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"Idioteque" is a song by the English rock band Radiohead, released on their fourth album, Kid A (2000). Primarily electronic and dance-oriented in style, the song was hailed as a radical departure from the band's earlier guitar-driven music. Although (as with all other songs on the album) it was never released as a single, it has become one of the band's most popular songs, and played at nearly every concert since 2000. The song is listed at #8 on Pitchfork Media's top 500 songs of the 2000s,[1] and ranked #56 on Rolling Stone's 100 Best Songs of the 2000s.[2]

Song by Radiohead
from the album Kid A
Released 2 October 2000
Recorded January 1999–April 2000
Length 5:09
  • Radiohead
  • Paul Lansky
  • Arthur Kreiger
Kid A track listing
  1. "Everything in Its Right Place"
  2. "Kid A"
  3. "The National Anthem"
  4. "How to Disappear Completely"
  5. "Treefingers"
  6. "Optimistic"
  7. "In Limbo"
  8. "Idioteque"
  9. "Morning Bell"
  10. "Motion Picture Soundtrack"

In 2008, the song was featured on Radiohead: The Best Of.



"Idioteque" began with a rhythm created by Jonny Greenwood on a modular synthesiser. Feeling it "needed chaos", he experimented with found sounds and sampling.[3] He recorded 50 minutes of improvisation and gave it to Yorke, who took a short section of it and used it to write the song.[3] Yorke said: "Some of it was just 'what?', but then there was this section of about 40 seconds long in the middle of it that was absolute genius, and I just cut that up."[3]

Greenwood could not remember where the song's four-chord synthesiser phrase had come from, and assumed he had recorded it himself; he later realised he had sampled it from "Mild und Leise", a computer music piece by Paul Lansky released on the 1976 LP First Recordings – Electronic Music Winners. Lansky allowed Radiohead to use the sample after Greenwood wrote to him with a copy of the song.[4]


Some of the lyrics, like others on Kid A, were created from cutting up phrases and drawing them from a hat.[5] In the second chorus, a sample of Yorke's previous lyrics are rearranged so that he seems to say "the first and the children" in 5/4, creating a grouping dissonance against the original 4/4 chorus.[6]


"Idioteque" contains two credited samples of experimental 1970s computer music. The first is several seconds of Mild und Leise, a piece by Paul Lansky, forming the four chord progression repeated throughout the song. Mild und Leise is 18 minutes long and through composed. The portion sampled by Radiohead is only heard once in the original piece, very briefly. Also sampled is "Short Piece" by Arthur Kreiger, now a professor of music at Connecticut College.[7] Both tracks were compiled on the 1976 LP First Recordings — Electronic Music Winners, which Radiohead instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood stumbled upon while the band was working on Kid A.

Paul Lansky approved Greenwood's sampling and has since written an essay on "Idioteque", found in the book The Music and Art of Radiohead. Lansky noted that, while Radiohead's song may hinge on a sample from his work, the Mild und Leise chord progression they used was itself "sampled" by Lansky using the Tristan chord. On the original album release, the song was credited as having been written by Radiohead with an additional credit for the samples used. On the group's later album I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings, the songwriting credit is given to "Radiohead & Paul Lansky".

Music videoEdit

The video features Radiohead playing the song inside a studio. Though there was a music video, the song was not released as single.

Animated "blips" or videos created to promote Kid A often showed polar bears or a Grim Reaper figure floating on icebergs. There is also a promotional video called Blinking Bear Version.[8]

Cover versionsEdit

The song has inspired a wide array of covers. Levi Weaver covered it live on his 2006 tour supporting Imogen Heap, using multiple loop pedals to build a layered effect.[9] A studio version is also on his 2008 album You Are Never Close to Home, You Are Never Far from Home. In July 2010 Amanda Palmer released it as the first single from her Radiohead covers album;[10] her cover was National Public Radio's Song of the Day for January 11, 2011.[11] In 2010 Yoav also used a loop pedal to build a layered acoustic version.[12] It has also been covered by The Crown Vandals,[13] We Versus the Shark,[14] Vienna Teng,[15] and Calico Horse.[16]


  1. ^ "The Top 500 Tracks of the 2000s". Pitchfork Media. 2009-08-21. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 
  2. ^ "100 Best Songs of the 2000s". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 17 November 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c "Thom Yorke Talks About Life in the Public Eye". 12 July 2016. Archived from the original on 20 February 2009. Retrieved 29 March 2009. 
  4. ^ Nic, Harcourt (20 October 2000). "Radiohead – Morning Becomes Eclectic". Morning Becomes Eclectic (Interview). Jonny and Colin Greenwood. KCRW. 
  5. ^ "Radiohead - Reflections on Kid A". YouTube. Retrieved 2009-03-29. 
  6. ^ Osborn, Brad (2016). Everything in its Right Place: Analyzing Radiohead. Oxford University Press. 
  7. ^ Arthur Kreiger, Sylvia Pasternack Marx Associate Professor of Music Archived 2008-12-29 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ "Radiohead - Idioteque (Blinking Bear Version)". YouTube. Retrieved 2009-03-29. 
  9. ^ Idioteque on YouTube
  10. ^ Review: Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukulele » Cover Me
  11. ^ Butler, Will (January 11, 2011). "Amanda Palmer: Radiohead For Four Strings". National Public Radio .
  12. ^ Consequence of Sound Presents…Best Fest Covers » Cover Me
  13. ^ Cover News: January 2, 2010 » Cover Me
  14. ^ Full Albums: Radiohead’s Kid A » Cover Me
  15. ^ The Uncoverable » Cover Me
  16. ^ Radiohead » Cover Me

External linksEdit