Classic Album covers : OK Computer - Radiohead

OK Computer was released by Radiohead in May 1997, on Parlophone in the UK and Capitol records in the USA

According to lead singer Thom Yorke; “We did this promo trip to Japan, and on the last day, we were in a record shop and this one kid shouted at the top of his voice, ‘OK COMPUTER!’ really, really loud. Then he had 500 people chant it all at once. I got it on tape. It sounds amazing. It reminds me of when Coca-Cola did ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,’ that amazing advert in ’70. The idea of every race and every nation drinking this soft drink. It’s actually a really resigned, terrific phrase”

Yorke expanded that the phrase “refers to embracing the future, it refers to being terrified of the future, of our future, of everyone else’s. It’s to do with standing in a room where all these appliances are going off and all these machines and computers and so on … and the sound it makes”

The chilly collage of images and text was created by Stanley Donwood, who has designed all the Radiohead covers. The artwork references the album’s overriding themes of alienation, exploitation and political agenda.  The colour palette is predominantly white and blue, the result, according to Donwood, of “trying to make something the color of bleached bone”. Explaining the artwork’s themes, Yorke said, “It was all the things that I hadn’t said in the songs”

Visual motifs in the artwork include motorways, aeroplanes, families with children, corporate logos and cityscapes. The words ‘Lost Child’ feature prominently on the cover, and white scribbles, Donwood’s method of correcting mistakes rather than using the computer function undo, are present everywhere in the collages.

The booklet accompanying the album has artwork that contains phrases in Esperanto and health-related instructions in both English and Greek. The use of disconnected phrases led Uncutto say, “The non-sequiturs created an effect akin to being lifestyle-coached by a lunatic.” Liner notes contain the full lyrics, rendered with atypical syntax, alternate spelling and small annotations. The lyrics are also arranged and spaced in shapes that resemble hidden images.In keeping with the band’s then emergent anti-corporate stance, the production credits contain the ironic copyright notice “Lyrics reproduced by kind permission even though we wrote them”

“Someone’s being sold something they don’t really want, and someone’s being friendly because they’re trying to sell something – that’s what the cover means to me,” said Yorke. “It’s quite sad, and quite funny as well”

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