Main Index Thom Yorke Pablo Honey The Bends OK Computer Kid A Amnesiac Hail to the Thief The Eraser In Rainbows The King of Limbs Amok Tomorrow's Modern Boxes A Moon Shaped Pool
Two lines, that are related to the song, could be seen in the 'scrapbook' section of radiohead.com since 2004:


Thom: "'Harrowdown Hill' was kicking around during Hail to the Thief, but there was no way that was going to work with the band."
Harrowdown Hill has parts that sound like a love song ('I'm coming home, so dry your eyes'), but there's menace in the opening lines ('You will be dispensed with when you become inconvenient') and other parts sound like a grim political showdown ('there are so many of us that you can't count'). Yorke had already written part of it when he realized it was about David Kelly, a chemical-weapons inspector in Iraq who committed suicide in 2003 after being connected to a leak of British intelligence about weapons of mass destruction. The body was found in a wood near Yorke's former school in Oxfordshire.

'The government and the Ministry of Defence were implicated in his death. They were directly responsible for outing him and that put him in a position of unbearable pressure that he couldn't deal with, and they knew they were doing it and what it would do to him... I've been feeling really uncomfortable about that song lately, because it was a personal tragedy, and Dr. Kelly has a family who are still grieving. But I also felt that not to write it would perhaps have been worse.'
Is the song 'Harrowdown Hill' really about the suicide of weapons inspector and government scientist Dr David Kelly?

'It is,' says Yorke with some reluctance. 'But I've got this thing where I don't want to make a big deal out of that because I'm very sensitive to the idea of digging up anything that the Kelly family... I don't really think it's appropriate for me to say, 'Yes, it's about that', because I'm sure they're still grieving over his death.'

But Harrowdown Hill is the name of the Oxfordshire woods where Kelly's body was found in July 2003. I remind Yorke of the lyrics: 'You will be dispensed with when you've become inconvenient... up on Harrowdown Hill... that's where I'm lying down... did I fall or was I pushed...'. That's quite direct stuff.

'It's the most angry song I've ever written in my life,' he nods grimly. 'I'm not gonna get into the background to it, the way I see it... And it's not for me or for any of us to dig any of this up. So it's a bit of an uncomfortable thing.'

Did the Kelly affair crystallise everything that was wrong and venal about the whole Iraq adventure for Yorke?

A pause. 'Um, I guess I didn't see it in terms of Iraq, but obviously, yes. What disturbed me the most about it was the way that the Ministry of Defence in this country is able to operate. I think it's a profound cancer at the centre of this society.'
Thom: "I called it 'Harrowdown Hill' because it was a really poetic title. To me it sounded like some sort of battle, some civil war type thing. Finishing the song, I was thinking about the 1990 Poll Tax Riots — another of England's finest moments, when they beat … protesters, and you know, there were old ladies there and kids with families. I didn't expect that many people to realize that Harrowdown Hill was where Dr. Kelly died. I'm not saying the reference isn't there, but there's more to it."
'Harrowdown Hill' was released as the first single from The Eraser on august 21st 2006. It entered the UK Singles Charts at #23 and had left the Top 40 the following week.

The 7" vinyl single was backed by 'Jetstream', while the CD single featured 'The Drunkk Machine' and an "Extended Mix" of 'Harrowdown Hill' as b-sides, all of which were also included on the Spitting Feathers EP, released on november 22nd 2006 in Japan.
In 2006, The Bug remixed 'Harrowdown Hill'. This version was released as a download in december 2007 before appearing on a series of three 12" vinyl remix EPs in january 2008. Later that year the Eraser remixes were also released on CD in Japan:
On November 7th 2007, Thom played a remix of 'Harrowdown Hill' during a "testcast" held to check for technical problems in preparation for the actual webcast two days later. A year later, on november 5th 2008, he posted the full version on his page at w.a.s.t.e. central. It's titled 'Harrowdown Logic Jump Rmx':


Harrowdown Hill
It took Thom three years following the release of The Eraser to put together a proper tour based on the album. Recruiting Nigel Godrich, Flea, Mauro Refosco and Joey Waronker to form the band, the group played a first set of shows in october 2009 and another in april 2010, initially under the name "?????", since Thom had not yet named the project "Atoms For Peace". The tour ended with a solitary gig in august 2010 in Japan. Each night, the main set would consist of the The Eraser played in its entirety. During this period, Thom also played the song in Cambridge at a Green Party benefit and the 2010 Glastonbury and Big Chill festivals:
The song was performed live by Thom and Nigel as part of their Amok album launch DJ sets, replacing 'Reverse Running' from the London setlist:
18. march 8th 2013 Berghain Berlin Germany Link
19. march 14th 2013 Le Poisson Rouge New York City USA Link
20. april 17th 2013 Razzmatazz Barcelona Spain Link
21. april 19th 2013 Gaîté Lyrique Paris France Link
The song had its full band live debut on October 2nd 2009 at the Echoplex in Los Angeles at the first gig of Thom's then unnamed band, consisting of himself, Flea, Nigel Godrich, Joey Waronker and Mauro Refosco: