Throughout their 20-plus-year history, Radiohead have released a prodigious amount of music. Aside from their seven proper studio albums, they have recorded songs for singles, charity compilations, soundtracks, live records, and one-offs that number in the dozens. Many of these tracks are compiled on EPs such as Com Lag and How Am I Driving?, but there are still several that have only seen release as rare B-sides, one-offs, or demos. Here are five of these tracks that we think deserve another look.
B-side to “Fake Plastic Trees”
“India Rubber” is one of Radiohead’s first standout B-sides. It features straight-ahead guitar parts that are representative of the band’s early work, but it also includes stop-and-start drums and soaring keyboards that are suggestive of the later, more well-known B-side “Talk Show Host.” Also, the laughter throughout the outro is an early example of the sampling that would come to influence the recording of Kid A and Amnesiac at the end of the decade.
“How I Made My Millions”
B-side to “No Surprises”
The first page of the booklet accompanying OK Computer quotes Émile Coué’s famous mantra, “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.” The inclusion of this quote within the context of the album exposes it as ridiculous, of course. “How I Made My Millions” takes the essence of that attack on modern optimism and strips it of its spite and sarcasm. What’s left is a track that is strikingly poignant. “I was stronger, I was better,” Thom Yorke intones, before leading up to the song’s final repetition of “Let it fall.”
The thrown-off nature of this song makes it all the more amazing. Yorke recorded it on an old battered piano with his Minidisc recorder while his girlfriend was washing up. When he brought it to the band they decided to release it as-is to maintain the recording’s fragile beauty.
“The Amazing Sounds of Orgy”
B-side to “Pyramid Song”
“The Amazing Sounds of Orgy” is one of several outstanding B-sides from the Amnesiac era, along with “Worrywort,” “Cuttooth,” and “Fast Track,” that could constitute an EP on their own. The reverbed drums give the track a foreboding sense of cloak-and-dagger mystery that makes their usual songs about alienation and paranoia sound like John Denver. And that opening bass line that sounds like Satan’s laughter doesn’t help with the unease either.
“Good Morning Mr. Magpie” or “Morning M’lord”
This rough cut of a track from Radiohead’s 2002 webcast received almost as much investigatory work as “Nude” in the run-up to In Rainbows. Following its debut, fans tracked mentions of the song through the band’s website Dead Air Space, citing both posts by the band and pictures of the band’s blackboard as evidence of its inclusion on the album. It’s clearly in the beginning stages here, but Thom’s lyrics and delivery give it enough intrigue to justify the fans’ obsession.
“Harry Patch (In Memory Of)”
Radiohead have a history of working with charities. They recorded “I Want None of This” for War Child’s Help: A Day In The Life compilation, donated OK Computer-era B-side “Meeting In The Aisle” to MTV U.K. for Mind Out For Mental Health’s “Need to Talk” campaign, and more recently, recorded a silent track to support troops of the Royal British Legion. The best of these songs, though, is “Harry Patch (In Memory Of),” which commemorates the oldest surviving veteran of World War I. They happened to record it just weeks before Patch’s death, and thereafter released it as a one-off with all proceeds going to the Royal British Legion. The song finds its power in Jonny Greenwood’s string arrangements, which gently build and recede until Yorke finally warns, “The next will? be chemical but they will never learn.”