Skip to main content

Watch Radiohead’s stunning Paranoid Android BBC performance

Radiohead poses for a portrait at Capitol Records during the release of their album OK Computer in Los Angeles, California on June 12, 1997
Radiohead pictured at Capitol Records in Los Angeles on June 12, 1997 during the release of OK Computer. L-R: drummer Philip Selway, singer/guitarist/keyboardist Thom Yorke, guitarist/keyboardist Jonny Greenwood, guitarist Ed O'Brien and bassist Colin Greenwood (Image credit: Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

25 years ago, Radiohead’s genre-bending, era-defining OK Computer entered the UK Albums Chart (opens in new tab) at the number one position.

Winning a Grammy (opens in new tab) award for the Best Alternative Music Performance, the band’s third studio album remained in the top 40 for nigh on a year.

Progressive, dynamic and daring, OK Computer pushed the envelope of guitar music into uncharted territory and received a hero’s welcome from fans and musicians alike.

Self-produced with long-time collaborator Nigel Godrich, the album marked a stylistic turning point in Radiohead’s career as they continued to freely explore new sonic ground.

Radiohead 'OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997 2017' album artwork

In 2017, Radiohead released a 20th anniversary version of OK Computer titled OKNOTOK 1997 2017 (opens in new tab). The album debuted at number two. (Image credit: XL)

OK Computer’s lead single, Paranoid Android, scored Radiohead their highest charting single to date, reaching number three in the UK Singles Chart (opens in new tab).

Clocking in at around six-and-a-half minutes, Paranoid Android is considered relatively lengthy for a single, although the original version was well over twice as long – courtesy of lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood’s Hammond organ solo.

A skilled multi-instrumentalist and composer, Greenwood’s organ odyssey was ultimately replaced by a series of unforgettable electric guitar parts, some of which are thought to have been processed using a rare Mutronics Mutator (opens in new tab).

Mutronics Mutator

(Image credit: Future)

This highly inventive approach to guitar tone extended to Greenwood's pedalboard where he was able to produce a wide spectrum of unique sounds from dreamy lysergic delays to angular assaults of distortion.

According to the excellent Radiohead gear site thekingofgear.com (opens in new tab), Greenwood’s 1997/1998 OK Computer tour rig comprised an Electro-Harmonix Small Stone (opens in new tab) phaser, Demeter Tremulator tremolo, DOD Envelope Filter 440, DigiTech WH-1 Whammy (opens in new tab) Pedal and Boss LS-2 Line Selector (opens in new tab).

It is believed the LS-2 split the signal to a Vox AC30 (opens in new tab) tube amp (via a Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive (opens in new tab), Boss RV-3 Digital Reverb/Delay and Roland RE-201 Space Echo (opens in new tab) tape echo/spring reverb unit) and a Fender Eighty-Five solid state guitar amp (via a Marshall Shred Master distortion in front of a Boss FV-300H volume pedal).

Jonny Greenwood, 1997

Jonny Greenwood peforming with his Fender Telecaster Plus in 1997 (Image credit: Gie Knaeps/Getty Images)

In 1995, Greenwood’s original Fender Telecaster Plus guitars were stolen, prompting him to acquire a replacement sunburst model, as featured in the clip below.

Sporting stock Lace Sensor pickups – comprising a Dually Red-Red (opens in new tab) humbucker and Blue (opens in new tab) single coil in the bridge and neck positions, respectively – this guitar was rewired with an Apem 300 series pushbutton switch that momentarily cuts the signal.

The addition of this kill switch enabled Greenwood to create the stuttering effects heard during live renditions of OK Computer songs such as Airbag, Electioneering and Paranoid Android.

Browse the Radiohead catalogue here (opens in new tab).

Rod Brakes
Rod Brakes

Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar World (opens in new tab)Guitar Player (opens in new tab) and MusicRadar (opens in new tab) in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.