Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Romeo + Juliet turned a Radiohead B-side into a “greatest hit”

Illustration for article titled Romeo + Juliet turned a Radiohead B-side into a “greatest hit”

In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, we’re featuring our favorite songs that only appeared on soundtracks.

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Radiohead, “Talk Show Host” (1996)

The spare, slinky, scary “Talk Show Host” originally appeared as a mere B-side to Radiohead’s “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”—back when British labels were releasing two short CDs for every single in a bald-faced attempt to game the charts. But the song got a second life when it was remixed by superstar producer Nellee Hooper for the soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. The song was composed during a particularly fertile period for the band; it can easily stand shoulder to shoulder with anything on The Bends, and it even portends some of the musical leap the band would make next, with OK Computer. “Talk Show Host” has a trip-hop feel already; it’s a slow-burner that Hooper made even scarier by pulling out some of the instrumentation and adding some dub-inspired echo to the background. Thom Yorke’s lyrics sound as paranoid as he’d soon get: There aren’t many, but they paint the picture of a lonely man gearing up for a fight. (“You want me? / Fucking well come and find me / I’ll be waiting / with a gun and a pack of sandwiches.”)

The song ended up making a big enough splash that it’s now part of the band’s Greatest Hits collection, a B-side that made its way front and center. And that’s not the only way Luhrmann ended up affecting Radiohead’s trajectory: The classic “Exit Music (For A Film)” was actually written for Romeo + Juliet. The Radiohead composition plays over the end credits but isn’t on the soundtrack, and Yorke told Mojo that song was the starting point for the band’s lauded next creative period.