The traffic to the blog slows up over the Festive period, and it’s therefore something of an opportunity to take a bit of a breather.

Over a period of 26 days, I’ll be posting a single never previously featured on its own before – it might have sneaked in as part of an ICA or within a piece looking at various tracks – with the idea of an edited cut’n’paste from somewhere (most likely wiki) and then all the songs from either the vinyl or CD.

H is for Harrowdown Hill, released by Thom Yorke as a single in August 2006.

Harrowdown Hill was released on Thom Yorke’s debut solo album, The Eraser (2006), recorded while Radiohead were on hiatus.  At the time of release, Yorke said the song had been “kicking around” during the sessions for Radiohead’s sixth album, Hail to the Thief (2003), but that it could not have worked as a Radiohead song.

The lyrics are about David Kelly, a British weapons expert who died, allegedly from suicide, in 2003 after telling a reporter that the British government had falsely identified weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Kelly’s body was found in the woods of Harrowdown Hill, near Yorke’s former school in Oxfordshire.

Yorke was uncomfortable about the subject matter and conscious of the late man’s grieving family, but in press interviews he stated that “not to write it would perhaps have been worse”, that it was “the most angry song” he had ever written.

mp3: Thom Yorke – Harrowdown Hill

The single was released on  7″, 12″ and CD. Here’s the other tracks that were made available:-

mp3: Thom Yorke – The Drunkk Machine
mp3: Thom Yorke – Jetstream
mp3: Thom Yorke – Harrowdown Hill (extended mix)

It entered the charts at #23, before dropping all the way down to #55 the following week and out of the Top 75 after three weeks. It’s not the most commercial of singles, but things weren’t helped by what appeared to be an unofficial radio ban here in the UK, thanks to the controversial subject matter and the fact that Thom Yorke, in all his media interviews and appearances, was openly implicating the UK government and the Ministry of Defence in the death of Dr Kelly.


THE JOY OF (a mixed) SEX (duet) : Couple #7

Thom Yorke has a very distinctive voice. It only takes a few words and you know immediately that you’re listening to Radiohead, a solo effort or, very occasionally, a guest contribution. I reckon, for the most part, his voice is perfect for the songs on which he sings; but just occasionally, whether it’s because he buries the delivery with a near-mumble or, at the other extreme, goes effortlessly into OTT mode that he ends up overpowering the work of his bandmates, he ruins things.

As Radiohead became increasingly popular, he found himself much in demand for vocal contributions – for instance, there were three with PJ Harvey on her album Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea (released in 2000), but just two years earlier he had guested on this, helping to provide a band with their sole chart single:-

mp3 : Drugstore – El President

Drugstore were around for much of the 90s, formed in London but with a Brazilian born singer-songwriter in the shape of Isabel Monteiro. The band were one of those who always made for an interesting opening act and so fans of the likes of Radiohead, Tindersticks, Jeff Buckley and The Jesus and Mary Chain would have had opportunities to catch them.

El President was the first single to be lifted from their second album, White Magic for Lovers. It was written by Monteiro as a tribute to Salvador Allende, whose four decades of political involvement in Chilean politics had seen him become president in 1970 (elected in a run-off by Congress as none of the three candidates has won any overall majority) but just three years later he had committed suicide rather than give in to a military coup. It was a coup supported by the CIA, which in itself was no surprise given that Allende was a committed Marxist and the Cold War was being fought.

I’ll just mention in passing that he was succeeded by General Augusto Pinochet….unarguably one of the worst persecutors of his political opponents in the 20th Century.

Drugstore faded off the scene just after the turn of the century, but had a low-key but critically successful reunion for a few years from 2009 onwards, before the singer relocated to her home city of Sao Paulo in 2015.