'Like Spinning Plates' was born out of frustration over an electronic version of 'I Will' from the Kid A sessions, which is not available (yet), but we can get an idea what it might have sounded like. This reconstruction uses the vocals of the Hail to the Thief version of 'I Will' and the reversed version of 'Like Spinning Plates', which had its vocals removed:
'I Will' was not going to stay like this, the band was not satisfied with this version. Thom would later dub it "dodgy Kraftwerk". Not knowing what to do with this, someone had the idea to reverse it and played it backwards, which - using our reconstruction - must have sounded something like this:
The reversed backing with its eerie pulse was apprently way more exciting than the ill-fated forward recording, and Thom was also hearing a melody in parts of his reversed vocal of 'I Will', which inspired him to write something he could sing over this recording. He went to his notebooks, pieced a set of lyrics together (perhaps using the "cut up lines pulled out of a top hat" method again), thereby creating a new song, 'Like Spinning Plates'.
However, just singing the new melody and lyrics straight over the pulsing backing track was not good enough. Something different was needed. Perhaps someone had the idea to reflect the fact, that this song came out of turning something backwards, in the singing as well. How about having a backwards vocal track that sounds as if it was sung forwards?
To illustrate what happened now I had to sing the bits myself, since I don't have access to the band's archive. You start by singing the melody and words very normal and make a recording of that:
Good. Now you reverse that recording and listen to it:
You listen to it again and again, and you study the backwards sounds and learn to imitate them. When you think you can do a good copy of what you heard, you make a recording of that imitation in a session that promises lots of hysterical laughter... or endless frustration:
And if you now reverse this new recording, you get the following, and that's exactly how the eery vocal of the studio version was made:
The result is exciting, but it is decided that this vocal is not used in the whole song. The backwards vocal is used for the "verse", the "chorus" uses the normal vocal, but on its last two lines the backwards vocal is flown in as well and you hear a combination of both. In the following three excerpts from the finished track you first hear the reversed vocal, then the straight one, then a combination of both:
This text, written on december 20th 1998, contains two references to the 'I'm living in cloud cuckoo land' line. It appeared in a page of radiohead.com during the Kid A period under the title 'weary/apprehensive':
amateur poetry for yu
cloud fucking cuckoo land.
for christmas i got yu
a still born prepacked newborn slave
to serve your every need
no blood no mess just reheat
ready to make your cushy numbered
mash potatoe comfort dayglo roadsafe trainers
so yor feet can take a rest from the struggle of the behest
responsibilities of power the terrible terrible strain
it must make on yor every waking hour on your playstation trigger finger on yodisco dancing into
cloud fucking cuckoo land
into the wee small hours because we know how to have a good time in 1999
and lose some of that fat kidswatch the world collapse like a discontinued component in a newoutdatedappliance which
yu will soon throw on the scrap heap with the corpses and the fridges with the
let s carry on marching into the light for we are gods chosen people 20 12 98.
A slightly condensed version of this text fills the second to last page in the hidden booklet of Kid A from 2000 (click image for full size):
The phrase 'the bodies floating downstream' can also be seen in this text from the Kid A era version of radiohead.com in a page titled '[proactive]':
you willsooon be on the scrap heap in bits and pieces.
the cameras will not save you now or then.
i saw the sky turn green
come on now goddamit hold on to me
here come the giant insects with giant teeth and acid blood.
godamn yuo for doing this t us.
godamn yuo for doing this t us.
i am citizen insane all history is frozen. itlll all blow over so(o)n.
sleeping leviathan. bodies floating down the muddy rivver in bits and pieces.
the steering wheel through the ribs.
the shadows swallowing my soul.
fall through a blck hole and start again.
justa shell remains bleeding on the pavement.
you can stuf it with straw and dreess it in bright clothes to scare the crows but they will not be impressed.
i dont understand a word you say and you seem so far away,
your lips are cold.
your eyes are beach stones.
everything washes over you like a shipwreck.
the painkillers send you back n time.
the bodies floatinng down stream.
the truck loads with machetes.
the dead can come back to life cut your tails witha carving knife. like rotten wood. eyes popped out like cigarette machines.
the cameras will be gone.
the make up will run
the set rolled away. and history is at an end the communists have lost control the empire will grow and grow and we shall all be bled to death to feed
These lyrics, that appeared in the 'imaginery prisons' section of radiohead.com at the time Amnesiac was released in spring 2001, also seem to be connected to the lyrics of the song, and show some similarities to the ones posted above:
ripples in the water at the beginning.
flotsam and jetsam.
thousands of bodies limp, dead floating down stream following the tide underwater like shoals of fish.
stick men with huge heads.
skeletons jerking from the future.
burnt down churches.
A related line can be found in the hidden booklet of Kid A from 2000:
This text apparently appeared in radiohead.com during the Kid A period. It is taken from the song database of ateaseweb.com, but couldn't be found in any archived pages of radiohead.com itself:
so how much can you stand?
the flames are lapping up & up, lickin round the legs
going in a circle
dogs pulling on its chain
the wind blows a tune tune to the coming dead.
this just feels like spinning plates
a temple of hypocrits opportunist.
i am no magician.
our bodies floating down the muddy river.
i jump at the slightest sound/im trying to keep my balance.
they have borrowed all the kitchen knives
they are killing all the tall thin ones.
switch off and walk away.
This page from the Amnesiac artwork contains a line of the song:
The following page appeared in the Kid A era version of radiohead.com under the title 'big fish eat':
spinning plates trick.
spinning plates im spinning plates
spinning plates spinning plates spinning plates
A good part of the lyrics can be found in the artwork of Amnesiac:
This live performance comes from august 15th 2006, it's a rare soundboard recording: