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 earliest known live performance of 'Let Down', possibly the live debut, comes from a gig Thom and Jonny played on November 14th 1995 at the Virgin Megastore in Paris. The taper unfortunately had to stop recording in the middle of this song, but it's a fascinating listen all the same, since the lyrics are still in an early stage:
Thom's 4-track demo for the song, which is already more developed than the live debut and thus was probably recorded in the winter of 1996/1997, was released in 2017 on the cassette that was part of the OKNOTOK 20th anniversary release of OK Computer:
'Let Down', along with 'Electioneering' and 'Lift', had its full band debut on March 14th 1996 on the first date of the US tour. The line "disappointed people" is at this point different: "sentimental drivel". The lyrics of the final section ("you know where you are with" etc.) had yet to be written. In this early version this passage is simply played without vocals. The instrumentation consists of nothing but guitars for the first third of the song, bass and drums enter in the middle:
This performance comes from july 26th 1996 at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin. The arrangement has been reworked since the debut: the song starts with the guitar arpeggios that would be played at the end of the finished studio version. The full band enters on Thom's first line. In the final section Thom sings this time, but as the final verse still hasn't been written, he simply repeats the "shell smashed" lyrics again:
The band also tried out the song prior to recording it when they toured in support of Alanis Morissette in 1996. The arrangement and state of the lyrics match the Dublin performance from july. This performance comes from august 19th 1996:
'Let Down' was recorded at 3am in the ballroom of their studios in Bath. The bleeping sounds at the end come from an old ZX Spectrum computer.
This page appeared in radiohead.com during the OK Computer period under the title 'waving or drowning':



paranoid android. in a bar in hollywood* the centre of the western universe, standing at the bar (social drinking) after doing the talk show bit. do you want to know this? this is what we aspire to is it? it is dark, there is a woman opposite me o is as sociably anorexic as her poodle, she looks desolate in her make up and lost eyes, next to her her husband boyfriend is persuading a younger fleshed half his age stewardess to come back to the hills to their mansion to sample his wine. she looks t him like he's a character in a hammer house horror. one of our friends spills a glass of wine over a vacuum packed gucci outfit complete with matching white hand bag. the witch goes crazy, we think it is fuunny. until we see the evil in her eyes. m friend is asked to leave. the gucci creature is the closest thing i have seen to the devil. the woman is possessed. i cannot sleep that night asking what we've got our selves into. voices talking like fax machines, hissing and spitting like demons, this is the master race. and now im part of it. anyway you didnt want to know that.

motion picture the pulsing of a life support system . that's as far as we've got.

lull there is nothing more dull. than talking talkin about yourself. what i meant to say. im sorry that i lost control. distracted and irrelevant. the stress and the tension. coming through the keyhole when. im in lull.

transport motorways and tramlines starting and then stopping taking off and landing the emptiest of feelings disapppointed peoople clinging onto bottles and when it comes its so so disappointing.

True love waits are you a virgin? every night we are haunted it paces up and down outside my room, it talks to me in its sleep. its in the tape going round and round. it stops and starts the tape machine. goes into record when it feels like it. just let it happen. just dont leave. dont leave. it waits patiently. mum left her 8 year old locked in for a week with lollipops and crisps. she had to work or forgot or something. stanley says. you, like everyone else need to feel important.

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.
The band planned this for a single, first for release in the USA then the UK. They released promos for radio in the USA, but when they came to see the video that they had paid someone to make for it, they hated it and decided to scrap it - costing 100,000 pounds out of their own pockets. The song never made it to be released as a single, and was replaced by 'Lucky'.
'LET DOWN'
Old school Radiohead song, with Thom crooning away in Bono-esque style. Despite the title, sounds resigned rather than angry.
Jonny: "It's like when Andy Warhol said he enjoyed being bored. It's about that feeling that you get when you're in transit but you're not in control of it - you just go past thousands of places and thousands of people and you're completely removed from it."
Ed: "Feeling let down is just down to your insecurities and paranoia most of the time, which is why the song sounds sad rather than furious. It's about not being in control of the situation."
Thom: "I am fascinated by how insects are squashed, especially wasps - the cracking sound and the yellow gak, just like people."
Key Lyric: "Crushed like a bug in the ground..."
Colin dates the start of the record back to the summer of '95 when they supported REM on tour. He recalls playing 'Climbing Up The Walls' at a soundcheck at the Hershey Stadium. Peter Buck was checking their progress from the sound desk, and when they'd finished, he walked away, whistling the tune with his hands in his pockets. 'No Surprises'. 'Let Down' and a different version of 'Airbag' were coming together.
Colin: "The arrangement, the actual... the instrumentation is quite delicate and contrasted with the heaviness of the lyrics."
Jonny Greenwood: Sublime and ethereal, full of chiming guitars. "The theme of transport and movement and anonymity works with the music".
Thom : "I was pissed in a club, and I suddenly had the funniest thought I'd had for ages - what if all the people who were drinking were hanging from the bottles... if the bottles were hung from the ceiling with string, and the floor caved in, and the only thing that kept everyone up was the bottles? It's also about an enormous fear of being trapped."
Q: "In 'Let Down' on OK Computer it says, 'Don't get sentimental, it always ends up drivel'. Is that you admonishing yourself?"

Thom: "Completely. Sentimentality is being emotional for the sake of it. We're bombarded with sentiment, people emoting. That's the Let Down. Feeling every emotion is fake. Or rather every emotion is on the same plane whether it's a car advert or a pop song."
Thom: "'Let Down', for example, that song, when we recorded it… we were already just at the point when we were bored of it. And we just managed to sort of get a version down, which doesn't quite reveal the fact that we're almost bored of it. And then I had a complete nightmare, personally, for doing the vocal for it. Because I WAS bored of it, and you know, I couldn't get it together, and I didn't understand the song, and it was only because the others weren't as bored of it as I was, that we managed to get it together, you know. And like now I think… I guess it's a year since we finished it, or whatever… now I kind of like it, you know, because now I have a distant point, now I understand it."
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."
Ed: No, no, no, the last one we were actually in was "Street Spirit" but we actually, they did, there was an ill fated video for "Let Down"

Thom: Oh, dear

Ed: We should have known. *laughs* It was in some small English village in Oxfordshire and we had to go 15 minutes in front of a blue screen,

Thom: "Thank you!"

Ed: Yep, that was it. That was your video experience. Yeah, yeah. It's good, though, it's good not being in videos.
This song is not played live too often as the band have trouble playing it. In the original recording, Thom played an acoustic over the intro, but that got lost in the mix. For the live version, they have brought back the acoustic guitar, but can't reproduce the guitar sounds live - and so it sounds very different.
In the midst of the lengthy april 16th 2000 entry of his online diary, Ed briefly remembers the painful process of finding the tracklist for OK Computer:
sunday, april 16th 2000
[...]

the running order for an album is so important...... i don't think you have any idea how vital it is until you actually fuck it up which we did big time on the first record.....for 'ok computer' it was a nightmare, agendas had been set and at one time it was like bloody horse-trading............. "if you want 'let down' on the record then it only makes sense if 'electioneering' is on there too"......maybe it won't be such a torrid experience this time........somehow i don't think so and that's probably right anyway.

[...]
  2016 A Moon Shaped Pool tour may 2016 06/2016 july 2016 august 2016 sept./oct. 2016
Subterranean Homesick Alien [1] 01
Exit Music (For a Film) [9] 26 01 02 08 31 06 20 30 04
Let Down [10] 26 27 29 31 04 06 21 11 03 07
Climbing Up the Walls [6] 24 01 27 29 04 06