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Radiohead Left “Lift” Off OK Computer Because They Thought It Would Sell Too Many Records

Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien appeared on BBC 6 Music to talk to host Matt Everitt about OKNOTOK, the upcoming deluxe reissue of OK Computer that commemorates the album’s 20th anniversary. Everitt brought up the reissue’s central attraction: previously unreleased recordings from the band, including studio versions of “Lift,” “Man of War” and “I Promise.”

O’Brien went into the genesis of “Lift” in the live setting, and why the band pulled back from using the crowd favorite on the original album. It seems as if Radiohead was apprehensive about the “different place” that the song’s inclusion on the album might take them commercially, judging by the reaction to the song when they were opening for (!) Alanis Morissette. (You can watch a performance from that time period here.)

Here’s what O’Brien had to say:

We played that live with Alanis Morissette. It was a really interesting song. The audience…suddenly you’d see them get up and start grooving. It had this infectiousness. It was a big anthemic song. If that song had been on that album, it would’ve taken us to a different place, and probably we’d have sold a lot more records, if we’d done it right. And everyone was saying this, and we kind of subconsciously killed it. If OK Computer had been like a Jagged Little Pill, it would’ve killed us. But “Lift” probably had the potential…it just had this magic about it. We didn’t do a good version, because when we got to the studio and did it, it felt like having a gun to your head. It felt like so much pressure. Having said that, I’ve got a monitor mix, and it is pretty good.

Listen to the clip from the interview below. OKNOTOK is out via XL on June 23.