“The Bends” by Radiohead

For starters, it has been noted that the title of this song (“The Bends”) refers to a particular blood disease that sea divers in particular are known to suffer from when they ascend to the surface of the water too quickly. 

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Radiohead's The Bends at Lyrics.org.

But as utilized in the lyrics, “the bends” don’t have anything to do with said illness per se. Well, let’s say that the vocalist is referring to it as a disease, in a manner of speaking, though one which causes friends to turn their backs on you.

And you can tell there’s a lot going on in this piece besides what has been noted above. Indeed this song has been described as “one of the most complex tracks” on the album it is derived from. 

Furthermore, the song is also meant to speak to the state of Britpop at the time, with the primary addressee being journalists who have an affinity for the 1960s, or something like that. 

Also to note, Thom Yorke has pointed out that this song is “completely jokey”, with the lyrics not being based on anything that Radiohead ever experienced. So we will take all that to mean that this track is not meant to be taken seriously.

But that said, Yorke also clarified that what “The Bends” is actually about, most simply put, getting to know who your friends really are.  And out of all of the lyrical diversity that is being put forth, such a topic does seem to be the most premating throughout.

Final Thoughts

So we may be dealing with a song artistically inspired by a scuba-diving disease which touches upon a couple of, shall we say unrelated subjects. But what it all boils down to is something like the vocalist feeling as if he has no real friends in life. This is a sensation that would include, as indicated by the chorus, being convinced his girlfriend isn’t genuine in that rather either.

Lyrics to Radiohead's "The Bends"

Release of “The Bends”

“The Bends” is the title track to Radiohead’s sophomore album, a project which Parlophone Records released on 13 March 1995. The following year, this song was also issued as the LP’s sixth and last single.


Original Radiohead members wrote this song, and it has been noted that this composition dates back to the band’s earlier days, i.e. having been written even prior to 1992’s “Creep“, which was their debut single. 

The full list of credited writers of “The Bends” are:

  • Thom York
  • Colin Greenwood
  • Johnny Greenwood
  • Ed O’Brien
  • Philip Selway

More Interesting Stuff

Actually the working title of this track was “The Benz”. And as such “The Bends” is on record as having first been performed live during May of 1992, in Scotland, at a venue known as King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut.

This song wasn’t really a notable hit, in that it only appeared on the Irish Singles Chart and even in that regard didn’t perform exceptionally well. But it is still considered to be a Radiohead classic by the likes of NME and Uncut and accordingly has been featured on the Radiohead: The Best Of (2008) compilation album.

This track was produced by industry vet John Leckie.

Cover Versions

American heavy metal band, Anthrax, released their cover version in 1998. It was later included as a bonus track in their 2003 reissue of 1998 “Volume 8: The Threat Is Real”.

Irish singer, Rosie Carney, covered the entire album of “The Bends” in 2020.

Norwegian band, The Pricks, performed their cover of the track at a tribute concert, The Flower Power, in 2020, before the lockdown in Norway.

The Bends

Radioheaders on “The Bends”

Many fans have praised “The Bends” to be one of the greatest tracks of the 90s, with one comically commenting that it’s sometimes the best music is made by the weirdest people. In this case, it would be Thom specifically.

Another Radioheader also shared how the lyrics of this song are utterly relatable to the chaotic condition the world is currently in, and he has immense respect and love for the band behind this song.

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