“The National Anthem” - Radiohead
In the album recording, the bass is played by lead singer Thom Yorke, who wrote the riff at age 16. The song is thought to have been previously attempted at recording sessions in 1994 and 1997, but according to Colin Greenwood, the band decided it was "too good to use it as a b-side for OK Computer singles".
The free jazz-style brass section featured in this song creates a soundscape of chaos, and has been described as "a brass band marching into a brick wall" by one reviewer. In the recording sessions, band members Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood conducted the session musicians as best they could, though Yorke lacks formal musical training, telling them to 'go crazy' with their instruments as if they were caught in a traffic jam. It should be noted that although the recording sounds chaotic, each instrument is soloing to the riff.
The jazz style arrangement was apparently influenced by Charles Mingus, one of Thom's favorite composers, while the song also features an Ondes Martenot, played by Jonny Greenwood. That early electronic instrument was picked up by Jonny for several songs on Kid A and subsequent albums, inspired by the music of Olivier Messiaen which makes much use of it. Some also found "The National Anthem" reminiscent of the contemporary work of fellow UK bands Primal Scream and Spiritualized, with whom Radiohead had toured in 1998.
"The National Anthem" was the opening song for most Radiohead concerts in 2000–2001, and is the first track on the band's 2001 album I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings. As of 2008, Radiohead continues to play it live. The song begins on stage with the band tuning to various radio stations, then mixing the transmissions and static with the bassline. When the song is played live, normal Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood plays the riff, which uses a Lovetone Big Cheese effects pedal to create a more distorted "fuzz" sound. The ondes martenot is also more audible in live versions, thanks to the addition of guitarist Ed O'Brien, who both doubles and expands on Jonny's parts. Thom Yorke also adds scat singing in some performances. Unlike the studio recorded version on the Kid A album, the live version of the song is often not performed with a brass section. Radiohead has performed with a brass section in their 2000 performances in New York City (one of which was at Radiohead's taping for Saturday Night Live using the house band), a 2001 performance in London for the BBC's Later with Jools Holland, and during a 2001 concert in Paris.
During their 2008 tour for In Rainbows, Radiohead asked fans to provide travel information and other data regarding the carboon footprint of the tour, giving away free live recordings in return. While some participants received a link to the download of a soundboard recording of 'Bangers And Mash' from june 6th 2008 or a recording of 'Nude' from june 18th 2008, others were sent a link to a recording of 'The National Anthem' from august 9th 2008, the band's second performance at the All Points West festival Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.
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