Karma Police

Album: OK Computer (1997)
Charted: 8
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  • This song is about fate and how it will always catch up with you. The band members used to warn each other that the "karma police" would get them if they didn't behave.
  • Thom Yorke: "Karma is important. The idea that something like karma exists makes me happy. It makes me smile. 'Karma Police' is dedicated to everyone who works for a big firm. It's a song against bosses." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • The video is one of the most memorable of its era. Directed by Jonathan Glazer, who had previously worked on the Radiohead video for "Street Spirit (Fade out)," it shows Thom Yorke in the back seat of a 1976 Chrysler New Yorker, which is driven down a dark road by a driver we never see. When a disheveled man appears in the headlights running from the vehicle, it seems whoever is in the car is after him. But then this man lights a book of matches and ignites a trail of gasoline that leads to the vehicle, setting it on fire.

    The video seems suited for the song, as karma strikes the driver, but Glazer didn't write it with Radiohead in mind. He came up with the idea for Marilyn Manson, who was looking for a video for his song "Long Hard Road Out of Hell" and had Glazer watch the David Lynch film Lost Highway for inspiration. In the opening credits of the film, a car is driving down a dark, deserted road, shot from the perspective of the vehicle looking down on the road. This image formed the basis of Glazer's story, but Manson rejected it. Radiohead was much more receptive, and took the idea.

    The video was championed by Matt Pinfield, host of the MTV show 120 Minutes, where it got lots of exposure in America.
  • Guitarist Ed O'Brien said in an interview in Humo magazine: "When someone in the band behaved like an a--hole, one of the others always said: 'The Karma Police is gonna get you.' I suppose it's all rubbish that your destiny depends on your deeds in a previous life, but you have to trust on something."
  • The video was shot in Cambridgeshire, England in a shoot that required a number of takes and some digital trickery to get the shot of the trail of fire. The actor playing the man on the road burned his thumb from repeatedly lighting the book of matches; that fire and the first few feet of the trail were real, but the rest of it was shot under similar conditions (and at the same angle) nearby and superimposed onto the shot.
  • According to OK Computer producer Nigel Godrich, the wall of feedback that makes up the second half of the song is something he and Yorke came up with on their own in the studio after Yorke told him he didn't like what they had down for that part of the song. "It's not like the band playing," Godrich told Rolling Stone. "It's just samples and loops and his sort of thing over the top, which sort of was the forerunner of a lot of things to come, good or bad."

    What was to come was the next Radiohead album, Kid A, which fragmented the band as it was done largely in pieces composed by Yorke using electronic instruments.

Comments: 62

  • Anima Mundi from South AfricaKarma Police starts off by expressing the quiet desperation for justice and vindication but ends in what sounds like the arrival of the actual karma police. It's got that sinister bitter undertone that Radiohead do so well. Typically vengeful and threatening but towards the end it changes tone completely with a powerful personal rebuke "For a minute there I lost myself, I lost myself. Phew, for a minute there I lost myself, I lost myself", the operative word being 'phew' - an almost self-derision reprimand to almost seeking revenge and endorsing that which he was probably seeking justice for - after all, that's what the karma police are for :)

  • Alejandro from Miramar, FlMy brother's interpretation of the song is that it predicted the exact attitude many people have on the Internet. In ordinary life, they may be nice or at least neutral people who don't start conflict and keep their feelings under control. But once they go online, where no one could know who they are and therefore make them pay for what they do, they "lose themselves" and start trolling people. They launch obscenities and insults with the intention of putting people down, and when it's not just for no reason, it's because "This is what you get when you mess with us."
  • Michael from Tucson, AzThis song has always seemed to be about bullying to me. This guy has been bullied over and over, and eventually he thinks to himself about killing them ("This is what you get when you mess with us"), and then snaps to his senses, remembering that would only bring him down to their level. "For a minute there, I lost myself."
  • Karl from Ingatestone, United Kingdomafter it became a band catchphrase for a while, it was released as a single from OK Computer and then appeared on Now 38. remember seeing the 'Karma Police' video and looking at how blooming great Radiohead can be.
    what is amazing about Radiohead is that Rockabye Baby! covered this, and i do cover this in my Wilkinsons pads under different names, in my next one, due out July 17, this wont be featuring on it
  • Luke from Manchester, United KingdomThe line, "He buzzes like a fridge" is a reference to Fridge Noise, an in-joke that Radiohead have.
  • Alex from Los Angeles, CaI think the lyrics are specially directed to the men and women with a lot of power: the government people. The government "talk in maths" (statistics), and by radio waves they keep the buzzing sound over and over, leaving us all freezed so we don't make a movement against them. And when we fight for our rights they throw over us the look like we're "crashing their party". They do that because they think they are the owners of all. Even if there's not a evident material force to make them pay what they're doing wrong, there's Karma for the good of all the subordinates which eventually will come material. Even us aren't free from going wrong and "for a minute there" we "lost" ourselves.
  • Brad from Fdfbgb, NyThis song is great! The first time i saw the video,i thought the fat guy was a hobo,the car was driving itself,and Thom Yorke was possessed
  • Michelle from Los Angeles, CaColdplay can not be compared to Radiohead. Radiohead is SO original . . . .
  • Michelle from Los Angeles, CaLove this song!!! The interpretation is only up to what the listener make of it . . . why not?
  • Alex from Sydney, AustraliaIt could be worse, we could all like soulja boy. or rhianna, or even the pussycat dolls.just imagine what the world would be like if everyone listened to lady gaga non-stop.
  • Theresa from Murfreesboro, TnGreat vocals and lyrics. Radiohead's best song to date.
  • Victoria from Chicago, Ilgoodness.......coldplay and radiohead are both great groups.....better than soulja boy
  • Rick from London, OnThis song is about how we steer each other toward moral perfection by our constant policing of each other, that comes in the form of thought judgements, glances, backstabbing, verbal chastizing...until we are in all the funny farm. :)
  • Andrea from Sønderborg, DenmarkLeave Coldplay alone! Radiohead are great, but so are Coldplay. There is room enough for both of trhem. AND CHRIS MARTIN IS FREAKING FANTASTIC!
  • Chris from Auckland, New Zealandgreat song!

    but whats all the fuss about coldplay? radiohead have been going for ages, and coldplay are good.

    i prefer radiohead, but coldplay is one of my favourite bands. now, radiohead and the jonas brothers... lets just hope the world never comes to that.
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesRadiohead are not that original, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Rush, Marillion, Alan Parsons Project et al, they all released similar records many years before the 'Head. But I think that OK Computer was probably the most "complete" album of it's type, the one where all the disparate parts of the already existing genre were fused into a "whole" product
  • Donny from Indianapolis, InColdplay is pathetic...

    Please stop mentioning them in the same sentence as Radiohead!
  • Paul Bert Bilog from Los Angeles, Cathis song is a riff off melody of sexy sadie. john's instant karma is way better than this... examine it. Its almost riff off. Radiohead is good in rewritten beatles song.. Have you noticed that anyone out there. Radiohead is influenced much of the beatles.
  • Yawg from Westbrook, Ctfirst of all, coldplay is sh*t. Just another poppy money maker.

    I think the driver of the car is the one with "bad karma" as he is tormenting the poor fat guy. As Thom would say, the driver is "on the payroll". The tables get turned when the car catches on fire thus, balancing out the karma.

    I don't believe that karma exists in a literal sense. I do not believe there is a god external to our universe who keeps track of everyone's karma score. I think karma is better understood as a general concept of "what goes around comes around." We are all one. Hurting other people is like hurting yourself. Nobody is above this. If you put negativity into society, other people probably are too, so expect some of it to come right back at you. If you are a nice respectful person, you'll probably have a nice group of friends to keep a buffer from all the sh*t in the world.

    but hey, i might be wrong.
  • Gabe from Little Rock, ArIt's true. Radiohead admitted to it. This song was based off of Sexy Sadie by the Beatles.
  • Jon from West Bend, IaJust because you believe in Karma doesn't mean you believe in an omnipresent being, such as "God."
  • Kuzma from Moscow, EuropeHey! Don`t ever try to compare them with Coldplay. It`s not fair. Coldplay`s for teens. Hmm...Have you heard Casiotone for the Painfully Alone? Radiohead got personality, it`s cultural phenomena, it`s for those who cares. If you dont get it I`m sorry, you should probably listen to Pixies first. Thom is rather a timid person and his voice is sorta depressing, but his lyrics are supposed to make one see the light at the end of tunnel. This is what I think is important.
  • Lash from Vancouver, CanadaPeople think they have a clue of the meaning of this song, but the majority is lost, and confused like most people who are misled in this world.
    karma police is based on drug users trying to recope with life and cannot in a normal world.
    oh and people if you beleive in karma then you beleive in god, cause karma has eyes, Hey people wake up call- karma is god.
  • Lexie from Haifa, Israelthe "for a minute i lost myself" part is great.
    i love the lyrics in this one.
    this and creep are definatly radioheads madterpeices.
  • Ciaran from Tyrone, IrelandMasterpiece, the "this is what you get" is one of the best harmonic sequences ever
  • Nate from Pittsburgh, Pawhat do people have against diffrent good music. radiohead and coldplay are difftent
  • Ryan from New Orleans, Lai'm surprised no one has written this sooner but the two people Thom Yorke is talking about seem to be Syd Barrett and Siouxsie Sioux...i think that's pretty cool, Thom...
  • Mongrol from Istanbul, Turkeysong is about anti-rationalism, anti-modernism, and particularly anti-communism i think...

  • Robb from London, EnglandOnly banter tbqfh. Coldplay suffer from an allergy called change in their music. Was a big fan of them until I realised in my car that all songs of theirs sound so similar.

    Radiohead not only branch out in every which way but loose but also make the song so complex, compelling and interesting it holds you.

    Awesome song and brillant ending.
  • Max from Sydney, AustraliaThis song ( to do with the video to) is the man whos running from the Car is the person with Bad Karma'. And the car represents the 'Karma Police' Trying to arrest him. And in the video. the guy that the car is chasing looks like Radiohead's Drummer, Phil (somthing*)
  • Max from Sydney, Australiai agree..stop arguing about coldplay and radiohead they are both good...exept radiohead is better :P and also i like the"I lost myself" part..the best ending i've ever heard on a song
  • Ma from New York, NyWhy can't you people just like them both, they are both good bands.
  • Jason from Dorset, EnglandIve Only Just Gotten into Radiohead , But Coldplay Are much better , although chris martin is about the only talented one in the group , although this is the same with radiohead . Anyway This Is A great Song , especially Love The End Of It.
  • Matt from Oceanside, NyI registered a name just to say please stop saying Coldplay is the next Radiohead, don't tarnish Radiohead with that awful band.
  • Slackjaw from Long Island, NyAfter OK Computer and Kid A, many were claiming how Radiohead was the next Pink Floyd. Now Coldplay is compared to Radiohead...Can't bands just be themselves anymore?
  • Orangebeaker from Edinburgh, ScotlandAs has been said previously, the music sounds a lot like the Beatles song "Sexy Sadie".
  • Dan from Sydney, AustraliaRadioheads best song (equal with 2+2=5) . The film clip is excellent .Radiohead are easily better than coldplay (but they are good too. love the bridge bit
  • Hayk from Boxtel, NetherlandsThnx for all those comments. I think Hail to the Thief is the best Radiohead album. First, the Bends and OK Computer were of course my favorites. You only have to listen Hail to the Thief more! Please do it.
  • Matt from Cape Girardeau, MoColdplay is a watered down, pop-freindly, pussier version of Radiohead. They steal their look, they try to imitate the kind of depressed mopey mod that Radiohead puts out there and write the lamest songs ever. Listen closely to the structure of COldplay songs and you will discover that everything happens four times in most of their songs. It's like they have a pattern that most of their songs must fit. It's catchy pop music and nothing more. Radiohead is one of the few bands that has their own style but still manages to grow and experiment in every album. There's a reason that Radiohead sells out quicker than anyone whenever they come in town without anything on the radio and no video to promote themselves. Radiohead has earned some of the most loyal fans from being one of the best, most original bands during this generation and writing songs that really hit home with a lot of people.
  • Bob from Olympia, WaIm not sure if anyone else has said/noticed this, but this song sounds a lot like the Beatles' "Sexy Sadie". I would be very suprised if Radiohead weren't influenced by this song.
  • Malorie from Indianapolis, Ini truly like radiohead and pride them for their career accomplishments, but i have to say that coldplay has really captured the heart of the same generation, at least where im from and i dont think it fair for anyone to slander coldplay for the fact that they may remind them of radiohead, coldplay deserves as much recognition as anyone in the business.
  • Andy Acreman from Poole(yes It Is A City Dam It), Englandmy intermritation (sorry about the spelling)
    i think the karma police mentioned in the song are a gang and the first two chorues are about things that the person singing ( not Thom Yorke, the focus of the song) got the gang to do. the first chours is him saying it to the vickums. the 3rd verse is the person begging the karma police to give him more time to repay them for there deed( or him trying to leave the karma police ) the 2nd repetation of the chourus is the karma police speaking to him and the final verse is him trying to explane his actions to th e karma police or his viktems
  • Marlow from Perthi think coldplay are massively influinced by radiohead
  • Dominic from Poole, EnglandLies! Lies and Slander!
  • Andy Acreman from Poole(yes It Is A City Dam It), Englanddont get me wrong radiohead are good.
    but they are depressive
  • Mel from Birmingham, United StatesWith all due respect, I think im going to have to PARTIALLY agree with Nick. Although OK Computer was voted the best album I definitely think that The Bends is a better album. Soooo many of the songs are of unbelievable standard whereas OK Computer only contains a few of their hits. The Bends is an absolute classic and should've been given the title as the best album. Don't get me wrong though, I think OK Computer is great but... The Bends is better.
  • E from Vancouver, CanadaNow i agree its not the greatest album of all time. However its the best album of the last 15 years at least... paranoid android is an exceptional song and the guitar solo is craz. The whole album is incredibly original, and its easy to listen to the whole album, not boring at all.
  • Jonathan Taylor from Keighley, EnglandIm tellin you know- Radiohead are weird, but not in a bad way- they are an orginal band full of musical suprises- No Su[rises is a great song
  • Andrew from St. Louis, MoI honestly do not see how you could say this album sucks. I don't think it is the best album of all time, (Dark Side of the Moon easily takes that) but it certainly is one of the best of the last 25 years. The album has a great concept dealing with how humans are too dependant on machines to do our work. Not one bad track on the whole album
  • Nick from Southampton, EnglandThis song came from the album "ok computer", which was voted the greatest album of all time in a recent poll.Sorry, but i bought the album and apart from Karma Police,No surprises (which is a suberb piece of genius) and Paranoid Android..the album sucks.The bends is SO much better
  • Trevor from Leesburg, VaYeah, Radiohead DOMINATES coldplay. The music is so complex, and original... It's almost like it's "alien" music or something. The guitar and bass solos on Paranoid Android blow me away.
  • Tim from Kilkenny, IrelandIs it just me or is this song a bit . . . overrated? I mean - it's great, but it's not their best. I love the video, though. And Radiohead beat Colplay hands down - even if just for the fact that they have more albums for us to savour. More inventive, better songs, nicer-voiced lead singer, cooler "band persona" . . . and a WAY better guitarist!
  • Charlotte from Norwich, United StatesIt's also quite self-effacing 'we're still on the payroll' - mind you, Kid A got the Karma Police off their backs if that was what Thom and co had in mind
  • Sarah from Missoula, MtI love this song, especially the bridge.
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesThis song, like most of the OK Computer album was inspired by Marillion's 1994 album "Brave" and Pink Floyd's 1979 classic "The Wall".
  • Steve from Chino Hills, CaThe video is awsome! It's proof that a music video can be art. Sure it will be lost on the masses, but it's amazing to watch.
    My interpretation of the video is the car represents a corporation (large, faceless entitiy), and the guy running is an employee. He is older, gaining weight, and his life's baggage slows him down. The car chasing him reprents the corporation seeking contineous results from him. When he stubles and falls and the car backs up this represents the corporation mulling over firing him (in this case, running him over). The gas puddle is a weakness in the corporation that he exploits to bring it down! Great video!
  • David Westell from Blackburn, EnglandIn the background you can hear some muffled and generally wierd 'voiced' sounds. This is Ed singing into the microphone from a distance
  • Sarah from England, United Statesanyone else notice comparisons with this song and George Orwell's '1984'?
  • Alatriel from Lothlorien, Otherkarma will always catch up to you trust me i know cause i'm buddhist and all that.
    i also hear alot of comparisons between these guys and coldplay....radiohead is amazing but my pick definitely goes to coldplay how about you guys?
  • Colin from Silver Spring, Mdbased on what Thom contributed to the meaning and the lyrics, some could be interpretted to be about the police force. But then again most Radiohead songs are about whatever the listener believes they are about.
  • Michelle from Shingle Springs, Ca"It was a band catchphrase for a while on tour - whenever someone was behaving in a particularly s--tty way, we'd say, 'The karma police will catch up with him sooner or later,'" says Jonny. "It's not a revenge thing, just about being happy with your own behaviour." Thom laughs, "This is a song against bosses, f--k middle management!" Ed was the one who originally suggested they do a song based on the catch-phrase. (greenplastic.com)
  • Sharona from Azmantal, AzThis song is mainly about how your karma will catch up to you...and will always be there. That's why it is good to be an honest person
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