'Paranoid Android' was pieced together from three different song fragments during rehearsals and sessions for OK Computer in early 1996. The band didn't know what else to do with them, and took inspiration for this patchwork approach from John Lennon's 'Happiness Is A Warm Gun' (the band has often cited The Beatles White Album as an inspiration on their work). The band also mentioned the Pixies and 'Bohemian Rhapsody' by Queen as reference points.
The earliest known live recording comes from the Torhout Festival on july 6th 1996. This version features early lyrics and didn't include the final guitar section yet, instead it had Jonny on an organ improvising over a riff for minutes while the rest of the band played along.
During the August 1996 tour in support of Alanis Morissette the lyrics were changed, but the long organ outro still remained. This video was filmed on august 14th 1996 at Great Woods in Mansfield:
This recording comes from August 19th 1996:
This page appeared in radiohead.com during the OK Computer period under the title 'waving or drowning'. Thom gives some background on where the "Gucci little piggy" bit came from:
paranoid android. in a bar in hollywood* the centre of the western universe, standing at the bar (social drinking) after doing the talk show bit. do you want to know this? this is what we aspire to is it? it is dark, there is a woman opposite me
o is as sociably anorexic as her poodle, she looks desolate in her make up and lost eyes, next to her her husband boyfriend is persuading a younger fleshed half his age stewardess to come back to the hills to their mansion to sample his wine. she looks
t him like he's a character in a hammer house horror. one of our friends spills a glass of wine over a vacuum packed gucci outfit complete with matching white hand bag. the witch goes crazy, we think it is fuunny. until we see the evil in her eyes. m
friend is asked to leave. the gucci creature is the closest thing i have seen to the devil. the woman is possessed.
i cannot sleep that night asking what we've got our selves into. voices talking like fax machines, hissing and spitting like demons, this is the master race. and now im part of it. anyway you didnt want to know that.
motion picture the pulsing of a life support system . that's as far as we've got.
lull there is nothing more dull. than talking talkin about yourself. what i meant to say. im sorry that i lost control. distracted and irrelevant. the stress and the tension. coming through the keyhole when. im in lull.
transport motorways and tramlines starting and then stopping taking off and landing the emptiest of feelings disapppointed peoople clinging onto bottles and when it comes its so so disappointing.
True love waits are you a virgin? every night we are haunted it paces up and down outside my room, it talks to me in its sleep. its in the tape going round and round. it stops and starts the tape machine. goes into record when it feels like it.
just let it happen. just dont leave. dont leave. it waits patiently. mum left her 8 year old locked in for a week with lollipops and crisps. she had to work or forgot or something. stanley says.
you, like everyone else need to feel important.
Another page, titled 'stuck in a frozen lake', appeared on radiohead.com towards the end of recording OK Computer.
The relevant section was not highlighted in red letters in the original page:
an airbag saved my life* in an interstella burst i am back to save the universe computer drums bass wrong
lift* is hard work you been stuck in a lift we been trying to reach you thom the belly of the whale (thanks Rei xxxx)
paranoid android* get busy with the shakers while im fast asleep could you stop the noise im trying ta get some rest this the place it wont hurt ever again
karma police* girl with hitler hairdo everybodys friend life in a glasshouse phew for a minute there i lost myself i lost myself sit down your safe now
polyethelene*will never break down swirly self announcements. stuck in a frozen lake. the penultimate place in dante's hell.
last flowers till the hospital*is a sign discovered in oxford -my unhealthy obsession with these institutions. analysts may get the connection. ambulances scream past my house at all hours of the day and night like the confessionals of Larkin's "Ambulan
let down*in the midst of monster tour the momentum getting drunk to talk bombarded by dangerously high levels of radiation from xray machines. one day, one day...
climbing up the walls*both managers and record company are nervous about such a nasty sound coming out of the speakers. this is a good sign.
dogwander* bring on another take better than another cake.
nude* it is a mans world. and this one is very confused and will have sex with anything woman who comes within a mile radius. but feels bad about it. so doesnt.
exit song (for a film)* cannot be listened to more than once in a row. which made recording it easy. or not. but what film?
big boots* it was a long time ago and i cant remember. a whole orchestra watching the film and playing along. real life is dull. i am i the white lotus flying off the quay with barbara bach.
....>>>>i like the idea of you listening to our recordings with your head resting gently in emptiness. or before going out. or when you've come back. i dont like the scientists breaking down its molecular structure and teaching it in O level chemistry i
ont want to have expain it but it worries me stupid. there is a lot of crying goes into making things.<<<<....
the masters tell us that there is an aspect of our minds that is its fundamental basis, a state called "the ground of the ordinary mind." It functions like a storehouse, in which the imprints of past actions caused by our negative emotions are all store
like seeds. when the right conditions arise, they germinate and manifest as circumstances and situations in our lives.
if we have a habit of thinking in a particular pattern, positive or negative, then these tendencies will be triggered and provoked very easily and recurr and go on recurring. With constant repetition our inclinations and habits become steadily more entr
ched and continue, increasing and gathering power even when we sleep. This is how they come to determine our life, our death our rebirth.
At the beginning of Meeting People Is Easy one can hear something that sounds like it could be an excerpt from a soundboard recording of one of the august 1996 live performances of the song. It's not certain, though, what exactly we have here. It might as well be a studio outtake, though that seems unlikely, since it's a tour documentary. A soundcheck perhaps:
The single, released may 26th 1997 in the UK, marked Radiohead's return after over two years of no new material. It shook up the entire industry, a six-and-a-half minute epic schizophrenically switching between different styles and tunes. According to Thom it's about the fall of the Roman Empire (he adapted this interpretation for interviews after someone suggested it to him). The band refused to make a radio edit of it, yet it still achieved a lot of airplay, and it peaked at number 3 in the UK charts. It was premiered on the Evening Session on april 30th 1997. The video was first aired on may 20th on MTV Europe and on may 25th in the USA.
Ed briefly remembered recording 'Paranoid Android' in one of the entires of his online diary:
thursday, october 7th 1999
‘Optimistic’ is possibly my favourite ‘band’ song [that] is played together live in a room. Sounds fucking great. We do about 9 versions, in most there are some amazing moments. The penultimate take would seem to be the one. As it's Thom’s birthday today recording takes a backseat in the evening – but we do manage to have a small reunion of the conga’s on percussion at about midnight - they do add their customary sound to ‘Optimistic’ - their last gig was on ‘Paranoid Android’ at St. Catherine’s. Brilliant day.
The following image shows a t-shirt sold by w.a.s.t.e., and the description of the item, apprently written by Stanley Donwood, read like this:
"Ah. Gucci never said anything about this. Nor did the National Pig Association, or indeed the Association of Chief Police Officers. Just a t-shirt, just a t-shirt."
Part of the performance of 'Paranoid Android' from october 18th 1997 in Paris can be seen in Meeting People Is Easy:
A soundcheck and another performance of this song, both from november 5th 1997 in Stockholm, are also in the movie:
Thom has played the song acoustically with Jonny a few times, but the only solo performance by Thom to date comes from the Bridgeschool Benefit Concert on october 27th 2002: