Endless Loop: Paranoid Android

radioheadHave you ever had one of those songs that gets stuck in your head for days…weeks…years? Sure you have. These are the songs that always make the cut. The songs on repeat. We all have them. I have a ton. Welcome back to Endless Loop.

“Paranoid Android” by Radiohead

I’m nineteen years old. I’m at a now defunct music venue in Houston, Texas that I can never remember the name of, singing and screaming with thousands of other people, watching my favorite band perform as I float above the crowd. I’m not sure how long I have been laying across the hands and shoulders of other fans, pushing and passing me around like a rag doll, but I do know that the spacey and floating bridge to “Paranoid Android” has just begun, and in my levitated physical state, my mind soon catches up, and I feel complete and utter bliss.

Almost seventeen years later, that Radiohead performance is still the best concert I have ever attended. We can chalk it up to how much I loved the band at that time (and still do), or how awesome it was to see them in a smallish, almost intimate venue before they become mega-stars, or how by some weird coincidence and some mutual friends, I met my wife the night before (though neither one of us would actually remember it until a couple of years later when we met again), but really, it was that bridge. Crowd surfing while Thom Yorke sings, “Come on rain down on me from a great height,” may just be the coolest experience I’ve ever had at a rock concert.

When OK Computer came out in 1997, it almost felt like an abrupt shift in sound and tone from a band coming off of their just-left-of-Britpop 1995 effort, The Bends. The songs felt wider in scope…spacier…like the group were tapping into some kind of sci-fi existentialist forethought to warn us about our technology-filled future. Drawing inspiration from The Beatles, Miles Davis, DJ Shadow, and Ennio Morricone, the band ultimately created a grand opus, an art-rock album for the ages, and one that I listened to incessantly for years. My constant standout has always been that first single (though “Airbag” comes really, really close).

“Paranoid Android” gets its name from Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and was reportedly originally meant to be three separate songs, hence the tune’s three distinct sections. Playing on themes of tech-paranoia, control, and disgust for modern complacency, Radiohead use an array of cosmic guitar and synthesizer tones and textures to craft six minutes of proggy space rock that perfectly capture that fear and disdain, all the while adding an undercurrent of sadness. It’s beautiful.

If there’s a better song to transcendently crowd surf to, I haven’t found it.


Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

One Response to Endless Loop: Paranoid Android
  1. Shawn C. Baker Reply

    My love for this song and this album know no bounds…

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