Radiohead's landmark album 'OK Computer' turns 20 this year. And to celebrate that milestone, bandmates Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood recently opened up about the band's early struggles - including opening for Alanis Morissette prior to the album's release and recording in a haunted house.
Despite the success of the 1992 hit single 'Creep', Radiohead were still struggling to achieve lasting success in mainstream music. In fact, they were on the verge of becoming one-hit wonders since few rock fans outside of Britain listened to their followups. One exception was Canadian alt-rock queen Alanis Morissette, who adored Radiohead's sophomore album 'The Bends'.
"I loved every bass line, every keyboard note, every beautiful note hit by Thom," Morissette later said. So she invited Radiohead to open for her Can't Not Tour in the mid 90s. Unfortunately, her adolescent fanbase didn't care for the brooding, dissonant music offered by the opening act.
"My main memory of that tour is playing interminable hand-organ solos to an audience full of quietly despairing teenage girls," Greenwood recalled.
But Yorke actually took solace in playing in front of blasé crowds. "We were well adept at playing to people that didn't give a rat's ass about us," he told Rolling Stone. "I used to quite enjoy it. People are sitting down to their chicken dinners. We were trying to get them to choke on the bones."
And those indifferent fans were much better company than the ghosts that harassed them in the recording studio. Radiohead laid down tracks for 'OK Computer' in St. Catherine's Court, an Elizabethan manor in the English resort town of Bath. And if that sounds regal to you, try sleeping in the nursery crowded with broken dolls and rocking horses. That's where Greenwood lodged during the recording sessions.
But those spooky furnishings were nothing compared to Yorke's ghastly roommates.
"Ghosts would talk to me while I was asleep," he told Rolling Stone. "There was one point where I got up in the morning after a night of hearing voices and decided I had to cut my hair...[with] the little scissors on a penknife."
And that went about as well as you'd imagined.
"I cut myself a few times," Yorke added. "It got messy. I came downstairs and everyone was like, 'Uh, are you all right?' I was like, 'What's wrong?' Phil [Selway] very gently took me downstairs and shaved it all off."
Maybe that's why Yorke's vocals sound so haunted on the album.
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