Round 9, Pick 10, Tuesday, November 2, 2021  “Black Star,” by Radiohead

“Black Star” is the 10th track on Radiohead’s second studio album, “The Bends,” which was released on March 8, 1995.  The album produced six singles, but this wasn’t one of them.   All tracks on the album were written by the band:

Thom Yorke – lead vocals, guitars, piano; string arrangements

Jonny Greenwood – guitar, organ, recorder, synthesiser, piano; string arrangements

Ed O’Brien – guitar, backing vocals

Colin Greenwood – bass

Philip Selway – drums

Did you know these guys met in high school and have been together ever since? 

Radiohead is one of a few musical groups out of all groups from all times that I own most of the discography for.  Do you understand how impossible it is for me to choose just one song as a favorite?  Fuggit, this is one of them. 

What is it I love so much about, “Black Star”?  The melody is achingly beautiful.  I love the way it goes small and light and then wails its heartache loud and distorted.  Without lyrics you would still understand what’s going on.  Someone is in pain. 

Thom Yorke has a voice that is more than a voice, it is a musical instrument just as much as Jonny Greenwood’s guitar is.  It enters the ear canal and takes the super-express neuronal pathway to the light-up centers of my limbic system.

The lyrics speak of a rift in a mind, a rift in a relationship, and two people who are suffering.  It feels like we have walked into the middle of an intimate situation where it’s uncomfortable for us to be there, witnessing it.  Why is she still standing there in her dressing gown?  What’s been whirling around in her head all day?  There is an acute feeling of helplessness at where they are, and a feeling of hopelessness in ever being able to do anything about it.  The big question:  What are we gonna do?  At the end, he speaks of her in the past tense.  What happened?  Did they break up?  Or something worse?  The lyrics in the song are minimal, but they carry the density of a black star.

Youtube video  https://youtu.be/b_BjhwtX_8Y

Looking for youtubes to go with the post, I came across the following cover by The Choir that I had to share.  I think that many people have a bias against Radiohead and feel that their music is too spacey or unapproachable for one reason or another.  I want anyone who falls into the biased category to listen to this version, performed in a church.  Blurb taken from the youtube notes: 

Victoria BC’s The Choir is a non-auditioned community choir, directed by Marc Jenkins and accompanied by Danuel Tate, and sponsored by Larsen Music.

Youtube of choir cover:  https://youtu.be/0neV9k7PMIA

Do you feel any different after hearing The Choir perform this in a church?

I get home from work and you’re still standing in your dressing gown
Well what am I to do?
I know all the things around your head and what they do to you
What are we coming to?
What are we gonna do?

Blame it on the black star
Blame it on the falling sky
Blame it on the satellite that beams me home

The troubled words of a troubled mind I try to understand what is eating you
I try to stay awake but its 58 hours since that I last slept with you
What are we coming to?
I just don’t know anymore

Blame it on the black star
Blame it on the falling sky
Blame it on the satellite that beams me home

I get on the train and I just stand about now that I don’t think of you
I keep falling over I keep passing out when I see a face like you
What am I coming to?
I’m gonna melt down

Blame it on the black star
Blame it on the falling sky
Blame it on the satellite that beams me home
This is killing me
This is killing me

Top image link

Image of band members link


  1. I’d forgotten about this one , from one of the two albums by them that I’ve had (“Pablo Honey” being the other). I really liked “Just” on this record, a bit more conventional than their norm but a good single.

  2. An executive I worked with got me into them in the early 2000’s. I like the choir’s take on it as well…that was different.

  3. I was a late to the Radiohead party, and didn’t become very knowledgeable about them or their music until the past decade. I love their album “A Moon Shaped Pool”, as well as some of their more notable songs like “Creep”, “Fake Plastic Trees”, “Karma Police”, “Paranoid Android” and “Spectre”, but need to dig deeper into their discography. I wasn’t familiar with “Black Star”, but listened to it four times, and really like it. Jonny Greenwood’s guitars and Colin G.’s bass are fantastic, and as you state Lisa, Thom Yorke’s vocals are like another instrument. Great song pick!.

    • Jeff, that whole The Bends album is fabulous. It had been my favorite for a long time but eventually I had to admit I love them all (except the first one, which I’ve barely listened to and so can’t say either way how I feel about it.) They’ve made some “Peter Gabrielish” videos to go with several of their songs also. So glad you love their music also. Thank you 🙂

  4. This is one of those bands that is well respected by some of the most successful musicians, but I’ve not heard much of their music. I keep intending to spend time getting familiar with their music, but it hasn’t happened yet. This song is very nice. I definitely see why you picked it.

    • Diana, so glad you like this song. Their music runs the gamut from star voyager to schizo to dance tune to alienation love ballads. I love this song and video from The King of Limbs. I am mesmerized by Thom Yorke’s channeling of the music in it:

  5. The Bends is a great album – it was the one I connected to more than OK Computer. They were just better and more creative than contemporaries like Blur or Oasis. Black Star is one of my favourites from the album, although they have so many gems at this point.

    • Graham am happy you’re very familiar with the group and that album in particular. I do love OK computer and even have an “8 bit” (midi?) of it that sounds amazing and appropriate for the techie nature of the album. You’re right so many gems!

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