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Fake Plastic Trees

Fake Plastic Trees

by Radiohead

Setting

According to Thom Yorke, "Fake Plastic Trees" was inspired by the redevelopment of Canary Wharf in the East End of London. Hailing from Oxford, home of that famous and ancient university where greats like Oscar Wilde and Albert Einstein studied, the band has roots in one of the most exciting intellectual hotspots in the world. The band seems to be interested in scrutinizing the society in which they live and in writing songs about what they observe in the world around them.

England, like many European countries, is not as cohesive as you might think. In fact, it is broken up into many regions that each boast a specific dialect and have a strong local pride. London is even more stratified, and East London has long produced an almost tribal sense of identity. It is home of the working-class descendants of the nineteenth-century chimney sweeps, longshoremen, flower girls, and factory workers… and perhaps a few criminals, too. The East End has often been characterized in books as a place of dark and dangerous alleyways, opium dens, and other deviant behaviors that the proper Victorians looked down upon. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde sends his privileged gay male characters to the seedy dockyards where they are free to be themselves and get away from the lies they are forced to live during the day.

East London is also the home of the famous Cockney accent (think My Fair Lady). According to the website Cockney Online: "To be a true Londoner —a Cockney, you have to be born within hearing distance of the bells of St. Mary Le Bow, Cheapside, in the City of London. 'Cockney' or 'cock's egg' was originally a fourteenth-century term applied contemptuously by rural people to native Londoners who lived rather by their wits than their muscle. Today's natives of London, especially its East End use the term with pride—'Cockney Pride'."

Naturally, the working-class natives of the East End got pretty offended when London tried to "clean up" the place by building the flashy Canary Wharf development scheme (which looks a bit like the corporate downtown skyline of Dallas, Texas) right in the middle of their docks. Not to mention the fact that the huge skyscrapers block their reception of TV channels. They even sued the Canary Wharf LTD about this TV reception issue, but lost the case in the House of Lords.

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