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Back To Save the Universe
In the second part of Select’s exhaustive track-by-track guide to the Radiohead songbook, our heroes give up the search for ‘Creep II’ and concentrate on inventing the future of rock instead...
STORY: Steve Lowe




THE BENDS
‘The Bends’ album track, 13/3/95
Douglas Coupland's Generation X is one of the few books of recent times that can be described as epochal. The book's promised sense of protest clearly shares much with Radiohead.
"I read Generation X and thought: I've got this sussed,” Thom has said. Conversely, on this song he argues against any generational labelling. The satiric lines, "I wish it was the '60s/I wish I could be happy/I wish I wish, I wish something would happen” (recalling the ironic Jim Morrison reference of 'Anyone Can Play Guitar') led Thom to explain in interviews that “Levi's jeans wish it was the '60s, I certainly fucking don't.”
The accompanying cacophony conforms to what Colin Greenwood called the album's “hit everything loudly whilst waggling the tongue in and out” factor.
The introductory marching-band noise, recalls producer John Leckie, was recorded from a hotel room window in America as a children's marching band passed by. The chorus twists the standard "baby's got…” lyrical convention. Where, say, Elton John would sing “blue eyes", Thom substitutes “the bends". Considering the hardships they'd endured since surfacing (utterly ignored before 'Creep' took off, flogged around the globe afterwards), it's easy to see why this became the title for the group's second album.

BONES
‘The Bends’ album track
Agonising about the album's progress throughout its mixing, the band eventually returned to 'Pablo Honey' producers Sean Slade and Paul Kolderie, a decision that led to minor transatlantic rivalry between them and Leckie. 'Bones' was the first track the US duo completed. "I remember putting it on and going, 'Well, I'll just mix this like the Pixies,” Kolderie says. When the band first heard the mix, they reputedly jumped around the room shouting, “Yes! Finally!" John Leckie eventually admitted he might not have managed to get the tracks so “blasting”.

(NICE DREAM)
‘The Bends’ album track
Another song written during the 'Pablo Honey' sessions. '(Nice Dream)' - perhaps the most pretentious use of brackets in rock history - is a swelling, ruminative waltz with a cryptic lyric that's less compellingly mysterious than just obscure. Thom claimed it alludes to Kurt Vonnegut's novel Cat's Cradle, in which “this crystal has been found which turns all water completely solid and someone decides to tip it into the sea".
In keeping with this theme, Leckie suggested using a tape of Arctic sounds that he'd bought at an aquarium in Vancouver as ambient backing. “What you can hear are whales under the ice, but it sounds like someone playing strange noises on a Moog," he says.
The slightly misjudged mid-section breakdown gives Jonny the opportunity to stretch his heavy metal talons.

FAKE PLASTIC TREES
Single 27/5/95, also on ‘The Bends’
Leckie persuaded the group to see Jeff Buckley at London's Garage (1 September 1994) where the singer's vocals inspired Thom - as Buckley's father Tim had earlier. “He revised that you could sing like he did, in falsetto, without sounding drippy," the producer recalls.
But when the band returned to The Manor studio in Oxfordshire, a wracked atmosphere prevailed. “That was one of the worst days for me," Thom recalled. "I spent the first five or six hours at the studio just throwing a wobbly. I shouted at everyone and then John Leckie sent everybody else away. He sat me down and I did a guide vocal on 'Fake Plastic Trees'."
Colin: “Thom played it in three takes, then burst into tears afterwards. And that's what we used for the record."
Even at this late hour, the pressure wasn't off: Caroline Lavelle and Johnny Mathias were booked to play strings on the track the next day. "I said to Jonny, 'We'd better have something for them to play',” Leckie says. “So he just sat down there and then and scored it."
Avoiding hackneyed 'Eleanor Rigby'-style arrangements, Jonny wrote the melody lines in unison in the style of both Century American composer Samuel Barber. Originally threaded q throughout the song, the string parts were ultimately only used (along with Jonny's Hammond organ part) in the song's climax.
Featuring an early version of the “town where you can't smell a thing", the words were inspired by the lonely sham relationships Thom observed during a week in Los Angeles. The sneering teen abhorrence of 'fakery' is turned, through repetition, into a toweringly mature plea for true feeling and meaning.

BULLETPROOF… I WISH I WAS
‘The Bends’ album track
“It's probably my favourite," Thom said at the time, "but we thought it was a bit slow and timid at first." Set on subverting the standard rock band formula, Radiohead decided that this study in dream-state vulnerability would benefit from an ambient guitar backdrop.
Leckie: “Ed and Jonny were put into isolated studios. I said 'Go!' at the start and told them when to stop, with them hearing nothing, just making sounds that were unrelated to the music. They're in another place with it totally.”
While admitting that such an experiment was “completely indulgently”, the band loved the effect - like the eternally melancholic sound of trains distantly passing.

BLACK STAR
‘The Bends’ album track
Now one of his favourite songs, Thom proffered 'Black Star' near the end of the sessions as a lyric fragment. A smudged lament for a love that's been frayed by life, it continues the experiment of 'Killer Cars' (B-side of 'High And Dry') sustaining the melody over one note above shifting chords.
“My favourite thing about this song," Thom said, “is Jonny's guitar when it comes in on the chorus. Afterwards, everyone was saying, 'We've got to do the guitar again because it sounds such a mess.’ Me and Jonny were going, 'No, no…”'

SULK
‘The Bends’ album track
Thom was 18 when Michael Ryan shot 16 people dead before killing himself in Hungerford Berkshire, on 19 August 1987. Written shortly afterwards, 'Sulk' imagines the tormented psyche that could explode with such sudden fury - much the same as 'Climbing Up The Walls'. Written ten years later for 'OK Computer'.
'Sulk' became the band's least-liked moment on the album. Certainly one of the few moments to paint 'The Bends' as a transitional album, it gives Thom another chance to stretch his vocal chords, but little else. Traces of multi-tracked tambourines can be detected, evidence of the song's earlier status as a “big production number".

JUST
Single 7/8/95, also on ‘The Bends’
Mid-session, Thom went off and returned to find "the most exciting thing I've ever heard us come up with on tape". He turned it into his ultimate unwanted-guest song (see also 'How Do You?', 'Yes I Am'). It's about being 'suckered' into friendship with an untraceable figure of hate.
If 'Fake Plastic Trees' was a vocal epiphany for Thom, 'Just' showcases Jonny's guitar talents. The initial vein-bulging, ascending riff recalls (unconsciously, assures Jonny) 'Shot By Both Sides' by '80s art-punks Magazine, coincidentally also produced by Leckie. The guitar eventually flies off into uncharted territory and at around three minutes ascends to piercing heights until, as Thom put it, “it doesn't sound like a guitar at all”. It finally finishes by returning to earth for a chunky blues-rock finale. The subtitled bloke-lying-on-pavement video turned a corner for the band in enigmatically complementing the single.

STREET SPIRIT (FADE OUT)
Single 22/1/96, also on ‘The Bends’
Every great band has a totemic song clung to by hardcore fans as the very essence of their greatness, and this claustrophobic track has fulfilled that role for Radiohead obsessives. With an austere, almost medieval melody and instrumentation that intricately conjures up a haunted mood, it was simultaneously a distillation of their muse and like nothing else they'd ever recorded.
It's based around Ed's repeated arpeggios with bonny providing chiming accompaniment. “He's a real craftsman,” claims Leckie. "He'll spend all day working on his tone. Even if it's a very small part, he'll sit for ages working on it."
If 'The Bends' veers between traditional and groundbreaking, it ends with its oddest moment.
When released as a single it made Number Five which, considering its stream-of-consciousness lyrics featuring supernatural houses, dead birds and an incipient sense of psychic disintegration, was one extraordinary victory for angst rock.

BISHOP’S ROBES
B-Side of ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’
Thom has claimed this song isn't about his old hated headmaster at Abingdon. The line “bastard headmaster” really does suggest otherwise, though. Indeed, with its image of “children taught to tear each other to bits on playing fields”, it feels like a wholesale indictment of the public school system he was forced to endure.
Of its unprecedentedly speedy creation with Nigel Godrich, Ed says: “I think the best bit of recording we ever did was in 1995 when we did ‘Lucky’, ‘Talk Show Host’ and ‘Bishop’s Robes’ in three days.”

LUCKY
Single 22/1/96, also on ‘The Bends’
The 'Help!' compilation album was initiated by the charity War Child to raise money for the children of war-torn Bosnia. The hook was that the bands involved would start and finish recording a song on Monday 4 September which would then be rush-released on an album the following Saturday. Devoid of the pomposity of early charity endeavours, it captured a time when British music - from Oasis to Portishead - seemed to be on an unstoppable upward trajectory.
The song Radiohead chose was the smouldering, slo-mo epic 'Lucky'. Recorded in five hours, this track revealed a band with a near-perfect command of dynamics, its stately pace only heightening the intensity of the soaring chorus. The intro guitar effect (which the rest of the song was then written around) was achieved using delay with Ed hitting the strings above the nut. The band were ecstatic about the result, having taken the hard option and recorded a brand new song.
"There's a lot of strength in just omitting a lot of things,” Thom reckoned of the stark lyric. “'Lucky' was pages and pages of notes. It was all bollocks, trying to be really political. And in the end it wasn't. It was much better to say, “The head of state has called for my by name/But I don't have time for him."
And that was it."
Ravaged but assuredly full of hope, 'Lucky' was immediately claimed as the lead track for an accompanying single. When Radio One decided not to playlist the track, leading to it stalling at a dismal Number 51, the band were stunned. Thom declared it his worst moment of 1995. He also says he cried when he played the tape at home after the session. Fronting a band this good, it's easy to imagine him, at this point, investing autobiographical meaning into the line, “I'm on a roll this time.”

TALK SHOW HOST
B-Side of ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’
Thanks to the boost granted it by the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack, this live favourite is the band's most feted B-side. Mordant, menacing trip hop, it features a psycho-pathically vengeful Thom burning with a desire to harm, waiting for his prey (in what's surely his funniest line) with "a gun and a pack of sandwiches", (probably with salad cream). With a stealthy three-note guitar line wonderfully complementing this filmic scenario, 'Talk Show Host' is a wholly convincing brush with digitized soundscapery.

MOLASSES
B-Side of ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’
More a rickety riff, a lurching Tom Waits beat and a few random phrases (“genocide”, “shake hands” and “jet-powered caravans”) than a song as such, 'Molasses' is notable for a double-tracked Thom harmonizing with himself and sounding like an Everly Brothers record that's been warped in the sun. Quite what the Riverdance-style interlude at 1:05 is doing there is hard to gauge.

INDIA RUBBER
B-Side of ‘Fake Plastic Trees’
It happens to everyone sooner or later, and now it was Radiohead's turn. By 1995, they were 'really getting into dance music'. This being Radiohead, it was the weed-encrusted terrorscapes of trip hop rather than, say, the E-fuelled rush of happy hardcore that took their particular fancy. The raw, reverberating drum-sound here recalls early DJ Shadow singles like 'What Does Your Soul Look Like?' - marking the beginnings of the mutual appreciation society between Radiohead and the Mo’Wax crew which would lead to Thom guesting on the UNKLE project.

HOW CAN YOU BE SURE?
B-Side of ‘Fake Plastic Trees’
Not generally credited with being overly concerned about relationships, Thom here turns out a perceptive lyric expressing amazement at how a partner can feel happily secure about the relationship's future when the subject is frequently drunk, miserable and a general pain to be around. Unusual in featuring female backing vocals - courtesy of Dianne Swann - it's weakened by the verse merging monotonously into the chorus, a common Radiohead B-side flaw.

POLYETHYLENE (PARTS 1 AND 2)
B-Side of ‘Paranoid Android’
A curio, this, Part 1, a glowing acoustic ballad, breaks off mid-flow to become, after a brief count in, a hard rock bruiser close in spirit to Led Zeppelin. In line with the difficult-to-recycle packaging plastic of the title, the lyric adopts a scattergun attack on antiseptic modern living. Phrases like “plastic bag” and “there is no significant health risk” abound throughout. A rare occasion when Radiohead lose their customary sense of balance, Part 2 falls into a heaviosity that (contrasted to, say, 'The Bends') is unwarranted by the song itself. A potential album track correctly excluded.

PEARLY*
B-Side of ‘Paranoid Android’
'Pearly*' sees the band in grittily vital form. The lyric posits images of clean-cut conformity – “pearly teeth”, “whitewashed faces”, “hard-rock cafes” - against the concluding falsetto line “Daddy hurts me”. No explanation for the asterisk in the title has ever been given.

A REMINDER
B-Side of ‘Paranoid Android’
Dylan Thomas' poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night tackled the fear of growing passionless in old age, a theme Thom returned to on this song written on “one of those days off you have on a tour where, literally, all you can do is sit in your hotel room cos there's nothing". The opening echoing chatter - presumably the booking hall of a French train station - signals the kind of nondescript public zone Radiohead were by now claiming as their own. This circling, exploratory track, featuring an unusual sound picture of brittle feedback and placid keyboards, is one of their finest B-sides.

PARANOID ANDROID
Single 26/5/97, also on ‘OK Computer’ 16/6/97
Rarely has a group owned up to so many reference points within a single song. Jonny reckons they were "trying to do a combination of DJ Shadow and The Beatles", while Ed claims that “one of the references was 'Bohemian Rhapsody' but the other was the Pixies". Jonny also adds: “We'd been listening to Ennio Morricone and Can and lots of stuff where they're debasing the recording process. We wanted to try that."
All of which does make some perverse sense in defining where this revelatory six- and-a-half minute opus is coming from.
If preceding singles 'Street Spirit' and 'Lucky' had painted the band as slightly worthy purveyors of graceful melancholy, then this frankly rude slice of anti-social insolence provided gaudy counterbalance. Indeed, it could be seen as an extended take on the brazen declaration "I will not control myself" on 'Vegetable' from 'Pablo Honey'.
Originally written in four separate units, the track's initial segment features a web of multi- tracked acoustic guitars, a computerised voice intoning “I may be paranoid but no android” and the deeply un-rock words “unborn chicken voices”. A single high guitar note ushers in the jittery, rhythmically complex next section that takes us to a nightspot filled with coke-fuelled 'in crowd' casualties (caught in the line “kicking squealing Gucci little piggy”), climaxing when Jonny's tormented guitar appears to burst in on itself. The droning choral mid-section then offers a bitterly ironic plea for redemptive intervention from above before the wrenching metallic riff returns, appearing to claim proceedings for Him Downstairs.
The lyric contains as much outsider's indignation as anything off 'Pablo Honey', but this lyric pans out to become an apocalyptic lament for Western civilization. Thom: “America is at the point now where the Roman Empire was, just before it collapsed. Everywhere you go, the place is just about to go like that."
The title, meanwhile, derives from Marvin The Paranoid Android, a character in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, who reached Number 53 in 1981 with a spin-off single called 'Marvin'.

MELATONIN
B-Side of ‘Paranoid Android’
'Melatonin' pitches a primitive synch sound and loping drum pattern against lyrics in which a parent reassures a son of his safety. As if not odd enough, it ends declaring “Death to all who stand in your way” revealing Thom pushing irony to unsettling levels.

AIRBAG
‘OK Computer’ album track
The intro to 'Airbag' is a peerless instrumental collage that successfully “sounds like a car accident”, says Thom. Throughout its dense, digital mesh, melodies cut across each other (particularly the flanged guitar introduced at 1:32) to create a buzzing picture of technological breakdown.
“That's a classic example,” reckons Jonny, “of Colin and Phil saying, 'Let's make it sound like DJ Shadow' but unfortunately – or fortunately – it doesn't. It's that thing of lumbering around in the dark, but still being excited by what we do.”
Like 'Lucky', 'Airbag' echoes Peter Weir's cult film Fearless, featuring Jeff Bridges as a plane-crash survivor who believes he has become immortal. “Every time you have an accident,” Thom said, “instead of just sighing and carrying on, you should pull over, get out of the car and run down the street screaming ‘I'm BACK! I'm ALIVE!’”
An ultimately affirmative, essentially romantic impulse towards transcendence – jubilantly revealed in the very first verse's: “I am born again... back to save the universe” – recurs throughout the album. Hardly what you'd call miserablism, really.

SUBTERRANEAN HOMESICK ALIEN
‘OK Computer’ album track
The craze for aliens in late-'90s popular culture has got rather out of hand of late but this marvellous elegy for the human race is undoubtedly one of its finest by-products. Probably the only one with an erudite reference to Bob Dylan's 'Subterranean Homesick Blues', too.
Returning to both 'Pop Is Dead"s “he left his message for us” cover-art and a school essay he wrote on what aliens would think if they visited earth, this is Thom's clearest and best lyric, a vision of Radioheadworld where stifled individuals brim with fearful sorrows and guilty secrets while trapped in an anaesthetic suburban hell. Milton Keynes, basically.
Musically, the Hammond organ intentionally mimics the one on Miles Davis' cavernous 'Bitches Brew' album, further evidence that Radiohead were embracing practically everything in their quest to cast rock anew. When asked how the forthcoming album was going to sound, Colin let slip that it resembled “stoned Radiohead”. He later regretted the remark, but this aural fantasia's shooting star guitars and succulent use of space does make good on that description.

EXIT MUSIC (FOR A FILM)
‘OK Computer’ album track
Romeo And Juliet has long affected Thom. “I saw the Zeffirelli version when I was 13,” he recalled, “and I cried my eyes out because I couldn't understand why, the morning after they shagged, they didn't just run away.”
Both included in and inspired by Baz Luhrmann's 1997 version, Thom originally tried to incorporate lines from Shakespeare's original text, but quickly gave up on that in favour of his own contorted blues phrasing. Thom's original demo did take some improving on, however. “Presented with a song like 'Exit Music',” Jonny said, “which Thom just sits down and plays to you, it's impossible to know what to add to it without making it worse.”
The musical model was initially Johnny Cash, in particular the big acoustic guitar and sonorous vocals of his 'Live At Fulsom Prison' album. The band's eventual intrusion does, though, lead to an absurdly furious crescendo that suggests a visit from the Grim Reaper.
Colin: “We tried to do a Portishead thing at the end, but it's all really stilted and mechanical - and it's brilliant!” Before the album's release, Thom and Jonny performed the song at Dazed and Confused magazine's 10th anniversary bash. Thom: “It was quite good, actually, because I got to sing 'We hope that you choke' at all those people.”

LET DOWN
‘OK Computer’ album track
Stunned by how earlier intimate lyrics saw him labelled as the 'next in line' after Kurt and Richey, Thom was now seeking to turn his words from inside to out, adopting the position of the sad, empty witness to a world of pitiless progress. The Beatles' 'A Day In The Life' provided inspiration, and there's a definite “oh boy” quality to this post-industrial pastoral about, as Jonny explains, “that feeling that you get when you're in transit but you're not in control of it - you just go past thousands of places and thousands of people and you're completely removed from it.”
Ed has referred to the album as “troubled Phil Spector, to be played in shopping malls” and this exquisitely layered track bears this out most. It was almost left off.

ELECTIONEERING
‘OK Computer’ album track
Reading left-wing historian Eric Hobsbawm's Age Of Extremes and Will Hutton's anti-Tory tract The State We're In inspired Thom to write this comment on politics in the age when voters are treated as customers in an extension of the service industry.
“What can I say about the IMF, or politicians?” he wondered. “Or people selling arms to African countries, employing slave labour or whatever? I just wrote down 'cattle prods and the IMF’ and people who know, know. I can't express it any clearer than that.”
With a wiry, rancorous guitar-figure that recalls Elvis Costello's 'Tokyo Storm Warning' (from the 'Blood And Chocolate' album, much-beloved of Thom), the song's internal violence was born from remembering the 1990 Poll Tax riots, in particular “'the moment when the horses broke through the barriers and everyone started smashing windows”.

FITTER HAPPIER
‘OK Computer’ album track
The dark heart of the masterpiece or the most skippable track in the Radiohead canon. One potential sequence placed the track at the album's beginning but, Thom understates, '”there was an idea it might put people off'”.
A list poem that conducts penetrating surgery on pseudo-meaningful corporations lifestyles, it shares with Douglas Coupland's Girlfriend In A Coma a repugnance for prevailing yuppified social values (although its “A pig in a cage on antibiotics” conclusion is culled from Jonathan Coe's classic satirical novel, What A Carve Up).
“I had about three months where I couldn't write anything,” Thom said, “but I constantly had lists. Then I realised it was the only way I was going to say what I needed to say.”
An embarrassing spoken word diatribe was avoided by feeding the words into a Mac, so producing the “liberating” neutral Stephen Hawking-esque computerised voice tone. Ed claims he'd “like to see the lyrics printed as a full page advert in one of those dreadful magazines like GQ or FHM, cos some people might believe all that stuff”.

CLIMBING UP THE WALLS
‘OK Computer’ album track
“Was it an accident,” ponders Thom, “that of the ten largest mass murderers in American history, eight have occurred since 1980, typically acts of middle-aged white men in their 30s or 40s, after a prolonged period of being lonely, frustrated and full of rage, and often precipitated by a catastrophe in their lives such as losing their jobs or divorce?”
Bearing the imprint of Tricky's horrorcore, this murkily compressed track hinges on a visciously treated baseline. Colin has been concerned that the climax – Thom seemingly surrounded by a swarm of 16 dissonant squealing violins – is overblown and, while clearly an impressive achievement, it does resemble a clinical exercise in nightmarish soundscaping. Thom's closing histrionic screams also verge on schlock territory.

THE TOURIST
‘OK Computer’ album track
“I'm still amazed that everyone else in the band let it on the LP. It was a bit of a late runner,” claims Jonny of his drowsy composition. “We were packing up and leaving when we decided to do it.”
Initially inspired by watching tourists rushing around a beautiful square in France, the song took on the perspective of “this old bloke on telly, saying he couldn't work out why the world had got so fast. I just had an image of him standing on a street corner, watching the traffic hurl by.”
Its spacious, leisured pace saw them shaking off their “paranoia about making something happen every three seconds”. The listlessly spiralling guitars do, this time, genuinely recall the continual critical comparison to 'Dark Side Of The Moon'-era Pink Floyd. The track also features one of Thom's favourite vocals. “I don't remember doing it,” he claims. “It was left on the shelf for months. When I listened to it again it had obviously been, 'Go out and sing a rough vocal'. There's no emotional involvement. I'm just, 'Yeah, yeah, sing the song and walk off'.”
It's a last minute, almost casual inclusion with a guide vocal, then, that closes Radiohead's third album, which was soon to be acknowledged as a masterpiece.

KARMA POLICE
Single 25/8/97, also on ‘OK Computer’
In a Select questionnaire, he answered around the time Radio One failed to playlist 'Lucky', Thom declared they were “waiting for the karma police to come and sort it out”. Ed suggested that this band in-phrase could form the basis of a song and eventually it filtered into a lyric about what Thom calls “a song for someone who has to work for a large company, a song against bosses, fuck middle management! Ha ha ha!”
In an era where the workplace is more likely to be a call centre than a factory floor, it transcends what Douglas Coupland might call 'business park anguish' in the coda which, as well as the album's communal singalong pinnacle, provides the brilliant line, “For a minute there I lost myself”. Intimating what exactly? Something dangerous like mental breakdown? Or something interesting and elevating like spiritual transcendence? Or something that encompasses both? It's skillfully open-ended.
The circling piano motif recalls The Beatles' 'Sexy Sadie', transcending the world-weary cynicism of its inspiration through truly beautiful music. “At the end,” co-producer Nigel Godrich says, “there's Ed playing his guitar and I'm feeding it back into a delay and then I pitch it down so it goes eeeoooowwww. The very last noise of 'Karma Police' is my turning this thing off.”

LULL
B-Side of ‘Karma Police’
Thom has tried to kick his frequent, often unreasonable attacks of temper, and this track apparently sees him expressing guilt after snapping. The opening arpeggio (which recalls The Primitives' 'Crash') and xylophone initially recalls 'No Surprises' before breaking into a cascading full-band chorus. Too moderate to successfully match the turbulence of its subject matter.

MEETING IN THE AISLE
B-Side of ‘Karma Police’
The first instrumental to be recorded by the group, this track recalls the cold-blooded ambience of 'A Reminder' with string samples swelling against a Kraftwerk-like drum machine and a plucked guitar. A pleasingly opiated soundtrack to lives passed in airport lounges, hotel lobbies and shopping malls, it suggests that, wherever the group are heading, it probably isn't wise to look forward to much stadium-friendly riffage.

NO SURPRISES
Single 12/1/98, also on ‘OK Computer’
A spot of light relief. Only, er, not. This carbon monoxide-enhanced goodbye to the “waste and debris” of life (accompanied by a video featuring Thom's face gradually being submerged in water) was the first track recorded for the album. Sixteen versions were recorded before the group eventually returned to the spartan grace of this initial take. “We wanted it to sound like 'What A Wonderful World' and Marvin Gaye. There's no hint of suicide in this. It's the sound of newly-fitted double-glazing – all hopeful, clean and secure.”
The Beach Boys' 'Wouldn't It Be Nice' and The Velvet Underground's ‘Sunday Morning' are also touchstones in this piece that sees Ed's naive guitar line (intended to sound like a toy) neatly doubled by Jonny on the glockenspiel.
Suicidal exhaustion has rarely been so blissful.

HOW I MADE MY MILLIONS
B-Side of ‘No Surprises’
A skeletal piano-and-vocal track recorded by Thom at home on his four-track. Ed claimed the song “blew us away”. Taking the A-side's air of deflation to new extremes, this track is as acutely introspective as anything they've recorded. Charges of down-hearted indulgence usually ignore the redemptive, cathartic aspects of Thom's songs. This, however, is simply inconsolable. The sense of intrusion into his private domain is bolstered by the sound of Thom's girlfriend Rachel washing up in the background.

PALO ALTO
B-Side of ‘No Surprises’
While performing in Palo Alto, California, Radiohead took great relish in exploring the palaces of information technology in this 'city of the future'. The chummy chorus – “I'm OK/How are you?! Thanks for asking” – serves as a kind of aural accompaniment to the 'OK Computer' inlaid logo of corporate types shaking hands. Thom: “Someone's being sold something they don't really want, and someone's being friendly because they're trying to sell something.”
Rare for a third-single B-side, there's a proper pop chorus with a brilliantly McCartney-esque baseline and snarling sheet-metal chords. Compulsively experimental, even this simplest of songs is drowned in a welter of interference and mixed textural messages.