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Indie Rock

Radiohead – Airbag/How Am I Driving?

The Airbag/How A I Driving EP, released by Radiohead towards the end of the promotional campaign for OK Computer, featured not only some amazing b-sides from the OK Computer era, but also some of the most unique & compelling artwork of any CD I’ve ever bought.

There are all sorts of prescient seeming phrases in the artwork which make me think of 2020. Especially the disclaimers on the “survey” which explain what will happen to the data you give. These feel like an explicit reference to what we now call Big Data which Radiohead, in 1997-8, could already see creeping into our lives. In many ways the artwork of this EP could be considered a satirical masterpiece of Capitalist Realism, which resonates strongly today, in the chaotic atmosphere of late capitalism.

The point of this post is to show you the incredible artwork. Unfortunately, my copy has spent about twenty years in a smoking house & has become yellowed with age, losing its brilliant white colour. I am a little disappointed by this but luckily I was able to find excellent pictures of the packaging on Discogs.

My smoke-yellowed & dog-eared copy.

How it’s supposed to look.

The cartoon on the left is a little blurry & indistinct on the Discogs pic so here’s a close up taken from my old copy:

Pictures courtesy of Discogs

Airbag was never commercially released as a single, & as such never had a promo video produced, so here’s a great live version of it from the UK TV show Later With Jools Holland. As an aside: I’m sure I remember reading, possibly in an interview around the tie of release, that all of the songs on OK Computer were going to have videos made for them. Obviously this never happened but would have been amazing.

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5 replies on “Radiohead – Airbag/How Am I Driving?”

Georg showed me a collectors edition of a Paul McCartney album from back in the day. It was a wooden box full of all sorts of things. While the last Beatles LP I bought was a plain white cover

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Fascinating – I love it when artists play around with paratext. There’s an idea that resistance to the government, big corporations or whatever looks angry and messy, but I think sometimes it’s these quiet subversions that cause us to question our expectations and norms. I think that’s also some of the problem with fake news – it’s presented in the same way as real news, so an untrained eye has difficulty distinguishing the difference. Anyway, thanks for sharing this.

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