1001 Songs Challenge #860: Paranoid Android (1997)
On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenge of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post every day (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be… legendary!
Radiohead – Paranoid Android (1997)
Paranoid Android – Wikipedia
” Paranoid Android” is a song by English alternative rock band Radiohead, released as the lead single from their third studio album OK Computer (1997) on 26 May 1997. The lyrics were written by singer Thom Yorke following an unpleasant experience in a Los Angeles bar.
We’re leaving the US behind today, dear reader, and returning to the UK and to Abingdon in Oxfordshire to check in with Radiohead. They last appeared in 1992 with the song, Creep, but when we join them in 1997 it is with the release of their third album, Ok Computer, which would be more experimental than their previous album – The Bends. 1001 Songs have delved deep into the eerie world of Ok Computer and extracted the song – Paranoid Android.
Paranoid Android is an intricate song containing numerous changes. The lyrics were written by singer, Thom Yorke, and were based on his experiences of a bar in Los Angeles. The visit to said bar was a far from pleasant time and Yorke would later reflect how he was unable to sleep that night given all he had seen and witnessed. One such incident involved a woman turning violent when a drink was spilled on her. Yorke said the song contained three different states of mind and you get the feeling of changing emotions and perspectives as you delve through. It sounds confusing, angry and disillusioned at times before sweeping us into a majestic section as Yorke looks to the skies and pleads for it to rain down, perhaps a call for help from his current predicament.
Paranoid Android was the lead single from Ok Computer and despite not being radio friendly initially it was soon embraced and took the group to no.3 in the charts. This is a band a long way from the days of Creep. Radiohead could have played it safe after The Bends and replicated that but instead they went avant garde and that has been their approach ever since. For Radiohead it’s all about the music, not about the chart hits. Paranoid Android remains, for me, their ultimate masterpiece. Stunning from start to finish, with multiple changes, it is one hell of a journey and if you haven’t seen the music video, you really should. An animated piece, it brilliantly captures the pandemonium, maladjustment and fear to be found in what is truly a remarkable song.
Favourite songs so far:
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)
Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell (1977)
Tracy Chapman – Fast Car (1988)
Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah (1994)
Radiohead – Paranoid Android (1997)