Radiohead has clearly embraced the excitement centered on the 20th anniversary of its breakout smash album OK Computer, issuing an anniversary re-release titled OKNOTOK, and generally acting like a band of proud, nostalgic music dads. Now, the band—plus friends, including the album’s producer, Nigel Goodrich, and REM’s Michael Stipe—has gotten together to give Rolling Stone a definitive oral history of the early history of Radiohead, including track-by-track breakdowns of all the songs on OK Computer.
The piece contains commentary from all five members of the band, who reflect on the stresses of their early touring, their initial reception in America, and factoids about the various songs. (Oh, and the time they spent a month living in Jane Seymour’s “very haunted” English estate.)
The song breakdowns, especially, are an interesting look at how the members of Radiohead see themselves. There are, for instance, a number of clearly hesitant comments about Yorke’s growing interest in synthesizers and looping. Meanwhile, talking about “Paranoid Android,” Yorke says, “It was 50 percent ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ if I could ever get that many vocals together, and 50 percent ‘Happiness Is a Warm Gun,’ while Phil Selway notes that “Crawling Up The Walls” was at least partially inspired by the band’s fears of the aforementioned ghosts. (Not that they’re all gems; here’s Yorke, offering up his thoughts on Shakespeare: “As far as I’m concerned, Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy.”)
The end result is a thorough look back at a bunch of guys who fell deeply in love with their own sound (and, admittedly, the effort of trying super hard to be the most clever musicians in the room) just as massive mainstream success threatened to completely change their lives. You can read the full thing right here.