Radiohead‘s OK Computer turns 20 this June and in a new Rolling Stone cover story, the band looks back at the forces that inspired the record, its surprise success and lasting impact on rock music. Author Andy Greene has also narrated an essential primer on OK Computer, which explores how life on the road, a haunted mansion and rapid changes in technology influenced Radiohead’s seminal 1997 record.
Thom Yorke began writing the lyrics for several OK Computer songs as Radiohead toured relentlessly in support of their 1995 album, The Bends. These songs were rooted in the exhaustion and isolation that comes with constant travel, but also reflected Yorke’s growing detachment from the rest of the world as it embraced new technology like the internet.
When The Bends tour finally ended, Radiohead holed up in St. Catherine’s Court, a massive estate in Bath, England and set about recording and experimenting. “They wanted to push the boundaries of rock and roll,” Greene says. “They felt very restrained by just drum, guitar, bass.”
Upon its release, OK Computer was met with a staggering amount of acclaim and a slew of imitators quickly followed. Radiohead, however, continued moving in their own direction. “They decided that they made the perfect rock album,” Greene says. “And part of their genius is sort of this Bob Dylan, or David Bowie-like ability to create something perfect and then never do it again.”