Study Guide

Paranoid Android

Paranoid Android Introduction

In a Nutshell

"Paranoid Android" is a work of mad genius. It's almost seven minutes long, and that's drastically cut back from a 14-minute original version. It has four totally distinct musical sections. It has deeply depressing lyrics. It's named after a character from The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy. And it's all supposed to be a bit of a joke.

But like its spiritual forefather, Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Paranoid Android"—despite all its weirdness, or more likely because of it—just works. Somehow this epic (and epically strange) single rose all the way to #3 on the UK pop singles chart; it wasn't quite so popular in the United States, but it did cement Radiohead's reputation among the most creative and original artists of their generation.

Not bad for a song that had its genesis when singer/songwriter Thom Yorke got scared by an enraged woman in a bar.

About the Song

ArtistRadiohead
Year1997
LabelParlophone
Writer(s)Thom Yorke
Producer(s)Nigel Godrich, Radiohead
Musician(s)Thom Yorke (vocals), Jonny Greenwood (guitar), Ed O’Brien (guitar, backup vocals), Colin Greenwood (bass), Phil Selway (drums)
Learn to play
AlbumOK Computer

Music Video

Influences on Radiohead

Miles Davis
Ennio Morricone
Krzysztof Penderecki
Pink Floyd
Pixies
Queen
Sigur Rós
Talking Heads
U2

Influenced by Radiohead

Bloc Party
Coldplay
Doves
Kanye West
Keane
Muse
Sigur Rós
Snow Patrol
TV on the Radio
The Veils

Paranoid Android Resources

Books

Radiohead and Philosophy (Popular Culture and Philosophy) (2009)
Part of a popular and rewarding series of philosophy books on popular culture phenomena (topics range from BS to Monty Python to Battlestar Galactica and Seinfeld), this particular installment is a compiling of essays on Radiohead and the philosophical roots and implications of their actions.

Dead Children Playing: A Picture Book (2007)
Dr. Tchock and Stanley Donwood, the artists who have created Radiohead's always interesting artwork and style, present most of their work from the past decade.

Albums

OK Computer (1997)
OK Computer, with its leading single, "Paranoid Android," launched Radiohead to a new level of stardom and popularity. With its slow, Floydian grooves and Yorke's angelic yet acidic voice, OK Computer takes a few listens but is ultimately a classic that changed alternative rock forever.

In Rainbows (2008)
Radiohead's independently released seventh album was originally released as a download that you could choose how much to pay for. Though not as classic as OK Computer, it's just as good.

Pablo Honey (1993)
Before they were glitch, before they were as expansive as they became after OK Computer, Radiohead was a Sonic Youth- and The Smiths-influenced Brit alt rock band that really didn't stand out in the early '90s rock scene. That isn't to say that Pablo Honey isn't great; and it's interesting to hear Radiohead play pop songs. Standouts are "Creep," "Anyone Can Play Guitar," and "Vegetable."

Movies & TV

The Best of Radiohead (2008)
Sure, as one review said, "this was shamefully released by [Radiohead's] former record label [Capitol Records] to capitalize on the band's success." But this compilation of music videos does showcase the evolution of the band's artistic vision and the genius of the directors with whom they have collaborated.

Radiohead: Meeting People Is Easy (1999)
Director Grant Gee takes us backstage and into the lives of the surprisingly (or unsurprisingly) normal musicians that make up Radiohead.

Websites

The Official Radiohead
News, links, very cool.

Green Plastic
Website dedicated to Radiohead; features news, lyrics, media—you name it.

Radiohead Remix
Radiohead has been releasing tracks from In Rainbows to be remixed by fans. This is the site where you go to participate, listen, and vote on the fan remixes.

Aniboom/Radiohead
Together with Aniboom.com, Radiohead has been holding competitions for fan-made music videos. This stuff is amazing.

"Radiohead Says: Pay What You Want"
An article on Radiohead's widely publicized choice to release In Rainbows online… at a price that was entirely up to whoever downloaded it.

Video & Audio

"Paranoid Android" Live—HD
From the 2003 Montreaux Jazz Festival, in HD.

"Paranoid Android" Live—Earlier Version
A different version of the song before it slimmed down to its 6:23 self. Ending with an organ solo and a return to the first section of the song rather than to the walls-crashing-down rock of the second part of the song, it's definitely interesting.

"Paranoid Android" Official Music Video
By Magnus Carlsson, animator and creator of the Robin series.