz around me picking up evry last crumb when will you ever get out of bed? the optimist will drink and drive the really nervous wont survive optimistic auto-suggestion. hello hello made no difference at all nothing has changed at all this is the new cold war same as the cold old war the names have changed the innocent the innocent have been used to thicken the soupy the soupy can be used to feed the troops from tin cans food is food and sex is sex ivehadmy fill i want to defect. dinosaurs roam the earth shot by monks diplomatic answers to diplomatic questions. the murdered will come back to life tthe blind will cut you with a carving knife the evidence is there too see if you turned a blind eye now your not even human whats your real motivation? cnsequences ff your actions. red ants black ants no idea what your doing viruses mutating mind constipation turn that hippy bullshit off. cogs sarcy cogs swrking round
This page, called 'so...so...sparkle.', and the next one below, contain lines that would end up in the final lyrics, and which can also be found in the text above:


Everyone's got
blood on their hands. I can't bear those words. Maybe I'm not damned after all. Listen, this is how it works. Banquets for the investors.
The big fish eat the little ones.
I can't bear to watch the news.
Well, I'm here, aren't I?

 

This page was titled 'i am a spokesman':


I'd
really like to help you but - man, but it's not convenient.
Call me back
some other
time.

 

Numerous entries from Ed's Diary are related to the creation of the song. The final version would be edited from several takes:
friday, july 23rd 1999
start by working on 'optimistic'. i really love the words, especially the line "this one just crawled out the swamp" reminds me a bit of PJ Harvey's blues stuff. cool. a couple of interesting jams. one of them is jonny's who bemoans the fact that his stuff never turns into proper songs. its good but he doesnt realise it, as hes already bored of it by the time he plays it to us. finished by playing 'neil young *9' or as cozzie calls it the 'phil is don henley' song. It sounds even better today. don't go on too long as its warm and unusually summery today so drive home and get caught in the inevitable friday traffic jams.
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.
tuesday, august 31st 1999
kick off with 'cuttooth', the song with little structure and the only certainty is a bass riff. it makes you wonder how 'neu' did their thing - it always sounds spontaneous on those 12 minute epics, but did they have to rehearse intensely? did it require a degree of editing? then move on to the 'c minor song' - jonny thinks that maybe it's getting a little too tasteful and nice and he's right. it sounds too slick. finish with 'optimistic'.
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.
wednesday, october 6th 1999




Start working on a band loop called 'Fast Track' - Thom did a rough arrangement on Cubase last night. Nige and I then do some guitar sounds using my new toy - the first Roland guitar synth, which sounds pretty different. Jonny does a couple of (?) radio tracks. We then do a bit of editing and pruning. Nige is really into this thing of throwing down random shit and then simply keeping the really good stuff. It's a cool way of writing, if only because you end up with things that you couldn't possibly contrive to do. Set up sounds for 'Optimistic' - to be played tomorrow. Phil is playing this old jazz kit which used to belong to Plank's great uncle, but it's ended up here via Coz's double bass teacher.
thursday, october 7th 1999




'Optimistic' is possibly my favourite 'band' song [that] is played together live in a room. Sounds fucking great. We do about 9 versions, in most there are some amazing moments. The penultimate take would seem to be the one. As it's Thom's birthday today recording takes a backseat in the evening - but we do manage to have a small reunion of the conga's on percussion at about midnight - they do add their customary sound to 'Optimistic' - their last gig was on 'Paranoid Android' at St. Catherine's. Brilliant day.
friday, october 8th 1999




A slack day. Nursing hangovers & generally tired from the previous night's celebrations. Nigel wants to do a bit of editing on Optimistic - thinks we have a better ending on one of the other versions. Do a 'head count' on songs & their current status; it's pretty encouraging as there are about 5 or 6 which could be finished fairly quickly. But of course we don't want to do that yet - that would be far too pragmatic. Thom and Nige download a loop of Thom's onto tape to be added to it. As I write he is attempting some vocals. A weekend is nearly here - good timing. Completely knackered.
tuesday, october 12th 1999 - friday, october 15th 1999




"we're smashing our heads against the wall"

"This week we have been mostly working on Optimistic"

"It would be ideal to finish Optimistic"

"Let's just do the end & edit onto the original take."

"The drums for Rachel's Song sound like nothing else."

"Jonny, how the fuck did you manage to get them sounding like that?"

"Oh yeah"

"I've been doing this all afternoon & need to get out."

"I can't play that on this guitar."

"Gorgeous smell in here, Nigel."

"Eddy & I like the Mach 3"

"I really like the really late roll, the long one."

"It's not as sleazy as the one before."

"I can't stop wondering."

It's Friday yet Tuesday feels like yesterday - have we finished Optimistic? No. And it could be tempting to abandon it in favour of starting something new - but then we know we aren't too far away. We must see this thing through, if for no other reason that it's needed confidence-wise.
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.
A line from the lyrics can be found in the hidden Kid A booklet [click to enlarge]:
This performance comes from the July 4th 2000 show in Berlin:
Steve Lamacq: "And then we come to a track, which we never thought we'd see written down on paper, which is a Radiohead track called 'Optimistic'."
Thom: "Poptimistic."
Steve: "Poptimistic, this one. And for everyone who thinks that there are no guitars on this record, here's some guitars on this record, which is in 'Optimistic'."
Thom: "It is right, yeah."
Steve: "So, how did this work out then, in the centre of the plan?"
Thom: "Oh, I thought it was going to come on then, I thought that was a really good link. (laughs)"
Steve: "No, you've got to say something valid first."
Thom: "Oh, ok."
Steve: "You've got to earn your wedge before we actually play your records on air."
Thom: "Right. That's your fish, Ed."
Ed: "Again, it was one of those songs that we... I mean, I think the version that made it onto tape was by... was in October we recorded it..."
Thom: "On my birthday."
Ed: "Yeah, your birthday, that's right and but we'd... so that's ten months into the year, so we'd been... that was one of the first songs that we played in France, kind of like day one, day two, so you can imagine how many versions of 'Optimistic' there are."
Steve: "Probably hundreds."
Ed: "Yeah."
Steve: "Absolutely hundreds."
Ed: "Yeah, there are, there are."
Steve Lamacq: "Let's face it, 'Optimistic' off this record, which seems to be drawing just words... this sounds like one of the ones you might have got out of a hat. Was that how it happened?"
Thom: "Sort of, yeah. It was, mmmm... endless struggling, I mean it was very much written during 'the block' (laughs). It was about the only thing that made it through 'the block', and it was really... I sort of had a problem with coming from the context of basically being in a band and writing about personal experience, and one's own problems, and I'd suddenly sort of... I'd had enough of it, and I was reading a lot of political stuff, and thinking, I don't understand why it is that these things are allowed to happen in our name, and we just sort of let it happen, and I really had a problem with the fact that everybody was just resigned to that being the case, that somehow, since the Berlin wall fell, capitalism, in all it's glorious forms is the only solution to all our problems, and screw everybody else, frankly, and that we're all just happy consumers and we really want that Renault, and we really want that mobile phone that you can program a melody on, and ultimately it will make us happy, and..."
Paul Anderson: "I'm going to play 'Optimistic', that's fast becoming my favourite record, only because you drum like a whirling dervish on it! So tell me about 'Optimistic'."

Ed O'Brien: "It was one of the few tracks that seemed to work in a band format, playing in a room. And it slightly suffered, because we were trying to move away from that. And it was that kind of fighting against, 'ok, this is working, but maybe we should try it somehow... how should we try this different?', and eventually we got to the stage where you sort of go 'Ok, well this is one of those tracks that does work like we're in a band playing in a room, so...'"

Paul: "I think that it's one of the strengths of the album. A lot has been made of this experimental side, and that's fantastic of course, one of the strengths of the album, it takes you to places that you wouldn't have thought you'd go with Radiohead, but the balance that you've got, between what you're saying..."

Ed: "Yeah. I mean, that's like what you were saying earlier. You do the experimental stuff, but we had spent like fifteen years getting to this position of a school band who start off barely being able to play their instruments, and after fifteen years, after three records and x amount of gigs, you just realise that 'Oh yeah, we can play pretty well together'. And it's nice that there's those tracks on Kid A, that reflect that as well."
Thom: "Well, really, not releasing a single means radio people are going to pick what they want, and the fact they picked 'Optimistic' from Kid A was kind of annoying."
  Amnesiac tour may 2001 june 2001 07/'01 august 2001 september 2001 10/2001
Optimistic [10] 01 05 07 08 17 20 09 14 29 04
In Limbo [12] 26 28 30 01 02 04 24 27 29 30 02 03
Morning Bell [34] 26 28 30 01 02 04 09 18 20 23 24 27 29 30 07 30 01 03 05 07 08 14 16 17 20 08 09 11 14 29 30 02 03 04
Motion Picture Soundtrack [4] 23 27 29 07
Two samples from the song, called '11' and '12', were made available in the Loophole section of radiohead.com in 2003:
Among all the elliptical murmurings and childlike electronica on Kid A and Amnesiac, one line from "Optimistic" seems to leap out with unmistakeable poignancy. "You can try the best you can/The best you can is good enough" - an assurance given to him by his partner Rachel, when he felt that "nothing we'd done was releasable".
  In Rainbows tour (1st half) may 2008 june 2008 july 2008
Kid A [1] 14
Optimistic [19] 05 06 08 09 11 14 17 18 06 07 10 12 15 17 20 25 27 29 05
Morning Bell [4] 05 09 17 09
  In Rainbows tour (2nd half) august 2008 october 2008 march 2009 august 2009
Kid A [7] 09 13 07 08 16 24 21
Optimistic [18] 01 06 08 13 15 19 20 25 27 28 01 02 05 08 15 22 26 25
In Limbo [2] 20 08
Morning Bell [13] 03 04 06 08 12 15 19 24 28 02 27 23 29
  2016 A Moon Shaped Pool tour may 2016 06/2016 july 2016 august 2016 sept./oct. 2016
Kid A [1] 27
Optimistic [1] 01