Written the day Radiohead was forced to pull out of the Reading Festival in 1993 due to problems Thom was having with his vocal chords, this song comes off very bitter. But as it progresses, "My Iron Lung" seems to drive out Thom's angers about how the band's music was largely ignored - aside from "Creep." Thom has admitted in interviews that he is very proud of this song's lyrics; he felt he had perfectly captured the essence of what he was writing about.
"My Iron Lung" is notable for having been recorded live (the 1994 Astoria, London performance later released as a home video), with only the vocals later overdubbed. The song as it appears on the singles/EP is virtually identical to the version that appeared the next year on The Bends, with only some barely audible changes in mixing levels.
"My Iron Lung" was Radiohead's reaction to "Creep", their massive hit of 1993 which also became something of a millstone. Singer Thom Yorke described the iron lung as a metaphor for the way "Creep" had both sustained the band's life and constrained them, as evidenced in his caustic self-reflexive lyrics ("this is our new song / just like the last one / a total waste of time / my iron lung"). The music is perhaps consciously a self-parody of "Creep", and has also been frequently noted for its resemblance to the riff and loud-soft dynamics of "Heart-Shaped Box" by Nirvana. Comparison with that band was both commercially helpful and acutely painful to Radiohead in 1994, given Kurt Cobain's recent suicide and attempts by the UK rock press to portray Yorke as his successor; they refused to talk about Nirvana, with whom they shared many musical influences, in interviews.