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The song premiered on December 4th 1995 in an acoustic version called 'No Surprises Please' with completely different lyrics:

he was sick of his clock stopping
wind it up, that girl stayed sleeping next to him

the watch stops, the batteries run down
he studies broken sentence
no alarms...

the watch stops, the batteries run down,
he studies broken sentence
no alarms and no surprises...

he was sick of his excuses
to not take off her dress when bleeding in the bathroom

he was sick of his clock stopping
wind it up
no alarms and no surprises
no alarms and no surprises
no alarms and no surprises please
This was the first song to be recorded for OK Computer, from the first take on the first day of recording in their Oxford studios, Canned Applause.

Thom still maintains that it is not about suicide. He was going for a 'Pet Sounds' vibe.
Thom's Tour Diary, August 3rd 1995, Oslo:

"I play everyone a new song in the dressing room (which is a toilet). It's called 'No Surprises, Please'. Colin goes nuts. Afterwards, I try not to get blind drunk but fail miserably. Go out dancing and locate my aggressive streak on encountering a couple of Nordic males who are flexing their impotence in tracksuits. Dance it out to the Beastie Boys' Root Down. Feel much better."
'NO SURPRISES'
In contrast, the simplest, most stadium-friendly song on the album. Built around the chimes from a jewellery box. Lovely.
Colin: "Scare the living daylights out of 'em, then soothe their brow: that's the Radiohead way."
Ed: "Strangely, it was the very first song we did for the album. Didn't exactly set the tone, did it? If it had been the first single it wouldn't have been a very true representation of the album. It's a bit like Louis Armstrong's 'Wonderful World.'"
Colin: "We'd like it to be a single at some point but we're not making any promises. We are the New Labour of Rock, after all."
Key Lyric: "A heart that's full up like a landfill..."
Thom: "What is fad today is rubbish tomorrow. I am an emotional dumping ground."
Colin dates the start of the record back to the summer of '95 when they supported REM on tour. He recalls playing 'Climbing Up The Walls' at a soundcheck at the Hershey Stadium. Peter Buck was checking their progress from the sound desk, and when they'd finished, he walked away, whistling the tune with his hands in his pockets. 'No Surprises'. 'Let Down' and a different version of 'Airbag' were coming together.

[...]

Jonny responds to compliments and funny stories by saying "Bless", like a groovy young vicar. He thinks it's hilarious that Duncan, his tattooed guitar tech has another job during the gigs now – bringing a little glockenspiel out for the 'No Surprises' song, which embarrasses the old road dog. Such are the demands that come with a job on the all-action 'Head experience.
Q: "The irony is the fact that you set out to make a straight-laced pop record."

Ed: "Yeah. We were saying, 'Let's do it really straight ahead, let's not fuck around and spend ages analysing the material'. And we ended up doing 16 versions of 'No Surprises' and then went back to the first one. The problem is, we get bored very easily."
Thom: "A lot of the scripts for 'No Surprises' were the same old thing like a lot of… I'd be walking down the street and cars were blowing up and everything's going off and I had this completely dead panic reaction and it's all like… it's all pretty much the same. And then we had a sort of script where I was gonna fly out of the toilet. I was gonna get into the toilet at an aeroplane. And I was gonna press the button to flush the toilet and it was gonna be the ejector seat. And we were halfway down that and then we suddenly thought 'no, hang on, great idea but totally wrong song'. And then Grant came up with this weirdest idea of me just basically drowning myself with the titles rolling up. It's kind of in reference to the '2001' bit, you know, with the helmet. When the lights are being reflected in the helmet. But Grant chose to frame it in such a way that the television was the frame, which I got really excited about. Because I like the idea of Maybe sort of walking into a bar or something and seeing my head just framed by the television. Just like a goldfish bowl. And then I drown. Well, almost drown. And I actually had to do that as well. It was horrible. It was terrifying. There was no way of cheating it. So I actually had to be in the water for a minute. There was no other way of doing it. So they built this helmet and filled it up with water with my head in it. And I had a pull-out thing I could do."
Ed: "We do try to be diverse. The guitar sound on 'No Surprises' was supposed to harken back to [the Beach Boys'] Pet Sounds, 'Let Down' was a nod to Phil Spector, 'Exit Music' had a [composer Ennio} Morricone atmosphere, 'Airbag' was an attempt to do something like DJ Shadow-but because, we haven't paid the dues, if you like, to play those types of music, we fail to get what we hope to achieve. But by going down that route, we find our own thing."
Ed: "The other problem was the lyrics. Whenever we'd done a record before, Thom's lyrics were evolving. He'd give you sheets and once you see the words to, say, 'No Surprises', you immediately think, 'Ah yes, we need a guitar for this that sounds like a child's musical box'. This time, there were no lyrics and therefore no reference points. Phil, Colin and I went through some major dilemmas at various stages. How could we contribute to this new music? We all wondered if it wasn't better to just walk away. It was a very scary thing at first."
Thom comments quasi-sarcastically that he wanted this work to sound "like the new double-glass: hope-giving, clean and safe."
Stanley Donwood's description of the artwork he and Thom had created in 1996 or 1997 for the cover of the 'No Surprises' single (the print is titled 'Such a Pretty House'):

"The picture shows a pretty house. And a nice car. But it is horribly sad. I don't think there is anyone home."

The video for 'No Surprises' was directed by Grant Gee, who used footage from the making of the clip on november 28th 1997 in his tour documentary Meeting People Is Easy:



No Surprises was released as the third single from OK Computer on january 12th 1998 in the UK. Parlophone's MD claimed it could "easily be number one". This announcement of the single's details comes from the december 13th 1997 issue of Melody Maker:

(click image for full size)