LONDON - One of the U.K.'s
most singular modern rock bands is ready to return
with the album that Capitol and Parlophone executives feel "could change the
way records are marketed."
Such is the level of confident
anticipation for "OK Computer," the third album
by Oxford, England-based quintet Radiohead, that it will be introduced with a
lead track, "Paranoid Android," that runs 6 1/2 minutes and incorporates
several tempo changes - but no chorus. Moreover, Capitol Records plans to
debut the track in the U.S. via a "video exclusive" on MTV later this month.
"OK Computer," the band's
first self-produced set, is being released in the
U.K. by Parlophone June 16, with its U.S. appearance on Capitol July 1.
"Paranoid Android" had its British radio debut April 30 on BBC Radio 1's
"Evening Session" show and will be commercially available May 26.
An animated video for the
track is in production, and Capitol VP of marketing
Clark Staub says that the label hopes MTV will premiere the clip around May
25. The video network, as well as college radio, are due to be serviced with
the track May 19.
"We've already had initial
meetings with MTV, who've been strong supporters of
Radiohead since 'Creep,'" says Staub, referring to the track from the band's
1993 debut album, "Pablo Honey," that alerted programmers, retailers, and
consumers alike to the group's strange charms. "Creep" went to No. 34 on the
Hot 100, while "Pablo Honey" climbed to No. 32 in a six-month run on The
Billboard 200; the 1995 follow-up, "The Bends," peaked at No. 88.
"In a world of four-minute
pop songs, we don't want to bank on airplay for
'Paranoid Android,'" says Staub, adding that by the time of the MTV airing,
promotional CDs of the track will be ready for commercial alternative stations
that request them. The first commercial single from the album will be "Let
"Radiohead have delivered
a very unconventional record," Staub continues,
"that does not sound like anything else that's popular, but sounds like
everything that could be popular. I've seen them compared to U2 or R.E.M., but
we're not falling into the trap of over-hyping them. We're setting this up to
be firmly rooted."
"It's quite a difficult record;
it's not a 'first listen' thing," says
Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke about "OK Computer," complimenting Parlophone
on the free rein afforded the band in making it. "First we said, 'We're going
to produce it ourselves,' then, 'We're going to take as long as we want.' We
had complete license to do what we wished, and when we realized that, it was
Acknowledging the great expectations
for the album already whirling around the
U.K. industry, Yorke adds, "The anticipation that people might have for it was
funny to us. 'Paranoid Android' is addressing that anticipation in away, like,
"We're having fun recording it, and you'll either get it or you won't.'"
Radiohead will play two showcases
in Barcelona, Spain, May 22 and 24, to which
EMI is inviting international territory representatives and key media. In the
U.S., the band will play with U2, Foo Fighters, and the Beastie Boys at the
Tibetan Freedom concerts June 7 and 8 in New York, followed by club dates
there and in Los Angeles. European festivals follow, and a U.S. tour is due to
start July 26.
"The unanimous reaction to
this record is that it's something very special,"
says Parlophone U.K. managing director Tony Wadsworth. "The single is a
brilliant piece of music. It might fly in the face of all the rules and
conventions, but everything we've ever done with Radiohead that's worked has
broken the rules. Because of that, they're going to change the acceptance to
certain types of music."
Wadsworth adds that the slow
build of "The Bends," the series of U.K. chart
singles taken from it, and belated acclaim in the music press have made the
band (formed in 1991) widely influential on the British alternative scene.
"Every record company's got its Radio-head now," he muses.
So gradual was the ascent
of "The Bends" that it reached a domestic peak of
No. 4 in its 42nd chart week, a rare event among the fast-moving U.K. best
sellers, and was still in the chart in November 1996, 20 months after release.
"It was the longest campaign I've ever worked internationally," says EMI
international marketing manager Carol Baxter. "At the beginning of it, people
were saying, 'There's no obvious single,' but we were still working the album
two years later. It'll be the same with this."
Radiohead appears on one
multi-platinum Capitol album: "Talk Show Host" is
featured on the soundtrack to "Romeo + Juliet," while "Exit Music" (from "OK
Computer") is the song heard playing at the end of the film. Other songs from
the new album were introduced last summer during the band's U.S. tour
supporting Alanis Morissette.
Jon Cobbin, product manager
at Tower Records' Piccadilly Circus store in
London, got an advance listen to "OK Computer" and says it sounded
"incredible." He adds, "Each track stood out on its own. We're being asked
about it already." Cobbin says that catalog sales of both previous Radiohead
albums remain very strong.
"We love Radiohead," says
Lisa Worden, music director at modern rock KROQ Los
Angeles. "We supported the [first two] albums, and we're very much
anticipating the new one." Of the early success with "Creep," she says, "It
takes a while for a band to shake a song like that, like Beck with 'Loser'; he
went out and made another great album, and Radiohead did the same."
Capitol has devised a novel
promotional device for its upcoming mail-out of
the new album to 1,000 key media players. "We're making a special 'OK
Computer' listening package for our industry mailing," says Staub. "We're
sending out a Walkman tape recorder with the cassette of the album permabonded
inside, so the only way to listen to it is with the headphones provided. We
want to have people get to know the record in its entirety."
Yorke says of the prominent
place in the British rock firmament now commanded
by Radiohead, "It doesn't feel like we've come a long way. I have a very small
house in Oxford that I can pay the mortgage on. I suppose we have in the sense
that we've met all our idols and done lots of amazing things. But we have to
keep reminding people this is only our third album."