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RADIOHEAD : The album, song by song, of the year

In a time when pop and rock have become one big instant-pudding, Radiohead have made a 'bavarois' to lick of your fingers. Thom Yorke, singer of Radiohead, doesn't know what to be affraid of most : the sudden mega-succes or the praising words in the press.

Thom: There are 2 difficult words that are always coming back in the reviews : 'escapistic' and 'epic'. I don't think we are escapistic. You only take our album on a holiday if you're going to Beirut ! (smiles) And epic ? I don't know. An epic album is something for background music. If you put on "OK Computer" in a trendy bar, all those trendy posers will choke in their own goatee. Er, I hope so !

Colin: We wanted an opener like 'planet telex' on 'the bends' : A song that is completely different than all other songs on the album. 'Airbag' swings because Phil dances to drum & bass each week-end.
Phil: DJ Shadow has inspired me. How that man pastes rhythms to each other. The end result sounds a lot different than we intended by the way.
Colin: That's not the first time : We wanted 'creep' to sound like Scott Walker. That too failed.
Ed: The song was first called 'last night an airbag saved my life' as in 'last night a dj saved my life'.
Thom: Researchers are claiming that airbags sometimes open spontaneously. Think about that when you're driving around in your Mercedes.
Colin: Airbags are dangerous things. They're lethal.
Ed: What would you know ? You don't even have a licence.

Ed: We wanted to make a crossing of Queen's 'bohemian rhapsody' and The Pixies. No, it didn't become a 'Bohemian Rhapsody' of the nineties; it's not complex enough for that and it contains too much tension. It's the song that we played to our friends when they, a long time ago, wanted to know what the new album was going to sound like. You could see them thinking : "Fuck, if that's the new single, what will all the rest be like ?"
Colin: the song is 6 minutes long. That came in handy. While they were listening, we had time to make them a cup of tea.
Thom: 'paranoid android' is full of images of people that I saw in a pub the night before we went to the studio. Most lyrics on 'OK Computer' are actually polaroids inside my head.
Ed: In 1994 we taped everything on video, in 1995 we bought Powerbooks. Our next step on the techno-superhighway is 'the polaroid'. If we go on like this, we'll be painting up our tourbus with charcoal next year.
Thom: The video of 'paranoid' has been censored by MTV. They took all nipples out of the cartoon, but they had no problem with the scene in which a man cuts off his own arms and legs.
Jonny: In the video, an angel takes the man to heaven to play ping-pong. Recently someone asked me : "What does your paradise look like ?" All I could think of was a big empty room and a couple of radiohead songs that are half finished. It's at times like that that I enjoy being in the group the most : when we're in the studio and take place in front of our amplifiers for days. You can only hear the drums and the voice in that stage. And when finally someone dares to ask "What do you think of this ?", then we start working together. That's the most beautiful moment.

Thom: A tribute to Dylan's 'subterranean homesick blues'. (sings) "Jonny's in the basement mixing up the medicine, I'm on the pavement thinking about the government". Do I really hope to be on a spaceship ? Why not. I believe there are aliens under the ground. I want to see them. I want to see ghosts. I want to walk on the street smiling, knowing that there are little green creatures with incredible large brains and big, beautiful, black eyes, that are filming us with their videocameras.
Colin: John Power of Cast believes that in the middle of the earth there is a sun where aliens live. They get to the sun from 2 entrances : one on the south-pole and one on the north-pole.

Ed: We wrote this on demand for the soundtrack of the 'Romeo & Juliet' movie. We were on tour in the States with Alanis Morissette, when we received the video with the last 30 minutes of the film.
Thom: When we saw the scene in which Claire Danes holds the Colt 45 against her head, we started working on the song immediately. I had something with 'Romeo & Juliet' a long time already. I had a crush on Olivia Hussey, who played Juliet in the sixties, for a long time. I first saw the movie when I was 13. I just couldn't believe why Romeo & juliet, after they had made love, didn't run away together. Romeo should have packed his bags, jump out of the window and elope with her ! Romeo was an asshole. I thought then.
Ed: The worst I think is that 'Exit Music' only starts at the end-credits. It will have to compete with the sound of chairs clapping up.

Jonny: Andy Warhol once said that he could enjoy his own boredom. 'Let down' is about that. It's the transit-zone feeling. You're in a space, you are collecting all these impressions, but it all seems so vacant. You don't have control over the earth anymore. You feel very distant from all these thousands of people that are also walking there.
Ed: It's about the lack of control. You feel more sad than angry. But why Thom sings 'crushed like a bug in the ground', I don't know.
Thom: I am fascinated by the sound that insects make that are being crushed. Especially wasps make a strange sound when you crush them.

Ed: When someone in the band behaved like an asshole, one of the others always said : "The Karma Police is gonna get you". I suppose it's all rubbish that your destiny depends on your deeds in a previous life, but you have to trust on something.
Thom: Karma is important. The idea that something like karma exists makes me happy. It makes me smile. I get more sympathical. 'Karma Police' is dedicated to everyone who works for a big firm. It's a song against bosses.

Thom: I had writer's block for 3 months. In that period I could only make lists of words. It took me a long time to figure out that the only way I could translate my thoughts was with these lists.
Colin: We used a computervoice with the voicebox. It's weird how much emotion there is in that voice.
Thom: That voicebox is the most emotional voice I've heard in ages... I'm not standing behind the lyrics any more. Sometimes your ideas get entangled with other ideas and then you have to apologize for the original idea because it doesn't make sense any more. That's what happened with 'fitter happier'. Now, I listen to the piano part.
Ed: I love the lyrics. "fitter, happier/more productive/comfortable/not drinking too much/Regular exercise at the gym (3 days a week)" : We used that advice in a lot of magazines to promote the album. I think that some people really believe that message and think that we are some kind of health-freaks.
Jonny: We use 'fitter happier' as an intro at concerts. Earlier we used pieces of minimalist composer Messaen. Discover that man, and you'll think that Philip Glass is way over-rated.

Ed: When you have to promote your album for a longer period, in the United States for example, you fly around from city to city for weeks to meet journalists and record company people. After a while you feel like a politician who has to kiss babies and shake hands all day long.
Thom: The sentence "when I go forward, you go backwards and somewhere we will meet" is about : Not giving a damn about that bullshit. After a while, you get this attitude of "You're all in this circus, but I laugh with it". On the other hand, I do need those votes of course (smiles).
Ed: If Tony Blair can behave as a pop-star, why shouldn't we feel a bit like politicians ?
Phil: We are the New Labour of Rock !
Thom: The songs are far less personal than the ones on 'The Bends'. I didn't feel that same need to tell my own story. I was much more involved in other peoples world, and I put my own thoughts in perspective.
Colin: The lyrics are more like trips in Thoms mind than really personal thoughts.

Thom: Some people don't dare to sleep with the window open, because they're afraid that the monsters that they see in their imagination will come inside. This song is about the monster in the closet... I found the sentence "the crack of the waning smile/15 blows to the skull" after I had read in the New York Times that 8 out of 10 mass murderers in American history committed their crimes after 1980 and that they were all males between 30 and 40, who had just lost their job or had just been through a divorce.
Ed: We recorded the song in the house of actress Jane Seymour in Bath, where The Cure recorded 'Wild Mood Swings'. We recorded in the library. That's were the er...'gothical' mood of the song comes from.
Jonny: For the 'white noise' flashes at the end, we used 16 violins that were just not playing the same. It may sound blasé but we were a bit fed up with rock-arrangements. They haven't evolved since 'Eleanor Rigby' of the The Beatles. We discoverd the Polish composer Penderécki. Since than, all we do is steal from him ! (smiles)

Thom: We wanted it to have the atmosphere of Marvin Gaye. Or Louis Armstrong's 'Wonderful world'.
Colin: It's our 'stadium-friendly' song. The idea was : First frighten everyone with 'Climbing up the walls' and then comfort them again with a popsong with a chorus that sounds like a lullaby.
Thom: I wanted a song that sounded like new double-glass : Hope-giving, clean and safe.

Ed: When we recorded 'Lucky' for the benefit album for Bosnia, everyone was full of praise because we had written a new song. Actually, we only did that because we're terrible with covers. The record only made it to #53 in the English charts though. We were ashamed. Our contribution to the good cause didn't make any money.
Thom: It was double painfull because all 5 of us thought that 'Lucky' was our best song. I remember that I was really happy when Jonny came up with that sample of the choir.

Jonny: That is MY song. I was surprised that the other 4 let me do it. 'The Tourist' doesn't sound like radiohead at all. It's a song where there doesn't have to happen anything every 3 seconds. It has become a song with space.