"To celebrate the creation of this timeless
album, I will send out random quips about OK Computer over the next several
"I suggest you set aside some time to reacquaint yourself with OK
Computer. It’s as good today as it was the day it was
Monday 6/25/07 (Volume 1) Today’s topic - Reaction to OK Computer Prior to the Release:
- When the album was first delivered to Capital Records, their first reaction to OK Computer was “commercial suicide.” “They made a prediction of how many copies they planned to sell before they heard the record. And then they heard it and cut the prediction in half,” Jonny Greenwood
Tuesday 6/26/07 (Volume II) Today’s topic - The OK Computer Recording Process & Vibe:
- The first third of OK Computer was recorded in early 1996 in a converted apple shed near Didcot, Oxford shire. In September, they began recording the rest of the album at St. Catherine's Court, a historic mansion near Bath, England owned by actress Jane Seymour (Bond girl in "Live and Let Die" and lead role in "Dr Quinn-Medicine Woman").
- The band thought the mansion was haunted. Thom Yorke said - "It was heaven and hell. Over the first two weeks, we basically recorded the whole album. The hell came after that. The house was... ...oppressive. It started making things difficult. It started doing things like turning the studio tape machines on and off, rewinding them." (Spin Magazine) "I swear there was a claustrophobic ghost in the house. There was fear everywhere, coming out of the walls and floors," said Ed Obrien. (The New York Times)
- The band made use of the various different rooms and atmospheres throughout the house. Isolation from the outside world encouraged time to record at a different pace, making working hours more flexible and spontaneous.
- When asked if sequencing the tracks was difficult, Thom Yorke said, "Difficult would be an understatement. I was going to sleep at 2am and getting up at 5 because I'd have a new sequence in my head. At one point or another, almost every track was thought of as a leadoff candidate. But in the end, Airbag
- About the Title: "We were in Japan prior to the recording of the album. On a promo trip in a record shop, this one kid shouted at the top of his voice 'OK COMPUTER!' really, really loud. Then he had 500 people chant it at once. It sounded amazing," Thom Yorke
- About the Sound: 'Bitches Brew' by Miles Davis was the starting point of how things OK Computer would eventually turn out. "Bitches Brew has got this incredibly dense and terrifying sound to it. That's the type of sound that was in my head when we went into the recording studio," said Thom Yorke. What got to Yorke about Bitches Brew? "The first time I heard it I thought it was the most nauseating chaos. I felt sick listening to it. Then gradually something became incredibly beautiful about it. It has that sound of a huge empty space, like a cathedral. Like building something and watching it fall apart. That's what we were trying to do with OK Computer."
- Radiohead have maintained that although the songs have common themes including speed, technology, modern life in the UK - any clear 'story' is unintentional and they do not deem OK Computer to be a concept album.
- However, the band maintained that the album is meant to be heard as a whole. Ed O'Brien said, "The context of each song relative to the others is really important. It's not a concept album but there is a continuity there."
- Q Magazine's #1 Album of All Time (2003) "For all of Radiohead's growing pains...their aim--to take British pop to a heavenly new level--is true..."
- Spin Magazine's #1 Album of the last 20 Years (2005): Spin's Chuck Klosterman: "OK Computer manages to sound how the future will feel. ... It's a mechanical album that always feels alive, even when its words are spoken by a robot."
- Pitchfork Media's #1 Album of the '90's (2003): "OK Computer is like tossing David Bowie, old U2 and lots of Pink Floyd into a blender and pushing the 'kill' button. This is an album of unadulterated genius."
- Time Magazine's #13 Album of All Time (2006): "OK Computer is a spooky, atmospheric, intense and paranoid rumination of modern life - the kind of thing that would be insufferable if it didn't float along on a procession of gorgeous melodies."
- New Music Express' #16 Album of All Time (2003): "OK Computer is the album that establishes Radiohead as one of the most inventive and rewarding guitar-rock bands of the '90s"
Friday 6/29/07 (Volume V) Today’s topic – JV's Final Thoughts:
- Radiohead isn't easy.
And they aren't for everybody.
To really understand Radiohead, one must build a personal relationship with each of their albums. Each requires the commitment of time. Time to read the jacket cover to cover. Time to listen to the albums through headphones. Time to read interviews of what was going on in Thom Yorke's head when we put such challenging lyrics together.
With the exception of perhaps their debut release Pablo Honey and maybe The Bends, Radiohead albums aren't very approachable. This is definitely true of their last four releases beginning with OK Computer and Kid A and Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief.
Not a best friend can be found among the bunch.
As I began to think of how I would wrap up this celebration of OK Computer, I was pretty dead set on raising some eyebrows by proclaiming that I'm not even sure OK Computer is their best album. I was ready to give rationale as to why The Bends, Kid A and maybe even Hail to the Thief might be better.
But then I allowed myself to get real close to OK Computer again. Last night, with headphones on ears and CD jacket in hands I listened to OK Computer in its entirety.
Oh my God.
Upon completing this most personal of listening (something I haven't done with this album in several years), I again see why OK Computer continues to be critic's darling even 10 years after its release.
But what I still can't figure out is how it became so popular with the masses. Relatively speaking anyway. It has sold over well over 2 million copies and sits on a pedestal among both rock critic's and fan's "best of's".
Guitarist Ed O'Brien put it best when describing how popular this album became, "There's a lesson to be learned from this album's success. It underlines the fact that radio and record companies underestimate what the general public are capable of listening to. This is not above people's heads. We're people and we connect with it. And other people connect with it too."
I honestly don't know how many of you truly give a rip about Radiohead or OK Computer. I'm sure you've rolled your eyes more than once as these emails came out. And that's okay.
All I ask you to do is this. If you own OK Computer and can get your hands on either the CD jacket or a lyric sheet... ...listen to it in it's entirety sometime soon. And if you do, please send me a note and let me know what your reaction to it is now - 10 years later.
(hey man slowdown. slow down. idiot slow down)
I agree with the final thought. I listened on and off all week but yesterday I listened to the complete album with no interruptions. What a great album to rediscover.