According to singer Thom Yorke, the song was recorded as the band had just been to see Jeff Buckley play a set at The Garage in London and when they got back into the studio, Yorke recorded the vocals in one take and broke down in tears at the end. The song's lyrics are about Canary Wharf in London and about the world of mass marketing and mass consumption. One source of frustration for the band at the time was their US record label, Capitol, who wanted a strong track for American radio to follow the success of their previous hit single, "Creep". Surprised that the slow paced "Fake Plastic Trees" was seen as a potential single to follow up "Creep" , Yorke ultimately realized the label had remixed the track without his approval: "Last night I was called by the American record company insisting, well almost insisting, that we used a Bob Clearmountain mix of it. I said 'No way'. All the ghost-like keyboards sounds and weird strings were completely gutted out of his mix, like he'd gone in with a razor blade and chopped it all up. It was horrible."