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Jane Seymour is secret weapon behind Radiohead masterpiece ‘OK Computer’


When Radiohead was making “OK Computer” — its classic album released 25 years ago, on May 21, 1997 — there was, after all, lead singer Thom Yorke fronting the band and longtime producer Nigel Godrich behind the boards.

But within the creation of what is taken into account their undisputed masterpiece, the English alt-rockers had a surprising secret weapon: British actress Jane Seymour. Yes, “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.” 

The magic of creating “OK Computer” happened at Seymour’s lavish mansion in Bath, England, which Radiohead rented from the previous Bond girl. “Consider Jane Seymour, a really prim and proper actress, for some reason letting a rock band into her house to run wild,” said Apple Music Radio host Matt Wilkinson, who celebrates the silver anniversary of “OK Computer” on a special episode of “Essentials Radio” available this weekend. “She was away within the US, the home is empty, and so they moved in. So possibly the true hero of ‘OK Computer’ is definitely Jane Seymour for letting them do this.”

Twenty-five years later, “OK Computer” — with a futuristic vision that was, actually, way ahead of its time — stands because the crowning achievement in Radiohead’s considerable catalog. Not only is it right up there with Nirvana’s “Nevermind” as considered one of the easiest LPs of the ’90s, it’s recognized as of the best albums of all time, inspiring a generation of Radiohead wannabes corresponding to Coldplay.

The quilt of Radiohead’s 1997 alt-rock classic “OK Computer.”

“I believe they’re a bit just like the Beatles in that way,” said James Doheny, creator of “Radiohead: The Stories Behind Every Song.” “Ultimately, history is the judge, and the undeniable fact that we’re still talking about ‘OK Computer’ 25 years later is since it’s an amazing piece of music.”

After Radiohead experienced success with its 1992 debut single “Creep” after which its second album, 1995’s “The Bends,” the band was trying to break out from the Britpop brigade that was dominating UK music on the time.

“They didn’t just like the position they were in throughout the music industry,” said Wilkinson. “They felt really uncomfortable with what the press was saying about them … that they were perhaps being pigeonholed.”

RadioheadLed by Thom Yorke, Radiohead performed on the Glastonbury Festival shortly after the discharge of “OK Computer” in 1997.Redferns

But Yorke got some much-needed mentorship from Michael Stipe while Radiohead was opening for R.E.M. on tour after “The Bends.” “I believe all of these items was swirling around in Thom’s head — this type of anger of being portrayed incorrectly,” said Wilkinson. “I believe [Stipe] was probably education Thom on how he could deal with becoming huge.”

And that will end in Radiohead — who were figuring out “OK Computer” songs on that tour with R.E.M. — taking more creative control on the album. “That they had the arrogance to have the option to say, ‘We would like to record in another way,’ and so they’re still a young band at this point,” said Wilkinson. “The center of the English countryside just isn’t a spot where bands normally record albums. So to go to your record label and say, ‘We don’t need to go into a standard recording studio and record a standard album’ … after which pull it off is a extremely amazing achievement.”

Although the album would prove to be prescient with the dawning of the web age, the title wasn’t inspired by that. “Thom Yorke says it wasn’t specifically about computers. It’s more concerning the sensory overload that he was having on ‘The Bends’ tour,” said Doheny. “But obviously the pc has only increased its impact on the world and our lives since then.”

Jane Seymour's mansion in Bath, EnglandJane Seymour’s mansion in Bath, England where Radiohead recorded “OK Computer.”Getty Images

Thom YorkeThom Yorke was fighting newfound rock stardom before releasing “OK Computer.”Redferns

Little doubt, Doheny said, “They may feel something was happening … the calm before the storm.” And, he added, that “feeling of impending doom or dread” could be heard on tracks corresponding to “Paranoid Android.” 

The truth is, the album opener “Airbag” was inspired by Yorke’s own personal fears. “That’s about his existential fear of dying in a automobile crash,” said Doheny.

The legacy of “OK Computer” has only grown through the years, turning Radiohead into immortal alt-rock gods. “Since ‘OK Computer,’ I mean, the variety of Ph.D. dissertations people write about Radiohead now’s amazing,” said Doheny.

And 25 years later, Wilkinson said, “It still appears like the longer term.”

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