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'Paranoid Android' was pieced together from three different song fragments during rehearsals and sessions for OK Computer in early 1996. The band didn't know what else to do with them, and took inspiration for this patchwork approach from John Lennon's 'Happiness Is A Warm Gun' (the band has often cited The Beatles White Album as an inspiration on their work). The band also mentioned the Pixies and 'Bohemian Rhapsody' by Queen as reference points.
An early sketch by Thom and Jonny was released in 2017 on the cassette that was part of the OKNOTOK 20th anniversary release of OK Computer:
The earliest known live recording comes from the Torhout Festival on july 6th 1996. This version features early lyrics and didn't include the final guitar section yet, instead it had Jonny on an organ improvising over a riff for minutes while the rest of the band played along.
During the August 1996 tour in support of Alanis Morissette the lyrics were changed, but the long organ outro still remained. This video was filmed on august 14th 1996 at Great Woods in Mansfield:
This performance comes from august 19th 1996 in East Rutherford:
The end section of the august 27th 1996 performance in Pittsburgh was released on the OKNOTOK cassette:
A track called 'Paranoid Android Loud Room in St Catherine's' was included on the OKNOTOK cassette:
Also included were a track called 'Nigel A.M.S. paranoid guitar sample', which was actually used in 'Fitter Happier' and the isolated computer voice saying "I may be paranoid but not an android":
This page appeared in radiohead.com during the OK Computer period under the title 'waving or drowning'. Thom gives some background on where the "Gucci little piggy" bit came from:



paranoid android. in a bar in hollywood* the centre of the western universe, standing at the bar (social drinking) after doing the talk show bit. do you want to know this? this is what we aspire to is it? it is dark, there is a woman opposite me o is as sociably anorexic as her poodle, she looks desolate in her make up and lost eyes, next to her her husband boyfriend is persuading a younger fleshed half his age stewardess to come back to the hills to their mansion to sample his wine. she looks t him like he's a character in a hammer house horror. one of our friends spills a glass of wine over a vacuum packed gucci outfit complete with matching white hand bag. the witch goes crazy, we think it is fuunny. until we see the evil in her eyes. m friend is asked to leave. the gucci creature is the closest thing i have seen to the devil. the woman is possessed. i cannot sleep that night asking what we've got our selves into. voices talking like fax machines, hissing and spitting like demons, this is the master race. and now im part of it. anyway you didnt want to know that.

motion picture the pulsing of a life support system . that's as far as we've got.

lull there is nothing more dull. than talking talkin about yourself. what i meant to say. im sorry that i lost control. distracted and irrelevant. the stress and the tension. coming through the keyhole when. im in lull.

transport motorways and tramlines starting and then stopping taking off and landing the emptiest of feelings disapppointed peoople clinging onto bottles and when it comes its so so disappointing.

True love waits are you a virgin? every night we are haunted it paces up and down outside my room, it talks to me in its sleep. its in the tape going round and round. it stops and starts the tape machine. goes into record when it feels like it. just let it happen. just dont leave. dont leave. it waits patiently. mum left her 8 year old locked in for a week with lollipops and crisps. she had to work or forgot or something. stanley says. you, like everyone else need to feel important.

Another page, titled 'stuck in a frozen lake', appeared on radiohead.com towards the end of recording OK Computer.
The relevant section was not highlighted in red letters in the original page:
an airbag saved my life* in an interstella burst i am back to save the universe computer drums bass wrong lift* is hard work you been stuck in a lift we been trying to reach you thom the belly of the whale (thanks Rei xxxx) paranoid android* get busy with the shakers while im fast asleep could you stop the noise im trying ta get some rest this the place it wont hurt ever again karma police* girl with hitler hairdo everybodys friend life in a glasshouse phew for a minute there i lost myself i lost myself sit down your safe now polyethelene*will never break down swirly self announcements. stuck in a frozen lake. the penultimate place in dante's hell. last flowers till the hospital*is a sign discovered in oxford -my unhealthy obsession with these institutions. analysts may get the connection. ambulances scream past my house at all hours of the day and night like the confessionals of Larkin's "Ambulan s." let down*in the midst of monster tour the momentum getting drunk to talk bombarded by dangerously high levels of radiation from xray machines. one day, one day... climbing up the walls*both managers and record company are nervous about such a nasty sound coming out of the speakers. this is a good sign. dogwander* bring on another take better than another cake. nude* it is a mans world. and this one is very confused and will have sex with anything woman who comes within a mile radius. but feels bad about it. so doesnt. exit song (for a film)* cannot be listened to more than once in a row. which made recording it easy. or not. but what film? big boots* it was a long time ago and i cant remember. a whole orchestra watching the film and playing along. real life is dull. i am i the white lotus flying off the quay with barbara bach.
(information incomplete)
....>>>>i like the idea of you listening to our recordings with your head resting gently in emptiness. or before going out. or when you've come back. i dont like the scientists breaking down its molecular structure and teaching it in O level chemistry i ont want to have expain it but it worries me stupid. there is a lot of crying goes into making things.<<<<.... the masters tell us that there is an aspect of our minds that is its fundamental basis, a state called "the ground of the ordinary mind." It functions like a storehouse, in which the imprints of past actions caused by our negative emotions are all store like seeds. when the right conditions arise, they germinate and manifest as circumstances and situations in our lives. if we have a habit of thinking in a particular pattern, positive or negative, then these tendencies will be triggered and provoked very easily and recurr and go on recurring. With constant repetition our inclinations and habits become steadily more entr ched and continue, increasing and gathering power even when we sleep. This is how they come to determine our life, our death our rebirth.
At the beginning of Meeting People Is Easy one can hear something that sounds like it could be an excerpt from a soundboard recording of one of the august 1996 live performances of the song. It's not certain, though, what exactly we have here. It might as well be a studio outtake, though that seems unlikely, since it's a tour documentary. A soundcheck perhaps:
Thom: "It really started out as three seperate songs and we didn't know what to do with them. Then we thought of 'Happiness [Is a Warm Gun]' - which was obviously three different bits that John Lennon put together - and said, 'Why don't we try that?'"
Apparently, when it was first played to one Radio 1 producer, he had to go and have a bit of a lie down afterwards. Which hasn't stopped the station plugging it at, every opportunity over the last few weeks and even making special trailers that go "In 93, we brought you 'Creep', in 94, 'My Iron Lung'..." etc (highly amusing, considering Radio 1's reluctance to playlist the band in the past). But even so, it's hard to imagine the band playing 'Paranoid Android' to their A&R man and instantly having him whoop, 'Now, that's the single!' "That's precisely what he did do, actually", smirks Colin. "I think the record company knew we'd want that one,so they were trying to call our bluff, as it were. But it does feel like a victory to have Radio 1 hammering merry shit out of it, cos it's hardly the radio-friendly, breakthrough, buzz bin unit shifter they can have been expecting."
'PARANOID ANDROID'
Hyper-complex, vaguely prog-rock multi-mood epic, ranging from acoustic angst to white noise, yet perversely chosen to be the first single from OK Computer. Perhaps because all those clearly defined segments make it a Bohemian Rhapsody for the Nineties. Apparently.
Ed: "Well, when we wrote it, one of the references was Bohemian Rhapsody But the other was the Pixies."
Jonny: "It's not actually complex enough to be Bohemain Rhapsody - there's only really two different bits there. Plus it's way too tense."
Ed: "It's not a Bohemain Rhapsody for the Nineties - it's just a handy reference point. It's like Creep was meant to sound like Scott Walker... it just didn't come out that way. But Paranoid Android is the song we play to people when they want to know what the album is like, cos it should make them think, "What the Fuck's going to happen on the rest of the album?"
Colin: "Plus it's so long, we have time to make them a cup of coffee while they listen to it."
Key Lyric: "When I am King you will be first against the wall/With your opinions which are of no consequence at all."
Ed: "It's not about the press, if that's what you're thinking. Thom wouldn't be that specific."
Thom: "Everybody has an opinion. people make professions out of it. Most of it is white noise. It is not personal, OK? 'Opinions are like arseholes, everybody's got one.' What liberates Paranoid Android is a sense of humour - Marvin the paranoid android. The blackest things can be said with jokes - re, 'The Fast Show': it's funny."
AS THE afternoon wears on and the booze kicks in, Colin starts reminiscing about the band's days at school together, and somewhere down that path remembers that himself and Thom once took part in a school dramatisation of the TS Eliot poem, The Wasteland, and that his mate was "really into all of that". You find this interesting because the poem's punchline is "the horror, the horror". 'Paranoid Android' tails off with "the vomit... the vomit".
Both pieces are stridently modem, like nothing that's been before, and are told via a series of fractured viewpoints, under great duress. Both call out for God's burning rain to come down and wash away the anguish and suffering that's so visible all around. Both The Wasteland and 'Paranoid Android' are the result of laborious editing; splicing together a series of very different sections.
But of course you might discard that idea and run with the line about the, "kicking, squealing Gucci little piggy" and relate it to Charles Manson and the Tate murders, "piggy" being one of the cult's buzz words. The line also recalls the ritualised schoolboy sacrifice in The Lord Of The Flies.

[...]

Colin: "With 'Paranoid Android', what happened was that we recorded the first bit and we were really into it. Each of the other bits had to be as good as what had been before. It was like the record in miniature – really exciting, but it just raised the stakes each time and piled the pressure on."

[...]

Meanwhile Alanis Morissette audiences were getting a ten-minute version of 'Paranoid Android' during last summer's tour, as the band tested out a wiggy organ outro.
"Luckily," says Colin, "those fans were all in their teens, so with the trauma of adolescence and stuff, they'll forget about it. It was the Ronnie Corbett moment in the set. Time to go to the toilet."

[...]

He [Jonny] loves the video for 'Paranoid Android', using the animator Magnus Carlsson and the Robin character.
Unfortunately, the TV stations aren't quite so accepting...
"It's been censored by MTV," he laughs. "They've taken out all the nipples. And yet they leave in the stuff where a man's sawing through his own limbs, which is peculiar. Whereas if we'd had a beachful of babes in bikinis, grinding away that would have been fine."
Jonny Greenwood: First single, a sprawling epic that contains everything bar the kitchen sink. 'When I am king, you will be first against the wall' sneers Yorke over the songs schizoid mood changes.
In the same regard, much has been made of 'Paranoid Android', its recurring sections and the Orwellian tinge to the cyclical rise and fall of "the Roman Empire" Thom claims to portray in this song.

Thom says, "We had really good fun doing this song, so the video should make you laugh. I mean, it should be sick, too. The whole thing about the lyrics is that they're very twisted, but, because of the way we played it, it permitted me to write something I wouldn't normally write: humor."
Ed: "We did most of the working out of the song in rehearsal. We spent a lot of time rehearsing. We basically had three and a half songs and we wanted to put the into one song. We did a condensed six and a half minute version it and… you know, it's basically really three parts.

Part one is basically verse-chorus-verse-chorus. Part two is a kind of a… it's 'Gucci little piggies'. And part three is the 'rain down' section."
Thom: "When the sleeve is being designed we're just grabbing at the phrases we're hearing at the time. But the most important bit of the artwork is the 'Against demons' hex underneath the CD."

Q: "What does it mean?"

Thom: "It's a sign people used to put on their front doors. You do often see the demons in people's eyes. They're like fucking devils. Believe that or not."

Q: "That kind of thing can look a bit barmy in black and white. Can you give an example of what you mean?"

Thom: "The 'kicking squealing gucci little piggy' in 'Paranoid Android' was inhuman. There was a look in this woman's eyes that I'd never seen before anywhere. Whether that was down to me being exhausted and hallucinating... no, I know what I saw in her face. I couldn't sleep that night because of it. I was in a bar. Someone spilt a drink over her and she turned into this fiend. I mean, everyone was out of their minds on coke and I'm sure it was that. But it seems to be happening to me a lot. Seeing a look in someone's eye and, fucking hell, what was that? Getting me right (reaching his hands up behind him, evidently feeling his spine)... like someone walking on your grave."
Q: "Aside from all the reviews, it was very striking the way Radio 1 took 'Paranoid Android' to their hearts. That it was being played 12 times a day while people worked in typing pools..."

Thom: "I think it was a dare [laughs]. The amount of typing mistakes that must have been going on... I never imagined it."
Thom: "When we did 'Paranoid Android' [the video], I couldn't find anything that… anybody's work that I thought in anyway came close to the mood of the song. Except for this… while we were finishing off the album, I had like a collection of Magnus Carlson's Robin cartoons, right? And we just watched them all the time and it was just totally where our heads were at. In the end I jut sort of asked him to do a Robin cartoon, because that was it. And the weird thing was the way he interpreted it was… it was so uncanny, because he didn't want the words to the song, right? He doesn't understand these things very well. And he listened to it all day on repeat on his CD player. And then writing down images that he was seeing in his head and putting them together and faxed it back to us. And it was just… weird. It was like the whole story of the actual song anyway."
As on The Bends, much of OK Computer's music was contributed by members of the band besides Yorke, especially Jonny Greenwood, who wrote the slow 'rain down' section of 'Paranoid Android' and all the music to the album-closing 'The Tourist'.
Q: "So your presence can be inhibiting?"

Thom: "Yes, certainly. I can be even corrosive. Nigel remembers with horror recording 'Paranoid Android'… During a day or two, I pulled a fit, I was unbearable. I had no positive energy, I couldn't bear it anymore… I dropped the whole thing, because if I would have stayed, I would have really lost my marbles, I would have burnt the place down (laughs)… Nigel then reunited everybody, behind my back, and they did three quarters of the song. We were already troubled over ten different versions but there, without me on their backs, they found a solution. I can be a real poison in this machine. When my energy leaves me, I become a burden."
The single, released may 26th 1997 in the UK, marked Radiohead's return after over two years of no new material. It shook up the entire industry, a six-and-a-half minute epic schizophrenically switching between different styles and tunes. According to Thom it's about the fall of the Roman Empire (he adapted this interpretation for interviews after someone suggested it to him). The band refused to make a radio edit of it, yet it still achieved a lot of airplay, and it peaked at number 3 in the UK charts. It was premiered on the Evening Session on april 30th 1997. The video was first aired on may 20th on MTV Europe and on may 25th in the USA.
The following image shows a t-shirt sold by w.a.s.t.e., and the description of the item, apprently written by Stanley Donwood, read like this:

"Ah. Gucci never said anything about this. Nor did the National Pig Association, or indeed the Association of Chief Police Officers. Just a t-shirt, just a t-shirt."

Part of the performance of 'Paranoid Android' from october 18th 1997 in Paris can be seen in Meeting People Is Easy:

A soundcheck and another performance of this song, both from november 5th 1997 in Stockholm, are also in the movie:

Ed briefly remembered recording 'Paranoid Android' in one of the entires of his online diary:
thursday, october 7th 1999

(click to enlarge)


‘Optimistic’ is possibly my favourite ‘band’ song [that] is played together live in a room. Sounds fucking great. We do about 9 versions, in most there are some amazing moments. The penultimate take would seem to be the one. As it's Thom’s birthday today recording takes a backseat in the evening – but we do manage to have a small reunion of the conga’s on percussion at about midnight - they do add their customary sound to ‘Optimistic’ - their last gig was on ‘Paranoid Android’ at St. Catherine’s. Brilliant day.
The only solo performance by Thom to date comes from the Bridgeschool Benefit Concert on october 27th 2002:
  Hail to the Thief tour (2nd half) sept. 2003 october 2003 november 2003 dec. 2003 april/may 2004
Airbag [11] 23 25 26 02 04 06 10 13 17 29 14
Paranoid Android [35] 23 25 26 28 01 02 04 06 09 10 15 10 11 13 15 17 19 22 23 24 26 27 29 30 01 03 04 14 15 17 18 23 24 26 01
Karma Police [21] 25 28 01 04 09 15 11 15 17 19 22 23 24 26 30 03 04 14 17 23 01
No Surprises [16] 23 26 28 01 06 10 13 23 27 30 01 03 14 24 26 01
Lucky [22] 25 28 04 10 10 11 13 15 17 19 22 24 26 27 30 01 03 14 17 24 26 01
  In Rainbows tour (2nd half) august 2008 october 2008 march 2009 august 2009
Airbag [15] 01 09 15 22 27 02 05 08 15 20 24 26 21 23 29
Paranoid Android [25] 01 04 06 08 13 19 22 24 27 28 01 04 05 08 15 16 20 22 24 26 27 21 25 29 30
Karma Police [16] 03 06 13 19 22 25 28 02 16 20 22 24 26 21 25 30
No Surprises [12] 01 09 12 15 20 25 28 02 15 20 24 27
Lucky [17] 01 04 06 08 12 20 24 27 28 01 04 15 22 23 25 29 30
Live performance #348 during the making of The King of Limbs:
348. january 24th 2010 The Music Box Theatre at The Fonda Los Angeles, CA USA Link
Live performances #349 to #365 during the touring for The King of Limbs:
  The King of Limbs tour (1st half) 09/'11 02/'12 march 2012 april 2012 05/'12 june 2012
Airbag [10] 27 01 03 09 15 09 17 29 03 05
Paranoid Android [17] 03 05 06 11 15 12 14 17 18 21 01 03 06 08 11 13 15
Karma Police [13] 27 29 05 09 13 11 14 18 21 31 08 10 11
Lucky [8] 09 11 13 15 09 14 29 13
Live performances #366 to #389 during the touring for The King of Limbs:
  The King of Limbs tour (2nd half) july 2012 september 2012 october 2012 november 2012
Airbag [12] 11 23 26 29 06 09 11 18 06 09 13 16
Paranoid Android [24] 10 13 15 27 29 20 22 25 26 29 30 06 09 11 12 14 15 18 06 09 12 13 16 17
Karma Police [9] 13 25 27 29 23 08 14 18 16
Lucky [8] 10 15 25 25 11 14 15 12
  2016 A Moon Shaped Pool tour may 2016 06/2016 july 2016 august 2016 sept./oct. 2016
Airbag [6] 24 27 08 20 21 30
Paranoid Android [18] 20 23 26 28 01 03 17 02 08 26 29 31 06 08 11 30 04 07
Karma Police [14] 21 24 27 03 17 02 08 27 29 31 06 20 11 30
No Surprises [13] 23 27 01 03 17 02 26 29 04 21 11 04 07
Lucky [4] 21 28 02 08