top of page

Radiohead - Ok Computer

Is there anything left to say about "OK Computer"? "Radiohead's" third album released on May 21, 1997.

It is a masterpiece, the best album of the 90s and there were even some who went far as to select it as the best album of all time (ask Q Magazine readers).

It does not seem to us that we can share anything new after everything that has been written and said about this album, but at least we will try to put things for you.

So the first seeds for this album were planted somewhere in 1995 during the band's tour to promote their second and excellent album "The Bends".

Brian Eno invited the band to donate a song to the album "The Help" for children in need in war zones. The album featured many famous musicians, from "Oasis", to "Blur", "Suede", "Portishead", "Massive Attack", "Manic Street Preachers", and many more goodies. "Radiohead" contributed to the album the no less chilling song "Lucky", which was influenced by the Bosnian war and was recorded together with Nigel Goodrich - the recording technician who worked with them on "The Bends", and who would later become the band's sixth member.

Thom York goes on to say that the song "Lucky" is the right mark that will determine the musical direction of the entire album.

"Radiohead" began work on the album, in mid-1996, as soon as the tour that ended. In light of the album's success, "Radiohead" received the full support of the record company, which gave them a full liberty and even a huge budget to purchase recording equipment.

In light of the good results of working on the song "Lucky", the band members decided to reunite with Nigel Goodrich and even consulted with him about what recording equipment should be purchased.

The first sessions for the album were held in the band's studio near the town of Didcot in Oxfordshire, but the members encountered difficulties that probably stemmed from "birth cords" and their decision to produce the album themselves. Despite this, the band managed to record four songs in this session: "Electioneering", "No Surprises", "Subterranean Homesick Alien" and "The Tourist".

At the request of the record company, the band took a break from the recordings, to hold 13 shows in the US as a warm-up for Alanis Morissette. During this short tour, the band received an offer from director Baz Luhrmann to write a song for his next film "Romeo + Juliet". When York saw the scene where the actress Claire Danes attaches a Colt 45 pistol to her head, he immediately knew in which direction the song was going. This song will help shape the musical direction of the emerging album, which in this case was influenced by Portishead trip-pop, especially the distortion-laden bass guitar in the final part of the song.

(Photo: Gie Knaeps)

But all of this served only as a prelude to the real thing, the second and main session of the recordings, which will leave a significant imprint on the overall vibe of the album, on its sound, and will probably also make it grow far beyond the total number of songs on it.

In September 1996, "Radiohead" resumed recording of the album, this time at "St Catherine's Mansion" near Bath, owned by actress Jane Seymour. The isolation inside a huge and empty mansion allowed the band to work this time at a different pace, with flexible working hours and more spontaneity, but it mostly caused a change in the general atmosphere that permeated well into the songs as well.

And the results were nothing short of amazing. The album opens with "Airbag" galloping on a Ferrari 458 on the highway, but even the four airbags in the cab can not protect you from the guitar distortion that mercilessly saws the car chassis one million dollar worth. Tom York has managed to instill in this song his fears of road accidents and airbags in a perfect way and this fear permeates the listener well through the pores of hair he has nailed from the very first note.

We have not yet had time to relax from the fear of cars, and we are already thrown into the future with "Paranoid Android" - Marvin from the book "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". A paranoid masterpiece on the edge of progressive rock, which takes you on a musical roller coaster in sharp transitions between acoustic guitars and squeaky distortions, up, down, and back for goodness sake, while completely ignoring gravity. If all this has not caused you paranoia yet, watch the clip that Radiohead created for the song, just do yourself a favor and at the same time make sure to get a prescription for suitable pills. We said "progressive rock" so Johnny Greenwood recently admitted that the progressive rock band Genesis influenced the songwriting.

There are quite a few more immortal moments on this album. "Let Down" was recorded at the same mansion at three in the morning, spontaneously when the band suddenly got "inspired", "No Surprises" was recorded in one take and whose electric guitar is influenced by the Beach Boys' song "Wouldn't It Be Nice", the track "Subterranean Homesick Alien" That the keyboards and guitar in it correspond with Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew" and the harmonious move in the chorus of "Karma Police" influenced by "the Beatles'" "Sexy Sadie" song, are just examples from this perfect and inspiring piece.

Years have passed since its release and it can already be said that the album is without a doubt the pinnacle of "Radiohead's" work, which it has not been able to recreate to this day. Admittedly, the band has managed to produce good albums over the years, despite its deliberate and courageous choice to get off the highway to the fringes, and experiment in new musical directions. None of these albums, however, have managed to maintain a high and uniform level throughout or reach the perfection of "Ok Computer".

Listen to the album at: Spotify, Apple Music

Follow us on Facebook or Subscribe to our website

"Face/Off" - Israel's Rock Blog & Podcast


Enjoying the Blog? Subscribe to get it right to your mail!

Thank you !!

bottom of page