Story of the song: Karma Police by Radiohead

From The Independent archive: Robert Webb on the faux satirical second single from ‘OK Computer’

Friday 13 May 2022 21:30
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<p>The song was inspired by singer Thom Yorke’s dislike of being sneered at</p>

The song was inspired by singer Thom Yorke’s dislike of being sneered at

OK Computer, Radiohead’s epic third album, has little to do with PCs. “It was just a noise that was going on in my head for most of the year,” said the band’s frontman, Thom Yorke. Track six, the faux satirical “Karma Police”, was inspired by Yorke’s dislike of being sneered at. “I can’t handle having people looking at me in that certain way,” he said. “That’s what ‘Karma Police’ and a lot of the album is about.”

With a plummeting chord progression, resembling The Beatles’ “Sexy Sadie”, and some deftly humorous lyrics, this is an atypical off-the-shoulder number from the usually buttoned-up Oxford five-piece. It was premiered live when Radiohead supported Alanis Morissette on her Can’t Not tour in the summer of 1996 and was recorded in September of that year at a Bath manor house, owned by the actress Jane Seymour.

The OK Computer track “Exit Music (For a Film)” was taped in the stone entrance hall. The eerie siren closing “Karma Police” was created by the band’s second guitarist, Ed O’Brien, by feeding sound through a digital delay machine. “He made weird noises, and we taped that a few times,” Yorke said.

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