Radiohead “subconsciously” shelved “Lift” for 20 years because they were afraid of becoming too popular

Guitarist Ed O'Brien said the track's inclusion on OK Computer might've garnered the band Jagged Little Pill-like levels of success

photo by David Clinch

    Photo by Danny Clinch

    Radiohead’s upcoming 20th anniversary reissue of OK Computer comes packaged with three previously unreleased recordings. One of those is “Lift”, a track whose origins date back to 1996 and inclusion is a welcome sight for longtime listeners. Funnily enough, it’s this same passionate fanbase that inadvertently caused Radiohead to “subconsciously kill” and bury the song in the archives for the last two decades.

    Guitarist Ed O’Brien said as much during a recent interview with BBC 6 Music (via Pitchfork). According to him, “Lift” received such a warm response when they played it live circa 1996 that they were afraid its official release would propel Radiohead onto unimaginable levels of popularity — something they were neither desiring, nor ready for at the time:

    “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 I think we subconsciously killed it. If OK Computer had been like a Jagged Little Pill, it would’ve killed us. But “Lift” had this magic about it. But when we got to the studio and did it, it felt like having a gun to your head. There was so much pressure. But saying that, I’ve got a monitor mix, and it is pretty good.”

    Though now regarded as a classic, OK Computer was no match commercially for Morissette’s 1995 juggernaut album — which went on to earn nine Grammy nominations and stands as one of the best-selling albums of all time — so Radiohead’s concerns as a fledgling band weren’t completely unfounded. O’Brien & co. now have had 20 years to adjust to widespread success and popularity and, thankfully, it appears they’re finally ready to let “Lift” see the light of day.


    Hear the BBC 6 Music segment in question below.

    Revisit a 1996 live performance of “Lift”: