May 1997
Length: 6:25
Disc: OK Computer | Paranoid Android single | College Karma EP
Tablature: Guitar | Bass | Drum
Paranoid Android Video

Other Versions:
Brad Mehldau's Piano Version - Groundwork Organisation CD 2001
Live @ Glastonbury - Mud For It: Glastonbury '97
Cover by Mitchell Sigman - Plastic Mutations Tribute LP
String Version - Strung Out On OK Computer

The single that marked Radiohead's return after over two years of no new material. It shook up the entire industry, a six-and-a-half minute epic schizophrenically switching between different styles and tunes. According to Thom it's about the fall of the Roman Empire. The band refused to make a radio edit of it, yet it still achieved a lot of airplay, and it peaked at number 3 in the UK charts - Radiohead's biggest hit to date.

Possibly one of the most famous Radiohead songs to date, Paranoid Android was the first single released from OK Computer. It's over 6 minutes long, and can honestly be described as an epic. It's like 3 great songs rolled into one. And each small section is genius. You'd have to hear it to know, but this track sums up the feeling of the entire album pretty well.

Paranoid Android was a complicated affair, not least because of the three disparate yet cohesive sections. It had been inspired by a bad experience Thom had one night in a Los Angeles bar. He had gone there for a quiet drink, but found himself surrounded by parasitic groupie types and pretentious California posers. Unbeknown to him, virtually everyone in the room, except himself, was on cocaine. Thom: "The people I saw that night were just like demons from another planet. Everyone was trying to get something out of me. I felt like my own self was collapsing in the presence of it, but I also felt completely, utterly part of it, like it was all going to some crashing down any minute." The band had been playing the song for months in rehearsals, but that night, while he couldn't sleep, the lyrics flooded into Thom's head at 5am. Of particular horror to him was one especially vicious lady who had a drink spilt over her dress and whose face contorted in venom at the culprit - she was the 'kicking, squealing Gucci little piggy' that Thom sang of and he was horrified. Thom: "Basically it's just about chaos, chaos, utter fucking chaos."

After being asked if the song was about the Fall of the Roman Empire, Thom adopted his explanation, but other band members have likened the lyrics of the track to those of The Bends. On one level the lyrics are absurd; on another, they're quite serious. During the band's 1996 live sets, when they were opening for Alanis Morissette, the song was without the guitar solo ending and instead ended with a very long hammond solo courtesy of Jonny, drawing it out to the eleven-minute mark. Apparently the band begged him not to play it, and it reduced many of Alanis Morisette's audiences to screaming point.

It may have been named after the character 'Marvin' from the Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy books. Marvin was known as 'the paranoid android'.

The 'kicking squealing Gucci little piggy' was based on an incident that Thom witnessed in a very posh LA bar where a woman with a white Gucci dress had red wine accidentally spilled down it. "Her look was pure evil".

The chanting part of the song underneath 'rain down...' was actually made by reversing Thom saying "monk".

Some notes from the official Radiohead Website:

"In a bar in hollywood* the centre of the western universe, standing at the bar (social drinking) after doing the talk show bit. do you want to know this? this is what we aspire to is it? it is dark, there is a woman opposite me who is as sociably anorexic as her poodle, she looks desolate in her make up and lost eyes, next to her her husband boyfriend is persuading a younger fleshed half his age stewardess to come back to the hills to their mansion to sample his wine. she looks at him like he's a character in a hammer house horror. one of our friends spills a glass of wine over a vacuum packed gucci outfit complete with matching white hand bag. the witch goes crazy, we think it is fuunny. until we see the evil in her eyes. my friend is asked to leave. the gucci creature is the closest thing i have seen to the devil. the woman is possessed. i cannot sleep that night asking what we've got our selves into. voices talking like fax machines, hissing and spitting like demons, this is the master race. and now im part of it. anyway you didnt want to know that."

Please could you stop that noise, I'm tryin' a get some rest
From all the unborn chicken voices in my head

What's that? (I may be paranoid, but not an android)
What's that? (I may be paranoid, but not an android)

When I am King you will be first against the wall
With your opinion which is of no consequence at all

What's that? (I may be paranoid, but no android)
What's that? (I may be paranoid, but no android)

Ambiton makes you look pretty ugly
Kicking and squealing Gucci little piggy

You don't remember, you don't remember
Why don't you remeber my name?
Off with his head man, off with his head man
Why won't he remember my name?
I guess he does

Rain down, rain down, come on rain down on me
From a great height, from a great height, height
Rain down, rain down, come on rain down on me
From a great height, from a great height, height

That's it sir you're leaving
The crackle of pigskin
The dust and the screaming
The Yuppies networking, Ah!
The panic, the vomit
The panic, the vomit
God loves his children
God loves his children

(Rain down, rain down, come on rain down on me)
(From a great height, from a great height, height)
Thom Yorke "It really started out as three separate songs and we didn't know what to do with them. Then we thought of 'Happiness [Is a Warm Gun] - which was obviously three different bits that John Lennon put together - and said, 'Why don't we try that?'" - Thom

"The video of 'Paranoid Android' has been censored by MTV. They took all nipples out of the cartoon, but they had no problem with the scene in which a man cuts off his own arms and legs" - Thom

"'Paranoid Android' is full of images of people that I saw in a pub the night before we went to the studio. Most lyrics on 'OK Computer' are actually polaroids inside my head." - Thom Ed O'Brien

"In 1994 we taped everything on video, in 1995 we bought Powerbooks. Our next step on the techno-superhighway is 'the polaroid'. If we go on like this, we'll be painting up our tour bus with charcoal next year" - Ed

"We wanted to make a crossing of Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' and The Pixies. No, it didn't become a 'Bohemian Rhapsody' of the nineties; it's not complex enough for that and it contains too much tension. It's the song that we played to our friends when they, a long time ago, wanted to know what the new album was going to sound like. You could see them thinking: "Fuck, if that's the new single, what will all the rest be like?" - Ed

"I donít think we will ever hate Paranoid Android, I mean we will either love it or laugh at it. When we played it last year it was dry and we got to the rain down section, and it started raining during the rain down section, so it was kind of o-ooh a bit..." - Ed
Colin Greenwood
"On Paranoid Android what we were into was the idea of a DJ Shadow meets The Beatles thing. It wasn't about constructing a classical rock edifice like Bohemian Rhapsody. It was more about taking things apart and sticking them together again to see if they made any sense, in the same way that DJ Shadow does and in the same way that The Beatles did on stuff like I Am The Walrus. Nigel Godrich, our engineer, just spliced the different sections together and it was all luck" - Colin

"The song is 6 minutes long. That came in handy. While they were listening, we had time to make them a cup of tea." - Colin Jonny Greenwood

"Paranoid Android is a minature-version of OK Computer. It was the first song I put on a tape for friends to listen after recording the album, because it's a good introduction for the rest of the album. Paranoid Android should make you curious for the rest of the album" - Jonny

"In the video, an angel takes the man to heaven to play ping-pong. Recently someone asked me: 'What does your paradise look like?' All I could think of was a big empty room and a couple of Radiohead songs that are half finished. It's at times like that that I enjoy being in the group the most: when we're in the studio and take place in front of our amplifiers for days. You can only hear the drums and the voice in that stage. And when finally someone dares to ask 'What do you think of this?', then we start working together. That's the most beautiful moment." - Jonny
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