Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees” Lyrics Meaning

It has been suggested that Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees” is based on a personal ordeal that Thom Yorke went through, which is very much believable when you take into consideration the intricacy of the lyrics. 

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Radiohead's Fake Plastic Trees at

This also sounds very much like the musings of a young man trying to make sense out of the less-than-ideal world around him. For instance, the title/motif was inspired by a part of London called Canary Wharf which, due to unexpected economic hardship, has been inundated with artificial plants.

But that is not to imply that this song is actually about “fake plastic trees”. In fact you may notice that the title is redundant, as of course something that’s “plastic” would also be “fake” or unnatural. And what the vocalist is actually applying that characteristic to, in a way, is the modern world itself. That is to say, as implied by the first verse, that us participants have grown accustomed to having manmade products as being part and parcel of our lives.

Focus of “Fake Plastic Trees”

The above said, this song isn’t about the environment or anything like that per se either. Instead, the focus is on what appears to be a love triangle between a woman, her man and her wanna man, with the latter being the vocalist. Most simply put, said woman and her boyfriend are in a troubled relationship. And Thom uses the established motif of artificiality to get that idea across.

It would also appear that the boyfriend was once a plastic surgeon. And the vocalist poetically enlightening listeners to the fact rather brings home the idea that in the long run, nature always triumphs over artificiality. Apparently the reason he introduces that notion into the narrative is to point to the love between this guy and girl as not being real and as such is gradually running its course, i.e. both parties later shown as being discontent therein.

And that is where, finally in the third verse, the vocalist himself enters the picture. Again, he comes off as someone who is smitten by the female character. But even he refers to his feelings for her as “fake plastic love”.

My fake plastic love


So all lyrics considered, it wouldn’t be out of the way to postulate that what this song is intended to speak to is the concept of modern love being based on falsehoods. In other words, we are surrounded by so much artificiality that even our emotions become skewed, and we cannot discern real love until we actually engage with someone we’re infatuated with. For instance, the vocalist expresses a desire to hook up with this woman, even though he is able to simultaneously acknowledge that his love for her is not genuine, or something like that.

And yes, that may sound like a really deep reading into this piece, but keep in mind that the lyrics themselves are a bit out there. Yorke was in his mid-to-late 20s when this song was dropped, still being a bit young and in the midst of developing as an artist. 

So it wouldn’t be out of the way to conclude that even though this piece is premised on his criticisms of the fakeness of the world around him in a literal sense, along the way it turns into more of a philosophical outing and later romantic.

Radiohead, "Fake Plastic Trees" Lyrics

Facts about “Fake Plastic Trees”

Radiohead is a well-known rock band from England whose first album, “Pablo Honey”, came out in 1993. “Fake Plastic Trees” is a song that can be found on their second LP, “The Bends”. Parlophone Records released this track as the third single from that album on 13 March 1995.

Radiohead is a group which since its inception has consisted of the following musicians:

  • Colin Greenwood
  • Jonny Greenwood
  • Ed O’Brien
  • Philip Selway
  • Thom Yorke

Those same individuals are credited as the writers of “Fake Plastic Trees”, with vocalist Yorke being the one who conceptualized it. And the producer of the track, which reportedly wasn’t easy to put together, is John Leckie.

This song proved to be a mild hit, breaking the top 20 of the UK Singles Chart and Billboard’s Alternative Airplay list, in addition to achieving platinum certification in Canada.

An acoustic version of “Fake Plastic Trees” made an appearance on the 1995 film Clueless.

Fake Plastic Trees

6 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    An interesting read, thank you! I will definitely be coming back to this.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Yes I thought it was about that too.

  3. Cg says:

    Was the third real Pearson or object or habit …

  4. Anonymous says:

    Wow their first album came out in 1933. They’re more old skool than i thought!😄

  5. Anonymous says:

    There is a typo, it says Pablo Honey came out in 1933. Which of course is impossible

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