No Surprises

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"No Surprises"
Radiohead - No Surprises (CD1).jpg
Single by Radiohead
from the album OK Computer
Released 12 January 1998 (1998-01-12)
Format CD
Recorded July 1996
Studio Canned Applause, Didcot, Oxfordshire, England
Length 3:49
Writer(s) Radiohead
Radiohead singles chronology
"No Surprises"
"Pyramid Song"
Audio sample
file info · help
Music video
"No Surprises" on YouTube

"No Surprises" is a song by the English alternative rock band Radiohead, released as the third and final single from their third studio album OK Computer (1997) on 12 January 1998. The song was accompanied by a music video that featured a single shot of lead singer Thom Yorke's head singing karaoke lyrics of the song displayed inside a helmet that briefly fills up with water. The single peaked at number 4 on the UK Singles Chart.

Background and recording[edit]

Radiohead wrote "No Surprises" while touring with R.E.M. in 1995.[1] It was the first song recorded on the first day of sessions for OK Computer. "That childlike guitar sound set the mood for the whole album", said Thom Yorke. "We were going for that Pet Sounds vibe."[2]

The version on the album is the first take recorded. "We did endless versions afterwards [...] and they were all just covers of the first version", Yorke recalled. "So we gave up and went back to [the original]."[3]

Music video[edit]

The music video for "No Surprises" was directed by Grant Gee. The video consists solely of a single close-up shot of Thom Yorke's head inside an astronaut-style dome helmet. The lyrics are shown throughout the entire song slowly scrolling upwards but mirrored, as they are being reflected off of the dome. 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 bubble completely fills, Yorke is motionless for over a minute, after which the water is released and he resumes singing. For Yorke's safety, the video was filmed at high speed and played back in slow-motion.[4]

Yorke, in the music video (left) and filming the music video (right)

One of the scenes in Gee's documentary about Radiohead, Meeting People Is Easy, cuts from the British news channel Sky News showing and (unfavourably) discussing the video to several takes of its filming. The song speeds up during filming when his face is fully submerged, until he pulls the rubber bottom out to release the water and members of the film crew help him out. Despite the safety measures, Yorke is shown getting more visibly uncomfortable and agitated with each take.


"No Surprises" was released as the third single from OK Computer on 12 January 1998.[5] The single reached number four on the UK Singles Chart.[4]

In 2008, the song was featured on the Radiohead: The Best Of collection.


In October 2011, NME placed it at number 107 on its list "150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years".[6]

No Surprises/Running from Demons[edit]

No Surprises/Running from Demons
Nosurprises front.jpg
EP by Radiohead
Released 10 December 1997
Length 19:58
Label Parlophone (Toshiba-EMI TOCP-50354)
Producer Nigel Godrich, Radiohead
Radiohead chronology
OK Computer
No Surprises/Running from Demons
Airbag/How Am I Driving?

No Surprises/Running from Demons is the fourth extended play (EP) by Radiohead, released in December 1997. The EP was aimed at the Japanese market to promote the band's Japan tour of January 1998.


"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. Though he claims that he suffered no physical punishment as a schoolboy, violence was felt in ghastly mind-games, and in the teacher's cruelty: hence the line "bastard headmaster".

"Bishop's Robes" is also included on the "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" 'CD1' single.

"A Reminder" contains excerpts from the reports of the Prague metro, Czech Republic.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Radiohead (Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Ed O'Brien, Colin Greenwood and Phil 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


  • Thom Yorke – vocals, acoustic guitar
  • Jonny Greenwood – glockenspiel, organ, string synth, electric guitar
  • Ed O'Brien – electric guitar, tambourine, backing vocals
  • Colin Greenwood – bass guitar
  • Phil Selway – drums, tambourine

Weekly positions[edit]

Chart (1998) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[7] 47
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[8] 13
France (SNEP)[9] 31
Ireland (IRMA)[10] 13
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[11] 58
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[12] 23
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[13] 4


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[14] Silver 200,000double-dagger

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Alternative versions and covers[edit]

Versions have also been recorded by 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.[15] 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.[16] 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.[17]

Regina Spektor version[edit]

"No Surprises"
Regina Spektor - No Surprises.png
Single by Regina Spektor
Released 27 April 2010 (2010-04-27)
Format Digital download
Length 3:51
Label Sire
Writer(s) Radiohead
Regina Spektor singles chronology
"No Surprises"
"All the Rowboats"

Regina Spektor, alternative pianist and anti-folk musician, released a charity single of the song on April 27, 2010.[18] All proceeds of the song go to the Doctors Without Borders Emergency Relief Fund.[19]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "No Surprises" – 3:51


  1. ^ Randall, p. 228
  2. ^ Moran, Caitlin (July 1997). ""I was feeling incredible hysteria and panic…"". Select: 92. 
  3. ^ Randall, p. 229
  4. ^ a b Randall, p. 254
  5. ^ Randall, p. 253
  6. ^ 150 Best Tracks Of The Past 15 Years | NME.COM
  7. ^
  8. ^ " – Radiohead – No Surprises" (in Dutch). Ultratip.
  9. ^ " – Radiohead – No Surprises" (in French). Les classement single.
  10. ^ .  Missing or empty |title= (help) Note: Radiohead must be searched manually.
  11. ^ " – Radiohead – No Surprises" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  12. ^ " – Radiohead – No Surprises". Top 40 Singles.
  13. ^ "January 1998/ Archive Chart: 21 January 1998" UK Singles Chart.
  14. ^ "British single certifications – Radiohead". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 11 November 2016.  Enter Radiohead in the field Search. Select Artist in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Select Silver in the field By Award. Click Search
  15. ^ "A 1930's Jazz Remake of Radiohead's "No Surprises," featuring Chloe Feoranzo - Postmodern Jukebox". Postmodern Jukebox. 2016-12-29. Retrieved 2016-12-31. 
  16. ^ Hutchinson, Sean (October 3, 2016). "Ranking All the Songs on the Dope 'Westworld' Soundtrack". Inverse. Retrieved October 26, 2016. 
  17. ^ "Stream Roman GianArthur's R&B Radiohead x D'Angelo Covers EP OK Lady". Stereogum. 2015-09-10. Retrieved 2016-12-28. 
  18. ^ "No Surprises - Single by Regina Spektor - Download No Surprises - Single on iTunes". 2010-04-26. Retrieved 2011-02-28. 
  19. ^ "Regina Itunes Will Release Cover Radiohead Song No Surprises". 2010-04-25. Retrieved 2011-02-28. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Footman, Tim (2007). Welcome to the Machine: OK Computer and the Death of the Classic Album. Chrome Dreams. ISBN 0-634-04619-5. 
  • Randall, Mac (2000). Exit Music: The Radiohead Story. Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-385-33393-5. 
  • OK Computer: Radiohead: Guitar, Tablature, Vocal. Alfred Publishing Company. 2001. ISBN 0-7579-9166-1. 

External links[edit]