Dave Grohl has an encyclopedic knowledge of everything music-related, but few artists have touched him in the way Radiohead have over the decades.
OK Computer is Grohl’s favourite moment from their career, and he believed that the album would cause a “revolution musically”. Whether it had the seismic effect that the Foo Fighters leader imagined is questionable. However, it’s undeniable that it did change the direction of the wind.
In 1997, British music was in a state of flux. The power of Britpop had started to fade and become tiresome. It was clear that something new needed to come along to shake up the applecart, but nobody expected OK Computer.
Radiohead’s experimental sonic approach combined with Thom Yorke’s storytelling instincts were able to create an album incomparable to anything else released before it. Understandably, Grohl believed that this would become the new normal for contemporary music.
However, while countless artists have attempted to have their own OK Computer moment, its sheer originality is almost impossible to reproduce. It landed at the perfect time, and its arrival proved that music didn’t need to be primitive to be popular.
Speaking to Jools Holland earlier this year, the former Nirvana drummer opened up about his love for the album. Grohl said, “This is a pivotal moment not only in Radiohead’s career but, I think in the history of music. When they made the OK Computer record, I honestly felt like that was the beginning of some kind of revolution musically.
“Of course, as a live band, they are one of the greatest live bands of all time. Performing this song that was challenging the audience to join them in this crazy revolution, and ‘Paranoid Android’ live, it’s not exactly like the record, but it’s better because it’s happening. Of course, I really do think that record changed the landscape of popular music for years to come.”
Following OK Computer, there’s no doubt that it became more common for more avant-garde records to earn mainstream acclaim. The blending of electronica and rock music on this scale was unprecedented before Radiohead’s third album. Experimentalism was rewarded once more, and a new dawn was seemingly on the horizon.
However, as much as Grohl hoped it would cause a “crazy revolution”, that’s not what Radiohead intended to spark. For them, it was just an expression of creativity that caused an unlikely seminal cultural moment and inadvertently became an unattainable benchmark that anything they’ve produced since gets compared to.