What the Hell, Radiohead? What’s with the Mysterious Postcard? And Why Are You Disappearing from the Internet?

Certain Radiohead fans around Oxford, England, found something in the mail over the last couple of days. It was a postcard from the band that looked like this:


Hardcore Radiohead fans immediately recognized the reference. “Burn the Witch” is an unreleased Radiohead track whose strange history dates back to at least 2002. If you look at the artwork for Hail To The Thief, you’ll see those words in the corner of the artwork. Thom Yorke released some lyric snippets in 2005 and the band teased it in a concert settle at least twice over the last decade-and-a-half.

Meanwhile, Pitchfork reports that Radiohead’s Internet presence disappeared over the course of Sunday. Their website is blank. Tweets and Facebook posts have disappeared. Their Google + page has gone blank. All gone by about 1:20 EST (18:20 GMT).

Is this some kind of statement about our over-reliance on social media and the Internet? Were the postcards–definitely low-tech–supposed to harken back to a more analogue era? Is that a clue to… anything?

Something’s happening. Radiohead is showing everyone, er, how to disappear completely–at least from the online world.

There’s been no comment from the band, which is exactly what you’d expect. Is this something to herald the release of their ninth album? They do have a history of releasing records in unusual ways. (Here’s another review of Radiohead’s album release history.)

What’s special about May 2? Well, it’s a bank holiday–i.e. a statutory holiday–in the UK. Lots of people have the day off, which means they’ll have more time to participate in any kind of Radiohead spectacle.

The Early May Bank Holiday is thought to have descended from a Roman festival recognizing the start of the summer season. Is that a hint? Is something pagan-themed afoot? (See the witch reference above and this post on “burn the witch” tropes.)

Let’s go back to the postcard. “Sing a Song of Sixpence” is an English nursery rhyme that dates to sometime in the 1700s.

Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye.
Four and twenty blackbirds,
Baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing;
Wasn’t that a dainty dish,
To set before the king?
The king was in his counting house,
Counting out his money;
The queen was in the parlour,
Eating bread and honey.
The maid was in the garden,
Hanging out the clothes,
When down came a blackbird
And pecked off her nose.

Digging deeper, the nursery rhyme has a connection to Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night which involves a request for a clown to sing. Beyond that, I got nothin’.

What else? The King James Bible was published for the first time on May 2, 1611, but I don’t think Radiohead cares.It’s also a day that’s been used in recent times as a time to recognize workers’ rights. That’s all I got.

While you ponder the situation, The Guardian has this look at Radiohead’s corporate structure. They published this infographic. Note the unit called Dawn Chorus.

Radiohead Corporate Structure

Back to Dawn Chorus. Have Radiohead gone “dark” online with the idea of a “new dawn” coming? Just a thought: Sunrise hits Oxford, England, at 5:34 am local time Monday.

Yes, all Radiohead albums have been released in the UK on a Monday, but that’s because that’s the day all albums used to be released in Britain. (They’re now part o the 45 nations which release albums on Fridays.)

Anyone else have anything to add?

 

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

2 thoughts on “What the Hell, Radiohead? What’s with the Mysterious Postcard? And Why Are You Disappearing from the Internet?

  • May 1, 2016 at 11:34 pm
    Permalink

    What I get out of Sing a Song of Sixpence is that the lower class or underdog are being exploited by being baked in a pie. When they sing for the king it’s a revolt or airing of grievances. When the power is at their greatest comfort and lets their guard down, the underdog will strike back, or take back power.

    I find this runs along side a common thread with Radionhead in general, like they have always been a band for “the people”.

    I do love a good mystery though!

    Every time I read burn the witch I only hear QOTSA in my head so if that is the album title… I dunno…

    Reply

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