"Lift" was recorded in the mid-to-late 90s, during the sessions that would produce much of the music later appearing on Radiohead
's third album OK Computer
. Feeling the song did not necessarily match the mood of the rest of the record, Radiohead left the track off OK Computer
, releasing it this year, 20 years after it was written and performed in venues across the U.S. while the band toured with Alanis Morissette.
And now Radiohead fans have a video to go with the song. The "Lift" video shows Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke stuck in a descending elevator for 18 floors, with each floor revealing a bizarre scene and strange new fellow elevator riders. The elevator doors slide open to reveal an upside-down floor, a floor that appears to be a line of urinals, a sideways floor where a woman has fallen asleep listening to records, and a floor that is being drawn in black marker (amongst others). When Yorke reaches the final floor, he approaches a doppelganger of himself before the camera pans out to reveal that the Yorke approaching the doppelganger is also a doppelganger, and the real Thom Yorke is still in the elevator.
The lyrics of the song were written over 20 years ago, but they reveal a little about Yorke, or who he thought he was at the time. "You've been stuck in a lift / We've been trying to reach you, Thom / This is the place / It won't hurt ever again." Yorke isn't alone in his fear of being stuck in elevators, but I think the lyrics of this song point more to a desire to reach a safe, familiar destination, a sentiment that's reflected in this video. What each floor on Yorke's elevator ride symbolize, I won't try to dissect. But it's also worth pointing out that this song is noticeably more melancholy that the version of it that Radiohead was performing 20 years ago.
In fact, it's possible that they cut the track for being too poppy. According to Radiohead fansite greenplastic.com
, Yorke said, about not releasing the song on previous records (and yes, those typos were originally there):
"we havent lost the song. we played it too much in a certain way that didnt work in my opinion. it didnt feel right. so we need to approach it in a different way but at the time of OK Computer it was impossible to get into rearrAngeimng it becaose everyone had fixed ideas on what to play and wed all just got into a habit we couldnt break. like staRING TOo LONG AT STRANGERS know what i mean?"
Apparently, Radiohead has now retooled the song more to their liking. And with the video's final shot, of Thom Yorke staring at the doppelganger Thom Yorkes, it's possible that this song actually became a song about staring at strangers--about confronting something you thought was familiar, but which looks very different from someone else's point of view.