I am trying to 'emulate' the sound produced on John Williams' recording of this beautiful piece - having seen him play it on a video
( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEfFbuT3I6A )
it appears that in the furious first section he is utilizing rest strokes on the notes played with his thumb - is this an accurate observation, and if it is, should I try to position my hand so that I can play them with my thumbnail, for maximum projection? When practicing this technique using only the flesh it sounds dull and lifeless in comparison with the rich resonance of his bass strings.

This is a very difficult piece, and I would also be interested in learning about developing the technqiue needed to play those crazy triplets about a page into it...
I don't think they're rest strokes. That sounds too difficult to do when hitting the 4th and maybe 3rd string when the I and M fingers are alternating on the 2nd. I've always done it as free strokes.
If you let the video run on for a little bit longer, you can see that later during the intro section he does not use rest strokes for the P notes. I recommend not trying to do this, as you'll lose some of the speed necessary for the way that he plays the piece.

I too have always done it and seen it done as free strokes. You can get the requisite volume and tone without using rest strokes.

Can you be more specific about the "triplet" section that you are talking about? Do you mean the odd stretch around the 5th position, or the repeating open B section that begins right after it?
My God, it's full of stars!
I love this song so much. And assuming you can play it correctly it's such a huge crowd pleaser. I just grew out my nails on my picking hand too so it sounds even better. Anyway, listen to dreadnought on this, he's usually right about this sort of thing. If only he knew more about giraffes and number addiction...
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meh, I've listened to every radiohead album and honestly don't get what everyone loves about them.....

cause you're ****ing stupid