OK Computer is widely regarded as one of the most important albums of all times—and rightly so. With the seminal record foreseeing the futuristic century we were about to enter, the material cemented Radiohead as a band for the ages.
The band’s third record, which featured classics by the Oxfordshire misfits such as ‘Karma Police’ as well as ‘No Surprises’, propelled Radiohead to the next level of unimaginable acclaim. Here though, we’re focusing on the vocal range of ‘No Surprises’, a number that was written by Thom Yorke when the band were supporting R.E.M. in 1995 on a European tour and, ultimately, would take two years of altering before they decided to go with the first-ever take of the track. As Yorke has revealed since: “We did endless versions afterwards and they were all just covers of the first version. So we gave up and went back to [the original].”
Bassist Colin Greenwood has been on record in the past to say it is their ‘stadium friendly’ track, adding: “The idea was: First frighten everyone with Climbing Up The Walls and then comfort them again with a Pop song with a chorus that sounds like a lullaby.”
Focusing solely on Yorke’s vocals, we’re exploring the isolated version of the track. Adding the extra sense of exclusivity to the song, the isolated version so takes away the lullaby nature of the track and, in turn, makes Yorke’s vocal delivery more direct and undoubtedly hypnotic.
Speaking to BBC Radio 6 Music about ‘No Surprises’ in 2016, the Radiohead frontman revealed: “We wanted to sound like we’d all taken Mogadon. We tried to play it as slow as we could, but it was never slow enough, because we weren’t on Mogadon. So what we did was, we took an earlier version and just slowed it right down…It always gets this huge reaction, the ‘bring down the government bit.’ People just start yelling spontaneously. It’s great. I don’t know why. It’s such an unpunk song [to] have released this weird anger.”
‘No Surprises’ would go on to become a radio-friendly song due to it’s warm and comforting sound, a direction which would later reward the group with mainstream success as it reached number four in the UK singles charts—with OK Computer topping the album chart. Both, it goes without saying, sound as timeless as they did when you first heard it.
The isolated vocal version is the purest form of the song out there which showcases what a special talent Yorke is and that we take for granted sometimes due to the phenomenal skills of Ed O’Brien, the Greenwood brothers along with Phillip Selway. Enjoy!