If you can’t think of ten, you don’t really love it.
1) The most striking thing about this song is that it has a very unusual time signature which makes it somewhat asymmetric and odd when you first hear it. It’s also almost super-natural in its ambience, and would work in a horror movie.
2) It was originally called The Egyptian Song, probably because it was written by Thom Yorke after a visit to an exhibition of Egyptian art during a two-week sojourn in Copenhagen in 1999.
3) The video is based on a dream that Thom Yorke once had.
4) Starting with the piano was a conscious move to vary their style at the time of being a guitar based band. Nothing wrong with a bit of re-invention.
5) Although we are told, “There is nothing to fear, nothing to doubt,” the fact is that at 2:03 is one of the eeriest notes I’ve ever heard. Strange noises are made by a theramin type instrument called an Ondes Martenot.
6) When the drum comes in, it has a slightly more conventional beat and somehow balances the song. The melancholy and deeply moving mood settles a little from this point onward.
7) The song was written in five minutes. I kid you not. Here’s a quote:
Thom Yorke told MTV: “That song literally took five minutes to write, but yet it came from all these mad places. [It’s] something I never thought I could actually get across in a song and lyrically. [But I] managed it and that was really, really tough. [Physicist] Stephen Hawking talks about the theory that time is another force. It’s [a] fourth dimension and [he talks about] the idea that time is completely cyclical, it’s always doing this [spins finger]. It’s a factor, like gravity. It’s something that I found in Buddhism as well. That’s what Pyramid Song’ is about, the fact that everything is going in circles.”
That’s a pretty hefty amount of intellectualism in one song.
8) Add to that imagery the myth of Greek underworld. “We all went to heaven in a little rowing boat,” is reminiscent of the journey of dead souls across the River Acheron. Only those buried with coins on their lips to pay the ferryman Charon were allowed across. Although the song starts as a pretty scary piece, there’s something comforting about the thought of dying with your special people around you as you journey to your final resting place.
9) In contrast to the rhythmic complexities, the song structure is quite simple – one verse sung through and repeated. There is no chorus as such just an “Oo-oo-oo-oo-oo”.
10) The string section was arranged by guitarist Johnny Greenwood and recorded in Dorchester Abbey. The band’s use of strings to create goose bump inducing surges in their songs is simply masterful. Altogether the individual elements come together to produce one of the most unusual and awe-inspiring songs of our time.