100 Greatest Songs of the 90’s #5 Radiohead – Street Spirit (Fade Out)

Released : 1995

For every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction. Where you had your Parklifes and your Supersonics and your Common People there was also In Utero and The Holy Bible and The Bends, the latter all archetypes of what writing in the Melody Maker Caitlin Moran described as ‘this end of the century/culture of despair.’

Radiohead had been going more or less nowhere until, in the days where anything vaguely Curt/Kurt was lead into gold, MTV made the derivative Creep a transatlantic smash Noel and Liam and Damon would’ve given a limb for. That success brought inevitable pressure, especially in the yawning vacuum Cobain’s withdrawal from music and eventual death brought about for alternative rock. The label related duress nearly broke the quintet apart, but as the material which would become The Bends emerged it was obvious they’d created from adversity songs that were to become instant neo-classics, striking an unintended but consequentially fatal blow to Britpop in the process.

Street Spirit closed it, a restless near acoustic ballad supposedly inspired by R.E.M. but which also neurotically pulled on faint threads of Bowie, Scott Walker, even Jeff Buckley. Yorke has spoken since of the track’s genesis and inner bleakness: ‘I didn’t write it. It wrote itself..all of our saddest songs have somewhere in them at least a glimmer of resolve. Street Spirit has no resolve, It is the dark tunnel without the light at the end.’ How fitting it seemed that the culture of despair had found itself an anthem.