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"The National Anthem"
Song by Radiohead

from the album Kid A

Released 2 October 2000
Recorded January 1999–April 2000
Genre Experimental rock
Jazz fusion
Length 5:51
Label Parlophone
Producer Nigel Godrich and Radiohead
Kid A track listing
  1. "Everything in Its Right Place"
  2. "Kid A"
  3. "The National Anthem"
  4. "How to Disappear Completely"
  5. "Treefingers"
  6. "Optimistic"
  7. "In Limbo"
  8. "Idioteque"
  9. "Morning Bell"
  10. "Motion Picture Soundtrack"

"The National Anthem" is the third track from the alternative rock band Radiohead's 2000 album Kid A. The song is moored to a repetitive bassline, has a processed electronic production, and develops in a direction influenced by jazz. It has been played at nearly every Radiohead concert since 2000.


Background and recording

The National Anthem is thought to have been previously attempted at recording sessions in 1994 and 1997, but according to Radiohead member Colin Greenwood, the band decided it was "too good to use it as a b-side for OK Computer singles". In the album recording, the bass is played by lead singer Thom Yorke, who wrote the riff at age 16.[1]

In the recording sessions, band members Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood conducted the session musicians, though Yorke lacks formal musical training. Yorke stated in an interview, "The running joke when we were in the studios was, 'Just blow. Just blow, just blow, just blow'"[2], referring to the chaotic brass section sound. It should be noted that although the recording sounds chaotic, each instrument is playing a solo to the riff.


The free jazz-style brass section featured in the song, influenced by Charles Mingus,[2] creates a soundscape of chaos, and has been described as "a brass band marching into a brick wall" by one reviewer.[2]

The song also features an Ondes Martenot, played by Jonny Greenwood, an early electronic instrument which was picked up by Greenwood for several songs on Kid A and subsequent albums. Greenwood's usage of it was inspired by the music of Olivier Messiaen.

Live performances

"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.

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[3] to create a more distorted 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 Greenwood's parts. Thom Yorke also adds scat singing during some performances. Unlike the studio recorded version on Kid A, the live version of the song is often not performed with a brass section and is replaced with guitar played by Thom in a stop-start rhythm.

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, France.

Cover versions

The National Anthem has been covered by Japanese shamisen duo Yoshida Brothers on their album Prism. Meshell Ndegeocello covered it for the tribute album Exit Music: Songs With Radio Heads. Mr Russia covered it for the tribute album Every Machine Makes A Mistake : A Tribute To Radiohead (FTC Records). Lupe Fiasco has used a sample of the song on the mixtape Enemy Of The State: A Love Story in the song "The National Anthem".

Session Musicians



Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

National Anthem
by Jawaharlal Nehru
Delivered 25th August 1948.

Reply to a short-notice question in the Constituent Assembly (Legislative).

The question was addressed to my colleague, the Home Minister. But as I have been largely concerned with this matter, I am taking the liberty of answering it myself. I am grateful to the hon. Member who has put this question as it enables the Government to remove certain misapprehensions on the subject.

The question of having a National Anthem to be played by orchestras and bands became an urgent one for us immediately after the 15th August, 1947. It was as important as having a National Flag. It was important from the point of view of our Defence Services, our foreign embassies and legations and other establishments. It was obviously not suitable for “God Save the King” to be played by our Army bands, or abroad, after the achievement of independence. We were constantly being asked what tune should be played on such occasions. We could not give an answer, because the decision could only be made ultimately by the Constituent Assembly.

The matter came to a head on the occasion of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York in 1947. Our delegation was asked for our National Anthem for the orchestra to play on a particular occasion. The delegation had a record of ‘Janaganamana’ and they gave it to the orchestra who played who practised it. When they played it before a large gathering it was very greatly appreciated, and representatives of many nations asked for a musical score of this new tune which struck them as distinctive and dignified. This orchestral rendering of ‘Janaganamana’ was recorded and sent to India. The practice grew for our Defence Services bands to play this tune, and foreign embassies and legations also used it whenever required. From various countries we received messages of appreciation and congratulation on this tune, which was considered by experts and others as superior to most of the national anthems which they had heard. Many expert musicians in India and abroad, as well as many bands and orchestras practiced it, and sometimes slightly varied it, with the result that All India Radio collected quite a number of renderings.

Apart from the general appreciation with which this tune was received, there were at the time not much choice before us, as there was no proper musical rendering available to us of any other national song which we could send abroad. At that stage, I wrote to the Provincial Governors and asked their views about our adopting ‘Janaganamana’, or any other song as the National Anthem. I asked them to consult their Premiers before replying. I made it perfectly clear to them that the final decision rested with the Constituent Assembly, but owing to the necessity of sending directions to foreign embassies and the Defence Services, a provisional decision has become essential. Everyone of these governors, except one, the Governor of Central Provinces), signified his approval of ‘Janaganamana’. Thereupon the Cabinet considered the matter and came to the decision that provisionally ‘Janaganamana’ should be used as the tune for the National Anthem, till such time as the constituent Assembly came to a final decision. Instructions were issued accordingly to the Provincial Governors. It was very clear that the wording of ‘Janaganamana’ was not wholly appropriate and some changes would be necessary. What was important was the tune to be played by bands and orchestras, and not the wording. Subsequently, the new Premier of West Bengal informed us that he and his government preferred ‘Vande Mataram’.

That is the position at present. It is unfortunate that some kind of argument has arisen between ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Janaganamana’. ‘Vande Mataram’ is obviously and indisputably the premier national song of India, with a great historical tradition, and intimately connected with our struggle for freedom. That position it is bound to retain and no other song can displace it. It represents the passion and the poignancy of that struggle, but perhaps not so much the culmination of it. In regard to the National Anthem tune, it was felt that the tune was more important than the words, and that this tune should be such as to represent the Indian musical genius as well as to some extent the Western, so that it might be equally adaptable to orchestra and band music, and to being played abroad. The real significance of the National Anthem is perhaps abroad than in the home country. Past experience has shown us that ‘Janaganamana’ tune has been greatly been appreciated and admired abroad. It is very distinctive and there is a certain life and movement in it. It was thought by some people that the ‘Vande Mataram’ tune with all its great attraction and historical background, was not easily suitable for orchestras in foreign countries and there was not enough movement in it. It seemed therefore that while ‘Vande Mataram’ should continue to be the national song par excellence in India, the National Anthem tune should be that of ‘Janaganamana’, the wording of ‘Janaganamana’ to be altered suitably to fit in with the existing circumstances. This question has to be considered by the Constituent Assembly, and it is open to that Assembly to decide as it chooses. It may decide on a completely new song or tune if such is available.

(Source: The speech was published in Jawaharlal Nehru’s Speeches Volume One (September 1946-May 1949) by The Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India in 1949.)

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