Fifteen years ago (yesterday, but we’ll get to that) Radiohead released their seminal record OK Computer, doing for the electro rock combination what Miles Davis did for Jazz fusion in Bitches Brew. Much like Bitches Brew, OK Computer now has an influence that is at once difficult to gauge and impossible to ignore. I decided to hold off on these goodies until UK Father’s Day as a gift for all the fans of Radiohead now with child (my Dad has probably never heard a Radiohead song in his life). The following songs are all rare gems taken from Radiohead’s OK Computer days:
I’m going to provide a brief little explanation for each of these live performances outlining why exactly they’re so special.
Man, the reputation “Paranoid Android” has now. It was recently voted as the best song of the last fifteen years, but I bet quite a few of those voters don’t realise the song began life as a joke. It was a song that was pieced together after the band had been drinking late one night and decided to make a pseudo-”Bohemian Rhapsody” tribute, where each individual section of the song was sort of clumsily pasted next to the last. The first time the band played it, they couldn’t help snickering.
This version is notable mainly for its unique outro; and I must say, it’s pretty damned terrific. The song almost feels shades of triumphant towards the end. “Paranoid Android” was originally meant to finish with ten solid minutes of organ – I don’t know if that means the song itself was originally longer, or that the “outro” was meant to take up the majority of the song.
Palo Alto! The original working title for the song was initially “OK Computer”, and while the name didn’t work for the song (and the song didn’t work for the album, and was featured as a b-side) the band were taken enough by it to christen the album with it. I’m not sure about “only recording”, but can tell you it’s exceptionally rare for the band to play this one.
Polyethylene, I think, is a fantastic song. It’s one of the tracks where you can really see the transitional stages between The Bends and OK Computer. In that way, it really makes sense that it was left off the album, but I still can’t help seeing the video above (one of the very few live recordings of the song) and feel like it’s an important part of modern musical history.
I bet you never thought you’d hear Yorke singing Oasis. This cynical, sarcastic cover of “Wonderwall” is just brilliant. The chords are recognisable, the lyrics the same (when he remembers them) – there are even some added flares lacking in the original – but the tone is so bitter, so twisted, that all the little platitudes of the song are brought to light. Plus, as is stated in the video, it’s always nice to mock the Gallaghers.
I thought it would be fitting to end on an upbeat note, so here’s the band “performing” “Fitter, Happier”. You know, the song from the album not on your iPod. Still, the song itself is kind of OK Computer distilled to a grim few minutes (tonally, anyway). The album very much feels like a resignment to modern times, with “Fitter, Happier” exemplifying why that resignment takes place. It’s a Warhol-ian song that repeats ideas until they lose meaning. It’s about the blind worship of material things and the apathetic advertising that writes that decalogue.
HAPPY FATHERS DAY!
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