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Paranoid Android by Radiohead

Album: OK ComputerReleased: 1997Charted:
3
  • Lead singer Thom Yorke decided to bar-hop in Los Angeles one night, but what began as a festive evening soon became a nightmare as Yorke found himself surrounded by parasitic scene-stalkers intent on extracting a pound of Yorke-flesh. "The people I saw that night were just like demons from another planet," said Yorke, now safely ensconced in a New York hotel.

    "Everyone was trying to get something out of me. I felt like my own self was collapsing in the presence of it, but I also felt completely, utterly part of it, like it was all going to come crashing down any minute." That night inspired "Paranoid Android," a song that sums up OK Computer's claustrophobic blend of melancholic beauty and nerve-rattling aggression. Surging through ethereal acoustic passages and punkish, guitar-mauled explosions, the song ends with a choir that seems a plea for heavenly forgiveness.
  • Yorke: "It's about being exposed to God, I dunno. It was that one night, really. We'd been rehearsing the song for months, but the lyrics came to me at five o'clock that morning. I was trying to sleep when I literally heard these voices that wouldn't leave me alone. They were the voices of the people I'd heard in the bar. It turned out to be a notorious, coke-fiend place, but I didn't know that. Basically it's just about chaos, chaos, utter f--king chaos." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Mike - Champaign, IL, for above 2
  • The song's structure is patterned after "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" by The Beatles. Both are clearly a collection of other, shorter pieces of songs put together into one.
  • The guitar solo at the end of the song was written by guitarist Jonny Greenwood. It was not originally intended for the song, but something was needed to close the song and this solo was in the right key and right tempo. Some parts of this closing solo are played forward and other parts are played backward.
  • The title is a reference to Marvin the Paranoid Android in the book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Tom - Philadelphia, PA
  • In 1996, Radiohead toured as the opener for Alanis Morissette. On this tour, they played "Paranoid Android" a lot, which allowed them to develop it long before they recorded it for OK Computer. When they played this live, it would often go 15 minutes or more.
  • Despite a 6:27 run time, this released as a single in many territories, but not the US, which helped boost album sales. Many radio stations clamored for a shorter version of the song, but Radiohead refused to edit it down.
  • The video was made by Magnus Carlsson, who created a series of short animations entitled "Robin." They, along with the music video, featured the surreal adventures of the eponymous hero and his friend Ben, and were shown on Channel 4 in the UK. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Adam - Sussex, England
  • This was first performed by the band in Belgium in July 1996. While supporting Alanis Morissette later that summer it mutated into a 10-minute epic. Once in the studio taking a cue from "Happiness Is A Warm Gun," the band broke the song into sections.
  • Guitarist Ed O'Brien (from Humo magazine July 22, 1997): "We wanted to make a crossing of Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' and The Pixies. No, it didn't become a 'Bohemian Rhapsody' of the '90s; it's not complex enough for that and it contains too much tension. It's the song that we played to our friends when they, a long time ago, wanted to know what the new album was going to sound like. You could see them thinking: 'If that's the new single, what will all the rest be like?'"
  • Jonny Greenwood recalled the recording of the song to NME October 15, 2011: "We were in Bath, recording at (Tudor manor house) St Catherine's Court. We were having drinks, and then we started doing percussion on a drum loop that Phil (Selway) had made. It grew from there. We'd already rehearsed an early version of the song, played it on tour with Alanis Morissette - obviously it didn't go down very well. Originally it had a 10-munute organ outro, which ultimately we ditched and replaced with the 'rain down' section. Was that the right decision? I think so, but sometimes I regret the lack of psychedelic, patchouli-soaked organ madness."
  • Thom Yorke told Pitchfork (August 16, 2006) about his reputation for writing about dark subject matters: "Loads of the music on OK Computer is extremely uplifting. It's only when you read the words that you'd think otherwise. That's just kind of the way it is. The whole point of creating music for me is to give voice to things that aren't normally given voice to, and a lot of those things are extremely negative." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • The OK Computer title also came from A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. While touring for The Bends, the band killed time in the bus by listening to an audio version of Douglas Adams' classic 1979 sci-fi-comedy novel. Halfway through the story, a spaceship computer declares that it's incapable of fending off incoming missiles. "OK, computer," responds the president of the galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox, "I want full manual control now." The incident is an important one in the narrative as it marks the point when humans saved themselves by reclaiming control from machines, and Thom Yorke noted the phrase. He told Rolling Stone:

    "The paranoia I felt at the time was much more related to how people related to each other. But I was using the terminology of technology to express it. Everything I was writing was actually a way of trying to reconnect with other human beings when you're always in transit. That's what I had to write about because that's what was going on, which in itself instilled a kind of loneliness and disconnection."

    "The whole album is really f---ing geeky," Yorke continued. "I was kind of a geek when I was a kid, unashamedly so. Then I'm in this rock band famous for drinking tea and never socializing, where the truth is somewhat different."
  • One of the instruments in the mix is a Mellotron, which Greenwood played. He generally thought of progressive rock as archaic, but copped to lifting the Mellotron part from early Genesis.
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Comments: 48

The song is clearly a reflection of god in hell, in his final days.

I'm trying to get some rest from all the unborn chicken voices in my head..

All his thoughts and ambitions that will not transpire in hell


When I am king....with your opinion which is of no consequence at all

Means..in hell god is not king he plays slave to his future life forming. Ik hard to fathom. But being god comes at a dire expense meaning an entire empty universe in it where he is the only soul. He created people to keep him company but people are not alive, they are unthinkng zombies which is where "with your opinion which is of no consequence at all" means god Is forced to deal with the peoples opinions actions words whatever although these people suffer no consequence because they are essentially empty vessel's. When I am king..meaning when I am in heaven and I rule.

Ambition makes you look pretty ugly

Chicken voices in my head..same concept these ambitions that do not transpire steal gods face being he is bombarded with thought after thought always in the wrong place at the wrong time although there is only one choice as the universe is bound by fate.

Rain down.. A prayer in hell. The fires that overtake the globe will force god to stay grounded. Fires purpose in fact. Enough to scare the wits out of even god.

Rain means just that rain. Please rain put out the conflagrations the world will face in 2016

God loves his children. God I the ultimate pedo. Hell is the cost for indulging in such lavish luxuries such as the fountain of you. Remember god is alone and created the heavens and earth people animals whoever just to keep him company during his lives he lives as a mortal man. See god never fully realizes that he is alone, although he knows he is, he can never truly become aware of it. "its hard to believe there is nobody out there" rhcp. Same principal. See when you stop hearing on a shallow level you truly hear what god is saying and not the person who wrote it so to speak although god wrote it. You do it to yourself you do...god does it to him self you do just you and no one else. Think about it. God is alone. In hell he is paying for heaven. You have to walk through fire to get to hell. This is so literal you have no clue. Well sure there is a story going along with paranoid android, the angel gods doppleganger ghostly counterpart his soul mate which comes in hell at the end when the pain is so severe his soul can finally breath meaning he has much more to think about than whether or not people have souls. But in heaven he can afford a life because his soul has recuperated and is no longer stressed.
Gregsuto - Hartford
An epic musical masterpiece and a wonderful example of the peculiar individuality that makes Radiohead legendary. The album features very blatant references to Thom's hatred of mechanised transport and the way society is inadvertently progressing (or regressing) technologically but becoming less self aware and detached. However, Paranoid Android and Karma Police reference the same incident wherein Thom was unavoidably and obtrusively engrossed by a group of social 'elites' who were all heavily wired on cocaine at a party that had a showbiz networking atmosphere (ambition makes you look pretty ugly). Arrogant, pretentious and suffering from verbal diarrhoea due to cocaine usage I can vividly imagine the horrendous experience Thom had to endure, especially for the socially awkward. The sarcastically bitter tone that flares up anxiously throughout the song as well as the magestic finish makes this song incredible, it stirs my soul to the very core. OK Computer is one of my all time favourite albums and Thom Yorke is a musical genius in my opinion, no matter the genre of music (his vinyl dj-ing) or collaborations/side projects (Atoms for Peace/UNKLE) he just keeps pulling rabbits out of hats and into headlights ;)Anima Mundi - South Africa
Just gave a very thoughtful response to this song. Every line had about a paragraph's worth of intelligent interpretation's, except I forgot to click on this box again before I deleted something and refreshed the entire page. Worst of all, I was one sentence away from being done. Maybe I'll try again some other time.

But everyone, remember that the song is about paranoia; Ie, the song is about the cruel transformation of sanity to insanity. Trust me, you're thinking too religiously.
Austen - Saint Louis, Mo
It's been suggested by some people that the line "Kicking screaming Gucci little piggy" was a dis of the Spice Girls. Kicking= Sporty, Screaming= Scary, Gucci= Posh, Little= Baby and Piggy= Ginger.Jason - Tampa, Fl
I think it has something to do with the human race and how we need to change are ways about thinking how we are superior to everything else. The man hears voices in his head and asks "whats this?" maybe its god trying to speak out to him, telling him to change his ways. Then it says "When i am king you will be first against the wall" probably meaning the man doesn't care about anything else but his own ambition. Then god says "ambition makes you look pretty ugly". God then lashes out and says you dont remember my name and who i really am. Then the man tries to ask forgiveness by saying reign or rain down on me from a great height. Then god during judgement dismisses him and says "Thats it sir, your leaving." The crackle of pigskin is him burning in hell, a pig meaning how selfish he was of himself. The screaming means hes screaming as he is burning in hell. Then it says sarcastically "God loves is children, God loves his children" very sad. This is just my opinion.William Swan - Wichita, Ks
Funny story about me and this song. I was trying to recreate the Android voice on my Speech function, and when I went to right-click on the text in the speech box, I couldn't help but laugh. Try it, it makes you wonder if people are overcomplicating things.

Great song.
Mike - Whitstable, United Kingdom
@ Justin - I think it's actually "I may be paranoid, but, I am no android." but that's just nitpicking.

When I first heard this song, it literally blew my mind. Bohemian Rhapsody had always been around as a kid, and I liked it, but it was always a little camp, a little knowing. Paranoid Android on the other hand was just immense. The band were definitely aware of how over the top the song was, but they still managed to pull it off with conviction, staying true to the song, resisting the temptation to make it playful.

I remember buying the single (since the album wasn't out yet) and wondering for a while why the shop had let a kid scribble all over the cover (cracking artwork, in hindsight)... I took it home and listened to it on repeat for a couple of days, only occasionally stopping to listen to the B-sides (I got CD1 - Polyethelene and Pearly). I couldn't get the song out of my head for weeks, and loved it. Genuinely the first time music seemed - to me - to be completely unpredictable, totally boundless.
Bobby B - North West, United Kingdom
Amazing song. The video is just weird, but great nonetheless. In fact, I think that the video adds to the awesomeness of the song. This is definitely one of their best.Jordan - Toronto, On
Since the lyrics are the poetry of Yorke, they obviously reflect his emotions, thoughts, and opinions. I don't believe there's much more to it than that, in the same way that you probably don't believe that every single radiohead lyric is some intense societal criticism disguised in metaphors. Just because Paranoid Android happened to be a really good song -and perhaps the defining track of their keystone album- doesn't mean that it was intended to be Radiohead's 'Stairway to Heaven'. Yorke writes in a very abstract style and tends to over-philosophize his thoughts when being interviewed about lyrics or song concepts. This is potentially because it wraps songs in open-endedness and draws upon the creativity of the listener, obviously raising the appeal of Radiohead's music for the same reasons that many people claim books to be better than films.Ben - New York, Ny
I've always gotten the sense that this song was about feeling alienated...by so many ways that people can wield power. If you've seen the video, it adds to that creepy feeling.Cecilia - Portland, Or
no way it means nothing, i don't believe Tom.

Read the lyrics man, it's not about nothing... you wanna know what it's about? ok fine i'll tell you.

it's about Yuppies. (young urban professionals, who took shape in the 80s, and now consist of you and I)

The song is written from 2 points of view; The Yuppie and the observer.

paranoid android= marvin from THHGG, the yuppie

"When I am king, you will be first against the wall with your opinion which is of no consequence at all" - yuppie

"Ambition makes you look pretty ugly
Kicking, squealing gucci little piggyobvious" - observer

"Why don't you remember my name?
Off with his head, man" -yuppie (his desire to be significant)

"rain down on me from a great height" -yuppie (this isn't as obvious.. I think its his demand of God for good grace)


"That's it sir, you're leaving. The crackle of pigskin. The dust and the screaming, The yuppies networking. the panic, the vomit" -observer (i think this part is just describing the panic of our ambition)

Anyway, point is, its not about nothing. the lyrics are relative.
Dee - Ottawa, On
This seriously is one of the greatest songs of all time.Briana - Santa Monica, Ca
My fave song of all time,,from the first moment i heard it i just knew this was something special.layers of sound which change direction leading u everywhere,especially listening to it on headphones with a whisky,lol,amazing song,amazing band and sounds even better live!! the best english band since the smiths.Steve - London, England
the song isnt about anything! he said it himself!Mary - Dublin, Ireland
I have always thought this song was about aliens. Unfortunately it is not. It isn`t about religion or karma, and definetly not about some sort of Universal Justice. This one`s about Thom himself, his unfortunate, depressing, saddening experience, a pure downer.
It goes back to the people and events he witnessed in a very posh LA bar, the night before Radiohed went to the studio. This is what I heard from Thom Yorke being taped on the interview. " Paranoid Android is full of images of people that I saw in a pub the night before we went to the studio...the lyrics are actually polaroids inside my head". There is also another popular theory of its lyrics origin (adopted by Yorke), which relates lyrics of Paranoid Android to the fall of Holy Roman Empire (I`m not sure it`s quite right perhaps second verse only). The "kicking squealing Gucci little piggy" part was based on an incident in a bar where a woman in a white Gucci dress had red wine
accidentally spilled down it. Her look was pure evil. In fact the song lyrics are absurd, meant to depict Thom`s insomnnia and surealistic visions he experienced while vainly trying to go to sleep (obviously he was depressed after LA bar bummer party). Thom continuously throws up allusions, symbols, ambiguities and overtones which gradually link themselves together so as to form a network of connections and cross-connections binding the whole edifice in unity. It has nothing to do with paranoia or claustrophoby I suppose. Merely an unpleasant depressing experience, hallucinations, or rather the "stream of consciousness" itself, the natural flow of thought and feelings, shifting moods and impulses that constitute the fabric of inner life, represented with uncanny penetration. You know it
if you ever read Joyce`s "Ulysses". This is what it feels like. Thus Yorke`s morbid insomniac imagery eventualy makes us the focus of universal human tensions. Somehow the lyrics is about feeling of forecoming apocalypse and having a slight glimmer of resolve, which is actually the general idea of Douglas Adams novel. A pure fustration of humans experience. How sad...
Kuzma - Moscow, Europe
I find it hard to listen to after once the music stops for the most part and he starts layering his opra-like vocals. But once you get over that hump its rewarding to listen toDylan - New Britain, Ct
Awesome song, the video clip is very strange tho. (But isn't that just Thom Yorke and Radiohead anyways?)Ash - Mooroopna, Australia
This is art rock at its finest. A whole bunch of time signature and tempo changes too. OK Computer is the greatest album of the 1990s, and supposedly one of David Gilmour's(Pink Floyds guitarist) favorite albums.Alex - Fort Mill, Sc
My interpretation is that its about a business person who doesn?t believe in God and hears the voice of God, which he thinks are chicken voices. Then the voice becomes clear and says that he will be first against the wall and be decapitated. Then the voice of God tells him that ambition makes him look ugly. Then the piggy (businessman) kicks and squeals. Then God gets upset because the businessman doesn?t remember his name. The he does, when he screams ?Oh God? as God takes him. Then God reins down on him, which is actually written ?rain down from a great height? in the booklet. And it ends with God killing the man and York saying sarcastically, ?god loves his children, yeah.?Neal - Boston, Ma
This is the BEST song of the 90's. It has great lyrics that coincide with the song and the emotions expressed by Thom Yorke will never be toppled.Jimi - Reno, Nv
one of the greatest songs ever. it's awesome.Joe - Baltimore, Md
Great Song , Worst Music Video Of All Time Though ?Jason - Dorset, England
It relates to Marvin the Paranoid Android. Seems to be about someone in a restuarant who gets annoyed at people at a nearby table. He starts an argument with them, and is thrown out into the rain outside ("That's it, sir, You're leaving"). He doesnt like the sort of people who are eating at the restuarant. "The crackle of pigskin".

"God loves his children, God loves his children, yeah!" A sarcastic stab at the people he detests, how could a god love people like this?
Orangebeaker - Edinburgh, Scotland
My interpretation is the first part is like the view of someone who gets the shaft from the system someone who's fed up (and a little jealous) of those on top. The middle "you don't remember... why don't you remember my name anymore" it's like those on the bottom saying hey we elected you, you aren't remembering us. The music is violent, I see this as an overthrow. The third part, "Rain down" I do see as reign down like saying isn't it great now, and all the bad old stuff is out: "you're leaving, the crackle of pigskin... the yuppies networking" And the final message is that it may seem good but it's really gonna just happen again, hence the return of the violent part, the up and down guitar motifs, and the intentional lack of resolution in the final notes.Pete - Wheaton, Md
I love this song. It's this song that got me into Radiohead (albeit after years of me HATING them i finally saw the light)Ben - Bristol, England
One of their best but the video is hardly played anymore. You have to turn up the volume full blast whenever its played.Christine - Sunderland
There is actually a lot of references to Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - not only paranoid android. For example 1- i know the phrase "when i am king you will be first against the wall" is a bit common but it is written in the Guide to the sirius Cybernetics Corps
2- "You dont remember my name" is what Arthur says when Trillian doesnt remember his name
Aisha - Reading, England
Not only was "Paranoid Android" taken from Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but also the very title of the album, "OK Computer", it's a phrase that is repeated throughout the book.

Just my 2ยข worth ;)
Tess - Panama, Other
This song has many different meanings and one I haven't read here yet (but have read elsewhere) is the last part where Thom is singing "Rain down, rain down on me, from a great height." This can also be interpretted as, "Reign down, reign down on me, from a great height," which makes sense because afterwards Thom sarcastically throws in "God loves his children, yeah" at the end. Basically, you get a glimpse at what Thom thinks of religion (God).Keith - Kyle, Tx
I hear this song at least twice a day, so you can imagine how much I like it. It is fantastic, specially the chorus "Rain down, Rain down Come on Rain Down on me". A brilliant version of Bohemian Rhapsody??. Radiohead have a lot of fans in South America, if you didnt know. This song is an anthemn all over the world. I hope hear the band live some day.Jonathan - Valencia, South America
Great song - My opinion is that it's about some burnt out city-type sat in a bar lashing out at all the young Yuppy types back-stabbing, networking, and climbing up the corporate ladder.Ian - Bristol, England
I remember the first time I heard this song. I was talking to my friend Kevin, and then the guitar solo came (the first one) and I just sort of paused, mid-conversation and listened until the end. I just about pissed my pants. I was like "what the hell was THAT?" It was the most amazing and original solo I had ever heard-- not just a bunch of notes played fast up and down different scales-- truly original.Trevor - Leesburg, Va
This song is one of the most musical songs ever written. It translates beautifully from time signature to time signature. It mixes a variety of different types of music into one song. Although Radiohead is considered by most to be one of the greatest bands of all time, this song has been said to be what made them legendary. Incredible song from an incredible band.Brian - St. Cloud, Mn
'Paranoid Android' isn't the only thing taken from 'the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy' the 'code'(look in the booklet or @ http://www.jchl.co.uk/music/radiohead/okc.htm) of airbag is 1421421 where in THGTTG 1 is the question (what's 'The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything')and 42 is the answer, just an interpretation, but it sounds very plausible

by the way, you can find the answer on google: just search for
Ben - Schelle, Belgium
Love this song, love the video. Both make me feel a little sick at the all-'round crappiness of modern life - but isn't that the whole point of OK Computer?Tim - Kilkenny, Ireland
best song ever madeAlejandro - Mexico D.f., Mexico
Song of unbelievable depth and quality, slip it on to get away from the dust and the screaming, the yuppies networking.... the video is a stroke of genius tooCharlotte - Norwich, United States
this song is stellar..... i think the song is about karma. if you think about it, the guy in the beginning of the song seems to be paranoid and is hearing "chicken voices". so maybe this guy is on his deathbed and is thinking about all of the bad stuff that he has done, adn he is scared of dying.
the 2nd verse is likely a flashback of how he treated people as inferiors to himself. he talks as though he will be the one to excel in life. he goes on to say "ambition makes you look pretty ugly." he is kinda saying that to even try to be as high and mighty as he is a joke.
the "rain downs" are probably him dying and going to heaven. the last part of the song "thats it sir, youre leaving..." is probably the voice of God sending the man with all of his arrogance to Hell.
this is just how i see the song, i could be wrong but i dont know...
Randi - Linton, Me
Best song of all time!Naveed - Dhaka, Other
I remember that the video used to freak me out when it was released, but it is still one of my favourite Radiohead songs. Probably was the amputee/bondage thing that was a little too heavy for me.Steph - Ottawa, Canada
Yes! I LOVED this song when it came out...I haven't heard it in so long :/ crazy video too.Jill - Charleston, Il
jonny greenwood did intend the solo for this song...it just wouldent fit with anything...Daryl - Poole, England
maybe not the best song ever..but this song is one of my favorites. i think its maybe second or third best on ok computer. radiohead is the best band ever.Bryan - Here, Sc
Actually, the "robot" says "I may be paranoid, but I'm not an android." It's really hard to hear, but that's what he says :)Justin - Jacksonville, Fl
Alright, this song is actually about Thom Yorke's fear of the technilogical world advancing at an astounding rate and fear of computers becoming more powerful than the human mind.Colin - Silver Spring, Md
A true master-piece. The video was un-real too. If you listen closely you can hear a robotic voice say Paranoid Andoid. Great guitar solo at the end.Brian - Paoli, In
Paranoid Android was first coined by Douglas Adams for the character Marvin the Paranoid Android, in 1978 in the BBC Radio series: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - "More popular than the Celestial Home Care Omnibus, better selling than Fifty Three More Things to Do In Zero Gravity and more controversial than Oolon Coluphid's trilogy of philosophical blockbusters: Where God Went Wrong, Some more of God's greatest Mistakes and Who Is This God Person Anyway?"Tony - St. Louis, Mo
The best song ever...Luis M Almeida - Oporto, Portugal
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