Maybe you, reader, always thought that the spectral highway that dominates the computer of Radiohead’s OK Computer was a purely fictitious construction–an imagining of the “Information Superhighway” for the proto-Internet age, perhaps. As one enterprising Radiohead fan figured out yesterday, however, it is almost definitely a real highway, and an unlikely one at that.
Radiohead’s fan base has always been insane, its online representatives dementedly devoted to solving any cryptic mystery remotely related to the UK art-rock icons. Today, the Radiohead subreddit /r/radiohead is one of the many online playgrounds for the band’s direst obsessives. As Vanyaland points out, the latest major revelation that a forum user there has uncovered involves matching the image of the OK Computer cover’s highway (as clarified by some recently released concept art–see cover 2, 3, and 7 here) and a forum on a site for roadmap devotees.
Here’s what Redditor “Jordan117” shared about his search for the mystery highway:
…you can tell that the area is urban, hilly, and probably American going by the signage and right-driving traffic. Unfortunately you can’t quite read the lettering, but hopefully it was enough for an expert to make use of. So I headed off to the forums at AARoads.com, a haven for “roadgeeks” who love discussing interstates, construction, road trips, etc.I feared the question was hopelessly obscure, but in just six hours I had my answer, courtesy of poster Mapmikey: the eastbound junction of I-84 (a.k.a. the Yankee Expressway) with I-91 in Hartford, Connecticut, just before it crosses the Connecticut River.
It is impressive that getting an answer to this question from a road-map-based forum took only six hours; that says more about “roadgeeks” than Radiohead fans, honestly, though the deduction “Jordan117” had to do to even find “Mapmikey” was pretty intrepid in itself.
It would be hard to imagine a casual sleuth guessing that Radiohead, UK-dwelling mystics that they are, would deign to put a crappy interstate somewhere in the tri-state area–that some NYC transplant might drive through while heading home to Boston to take in a Sox game with their parents–on an album cover. But according to “Mapmikey,” he pinpointed the location in “about 10 minutes”:
[On the cover,] The middle BGS [Big Green Sign] has a two word control city with just a single letter as the first word. The BGS on the right has a two word city but two actual words. I figured that it was east of the Mississippi because of the (IMO) tight footprint of the interchange.So what interstate junctions in the east might fit the that BGS criteria? E Hartford and New Haven. I’m pretty decent at puzzles and also have a fair amount of experience taking older road photos and figuring out where they were…
Jesus fucking Christ, “Mapmikey”! The resourcefulness of this Conan-Doyle-ready detective seems well beyond the capabilities of even the most intrepid Radiohead super-nerd. But “Jordan117” did show his mettle by pinpointing where the photo of the highway was probably taken using Google Earth–a Hilton near the interchange–and even the exact date, based on the band’s touring history, when the photo was taken.
Check out this illustrative Imgur “Jordan117” made below, and check the original Reddit post for more hard evidence.