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Song by Radiohead
from the album Kid A
Released2 October 2000 (2000-10-02)
RecordedJanuary 1999 – April 2000
  • Radiohead
  • Paul Lansky
  • Arthur Kreiger

"Idioteque" is a song by the English rock band Radiohead, released on their fourth album, Kid A (2000). The song is listed at #8 on Pitchfork Media's top 500 songs of the 2000s,[1] ranked #56 on Rolling Stone's 100 Best Songs of the 2000s[2] and ranked #33 on Rolling Stone's 2018 list of "100 Greatest Songs of the Century - So Far".[3] 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.[4] Greenwood recorded 50 minutes of improvisation and gave it to singer Thom Yorke, who took a short sequence and used it to write the song.[4] 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."[4] He created some of the lyrics, like others on Kid A, by cutting up phrases and drawing them from a hat.[5] In the second chorus, Yorke's vocals 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]

Greenwood could not remember where the four-chord synthesiser phrase had come from, and assumed he had played it himself; he later realised he had sampled it from mild und leise, a computer music piece by the American composer Paul Lansky. Lansky wrote mild und leise in 1973 at Princeton University on an IBM mainframe computer using FM synthesis; it was released on the 1975 compilation First Recordings – Electronic Music Winners, which Greenwood discovered in a used record store while Radiohead were touring the US.[7] Lansky allowed Radiohead to use the sample after Greenwood wrote to him with a copy of "Idioteque".[8] In a short essay about the experience, Lansky wrote: "I really like what they did with the sample; it is quite imaginative and inventive."[7] He wrote that he had himself "sampled" the chord progression using the Tristan chord.[7] "Idioteque" also samples another composition from Electronic Music Winners, "Short Piece", by Arthur Kreiger, who became a professor of music at Connecticut College.[9]

Cover versions[edit]

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.[10] 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;[11] her cover was National Public Radio's Song of the Day for January 11, 2011.[12] In 2010, Yoav used a loop pedal to build a layered acoustic version.[13]


  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. ^ "100 Greatest Songs of the Century - So Far". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  4. ^ 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.
  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. ^ a b c Lansky, Paul. "My Radiohead adventure". Princeton University. Retrieved 2020-03-08.
  8. ^ Nic, Harcourt (20 October 2000). "Radiohead – Morning Becomes Eclectic". Morning Becomes Eclectic (Interview). Jonny and Colin Greenwood. KCRW.
  9. ^ "Arthur Kreiger, Sylvia Pasternack Marx Associate Professor of Music". Connecticut College. Archived from the original on December 29, 2008.
  10. ^ Idioteque on YouTube
  11. ^ Padgett, Ray (July 20, 2010). "Review: Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukulele". Cover Me.
  12. ^ Butler, Will (January 11, 2011). "Amanda Palmer: Radiohead For Four Strings". National Public Radio. Cite journal requires |journal= (help).
  13. ^ Padgett, Ray (August 20, 2010). "Consequence of Sound Presents…Best Fest Covers". Cover Me.

External links[edit]