Now that the dust has settled on In Rainbows I realize that one of the things that I really love about the record is the fact that Nude FINALLY made it onto a Radiohead album. The song has been kicking around since the OK Computer days and has been, along with Big Boots and Lift, the most beloved “lost” Radiohead song.
The song has been known by a variety of names amongst the Radiohead community; for a long time it was Big Ideas or Big Ideas (Don’t Get Any), sometimes Nude and even occasionally that ridiculous title Thom mentioned in Meeting People is Easy. In fact, the song was featured in its entirety at the end of that film as Radiohead wrapped up the crippling OK Computer tour in New York City.
From 1998 to 2003 the song was performed about 13 times (according to 58 Hours) and I was lucky enough to catch two of those performances (one in Vancouver and one at Red Rocks). Then, to the surprise and delight of many Radiohead fans, during the 2006 tour Nude became one of the most played songs of the year, complete with a new bassline and arrangement. It was apparent that Nude would finally get released.
Most Radiohead fans have probably been living with Nude for nearly a decade but to hear it finally recorded and released is a bit of a treat. Of course the (unnecessary) fear was that the band might cock-up the song in the studio but, thankfully, ten years was worth the wait – even if I do kinda miss that organ.
Nude is often cited as one of the highlights of In Rainbows and rightfully so. Thom’s vocal is so upfront in the mix that it’s almost confronting, despite the rather gentle musical accompaniment. After the previous two tracks on the record (the glitchy 15 Step and aggressive Bodysnatchers), Nude serves as the record’s first moment of beauty and actually sets the listener up for the rest of the record. And those opening 40 seconds are, arguably, the most gorgeous 40 seconds in the entire Radiohead canon. Arguably.
But how did Nude end up on our stereos in 2007 after more than a decade? Here’s the story of the song in performance.
First (known) Recording: Blackpool Soundcheck (September 7, 1997)
Download: Nude (Blackpool Soundcheck)
This recording is far from ideal but it is the earliest known recording of Nude and you can hear some lyrics which were quickly dropped or revised. Remarkably, this full-band arrangement is pretty much how the band would play it live the following year when Thom wasn’t performing it solo.
Debut Live Performance: Akasaka Blitz, Tokyo (January 23, 1998)
Download: Nude (Live in Tokyo)
This solo acoustic performance by Thom was the first live airing of Nude and was the version that most Radiohead fans had kicking around their hard drives and CDRs for years. Again the lyrics were different and features the following lines which might explain the title Nude.
“She stands stark naked and she beckons you to bed
Don’t go, you’ll only want to come back again.”
A gorgeous version of the song and, thankfully, a great recording.
5th Live Performance: Radio City Music Hall, New York (April 17, 1998)
Download: Nude (Live In New York)
The penultimate performance of the early version of Nude featuring the full band. The organ and glockenspiel feature heavily and one wonders how the band thought this version wasn’t good enough. Again, more changes to the lyrics. This time…
“She kisses you with tongues and pulls you to the bed
Don’t go, you’ll only want to come back again.”
Even in the early days this song was intimate, a word often thrown around when describing In Rainbows – but a word seldom associated with the band. (Watch a video of a performance of Nude in San Francisco earlier on the tour.)
This performance, right at the end of the OK Computer tour marked the last “proper” full-band performance of the song until its resurgence in 2006. In the meantime it became more of a song Thom would perform off the cuff, leading to some rather interesting performances. In 2000 it was performed once in Berlin as an intro to (Nice Dream) and in 2001 it was performed twice – once in Vancouver (full-band, VERY unrehearsed) and once in Toronto.
Then in 2002 Radiohead took requests at a show in Spain…
9th Live Performance: Palacio Congresos, Salamanca (August 7, 2002)
Download: Nude (Live in Salamanca)
The most legendary Radiohead show ever. Part way through the show Thom stopped the set and began taking requests from the audience…unbelievable…and I could have been there (LONG story). When someone requested Big Ideas the band bravely attempted to play the song they hadn’t properly rehearsed since, in all likelihood, 1998. The result? A slightly sloppy but still a very good version of Nude. I remember hearing this bootleg for the first time and thinking “Well that’s the last time they will ever play that one.”
11th Live Performance: Red Rocks, Morrison (August 26, 2003)
Download: Nude (Live at Red Rocks)
The second shambolic full-band performance of the song I was lucky enough to see. I remember Thom starting the song on a whim and the rest of the band staring in surprise. Thom then gestured to them and they all scrambled to try and find their place in the song. Not a great performance, but one I am a bit partial to.
13th Live Performance: The Point, Dublin (December 4, 2003)
Download: Nude (Live in Dublin)
A nice solo performance by Thom, complete with the crowd clapping along.
Thom would then perform the song acoustically once more in April 2005 at the Trade Justice demonstration, the first sign that the song might be in the works for what would become In Rainbows. A few months later in September 2005, to the absolute delight of Radiohead fans the world over, the song appeared on the band’s studio blackboard, a sign that they were in fact working on a recording. Then in February 2006 another post on Dead Air Space illuminated a few scraps of information regarding the recording of the song. Finally, after months in the studio, on May 6 the band played their first show of the 2006 tour…
14th Live Performance: KB Hallen, Copenhagen (May 6, 2006)
Download: Nude (Live in Copenhagen)
The first performance of the new version of Nude. This is pretty much the version that appears on In Rainbows complete with Colin’s dub-influenced bassline. Thom credits this bassline as reinvigorating the song and bringing it back from the dead. So perhaps it’s Colin we all need to thank for Nude.
Ten years in the making but we finally have a studio version…and it was worth the wait. Get it here.