20 years of OK Computer

It’s twenty years to the day since Oxford band Radiohead released OK Computer.

I lived in Oxford back then, and the local HMV on Cornmarket Street opened at midnight for Radiohead fans to buy the album before anyone else in the UK got the chance – no mp3s or downloads back in those days, remember.

And yes, I was looking forward to the release, but wasn’t a HUGE fan, so I wasn’t planning on heading into town. But then, finding myself still awake at the witching hour, thought “why not?”, jumped on a bike and hit the High Street.
I was only just in time. The crowds (such as they were) had gone (it doesn’t take long for 50 people to each buy a CD), and the staff were about to close up, but a friendly guy let me in just before locking the door, and I got my CD and my free poster (woo!).

The album was definitely one of the best releases of the 1990s and has aged really well. And yes, the CD is still somewhere safely boxed up in my loft. The poster never made it out of the damp Cowley Road flat we lived in though, and even the branch of HMV succumbed to the pressures of the modern retail environment and closed in 2014.

Favourite track? I liked all of it, but the slower stuff hit home more for me – No Surprises, Exit Music (For A Film) and of course Karma Policeas mentioned here.


And lo, as had been widely predicted, HMV was placed into administration yesterday. I spent many a happy afternoon (and many a hard earned pound) in HMV stores, most especially Pinstone Street in Sheffield, Northumberland Street Newcastle, Cornmarket Street in Oxford (who could forget their midnight release of Radiohead’s OK Computer in 1997?) and, of course, Oxford Street in London.

That’s where this photo came from – a-ha doing a signing for their first album, Hunting High and Low, back in January 1986:


Those clothes? That hair? Look, it was acceptable in the 80s.

As of course, was paying High Street prices for music and the like, because we never had the luxury of the internet. Thankfully, those dark days of bad clothes and worse hair are now in the past.
Sadly, after 91 years, so is HMV.