10 October 2011

OK Rainbows: Radiohead's Super Album

Radiohead released In Rainbows on the tenth day of the tenth month of the year. Ten years before In Rainbows, the English rock band unleashed OK Computer to the world.

OK Computer's working title was Ones and Zeroes. Do you see the one and the zero (or the 10, if you will) in the In Rainbows album cover?

Both album titles have 10 letters.

See where we're going with this?

Did Radiohead intentionally create a double-album (OK Rainbows) when they released In Rainbows? The coincidences start to become more than just coincidences when you start digging deeper into this ones and zeroes theory.

I learned about this ones and zeroes conspiracy on Cracked.com which led me to Puddlegum's impressive and extensive look into the connection between OK Computer and In Rainbows.

The basic idea is that In Rainbows was written specifically to complement OK Computer and if you create a playlist with all the tracks from each album, you get one super album and a fascinating listening experience.

Sound like a hassle? Fear not! I've saved you the trouble. I went ahead and collected the tracks for you and put 'em in a nice little playlist. Give yourself an uninterrupted hour and forty minutes, start listening and read on!

Puddlegum explains the methodology in creating OK Rainbows:
If OK Computer is represented by 01, and In Rainbows is represented by 10, then we have 01 and 10. In binary code 01 and 10 complement each other.

To create the 01 and 10 playlist, begin with OK Computer’s track one, "Airbag," and follow this with In Rainbow’s track one, "15 Step." Alternate the albums, track by track, until you reach "Karma Police" on OK Computer, making "All I Need" the tenth track on the 01 and 10 playlist. Follow "Karma Police" with "Fitter Happier" from OK Computer, for tracks eleven and twelve. These two tracks act as a bridge between the first ten and the following ten tracks on the 01 and 10 playlist. Then continue to alternate the albums again, picking up with "Faust Arp" on In Rainbows, with "Electioneering" on OK Computer as the following track.
The connections between both albums and the number 10 doesn't stop there. While you're listening, chew on some of these tidbits gathered by Cracked and Puddlegum:
  • Radiohead surprised the world and announced the release of In Rainbows 10 days in advance.
  • In an unprecedented move, Radiohead allowed their fans to name their own price for the album and download it from - allegedly - 10 servers.
  • In Rainbows has 10 tracks.
  • Radiohead released nine cryptic messages that emphasized the Roman numeral for 10.
  • The tenth message was posted on 10 October (10/10).
  • If you have the albums on your computer, set your player to a 10-second crossfade between each track for the optimal effect.
  • The beats at the end of "Airbag" sets the tempo for "15 Step."
  • Very similar reverb sounds are at the end of "Subterranean Homesick Alien" and "Nude."
  • In fact, "Nude" was written 10 years ago for the OK Computer sessions.
  • A key lyric in "Lucky" is "pull me out of the air crash" while the opening line of "Videotape" is "When I'm at the pearly gates / This will be on my videotape, my videotape."

Pretty amazing, right?

I'm sure there are tens of dozens of more connections that one can make with both of these albums.

Commenters on the Puddlegum article come up with some brilliant/insane/inane connections (ex. OK Computer is the Radiohead's third album, In Rainbows is their seventh album. 7+3=10). A lot of the commenters prove to debunk a lot of these alleged connections as well and surely the power of suggestion is behind a lot of these connections. This is reminiscent of the "Paul Is Dead" urban-legend that led many to find "clues" that "prove" that Paul McCartney of The Beatles was killed in a car accident.

However, intentional or not, fact or fiction, it's still beautiful to see all the connections between both records and how they fit into each other.

The beats from "Airbag" going into "15 Step," the fuzzy-fury of the guitars in "Paranoid Android" working right into the distorted flurry of guitars in "Bodysnatchers." Listen to the spoken words in "Fitter Happier" leading into Thom Yorke's hushed count-in at the beginning of "Faust Arp." The whisper of strings at the start "Nude" almost feels like it was from the outro of the previous track, "Subterranean Homesick Alien." The crash of pianos at the end of "All I Need" seem to serve as an introduction to the pianos at the start of "Karma Police." And I'm sure you heard the tambourine at the beginning of "Electioneering" and then again in the next track throughout "Reckoner."


For Radiohead fans OK Computer and In Rainbows are incredibly well-worn albums and albums that most fans know backwards and forwards so to be able to re-discover these albums in a new context makes for an incredible sonic experience. Even if Radiohead didn't intend for these records to complement each other, you can still appreciate the scope and majesty of these albums as they weave in and out of each other.

Oh, by the way, even in the framework of OK Rainbows, "Tourist" is still one of the best album closers of all time.


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