On Radiohead’s New “Harry Patch (In Memory Of)”


“Thom Yorke singing like he can talk to dolphins” is my favorite reaction thus far to this morning’s unveiling of a new Radiohead track, a relatively simple Thom-plus-mournful-orchestra affair inspired by the titular Harry Patch, the last remaining survivor of World War I, who recently died at 111. It is now what you’d call “optimistic,” but of course even Radiohead’s song “Optimistic” wasn’t particularly optimistic, so. Nothing terribly earth-shattering here, though the contrast between Thom’s dolphin-soothing calm and lyrics like “I’ve seen hell upon this earth/The next one will be chemical/But they will never learn” might just ruin your lunch. Jonny did the strings, very much in There Will Be Blood mode.

Download the tune here, with proceeds going to the Royal British Legion. Love that the buttons you click to purchase are under a banner that just says “CONSUME.”

Lyrics and Thom’s full message after the jump.

“i am the only one that got through
the others died where ever they fell
it was an ambush
they came up from all sides
give your leaders each a gun and then let them fight it out themselves
i’ve seen devils coming up from the ground
i’ve seen hell upon this earth
the next will be chemical but they will never learn”

Recently the last remaining UK veteran of the 1st world war Harry Patch died at the age of 111.
I had heard a very emotional interview with him a few years ago on the Today program on Radio4.
The way he talked about war had a profound effect on me.
It became the inspiration for a song that we happened to record a few weeks before his death.
It was done live in an abbey. The strings were arranged by Jonny.
I very much hope the song does justice to his memory as the last survivor.

It would be very easy for our generation to forget the true horror of war, without the likes of Harry to remind us.
I hope we do not forget.

As Harry himself said
“Irrespective of the uniforms we wore, we were all victims”.

This morning the Today program played the song for the first time and now it is available to download from our website.

Please click here to download.

The proceeds of this song will go to the British Legion.

To peace and understanding.


This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 5, 2009

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