I’m not sure if it’s kosher to discuss article queries before they are even entertained. I’m not even sure if I spelt kosher correctly, but in any event, not being a career writer, I’ll take my chances because I think the query and the question I’d like to tackle would also make for an intriguing blog post.
Anyway, the mystery involves the Radiohead video below. It’s the one for the song “Just” (great song by the way), and it’s a bit of cultural phenom, because of the way it ends.
Here watch it first:
Here is what Gavin Edwards (a regular at Rolling Stone writes in his newish book, “Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton’s Little John? Music’s Most Enduring Mysteries, Myths, and Rumors Revealed “:
What does that guy say at the end of Radiohead’s video for “Just”?
In case you’ve never seen the video–from Radiohead’s excellent second album, The Bends–it’s got two components. One is the band, looking misanthropic and unwashed, giving it their all as they pantomime rocking out in an apartment. The other is a narrative, filmed in a style reminiscent of director Douglas Sirk: A well-dressed man, an archetypal businessman, suddenly lies down in the middle of the sidewalk, curled up as if he wants his blanket. Someone trips over him, and then discovers that the man doesn’t want to get up. He says he’s not drunk or crazy, but despite the entreaties of a gathering crowd, he won’t get up and won’t explain why he’s on the pavement, although he denies that it’s cheap nihilism or fear of death. (This dialogue is all communicated through subtitles; Radiohead provides the subtext with the song’s chorus of “you do it to yourself.”) Finally, he tells the crowd why he’s lying down, at which point the subtitles are abandoned and the editing becomes choppy enough to prevent effective lip-reading. The band members gaze down from a window as the people below all lie down.
In case you haven’t figured it out by now, the whole point of the video is not what the man says, which is meant to be as much of a mystery as whatever it is Bill Murray whispers into Scarlett Johansson’s ear at the end of Lost in Translation.
The band remains resolutely silent on the issue; Jamie Thraves, the director of the clip, has said, “To tell you would deaden the impact, and probably make you want to lie down in the road, too.” You want a real mystery? Why does the crowd on a British street include an American police officer?
So basically the jury is out, which is why we should bring in good old observational/hypothesis driven science.
I mean, there’s no secret that Thom Yorke and Radiohead have a general interest in the sciences (at least metaphorically). You only need to look at albums like “The Bends” (physiology), “O.K. Computer” (computer technology), “Kid A” (cloning), and most recently, Mr. Yorke’s “Eraser” (global warming).
So why not use these disciplines, our most favourites of subjects, to solve it.
It may seem an odd idea, but I think it could lead to interesting places if one takes a good hard look at the evidence as supplied by the video, by the song itself, and by the empirical conjecture formed by a training in the sciences (that is my own as well as other readers of this post).
As an example, I can already see discussions that could lead to sound physics, as well as various medical angles that may be either be physiological or psychological in nature. In other words, science would presumably dictate that its very unlikely that the cause of everyone lying down is linguistic in nature. There’s presumably something else else going on that might court the physical or life sciences.
In any event, it would make for an interesting read, and more intriguing to me, it gets to double as a sneaky way to talk on a variety of different scientific concepts. Ta da – Another example of “covert science communication.”
So what do you think? This, by the way, is a two fold question, i.e. what do you think of the idea as an article; and also what do you think is going on?