An Open Letter to Thom Yorke


Dear Thom.

Oh dear, Thom.

You don’t know me but we’ve been through a lot. From the original On A Friday demos right through to the release of Creep I was with you every step of the way. Granted, we parted company as soon as that seminal single hit the top ten and normal folk started to like Radiohead. But while I stopped buying your records I never forgot the edginess of that early stuff, particularly the cuts you wrote before you’d even rehearsed together.

As tends to happen, once you became popular and sold your souls I moved on to other obscure bands to fall in love with until other people started to like them. But I still remember the unbridled elitist smugness I felt when grooving to your awkward, non-linear early songs, some of which were so awkward and non-linear you didn’t even know how to play them. And it’s because of those warm memories I find it so hard to write what I’m about to. But you’ve forced my hand.

You let me down, Thom. As well as you, your band and every sensible leftist who holds the apartheid state of Israel to an insanely higher standard than the oppressive hell-holes surrounding it.

Because it may have escaped your attention but outside your white, privileged bubble there’s a war going on. And while we have a more than capable Field Marshal in our principled Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn – a man so principled he doesn’t let a little thing like genocide denial dictate who he shares a pizza with – his network of Generals with boots on the ground have been proving themselves every bit as vital and committed as the Dear Leader himself. And you don’t get more vital and committed than film director-cum-regressive left poster-boy Ken Roache.

That’s right, the man you’ve spent the last week disrespecting – in the kind of vindictive manner I’d expect from a Tory troll, not a lefty who’s penned protest songs about everything from gay rights (The Bends) to the declining lizard population (Karma Chameleon).

Why you have such a problem with Ken is unclear. It could be that you’re jealous of his success. You may still be in the huff that your music wasn’t featured on Sixteen Candles. Or perhaps you’ve never forgiven him for slipping Wendy Crozier one behind Deirdre’s back. We may never know but nothing could be as insulting as the nonsensical explanation you coughed up last week, with its arrogant defence that where you play gigs is entirely your business and sod all to do with overgrown bedsit militants like Ken.

As for that nonsense about how playing Israel no more means you support Netanyahu than touring America means you support Trump. Please. Next thing you’ll be telling us if the BDS movement really cared about human rights they’d have targeted every other country in the middle-east long before boycotting its only liberal democracy.

It doesn’t wash, Thom. And it won’t be forgotten. As you sang on your experimental fourth album Baby P: ‘This is what you get when you mess with us’. And trust me, you couldn’t have picked a worse group of artists to mess with than Ken, Deep Purple’s Roger Whittaker and the tall bloke out of The Sonic Youths who looks like Dylan Roof’s grandad.

The sad thing is that could have been you. Look at how much you have in common with Ken: both privately educated, both spent many years in Oxford, both have a habit of making vacuous comments about Theresa May on the telly. I’ll take a wild guess your children have also benefited from selective schooling like Ken’s. But unlike Ken you’re unwilling to go the extra inch and rail against inequality and the establishment while making sure your kids benefit massively from both.

Look at the differences: Ken supports and produces cringe-worthy propaganda videos for Corbyn’s Labour. You make vague comments about ‘useless politicians’ at Glastonbury while sounding like Gollum doing an impression of James Mason.

The movie that launched Ken told the harrowing tale of a retarded schoolboy bringing up his pet budgie while facing the twin-horrors of Thatcher’s Britain and an abusive mother played by Ivy Tilsley. Radiohead’s breakthrough song was about that poncy robot out of The Hitcher.

And Ken’s last film was I, Daniel Blake which spent two hours telling the audience how evil Tories are and featured the first Geordie chippy in history to talk like a cross between Chris ‘Kewka Kewla’ Waddle and a gay grief counsellor. Your most recent album contained a song called Burn The Witch which wasn’t about Katie Hopkins.

See, there are no half-measures on the modern left, Thom. Much as we loved those disparaging comments about Leave voters it’s all hot air unless you go to the next level and punish your Israeli fans for being born in an oppressive Arab-hating state so oppressive and Arab-hating it awards prestigious Supreme Court justice positions to oppressed, hated Arabs.

Alas, it’s too late. No doubt the blood money from the Tel Aviv gig is already banked. I’d love to think you might have a pang of guilt and donate your fee to those nice Hamas lads who St Jezza assures us are ‘dedicated to peace and social justice’ but we all know there’s more chance of you doing a duet with Lily Allen.

No, just leave it to Ken to do the heavy lifting and quietly stick two fingers up to Zionism by handing back the takings from I Daniel Blake’s Israel release. Something I’m sure he did with the earnings from all his other films that were distributed in the evil apartheid state he tells everyone else to boycott. Which proves that when your morals are as strong as his it doesn’t matter if your actions completely contradict them. Brave socialists like Ken aren’t here to lead by example: they’re here to tell people what to think and punish them for stepping out of line.

And should that take the form of a knife-wielding Palestinian seeking you out and paralysing your other eye? Well, you did it to yourself, Thom. You and no-one else.



Ben Pensant is a Country Squire Guest Writer. His writing is housed here.