Radiohead don’t like the idea of leaving half-formed ideas alone. Several times in their career, they’ve brought old, previously discarded songs back from the dead. ‘Nude’, from 2008’s ‘In Rainbows’, was first written in the mid-90’s. ‘True Love Waits’, the fragmented closing track from last year’s ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’, had previously been an unreleased fan favourite since 1995.
Once again, Radiohead are about to revisit songs that previously couldn’t find space on one of their records. On June 23, they release ‘OKNOTOK’, a 20th anniversary reissue of classic album ‘OK Computer’. It includes a notebook containing 104 pages of Thom Yorke’s messy, hand-scrawled notes, a 48-page sketchbook containing Stanley Donwood art, and a second disc of recordings, made up of eight B-sides and three unreleased tracks. These songs have been stirring for two decades, and they’re finally seeing the light of day. Here’s what you need to know about the three cuts:
When it was first performed: March 14 1996 at West Hollywood’s Troubadour
What you need to know: In between cryptic guessing-games and acclaimed albums, Radiohead fans almost always get what they want. But ‘Lift’ is the one song loyal Yorke obsessives have been crying out for.
Built from the same sky-reaching misery best found on ‘Lucky’ or ’Airbag’, its original version was performed during 1996’s ‘The Bends’ tour. In the late 90’s, they attempted to flip the song into a more strung-out piece while recording ‘Kid A’ and ‘Amnesiac’. Despite EMI’s affections – they wanted it to be a lead single – they fell out of love with the track. Ed O’Brien called it a “bogshite B-side,” saying: “We were very happy to leave it off the album.” After a brief couple of appearances on tour in 2002, it hasn’t been heard for 15 years. But in 2015, guitarist Jonny Greenwood hinted that they were giving ‘Lift’ another try. Chances are it’ll sound nothing like the version being toured 20 years back.
‘Man of War’
When it was first performed: October 2, 1995 at New York’s Mercury Lounge
What you need to know: Best known as ‘Big Boots (Man-o-War)’, this is another song that’s hung around throughout the past two decades. It appears on ‘Meeting People Is Easy’, a brutally bleak eyewitness account of the testing mid-90’s. Footage above sees the group trialing the song in a studio, struggling to find a recorded version they can settle on.
After being played 16 times in 1995 and then bluntly discarded, it made another solitary live appearance back in 2002. Lyrically, it’s filled with all the pre-millennium tension found on ‘OK Computer’, Yorke singing: “Unplug the phones / Stop all the taps / It all comes flooding back.”
When it was first performed: March 27 1996 at San Francisco’s The Fillmore.
What you need to know: Set to marching band-style drums and jagged guitars, ‘I Promise’ finds Thom Yorke listing off vows like a shopping list. It’s almost like the emotional counterpoint to the robotic ‘Fitter Happier’. “I won’t fool around no more, I promise / Even when I get bored, I promise.” It’s another glimpse of Radiohead at their most direct, before they went waist deep in bleepy bloopy territory.