No Surprises

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"No Surprises"
Single by Radiohead
from the album OK Computer
  • "Palo Alto"
  • "How I Made My Millions"
Released12 January 1998 (1998-01-12)
RecordedJuly 1996
StudioCanned Applause, Didcot, Oxfordshire, England
Radiohead singles chronology
"No Surprises"
"Pyramid Song"
Audio sample
Music video
"No Surprises" on YouTube

"No Surprises" is a song by the English rock band Radiohead, released as the fourth and final single from their third studio album, OK Computer (1997), on 12 January 1998. It was also released as an EP with B-sides, No Surprises / Running from Demons. It features glockenspiel and a "childlike" sound inspired by the 1966 Beach Boys album Pet Sounds.

The music video, directed by Grant Gee, features the singer, Thom Yorke, wearing a helmet as it fills with water. Gee was inspired by the 1968 science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey, underwater escape acts and the television series UFO. He fixated on the lyric "a job that slowly kills you", and conceived a real-time video that would convey the feeling of "murderous seconds".

"No Surprises" reached number four on the UK Singles Chart. In 2011, NME named "No Surprises" the 107th-best track of the previous 15 years.


Thom Yorke wrote "No Surprises" while Radiohead was touring with R.E.M. in 1995. Yorke introduced the song to the rest of the band in their dressing room in Oslo, Norway on August 3, 1995.[1] Later, the lyrics were rewritten and a glockenspiel melody was added. It was the first song recorded in the sessions for OK Computer. Yorke said the "childlike guitar sound set the mood for the whole album" and that the band was aiming for a mood similar to the 1966 Beach Boys album Pet Sounds.[2] He also said Radiohead wanted to recreate the atmosphere of a song by Marvin Gaye or the Louis Armstrong song "What a Wonderful World".[3] "No Surprises" is in the key of F major.[4]

The version on the album is the first take recorded; the band recorded many further versions, but felt they could not improve on the first.[5] Hoping to achieve a slower tempo than could be played well on their instruments, the producer, Nigel Godrich, had the band record the song at a faster tempo, then slowed the playback for Yorke to overdub his vocals onto, creating an "ethereal" effect.[6]

The bassist, Colin Greenwood, said that "No Surprises" was Radiohead's "'stadium-friendly'" song. He said the concept was to frighten OK Computer listeners with "Climbing Up the Walls", then comfort them "with a pop song with a chorus that sounds like a lullaby".[3] Yorke told Q: "If you play it right, it is fucking dark. But it's like acting. It's on the edge of totally hamming it up but you're not. It's just the words are so dark. When we play it, we have to play it so slow. It only sounds good if it's really fragile."[7]


"No Surprises" was released as the fourth single from OK Computer on 12 January 1998.[8] It reached number four on the UK Singles Chart.[9] In 2008, it was included in Radiohead: The Best Of.[10] An early version with different lyrics was included in the 2017 OK Computer reissue OKNOTOK 1997 2017.[11] In October 2011, NME named "No Surprises" the 107th-best track of the previous 15 years.[12]

Music video[edit]

The music video for "No Surprises" consists of a single close-up shot of Yorke inside a helmet. The lyrics slowly scroll upwards, reflected in the helmet. After the first verse, the helmet begins to fill with water. Yorke continues singing as he attempts to lift his head above the rising water. Once the helmet completely fills, Yorke is motionless for over a minute, after which the water is released and he resumes singing.[9]

Yorke in the music video (top) and filming the music video (bottom)

The music video was directed by Grant Gee and was shot on November 28, 1997. Initially, Radiohead and their record label, Parlophone, planned to film music videos for each track on OK Computer. Gee pitched concepts for "No Surprises" and "Fitter Happier". His initial concept for "No Surprises", which Gee later described as "some kind of sparkly music-box themed performance-based nonsense", was rejected. His "Fitter Happier" concept was abandoned when Parlophone decided to shoot videos only for the singles.[13]

Six months later, after Gee had been filming Radiohead for the documentary Meeting People Is Easy, Parlophone wanted a music video for "No Surprises" and asked Gee to pitch another concept. Gee listened to the song while studying a still image of the astronaut character David Bowman in the 1968 science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey, and wondered if he could make a music video comprising a close-up of a man in a helmet. He was also inspired by childhood memories of underwater escape acts and alien characters in the television series UFO with helmets full of liquid. He fixated on the lyric "a job that slowly kills you", and conceived a real-time video that would convey the feeling of "murderous seconds".[13]

The crew hired a special effects company to create a perspex helmet, into which water could be slowly pumped and would allow Yorke to release the water in an emergency. To reduce the time for which Yorke had to hold his breath, the crew sped up part of the song, doubled the camera speed from 25 to 50 frames per second to match, and then decelerated both the song and frame rate after the water drained, keeping Yorke's vocals in synchronisation. Although Yorke had demonstrated that he could hold his breath for over a minute in stress-free conditions, under the shooting conditions he found it difficult to hold his breath for more than ten seconds before draining the water. According to Gee, "The day turned into a horror show ... [It was] repeated torture."[13] Footage of the shoot appears in Meeting People is Easy, with Yorke becoming increasingly frustrated.[14] After many failed takes, with coaching from the assistant director, Yorke was eventually able to complete a take.[13]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Radiohead (Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Ed O'Brien, Colin Greenwood and Philip Selway).

CD 1

  1. "No Surprises" – 3:51
  2. "Palo Alto" – 3:44
  3. "How I Made My Millions" – 3:07

CD 2

  1. "No Surprises" – 3:50
  2. "Airbag" (Live in Berlin) – 4:49
  3. "Lucky" (Live in Florence) – 4:34

No Surprises / Running from Demons

  1. "No Surprises" – 3:49
  2. "Pearly*" – 3:38
  3. "Melatonin" – 2:08
  4. "Meeting in the Aisle" – 3:07
  5. "Bishop's Robes" – 3:23
  6. "A Reminder" – 3:51




Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[27] Gold 40,000
Italy (FIMI)[28] Gold 25,000
United Kingdom (BPI)[29] Platinum 600,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Alternative versions and covers[edit]

"No Surprises"
Single by Regina Spektor
Released27 April 2010 (2010-04-27)
Regina Spektor singles chronology
"No Surprises"
"All the Rowboats"

Versions have also been recorded by K's Choice, Luka Bloom, Malia, Blake Morgan, Yaron Herman Trio, Christopher O'Riley, Paige, Peter Jöback, Motorama, Louis Durra, Stanisław Sojka, Scott Matthew, Northern State, and Postmodern Jukebox.[30] American singer songwriter Amanda Palmer recorded a version of this song for her album of Radiohead covers performed on ukulele, Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukulele. It was also covered by Blake Morgan on his 2006 album Silencer. A piano interpretation of the song was used in the second episode of the HBO show Westworld in 2016.[31] Roman GianArthur, of Janelle Monáe's Wondaland Arts Society, released OK Lady, an EP of Radiohead R&B mash-up covers including "No Surprises" (featuring Monáe) in the fall of 2015.[32]

Regina Spektor version[edit]

Regina Spektor, alternative pianist and anti-folk musician, released a one-track charity single of the song on April 27, 2010.[33] All proceeds go to the Doctors Without Borders Emergency Relief Fund.[34]


Chart (2010) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[35] 96

No Surprises / Running from Demons[edit]

No Surprises / Running from Demons
EP by
Released10 December 1997
Radiohead chronology
OK Computer
No Surprises / Running from Demons
Airbag / How Am I Driving?

No Surprises / Running from Demons is the fourth EP by Radiohead, released in December 1997. It was aimed at the Japanese market to promote Radiohead's tour of Japan in January 1998.[citation needed]

"Meeting in the Aisle" is Radiohead's first completely instrumental track. This "remixed" version of "Pearly*" (as opposed to the "original version" available on the "Paranoid Android" single and Airbag / How Am I Driving? EP) features clearer production values, louder guitar at the beginning of the song, and a different guitar line at the end.

The song "Bishop's Robes" refers to Yorke's experience of cruelty at school. "Bishop's Robes" is also included on the "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" 'CD1' single.


  1. ^ Randall, p. 228
  2. ^ Moran, Caitlin (July 1997). "I was feeling incredible hysteria and panic…". Select: 92.
  3. ^ a b "Radiohead: The album, song by song, of the year". Humo. 22 July 1997.
  4. ^ Thom, Yorke; Jonathan, Greenwood; Philip, Selway; Colin, Greenwood; Edward, O'Brien; Radiohead (29 November 2010). "No Surprises". Retrieved 28 April 2021.
  5. ^ Randall, p. 229
  6. ^ McKinnon, Matthew (24 July 2006). "Everything in Its Right Place". CBC. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  7. ^ "Radiohead: Their Glorious Return". Q Magazine (Q362). August 2016.
  8. ^ Randall, p. 253
  9. ^ a b Randall, p. 254
  10. ^ "The Best of Radiohead - Radiohead - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  11. ^ Atkins, Jamie (22 June 2017). "OK Computer – OKNOTOK 1997-2017". Record Collector. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  12. ^ "150 best tracks of the past 15 years". NME. 6 October 2011. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  13. ^ a b c d Scovell, Adam (15 January 2018). "The Bends? Grant Gee On The Day Thom Yorke Nearly Drowned For Art". The Quietus. Retrieved 2021-02-15.
  14. ^ Sherburne, Philip (May 2003). "Sound and vision: Radiohead reinvents the music video". RES. RES Media Group: 53.
  15. ^ "Radiohead – No Surprises". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  16. ^ "Radiohead – No Surprises" (in Dutch). Ultratip.
  17. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 15, no. 5. 31 January 1998. p. 12. Retrieved 12 July 2020.
  18. ^ "Radiohead – No Surprises" (in French). Les classement single.
  19. ^ "Íslenski Listinn Topp 40 (29.1 – 5.2. 1998)". Dagblaðið Vísir (in Icelandic). 30 January 1998. p. 22. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  20. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – No Surprises". Irish Singles Chart.
  21. ^ "Tipparade-lijst van week 49, 1997" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 20 March 2023.
  22. ^ "Radiohead – No Surprises" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  23. ^ "Radiohead – No Surprises". Top 40 Singles.
  24. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  25. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  26. ^ "Najlepsze single na UK Top 40–1998 wg sprzedaży" (in Polish). Archived from the original on 4 June 2015. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  27. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Radiohead – No Surprises". Music Canada. Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  28. ^ "Italian single certifications – Radiohead – No Surprises" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 30 July 2018. Select "2018" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "No Surprises" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli" under "Sezione".
  29. ^ "British single certifications – Radiohead – No Surprises". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 10 February 2023.
  30. ^ "A 1930's Jazz Remake of Radiohead's "No Surprises," featuring Chloe Feoranzo - Postmodern Jukebox". Postmodern Jukebox. 29 December 2016. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  31. ^ Hutchinson, Sean (3 October 2016). "Ranking All the Songs on the Dope 'Westworld' Soundtrack". Inverse. Retrieved October 26, 2016.
  32. ^ "Stream Roman GianArthur's R&B Radiohead x D'Angelo Covers EP OK Lady". Stereogum. 10 September 2015. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  33. ^ "No Surprises - Single by Regina Spektor - Download No Surprises - Single on iTunes". 26 April 2010. Retrieved 28 February 2011.
  34. ^ "Regina Itunes Will Release Cover Radiohead Song No Surprises". 25 April 2010. Archived from the original on 24 February 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2011.
  35. ^ "The ARIA Report: Week Commencing 10 May 2010" (PDF). Australian Recording Industry Association. 10 May 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-05-11. Retrieved 16 August 2020 – via Pandora Archive.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]