10 Things You Didn't Know... - June 22, 2017

10 Things You Didn’t Know About… Radiohead’s OK Computer
by Tom
Tom
by Tom hmv London, Bio hmv.com Editor. Peanut butter, punk rock and pillows.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About… Radiohead’s OK Computer

All the talk before Radiohead unveiled their third album OK Computer was about whether they could top The Bends. Their label Parlophone were expecting another round of rousing indie anthems to capitalise on the all-conquering success of Britpop and handed the band a big recording budget. But the Oxford fivesome had no interest in doing either of those things.

Instead they delivered an album full of experimentation and boundless invention, tracks that varied from six-minute epics to short interludes, strings, glockenspiels and strange electronics were thrown together, all set to Thom Yorke’s lyrics, which were full of paranoia and panic. It was bold, it frightened label execs, but it proved very fruitful, selling over four and a half million copies of an album that remains one of the best ever to be produced by a British band.

Today, the same day the band headline Glastonbury for a third time, the album celebrates its 20th anniversary with a lavish re-release, complete with three unreleased tracks and eight B-sides, all newly remastered from the original analogue tapes. You can get full details of the reissue here.

To celebrate its re-release, we dug through the archives and brought together 10 things we reckon you probably didn’t know about OK Computer. Enjoy…

 

The band turned down a lot of big names producers…

After completing The Bends with The Stone Roses/Simple Minds producer John Leckie, the band decided that for their third effort they would self-produce, turning down offers from big-name producers, including Scott Litt, the man who’d been brought in to add a radio friendly sheen to Nirvana’s In Utero and had been at the controls for R.E.M’s iconic Automatic For The People.

In the end Nigel Godrich, who’d engineered the band’s earlier work, was brought in to help out and ended up co-producing with the band.

 

Most of the album was recorded in the house of a British acting legend…

After they were initially unhappy with Canned Applause studio near their homes in Oxfordshire, the band decamped to St Catherine's Court, a historic mansion near Bath owned by actress Jane Seymour, star of Live and Let Die, East Of Eden and much, much more.

 

The title is taken from Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy…

The title OK Computer is taken from the 1974 Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series, in which the character Zaphod Beeblebrox speaks the phrase "Okay, computer, I want full manual control now". The series was a favourite of the band’s as they listened to it throughout their tour in support of The Bends...

 

The band roadtested the album as they supported Alanis Morissette…

Radiohead were a few weeks into sessions for the album when, under pressure from their American record label Capitol, decided to put things on ice and head out on tour with the Canadian songstress. Morissette was riding very, very high on the success of Jagged Little Pill at the time and attracted a very young fanbase, a fanbase that Radiohead had a very hard time with...

 

The album had a couple of very odd working titles…

OK Computer had two different working titles, the first was Your Home May Be At Risk If You Do Not Keep Up Payments, the second was the more chilling Ones And Zeroes.

 

The LP’s opener was originally named something much longer…

When it was first written the LP’s opening salvo was named ‘Last Night An Airbag Saved My Life’. While the lyric stuck around, the title was understandably slimmed down to just ‘Airbag’...

 

The first edit of ‘Paranoid Android’ was a proper epic…

The final version of the band’s sprawling masterpiece clocked in at a hefty six minutes and 27 seconds, but the original recording was much, much longer. The first edit was over 14 minutes long and included a long organ interlude performed by Jonny Greenwood. The band tried this version out during their tour with Morissette. No wonder the crowds weren’t all that lively...

 

‘Karma Police’ started out as a band in-joke…

It ended up as a storming piano ballad, but the title ‘Karma Police’ began life as an in-joke between members of Radiohead, who would warn each other that the "karma police" would get them if they didn't behave.

 

‘No Surprises’ was done in one take…

That’s not to say that the band didn’t try to re-record the album’s dream-like final single again, but they ended up going back to the first time for the cut that made the album.

 

It won a Grammy, but lost out on a Brit and Mercury…

The album was nominated for two Grammys, Album of the Year and Best Alternative Music Album, it won for the latter. But in the race for album of the year at the BRIT Awards it lost out to The Verve’s Urban Hymns and in the battle for that year’s Mercury Music Prize, it was beaten by Roni Size’s New Forms.

 

Radiohead’s OK Computer is re-released today and you can find full details of the re-release here in hmv’s online store.

OK Computer: OKNOTOK 1997-2017
OK Computer: OKNOTOK 1997-2017 Radiohead

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