Thom Yorke Admits Radiohead Overthought "True Love Waits": "It Became a Victim of Its Own Simplicity"

He acknowledges that the song was perfect in its acoustic form

Photo: Stephen McGill

BY Alex HudsonPublished Sep 21, 2023

"True Love Waits" has gone through a long, strange journey since its live debut in 1995, as Radiohead tried it out in numerous forms over the years before a piano-based version finally appeared as the closer on their 2016 album A Moon Shaped Pool. Frontman Thom Yorke has now acknowledged that the band overthought the song, which "became a victim of its own simplicity."

Speaking with Jason Thomas Gordon for the book The Singers Talk (which was excerpted by Rolling Stone), Yorke said that he wrote the song on acoustic guitar, but felt it was too simple to be left in that form.

"That was one of those songs where it happened as an acoustic guitar song, and it was like, well, that's too easy, we can't do that," he said. "Because it's just on acoustic guitar and a voice. I've done that. Poor thing, it became a victim of its own simplicity."

He continued, "One of my mistakes is dismissing things because they're simple. [Producer] Nigel [Godrich], more so than the others, would say to me, 'You're making a mistake because you want to see something in it that's not there so, stop fucking trying to change it.' Things have fallen by the wayside that shouldn't have for that reason, because I'd had some sort of belligerent agenda, which can smother a song and refuse to let it grow. 'True Love Waits' was a bit like that. It was one of those things where it was almost made to be at the end of a show. It wasn't even necessarily made to be recorded. It was made to say, 'OK, guys, goodnight. Thanks.'"

The band experimented with a full-band arrangement during their OK Computer sessions in the late '90s, and the song appeared in this form on the MiniDiscs [Hacked] outtakes compilation. There was an acoustic version on the 2001 concert album I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings, and an electronic version was included on the KID A MNESIA reissue in 2021.

From Yorke's comments, it's unclear if he regrets putting a more elaborately arranged version on A Moon Shaped Pool. It appeared on Exclaim!'s list of Radiohead's 20 best songs.

Producer Nigel Godrich called the recording from I Might Be Wrong a "shitty live version" in a 2012 interview with Rolling Stone. He added, "To Thom's credit, he needs to feel a song has validation, that it has a reason to exist as a recording. We could do 'True Love Waits' and make it sound like John Mayer. Nobody wants to do that."

Yorke's latest comments came in the same interview in which he discussed standing on his head and Neil Young's influence on his singing.

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