Meaning of “Ill Wind” by Radiohead

“Ill Wind” is the title of a song by the English rock band Radiohead. The purpose of this post is to understand or get a sense of what Radiohead is saying in this song. And in order to do so, we deemed it necessary to first find out the meaning of the song’s keyword or rather key phrase “ill wind”. So what really is an ill wind?

As the name implies, an ill wind is generally something bad. According to the Macmillan English Dictionary, an ill wind is a bad or unpleasant occurrence that makes us feel that that other bad happenings would follow.

Verse 1

On the song’s first verse, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke starts the song by warning the listener to keep their distance. According to him that’s the only way they can be safe from harm. But what harm is Yorke talking about? He doesn’t mention it.

Having said this, he moves into the chorus singing about no ill wind blowing. He’s apparently telling the listener that if they listen to his advice and keep their distance, no ill wind would come their way. He had initially warned them to keep their distance in order to be safe.

Ill Wind Lyrics
Verse 2

In verse 2 (which contains only six words), Yorke talks about how important it is to never speak sudden words. That’s all he says. It’s not very clear what he means by that. However, upon saying that, he once again delves into the chorus. In the second chorus, all he says is that an ill wind will blow.

He’s apparently telling the listener that if they speak sudden words, there’ll be an ill wind. He had earlier warned them against speaking sudden words.

Verse 2 of Ill Wind
Verse 3

In the third verse, which comprises only eight words, he gives his final advice to the listener. He tells them to keep their cool and never give into emotion. Just after saying that, he moves into the final chorus of the song. Here, he once again talks about an ill wind blowing.

He’s obviously telling the listener that an ill wind would come their way and cause problems for them if they fail to keep their cool and not give into their emotion.

Verse 3 of Ill Wind

In conclusion, from a literal point of view, these darkish lyrics find Yorke eerily advising his listeners. He tells them three important things they can do to avoid the destructive force of an ill wind paying them a visit. These three things are as follows:

  • Keep your distance
  • Never say sudden words
  • Keep your cool and prevent yourself from giving into your emotions

NOTE: It’s important to mention that we have just taken these lyrics and explained them from a literal angle. It’s likely they might have deeper meanings. It’s highly likely.

Facts about “Ill Wind”

  • “Ill Wind” was written by Thom Yorke and his Radiohead colleagues (Ed O’Brien, Colin Greenwood, Jonny Greenwood and Philip Selway).
  • English record producer Nigel Godrich collaborated with the band to produce “Ill Wind”.
  • The song appears on the album A Moon Shaped Pool (which is the band’s ninth studio album).
  • “The North Wind” was the song’s original title. However, for some reason, Yorke and the others had it changed to the current title. According to Yorke, the creation of the song began in 2008.
  • The lyrics contain only 43 words.
  • “Ill Wind” has no relations whatsoever to a similar-titled song released in the mid-1930s.
  • On January 11, Radiohead made history when they released this song to multiple digital streaming services. This made it the first time the band had made a song of theirs available on streaming services.

What was the release date of “Ill Wind”?

It officially came out on May 8, 2016 as one of the tracks on the bonus disc of A Moon Shaped Pool.

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