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'Exit Music (For A Film)' was originally recorded for the movie Romeo + Juliet, which was shot in 1996. Thom wrote the song after the band had seen a ten-minute preview of the film. He recorded the vocal outside in the stone courtyard of St. Catherine's in Bath. The movie itself uses a remix of 'Talk Show Host', while 'Exit Music' plays over the credits at the end, hence the song title. However, the band didn't feel like releasing this new song as part of the soundtrack, as it was supposed to be included on OK Computer.
Exitmusic-romeoandjuliet by CitizenInsane,
The song as heard in the film is different from the finished version. There are several differences in the guitar and drum tracks, the most notable being that the drums continue much longer after the climax.
This page, titled 'stuck in a frozen lake', appeared on radiohead.com during the recording of OK Computer and features a text by Thom with notes about songs that were around then.
The relevant section was not highlighted in red letters in the original page:
an airbag saved my life* in an interstella burst i am back to save the universe computer drums bass wrong lift* is hard work you been stuck in a lift we been trying to reach you thom the belly of the whale (thanks Rei xxxx) paranoid android* get busy with the shakers while im fast asleep could you stop the noise im trying ta get some rest this the place it wont hurt ever again karma police* girl with hitler hairdo everybodys friend life in a glasshouse phew for a minute there i lost myself i lost myself sit down your safe now polyethelene*will never break down swirly self announcements. stuck in a frozen lake. the penultimate place in dante's hell. last flowers till the hospital*is a sign discovered in oxford -my unhealthy obsession with these institutions. analysts may get the connection. ambulances scream past my house at all hours of the day and night like the confessionals of Larkin's "Ambulan s." let down*in the midst of monster tour the momentum getting drunk to talk bombarded by dangerously high levels of radiation from xray machines. one day, one day... climbing up the walls*both managers and record company are nervous about such a nasty sound coming out of the speakers. this is a good sign. dogwander* bring on another take better than another cake. nude* it is a mans world. and this one is very confused and will have sex with anything woman who comes within a mile radius. but feels bad about it. so doesnt. exit song (for a film)* cannot be listened to more than once in a row. which made recording it easy. or not. but what film? big boots* it was a long time ago and i cant remember. a whole orchestra watching the film and playing along. real life is dull. i am i the white lotus flying off the quay with barbara bach.
(information incomplete)
....>>>>i like the idea of you listening to our recordings with your head resting gently in emptiness. or before going out. or when you've come back. i dont like the scientists breaking down its molecular structure and teaching it in O level chemistry i ont want to have expain it but it worries me stupid. there is a lot of crying goes into making things.<<<<.... the masters tell us that there is an aspect of our minds that is its fundamental basis, a state called "the ground of the ordinary mind." It functions like a storehouse, in which the imprints of past actions caused by our negative emotions are all store like seeds. when the right conditions arise, they germinate and manifest as circumstances and situations in our lives. if we have a habit of thinking in a particular pattern, positive or negative, then these tendencies will be triggered and provoked very easily and recurr and go on recurring. With constant repetition our inclinations and habits become steadily more entr ched and continue, increasing and gathering power even when we sleep. This is how they come to determine our life, our death our rebirth.
Thom : "We wrote this for Romeo and Juliet. I saw the Franco Zeffirelli version when I was 13 and I cried my eyes out, because I couldn't understand why, the morning after they shagged, they didn't just run away. It's a song written for two people who should run away before all the bad stuff starts. A personal song."
'EXIT MUSIC (FOR A FILM)'
Brooding ballad specially composed for the movie, "Romeo & Juliet", where it appears alongside another Radiohead song, "Talk Show Host". Significantly, Radiohead are first heard just as the characters are discussing Romeo's "black portentous humour".
Thom: "I like the film very much, it's just my sort of thing - not quite as many bodies as 'Hamlet'."
Ed: "It's the only song we've ever done on demand. We were on tour with Alanis Morissette last September when we got sent through the last half hour of the film. It looked great so we did this song straight away."
Colin: "Soundtracks are a bit naff nowadays: they just stick on some contemporary music. We wanted to be a bit more intelligent than that."
Ed: "The only thing I don't like is "Exit Music..." appears over the end credits, so it will just play to the sound of loads of chairs banging upright."
Key Lyric: "Pack and get dressed, before your father hears us, before all hell breaks loose..."
Ed: "Thom looked at Shakespeare's original text and tried to incorporate it into the song - but he gave up on that quickly. But I still think it fits with the film amazingly well, especially as the lyrics are actually quite personal."
Thom: "We went out on tour a bit with Alanis Morissette to rehearse our stuff in front of people, which is a bit weird, but that worked out alright. And while we were there we got a tape from Buzz Lurman, the director of Romeo And Juliet. And it was great, because he said, 'you know, do you wanna do the exit music for it?'. And it was a real kick, because it really kicked.. you know, sort of... 'man, let's get our shit together'."
Jonny Greenwood: Written after the band saw a 10 min. edit of R&J. The cracked Yorke vocal very directly pertains to the story's tragic denouement.
Q: Who else inspired you?

Thom: "If you listen to the rhythm at the beginning of 'Exit Music', it starts off like a Johnny Cash song from Prison Tapes. Amazing. I hate live albums but I get spine tingles every time I play that. You can hear the audience willing him on. And you can hear he's ill, he can't hit the notes, and yet the songs are so powerful in that environment with the prisoners there, whooping and laughing."
Q: That seems to be a general Radiohead thing - not having a clue how a song will turn out...

Jonny: "Presented with a song like 'Exit Music', which Thom just sits down and plays to you, it's impossible to know what to add to it without making it worse. We're finding that again and again with these new songs. How can you play along with it when it's there already?"
Ed: "We do try to be diverse. The guitar sound on 'No Surprises' was supposed to harken back to [the Beach Boys'] Pet Sounds, 'Let Down' was a nod to Phil Spector, 'Exit Music' had a [composer Ennio} Morricone atmosphere, 'Airbag' was an attempt to do something like DJ Shadow-but because, we haven't paid the dues, if you like, to play those types of music, we fail to get what we hope to achieve. But by going down that route, we find our own thing."
Everyone in the band seemed pleased with the results. Yorke calls the epic 'Exit Music (For a Film)' "the first performance that we recorded where every note of it makes me really happy".
Thom Yorke: "The Romeo + Juliet thing was a good way to kick our arses into gear. [...] We went out on tour for a bit with Alanis Morissette to rehearse our stuff in front of people, which is a bit weird, but it worked out all right. And while we were there, we got a tape from Baz Luhrman, the director of Romeo + Juliet. And it was great, because he said, 'Do you want to do the exit music for it?' And it was a real kick, because it sort of made us get up, get our shit together."
Part of the performance of 'Exit Music (For A Film)' from november 3rd 1997 in Berlin can be seen in Meeting People Is Easy:

A soundcheck of this song from an unknown date of the OK Computer tour is used over the end credits of the movie:

Live performance #248 during the making of The King of Limbs:
248. january 24th 2010 The Music Box Theatre at The Fonda Los Angeles, CA USA Link