Last month marked the 20th anniversary of Radiohead’s epochal third album, OK Computer.
Released May 27, 1997, the album would serve as the vector that would set the enigmatic Oxfordshire band into a cycle of perpetual envelope-pushing experimentation. And in recognition of this pivotal piece of alternative rock music history, there has been no shortage of media fanfare devoted to revisiting the album and reopening the case for its enduring significance.
Much of the ceremonial festivities have been offered by the band themselves.—from dropping the comprehensive OKNOTOK box set to exhuming decades-lost OK Computer-era rarities for special performance in live sets.
The hallmark retrospection came in the form of Rolling Stone‘s cover story this month. Delving spectacularly deep into Radiohead’s “dark masterpiece,” the story incorporates intimate interviews with each member of the band. As a result, the piece is about as definitive and wide-reaching of an inside account of the band during that time period as anyone could ask for.
So much so that the magazine had to make room for less OK Computer–centric info divulged by the band in a follow-up, ancillary side-feature.
Most fantasy-inducing of all was the prospect, shared by guitarist Ed O’Brien, that summoning the cataclysmic G-Funk talents of Dr. Dre to assist on OK Computer‘s follow-up, Kid A.
While the combination of Radiohead and Dr. Dre might seem incompatible on its face, weighing the latter’s cocksure grit against the former’s detached melancholia. “But at the time, in my head, it made perfect sense,” O’Brien said in the interview.
Indeed, upon even a cursory listen of Kid A, one recalls the band’s icy soundscapes carved out with drum machine sequences and modular synthesizer programming. While Radiohead’s expedition into the domain of electronic recording elements was used to far different ends than Dre’s, it isn’t difficult imagining “Idioteque,” in particular,” being given a fruitful G-Funk boost
Alas, a timid O’Brien proved too timid to even phone the West Coast producer.
“It was sort of like a dream. I kept on saying, ‘Oh I’d love to work with Dr. Dre.’ I knew it would likely be shouted down or laughed at,” the guitarist rued.
“The problem would have been finding modus operandi because Dre obviously works in a certain way. Could he have handled a rock band? Who knows? But it came from being a fan of N.W.A and his productions around that time.”
You can read more fun facts about the eternally mystical band in the Rolling Stone cover story’s supplement piece here.