Bonus pics. I took a drive out to Lake MI after drop-off and pick-up at the library. As you can see it was an overcast day. Three different views: looking south, looking west, and looking east. I take living by this beautiful and vast freshwater lake for granted, but I shouldn’t.
OK Computer is the third studio album by English rock band Radiohead, released on June 16, 1997. The members of Radiohead self-produced the album with Nigel Godrich, an arrangement they have used for their subsequent albums. The band distanced themselves from the guitar-centred, lyrically introspective style of their previous album, The Bends. OK Computer’s abstract lyrics, densely layered sound and eclectic influences laid the groundwork for Radiohead’s later, more experimental work.
The album expanded Radiohead’s international popularity and has sold at least 7.8 million units worldwide. A remastered version with additional tracks, OKNOTOK 1997 2017, was released in June 2017, marking the album’s twentieth anniversary. OK Computer received critical acclaim and has been cited by listeners, critics and musicians as one of the greatest albums of all time. It was nominated for the Grammy Award for Album of the Year and won Best Alternative Music Album at the 40th Annual Grammy Awards in 1998. In 2014, it was included by the Library of Congress in the National Recording Registry as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
Yorke said that the starting point for the record was the “incredibly dense and terrifying sound” of Bitches Brew, the 1970 avant-garde jazz fusion album by Miles Davis. He described the sound of Bitches Brew to Q: “It was building something up and watching it fall apart, that’s the beauty of it. It was at the core of what we were trying to do with OK Computer.” Yorke identified “I’ll Wear It Proudly” by Elvis Costello, “Fall on Me” by R.E.M., “Dress” by PJ Harvey and “A Day in the Life” by the Beatles as particularly influential on his songwriting. Radiohead drew further inspiration from the recording style of film soundtrack composer Ennio Morricone and the krautrock band Can, musicians Yorke described as “abusing the recording process”. Jonny Greenwood described OK Computer as a product of being “in love with all these brilliant records … trying to recreate them, and missing.”
I have to admit that I love every bit of OK Computer and see it as a concept album. I don’t like to hear individual songs as it disappoints when the next song doesn’t kick in at the end. The planetarium in Grand Rapids used to have – and may still – have a laser light show synched to it that my kids and I went to more than once. It’s atmospheric, it’s celestial, and it presents a paradox of seeming otherworldly but is, at the same time, profoundly human. OK Computer is as big and important of an album as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.
The use of electric keyboards in “Subterranean Homesick Alien” is an example of the band’s attempts to emulate the atmosphere of Bitches Brew. Its title references the Bob Dylan song “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, and the lyrics describe an isolated narrator who fantasizes about being abducted by extraterrestrials. The narrator speculates that, upon returning to Earth, his friends would not believe his story and he would remain a misfit. The lyrics were inspired by an assignment from Yorke’s time at Abingdon School to write a piece of “Martian poetry”, a British literary movement that humorously recontextualizes mundane aspects of human life from an alien perspective.
The breath of the morning
I keep forgetting
The smell of the warm summer air
I live in a town
Where you can’t smell a thing
You watch your feet
For cracks in the pavement
Making home movies
For the folks back home
Of all these weird creatures
Who lock up their spirits
Drill holes in themselves
And live for their secrets
I wish that they’d swoop down in a country lane
Late at night when I’m driving
Take me on board their beautiful ship
Show me the world as I’d love to see it
I’d tell all my friends but they’d never believe me
They’d think that I’d finally lost it completely
I’d show them the stars and the meaning of life
They’d shut me away
But I’d be alright
Songwriters: Colin Charles Greenwood / Edward John O’brien / Jonathan Richard Guy Greenwood / Philip James Selway / Thomas Edward Yorke